World Vision held hostage // A reflection on the Broad Church

Reflecting on the recent World Vision fiasco I feel much compassion for their leadership and the individuals they serve. If you haven’t already heard, VW initially made a move to eliminate discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in their hiring practices. The original press release (now removed, but still cached via Google) made a strong statement about the organization’s core values, and recognition of the diverse Christian church:

[…] since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally—chose to adjust our policy. Thus, the board has modified our Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.

I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue. We have chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone. (Source/World Vision – March 2014 Press Release – Employee letter on change to standards of conduct)

I really respected World Vision’s move and their recognition of the diversity of the Church. I have friends whom I am proud to say I am at theological ends with–but we refuse to let those disagreements blockade us from living out communal lives of faith.

We can become too afraid of those who disagree, as we seek to find the ultimate unshakeable truth. If we validate another’s theology is acceptable, we fear that it invalidate our own.

I once told a youth leader that I was okay being a ‘heretic’, and I still am. In saying that, I mean I was coming to terms with the fact that I knew I had theology all wrong, I knew that I would continually be searching for the ‘unshakeable truth’. There is comfort in that thought because we will continually misunderstand God. The Bible is a compilation of stories where people were trying desperately to get things right, and, on a bad day, not even trying at all.

My youth leader was perturbed by what I said, and responded with, “If I knew I had me theology wrong I would just get rid of it!”

Unfortunately, in the world I live in, we rarely know we have it wrong. It is our fear and our stubbornness that leads us to hurt others in our search to find, and protect our ‘unshakeable truth’. As I mature in my faith, I know I have come to certain conclusions about the extension of God’s love and grace, of his acceptance. I do not expect everyone else to see God in the way I do (or at least in theory, the practice can be tough). And, I support organizations of the Church who do not reflect the same theology as me but do good work.

I do, however, find it hard to condone the act of taking an organization hostage by removing support that directly helps those they serve. Once again, we have put theology above lives, as we tell boys and girls across the globe that they must suffer in the name of the ‘unshakeable truth’.

I do not condone this action–one taken by both sides as individuals react to both the initial decision and the retraction. World Vision is in an unfortunate lose-lose position, and through their overhead will suffer it is the communities they serve who will suffer the most as sponsorships are retracted and programs will see budget cuts.

I will leave you with this excerpt from the World Vision’s (current) hiring practices, one that speaks of a broad church and a Christian heart. I pray and hope we all may come to this place of acceptance in our daily lives, no matter our theological divisions.

We are, however, a very broad church and as long as applicants for these positions are practicing Christians and will bring a Christian heart and mind to the role it doesn’t matter what creed or church tradition they are part of. (Source)