Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision's surprising rationale for hiring Christians in same-sex marriages

I'm impressed that World Vision president Richard Stearns gives surprisingly logical reasons for the organization's recent policy change that they will now hire Christians in same-sex marriages. According to Christianity Today, Stearns says:
Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues. It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.
Stearns explains that World Vision is a parachurch organization that doesn't take sides on controversial issues that divide the church. Unlike the church they do not make doctrinal pronouncements, but seek to include Christians from all sides in an effort to fulfill their ministry's goal of serving the poor.
"Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.," [Stearns] said. "So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles' Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters." 
World Vision has hardly tried to court favor with the LGBT community in the past. They've recently fought for their legal right to hire and fire according to their own religious beliefs and resisted USAID pressure to employ non-discrimination hiring policies covering sexual orientation.

But that's what I admire about World Vision's approach. Fight for your legal right to control your own hiring and firing policies as a faith-based organization, then make fair policies on your own terms. Allowing gay Christians who are in same-sex marriages to work for World Vision is fair and consistent with their organization's historical approach to any controversial issue.

There are those who say that this is about moral compromise. "Would World Vision allow adulterous Christians to work for their organization?" some conservatives are asking. I guess it depends. There are those who say that Christians who have divorced unbiblically and remarried are adulterers, but others say grace should be extended in such situations. World Vision says they defer to local churches and denominations on the issue of divorce and remarriage, which implies they do hire Christians whom some would define as adulterers. But the point is, because there are valid arguments on both sides of the divorce and remarriage issue within the church, World Vision recognizes that professing Christians can believe one way or the other. And being a professing Christian is all they ask of their employees.

Likewise, there are Christians on either side of the same-sex marriage controversy. That is why entire denominations are splitting down the middle over it. Those who accuse World Vision of morally compromising are missing the point. The point is whether there are legitimate biblical arguments on both sides of this issue. "Legitimate" isn't defined as "what I agree with." I personally don't believe blessing same-sex marriages in the church is biblical, but I understand that many of those who disagree with me are also Christians like myself. They have biblical arguments for their position and at times they have come close to persuading me. World Vision is simply acknowledging that the same-sex marriage issue has proven to be, over time, a legitimately tough call for churches, and therefore they are going to adjust their hiring policy to be consistent with the way they have dealt with similar issues in the past. It's an amazingly rational and fair step to take.

All over the Internet I see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 being quoted by conservatives who are throwing down the challenge for Christians to "truly" believe this verse:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor homosexual practicers . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God.
But lately, I've been wondering if I "truly" believe this verse in Galatians 5:19-21:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (italics mine).
What should I believe about those professing Christians who have shown open, unrepentant hostility toward gay and lesbian people, making false accusations against them about their experience of sexual orientation, and contributing to needless, hurtful conflict within their families and church congregations because of these accusations? The Bible says persons who practice such enmity, strife and divisiveness "will not inherit the kingdom of God." Should I "truly" believe what this verse says about the many conservative evangelicals who seem to fit this description?

For my part, I would rather hope that grace and Christ's blood can cover some of these follies, and leave those who seem caught up in them in God's hands to sanctify or judge as he sees fit.