On whether Christians should keep supporting World Vision

World Vision USA has altered their employee handbook to allow them to hire members of committed same-sex unions.  As I noted on Twitter, I find their rationale incoherent, but not terribly surprising.

Of the various threads I could take up, though, I want to focus on the decision which many conscientious Christians who deeply disagree with World Vision USA’s decision now face:  should they continue on supporting the child that they had been, or should they send their donations elsewhere?  world vision

It’s important to note that the question is not strictly financial.  As with many organizations, the funds an individual contributes in support of a child do not go to that child directly.  They are “pooled” and sent to support the community which the child lives in.  Similarly, the contributions are used to justify additional grant money from governments that are thrown into the various pools as well, all of which provides help for the community and from which the child benefits indirectly.  This is not uncommon:  it allows World Vision to maximize the impact of the money by focusing on the structural issues within a community that contribute to everyone’s flourishing.

Obviously, the careful structure would make the “child support” rhetoric less punchy and useful for raising donors. But it also means that when an individual withdraws support, the community which had been the recipient incurs some financial loss, but that loss is spread across the whole of the community (rather than, say, a particular child no longer receiving a $35 check every month).  Of course, if individuals withdrew their support en masse a significant impact would be felt. But the effect of pooling funds means that responsibility is pooled as well.

I mention all that only so we are clear on what the decision is at stake.  There are other factors that matter, too, though. Most importantly, supporting a child frequently means establishing some kind of relationship with them through letters, gifts, and other communications that are meant to support a child’s well-being directly.  Sometimes these are quite robust, and can provide important emotional and spiritual levels of support to the child who is the recipient of them.  It is also here where many people will feel the dilemma the strongest:  regardless of whether the child might suffer any serious material loss (because of the pooling effect), there may be a serious loss and confusion that withdrawing support would introduce. And there may be a genuine loss of relationship and of instruction within the donor’s own home with one’s own children, and so on.  There may, in some cases, be a real loss of possibilities of evangelism:  the harvest may have been ripened due to years of sowing and watering, and walking away may remove one significant factor which may contribute to the eventual reaping.

It’s important to underscore how important this is for the decision:  to ignore it would be to reduce every bit of giving that had gone on to a strictly financial transaction.  But charity ought not be purely monetary.  To view it as such is to corrode the practice of giving for the giver, not just the organization who receives it.  It would undermine the entire logic, and would do harm to whatever organization the donations were transferred to, as the new relationship between the donor and the organization would be established on strictly monetary and utilitarian grounds.  Prioritizing the relationship with the child in the decision about whether to withdraw support or not locates the financial considerations in their appropriate position:  as important, but by no means all-important.

All this could be mitigated, of course, if World Vision USA opened up pathways for people to continue to correspond and send packages to children without sending money to World Vision USA itself.  Such a possibility would allow for many people to keep up the kind of support they prefer to give directly, without necessarily entangling them in supporting a ministry that they (rightly) think has made a decision that is deeply inconsistent with the Gospel it has taken upon itself to proclaim.  If made available, I would commend such a possibility without hesitation or reservation.  The loss of funding for particular communities might still leave them with fewer resources than otherwise–but directly supporting the child might offset some of the lack they experience.

But presuming that option is not available, there are other complicating factors for the decision.  Jonathan Chan pointed out to me on Twitter that WorldVision’s local support teams are dependent upon the country for their leadership, which means they have no structural relationship with the decision that WorldVision USA has made.  So World Vision USA’s decision may not have any material or substantive impact on the work they do elsewhere, or World Vision’s other branches faithfulness to the Gospel.

All this makes for a relatively thorny problem.  But one possibility that Christians should avoid, it seems to me, is simply ignoring the difficulties altogether on the pure grounds that World Vision USA saves lives.  Many organizations save lives, and the Christian who gives money to World Vision USA is unquestionably committed to doing so.  But they are committed to more than that, which is why they have chosen to give to World Vision rather than some other organization.  Indeed, it may be those additional motivations that prompts in some cases the giving to be genuinely sacrificial:  removing them alters the entire character of the giving for many Christians.  World Vision USA is good at what they do:  but they are not the only organization that is good at what they do.

Even if a Christian decides that it is right to continue giving, they ought do so cognizant of the changes that have gone on and the potentially altered character of the organization which they are supporting.  And if they decide it wrong to continue giving (even for a temporary season), then their decision should not be construed as one that is necessarily unsupportive of children.  Publicizing the end of that giving seems to me both noxious and wrong:  but so then does publicizing the beginning of such a relationship as well.  We cannot take too seriously the danger that by broadcasting the goodness of our deeds we have our reward in full.  There is no harm in pursuing a good with sobriety, modesty, and quietness.

None of that, of course, answers the question of what a Christian should do given the competing claims and goods at stake.  There is a sense in which a pure claim to fidelity to the Gospel might impel them to quit giving immediately:  I think that response is understandable, but given the substantive conditions I’ve outlined above, not entirely warranted in every case.  If a person has only two months ago started sending money and corresponding, ending it would not nearly be as significant as someone who has corresponded with a child for six or seven years.

