The past two days have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
Yesterday, health care World Vision, purchase a very well-known and well respected Christian organization that is “dedicated to working with children, epilepsy families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice,” announced that they would no longer discriminate against married same-sex couples during their hiring process.
The president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, said, “We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church. 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.”
Many of you probably know that I am a big supporter of gay marriage and believe that there is a strong Biblical argument in support of gay relationships and marriages (I will be blogging in the near future about this issue, including reviews of the books Torn by Justin Lee and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which is coming out in April). So for me, this announcement was really exciting. I knew that this announcement would be really hard for many evangelical Christians to handle and that many would be disappointed and upset. What I did not expect was that these Christians would stop sponsoring their children as a result of this announcement. World Vision reportedly lost at least 2,000 sponsors in one day. That means that 2,000 children are now left without financial support, leaving them without adequate food, clean water, health care, and education, and also without the emotional and spiritual support that the children gain from the relationship with their sponsor.
Evangelicals, you sent the message loud and clear. Your hatred for gay people triumphs over the command of Christ to serve the least of these. You will stop at nothing to continue this culture war over an issue that Jesus did not say one word about. You will not hesitate to tell your gay brothers and sisters in Christ that the idea of working alongside them to bring God’s kingdom to earth is despicable. To you, the very existence of gay people is enough to stop providing for a sweet child of God.
Many Christian leaders, such as Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition and Denny Burk, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made public statements against World Vision, announcing that they were ending their sponsorships. (Burk wrote a blog post talking about “The Collapse of Christianity at World Vision.” Seriously? The collapse?). The Assemblies of God denomination urged its members to drop financial support from World Vision.
And I sit here listening to Same Love by Macklemore.
“If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t annointed. That Holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”
Today, World Vision decided to reverse their decision.
There are many amazing people who decided to sponsor children yesterday in support of World Vision’s announcement and to cover the children who were being dropped. Many of these people are gay. Many aren’t even believers.
I am so touched and encouraged to see that many of the people who sponsored kids yesterday will continue to sponsor them because they know that these kids are real people. They matter. They have hopes and dreams. They have the potential to live full and vibrant lives, they just need a little support to help them get there. And don’t we all?
I don’t sponsor a child through World Vision (although I regularly donate to various causes they support) but I do sponsor a child through Compassion International. Her name is Fresiah. She is 19, just like me. She lives in a rural village in Kenya, a country where much of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS and few girls finish high school. She loves basketball, her favorite book of the Bible is Ruth, she writes her letters to me in almost perfect English, she prays for my family and tells me about her day-to-day life. I am waiting to hear the results of her final exams, but I’m confident she did great. She wants to be a policewoman after she finishes high school. She is so beautiful and smart. I am so blessed to be a small part of her life and the idea of her sponsorship ending when she graduates breaks my heart. She is my friend. And no theological disagreement could stop me from sponsoring her.
When did it become Christ-like to use children as pawns in political, social, and cultural wars?
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. -John 13:34-35
I can’t really put into words the depth of my sadness around this whole situation.
I want to honor Matthew Vines and his reaction to World Vision’s reversal. He shows a profound understanding of the love of Christ and God’s grace.
So I sit here with tears in my eyes and my hand over my tattoo. And I remember God’s promise.
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Write these words down for they are trustworthy and true. -Revelation 21:5
Amen. They are trustworthy and true. God is making everything new. He will make everything new.
I pray for the release of His Kingdom on Earth.
I pray for the Holy Spirit to enter into the hearts of all followers of Christ.
I pray that the Church would be marked by love.
I repent of the anger and judgement in my heart and I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would help me love my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I pray for all the children around the world who are struggling to survive. I pray protection over them in the name of Jesus. I pray for provision for them, both emotionally and physically. Lord Jesus I pray they would known your unending love for them.
And Jesus, I pray that every single gay person who has been hurt by the Church, who has been hurt in the past few days, would know that You affirm them and love them.
Many bloggers have written beautiful posts in the past few days. I encourage you to read them:
When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me by Benjamin Moberg
I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.
These Are Real Kids, You Know by Nish Weiseth
I understand you may not agree with their employment standards as a Christian organization, but you know what? There’s a lot that we’re not all going to agree on. But, I think we can agree on one thing: Children should not have to suffer under the weight of poverty. And we can agree that World Vision is helping release kids from poverty through sponsorships. We can agree that your sponsorship dollars are doing an incredible amount of good in the life of a real, honest-to-goodness child. Someone’s baby is getting fed, educated and cared for because you have been generous in your sponsorship of that child.
Please, I’m begging you, don’t make someone’s baby a pawn in the ongoing culture wars of American evangelicalism. Keep sponsoring. Keep praying for that kid. Keep giving.
Please, I’m begging you.
World Vision by Rachel Held Evans
When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong.
Finally, all this overdramatic “farewelling” over non-essential issues is getting tiresome. It’s shutting the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces. It’s tying up heavy burdens and placing them on people’s backs. It’s straining gnats and swallowing camels. It’s playing the gatekeeper with smug, self-righteous pride when it is God who decides who comes to the table, God who makes the guest list, God who opens the doors the Kingdom.
World Vision Update by Rachel Held Evans
A comment on this post:
“I sponsored a child because of their original decision. His name is also Daniel and he lives in the Dem Rep of the Congo, which co-incidentally, I am planning on traveling to in November (though I have no plans to see him.)
As a gay man, I am once again disappointed by the actions of some evangelical Christians. I have learned not to expect much from conservative Christianity and tend to give conservative Christians a wide berth. I want to reconcile. I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and remain a committed, Episcopalian, Christian. But I often feel like Charlie Brown when he tries to kick Lucy’s football when engaging evangelical Christians and this is no exception.
However, none of this is the the fault of the child I sponsored. I’m not going to unsponsor because they reversed their decision. It’s ultimately about the child’s welfare.”