World Vision recently started yet another fracas in the Christian community by allowing homosexuals to serve in their organization. As one might imagine, the backlash was strong with this one. And, if I’m honest, the political side of me fully believes that World Vision deserves the full sting of this backlash. The other side of me mourns that their work has been hindered by their own shortsightedness. The truth is, they made two mistakes that hurt them, and hurt their ministry to impoverished children…and their backpedalling may or may not help.
First, World Vision dictated terms of sexual purity and fidelity explicitly in their employee conduct codes. As the WV-friendly blog Rage Against the Minivan put it, World Vision, “has always held a pretty rigid code of morality for employees. Specifically, employees are not to engage in sex outside of marriage”. Rather than make a blanket statement that covers the bases of general Christian morality, they got too nitty gritty. They went a legalese route, which gets complicated. Can their employees drink beer or wine? If so, how many? See the problem? There’s no stopping point for rule making—and no backing out. This isn’t saying that WV should have been open to hiring a bunch of folks with loose morals, but rather that getting too specific was a mistake—their first.
Their second mistake was that they then took their too-detailed legalese and created a position regarding gay marriage. They swear up and down they have no stance, but to acknowledge an issue (and then create a policy about it) is to take a stance—and the very real backlash proves my point. This is a highly divisive and political issue. But it shouldn’t have been their issue. My question to them would be, “what does gay marriage have to do with feeding hungry kids?” Nothing. By way of policy World Vision got into de facto politics. It’s a losing game 100% of the time; there is no coming out ahead. Brian Broderson made a good case for this recently when he said, “…some of the things…like immigration reform—these are not things that I am going to address from the pulpit… I feel like the church sometimes has too much to say.” Bingo.
Unfortunately the board and the president or World Vison failed to see this beforehand. Is it right for a Christian organization to want its employees to be morally pure and Biblically consistent? Yes! On the other hand, you can’t go around installing CCTV systems in everyone’s house to make sure they are morally pure. In lieu of that, I suspect they went with more rules, and more detailed rules at that—and detailed rules mean two things: legalism and amendments. And amendments mean more details—the very location the devil seems to be found in. And so here we are: on the devil’s playground playing politics (for where else is it played?)
In short, the overly aggressive morality codes had unintended consequences: they dragged the organization into nitty-gritty discussions of moral politik (and those always end well, right?). Gay marriage and gays in the church is perhaps the most polarizing debate in Christianity, and World Vision should have known better than to get anywhere near such an issue. It’s not in their interest and they foolishly meddled to their own hurt—again, backpedalling not withstanding. Now some third world children might lose their sponsorships over this. It’s not fair, but it’s reality. It’s the price of politics. It’s possible that the last second reversal might help, but now they’ve pissed off the gays too. Rather than stay away from it all, they made a choice to build a fence, ride it, pick one side, and then pick the other. And now? Everyone is mad. The best thing they could have said (to any political or social issue) is, “That’s not our area of theology, expertise, or ministry… but let me show you what is.” That answer would have acceptable to anyone.