EDITORIAL: 20/20 hindsight at World Vision

A worthy charity reverses its approval of same-sex marriage

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World Vision, an evangelical Christian charity that does good work the world over, stunned its donors last week with the announcement that henceforth it would employ the parties in a same-sex marriage. Not entirely surprising, two days later the policy was canceled. Call it World Vision’s 20/20 epiphany.

World Vision is perhaps best known for recruiting sponsors for poor children overseas, and its supporters were shocked by its abandoning traditional and Christian values.

They overwhelmed the switchboard with telephone calls and flooded the World Vision inbox with emails. They got results and an apology. “We have listened to you and want to … humbly ask for your forgiveness,” wrote World Vision President Richard Stearns and board Chairman Jim Bere. “We failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, ‘We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.’”

Evangelicals hold the Gospel to be “the same today, the same yesterday and the same tomorrow,” and World Vision’s donors were outraged that the charity was treating the Gospel as if it were a flawed health care scheme to be revised by presidential whim.

World Vision’s short-lived reconsideration of belief was not made under pressure. Even the most optimistic homosexual-rights advocate would never expect an organization faithful to the Gospel to ignore the clearly stated words of St. Paul, condemning marital combinations other than husband and wife, e.g., a man and a woman.

World Vision, based in “the other Washington,” had said it was changing its convictions to avoid the debates over homosexuality and same-sex marriage that have divided some Christian denominations, though it would retain its teaching about celibacy outside of marriage.

That explanation didn’t parse for the charity’s most valued contributors, who believe that you don’t throw deeply held beliefs overboard to avoid secular controversy. That only creates controversy where there is none.

The restoration of the status quo ante underscores the biblical admonition that a Christian can be in the world without being of the world, and conforming to it. World Vision’s administrators forgot for a moment — well, for two days — that they cannot serve both God and mammon.

The pressure to cave to the lavender lobby is increasing, and some organizations have been quick to cave. The brewers of Guinness, Heineken and Samuel Adams beers withdrew their sponsorship of St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City and Boston because organizers wouldn’t invite flamboyant activists to flaunt their cause in the march. The Boy Scouts of America rewrote their pledge of morality to allow actively homosexual Scouts to join.

World Vision’s example shows that it’s never too late to see errors and correct them. World Vision’s donors made it clear that turning a blind eye to the charity’s religious roots was not acceptable, and that they could no longer contribute to the sponsor-a-child programs.

Hit where it hurt most, World Vision concluded that needy children should never be collateral damage in the culture wars. Good thinking.

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