What, then, should a Christian who thinks World Vision USA has made a grave organizational error do?

The first thing to do is, of course, inform World Vision USA of your conclusion and the difficulty they have subsequently thrown you into.  Angry, belligerent emails and phone calls are not a Christian mode of response. But level-headed, patient, and clear reasoning can be.  It would be prudent to ask for World Vision to set up pathways for people who have decided they can no longer give to continue corresponding and supporting their child directly, as a sign of their willingness to help those who disagree with their new vision carry on those modes of communication that first and foremost make World Vision a Christian organization, even if it costs the organization a great deal of money and time to ensure that it can happen.  Opening up such pathways would convey World Vision’s commitment to unity of the right sort, namely that which respects and seeks to maintain lines of communication within and across real and substantive disagreements that it recognizes must be maintained.

Second, it seems to me that continuing to give in a situation where there has been a substantive relationship established with a child would be appropriate, at least for a season.  Given that education and formation happens at the local level, and that the other branches of World Vision are not beholden to World Vision USA’s decision, there is nothing substantive lost by maintaining support temporarily. The boundaries of a “substantive relationship” are, of course, somewhat fuzzy.  In the abstract, what sort of relationship qualifies is impossible to discern.  But some sort of differences are obvious, as I noted above, and those differences introduce genuine and substantive reasons for acting that must be accounted for in this case.

But I would add a qualification to this, if support continues:  I would notify World Vision USA that the continuing of support is for the purposes of the child alone, and that when the financial-support relationship comes to an end (as it does automatically at age 21, and at other ages for a variety of reasons) it will not be renewed or transferred to another child, but will be taken to another organization.  There would be two ways to look at this sort of communication:  either it could be seen as ‘holding World Vision hostage’ by threatening to remove financial contributions, or it could be a form of ‘informing World Vision USA of a decision so they can make alternate arrangements’.  Which description belongs may depend entirely on how the communication is given:  non-profits need to know how to project their finances, and giving them some advance warning that support would be withdrawn at least allows them to seek alternative means of funding in the interim.

But the effects of these sorts of organizational decisions are often slower moving than internet responses or commentary.  The  logic of the traditional marriage case depends upon a commitment to something like a “moral ecology”, but that means that the effects of certain decisions are not often known until several generations later.  Analogically, this sort of symbolic move will have a substantive effect on the moral ethos of World Vision USA, but the fruit in its own organizational life and in its relationship to the broader World Vision organization (the structure of which is not entirely clear to me) may not grow for a while. For those who are committed to supporting particular children, that delay is a benefit, as it allows support to continue while still expressing a fundamental disagreement and communicating to World Vision USA the reasons for such a disagreement and the end-point of any future support or help.  It’s a slow withdrawal, to be sure, but we are to be patient in doing good, even when doing good demands changing the recipients of our support.

Third, I would begin any new contributions with another organization and encourage those who ask to do the same.  Food for the Hungry, Compassion International, and others do similarly good work to World Vision.  Best of all may be your own denominational support structures, which presumably are accountable to the body where you worship.

There are doubtlessly other paths through, and unquestionably many people will object to various elements of what I have written above.  Some may claim I am either making too much of a trivial issue or compromising my fidelity to the Gospel.  But what we ought not do is ignore the various and complex issues at stake for many Christians.  Seeking the right here means remaining attentive not only to our sense of moral integrity, but to the good of World Vision USA, the child that we may have folded in some way into our lives, and the communities where they live.  Any counsel that does not attempt to bring coherence and unity toward those aspects is too stunted to be useful.

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  • chrisblackstone

    Matthew, very thoughtful article. One nitpick, I think you may have a type here

    “Opening up such pathways would convey not World Vision’s commitment to unity of the right sort “

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

      Thanks for pointing that out. I appreciate it. : )

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  • stuart

    Surprised that the USA allows discrimination based on sexuality in recruitment at all – this would be illegal in the UK.

    Of course the nature of recruitment means that it is implicitly discriminatory so long as there is more than one applicant for a role.

    The idea that a company handbook could explicitly state that they would not employ same sex married couples is really shocking to me. Are companies in the US also allowed to do this based on race or gender?

    • Tenth Justice

      1. Religious nonprofits and churches are typically given wide discretion when it comes to hiring and firing policies based on faith standards.

      2. The policy in question wasn’t just blanket discrimination against certain sexualities. Gay men and women could work at World Vision, but only if they lived their lives a certain way. Straight men and women also had to live their sex lives in a certain way.

      • Bobby

        That’s actually not true. In many states, including some where WV has a substantial presence, the exemptions to state antidiscrimination statutes is narrow, e.g., relating only to churches, synagogues, and the like. WV would probably not qualify.

    • Chris Brooks

      If I understand correctly, they technically don’t discriminate in hiring. But all employees have to agree to abide by a code of conduct that includes certain sexual mores.

