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World Vision flip-flops on gay marriage

world-visionWorld Vision USA, the large Christian aid organization headquartered just outside of Seattle, earlier this week announced it had changed its policy and would begin hiring Christians in same-sex marriage.

World Vision USA President Rich Stearns had championed the move saying it was “Symbolic of how we can come together even though we disagree.”

But in less than two days, World Vision USA reversed itself saying it had made a ‘mistake’ – the mistake, apparently, being that it had not anticipated the massive criticism it would get from many in the religious community who oppose gay marriage.

“This a depressing step backwards from what had seemed a very progressive move forward by World Vision,” said Ed Carr, an aid and development expert at the University of South Carolina. “After only a day or so, they’re back on the wrong side of history.”

Stearns said on Monday in Christianity Today that the board was ‘overwhelmingly in favor’ of ending the organization’s discrimination against hiring people in same-sex marriages:

“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,” Stearns said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

Stearns emphasized on Monday that the decision should not be interpreted as evidence World Vision supports gay marriage.

“This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support,” he said. “This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.”

That wasn’t how it was seen by many of the Christian organization’s many supporters. The aid and relief organization was deluged with angry and even hostile complaints by some who called for boycotting World Vision, which depends on donations from supporters.

After two days, Stearns and the board at World Vision decided to reverse its decision and re-institute the organization’s ban on hiring people in same-sex marriages. They issued a letter that included this statement:

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.

Carr said it was very discouraging to see World Vision so quickly back down. He wondered how World Vision, which is one of the world’s largest aid organizations (faith-based or not), can continue to work in collaboration with the U.S. government on so many disaster relief and development projects given the Obama Administration’s directive that aid organizations who receive public money must not discriminate against people based on sexual orientation:

“No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere,” President Obama said in announcing that aid agencies must work to advance the rights of all people, including that of the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) community.

“I think World Vision has really stepped in it this time,” said Carr, who had more to say on his blog. Had the organization not announced it was ending its discriminatory practices, he said, perhaps it would have been difficult for the LGBT community to raise awareness of this issue. But now, with World Vision’s reversal, Carr thinks this could catch fire.

Editor’s Note: Here’s a disturbing visual from an earlier post that could have been called the Global Map of Homophobia

UNAIDS map of gay discrimination



About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.