World Vision U.S., one of the largest benevolent ministries in the world, made global headlines this week with its decision to begin hiring employees engaged in legal same-sex marriages. Now the board has reversed its position.
Here is how its open letter begins: "Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman."
Why the reversal? "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.' And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage" (their italics).
I believe the Lord is pleased with the board's decision, and with the way it was communicated with the world. Here's why.
First, the board has reaffirmed its commitment to biblical authority. Scripture and 20 centuries of Christian faith and practice consistently teach marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman. World Vision has now returned to this historic, orthodox theological position.
Second, the board has initiated reconciliation within the body of Christ. Jesus taught us: "if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). The board sought such reconciliation with fellow believers: "We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness."
Third, the board has reaffirmed its original intent to demonstrate grace to all persons, whatever their sexual orientation: "While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect." This was the spirit of Jesus to all people, and should be ours as well.
God redeems all he allows. One way he would redeem the World Vision reversal is to use it as a model for Christian fellowship. What if more believers were this willing to admit a mistake and initiate reconciliation? In announcing the board's earlier position, President Richard Stearns hoped their action would "inspire unity" within the body of Christ. Today's response to the body's concerns may well foster even greater unity around the authority of Scripture and the Spirit of Jesus.
To God be the glory.