  • http://sayable.net/ Lore Ferguson

    Great thoughts. Thanks, Matthew.

  • markimusprime

    Great, well-nuanced thoughts Matt! Really really enjoyed this (not the realities or the tough decisions to be made, but the careful thinking).

    Another organization people might consider as an alternative to WV is Children’s Hunger Fund (http://childrenshungerfund.org/)

  • EmilyStrongarm

    A nuanced and thoughtful article. I disagree with the idea of having former sponsors be able to contact children directly. Nonprofit organizations that provide correspondence with the sponsored child screen the letters for inappropriate content, sexual or otherwise. (An example would be sending photos of your big giant McMansion, or talking about a vacation so extravagant from the standards of the developing world it would breed resentment or disparity in the recipiant). Similarly, without the nonprofit as a go between, the sponsor could be taken advantage of if an unscrupulous family member or person close to the child decides to pretend that the child has been kidnapped and only the wealthy North American can “save” him.
    I did find your other suggestions helpful. Thanks.

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

      Emily,

      Thanks for the kind words. I wasn’t as clear as I should have been on that point: I meant that WV should keep up its screening process for additional correspondence, meeting, etc. for people who have supported a child for a certain length of time even if those people quit giving money over this. They would do so at great cost to their organization in terms of staffing and labor. But it’s the sort of sacrifice that I think would be worth making in a situation like this, given the fact that WV grew to its current size/scope in large part due to the ongoing contributions of the many people in their constituency who now have deep disagreements with their organization.

      Matt

      • EmilyStrongarm

        Thanks for clarifying. It would be nice if WV did that courtesy for former sponsors, but because of the cost vs. putting more $ into the field work, I don’t think they would. :)

  • Jonathan Chan

    Well, this is a pleasant and slightly terrifying lunch-time surprise. That’ll teach me to have good conversations with you on Twitter.

    I just want to clarify 2 things for anyone down here who happens to care.

    First, if this were a journalistic piece, I would probably not be a credible enough source to be cited. I work in the same field as World Vision, have some substantive collaborations with some of their programs and staff, and try to follow what they do closely, since they’re one of the largest players in this field, but I hope I’m not anyone’s idea of an expert on them.

    Second, it’s probably best if my comments regarding WV’s structure and leadership are mostly restricted to what they call “Christian Advancement”, i.e. the resources, training, and outreach for discipleship and evangelism they do in the communities where they work. In my experience, and based on what I’ve heard from others, this work is implemented and led by national pastors and church leaders, not American staff. And further, any kind of spiritual education/formation is routed through the local church leaders in the communities where they’re working.

    Any given country office could have an American or some other expat as the overall country director. For example, in Haiti, the new country director is an American, and his predecessor was from the Democratic Republic of Congo. WV’s offices and programs in Haiti are overwhelmingly staffed by Haitians, and I understand this is true for many, if not all of the countries that WV works in. So while I’d agree that they probably had nothing to do with the decision that was announced yesterday, I just hope I haven’t given the impression that the WV staff in developing countries are only led by nationals, never by expat staff. It’s a reality in some cases, and it’s what WV is moving towards in many other cases (e.g. the establishment of World Vision India and others as a fully independent organization within the World Vision Partnership).

    And finally, I might add that while I don’t disagree that there are other organizations that Christians who don’t agree with yesterdays news can give to, World Vision, Compassion, and Food for the Hungry (to cite your examples) aren’t just black boxes that do their work in exactly the same way. By function of its size, history, professionalism and global reach, the whole World Vision Partnership does occupy a unique place in the ecosystem of humanitarian organizations in general, not just Christian humanitarian organizations. They have an ability to mobilize resources and scale their work in ways that very few other organizations, Evangelical, mainline, secular, or otherwise can match. And in any given community, the way they do their programmatic work on the ground is often quite different from the work of Compassion or Food for the Hungry. Not that this necessarily undercuts your larger point, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

      Jonathan,

      Thanks for chiming in. Very helpful.

      I especially want to underscore my agreement with your final point. I didn’t mean to say that all the organizations were equivalent. I’m friends with enough people in development to know of WV’s unique role. But I also am reluctant to adopt a “too big to not fund further” mentality with them, so I don’t think encouraging donations in other directions is necessarily wrong. I also don’t expect WV to experience such a drop-off in support that their work would be seriously compromised…but I could be wrong on that.

      Best,

      Matt

      • Jonathan Chan

        Their communications department should start pushing out “Too big not to Fund” right now, especially in front of the relevant House Committees and at Treasury.

        I think there are a couple other points relevant to the discussions of how canceled sponsorships could impact their work, and ultimately, the sponsored children. Apologies if these comments should be going in other threads in this section, this question seems to be discussed in multiple places.

        First, money from sponsorships has an impact beyond just the face dollar value, for a number of reasons. As dependable, monthly income, it goes a long way in ensuring the fiscal stability of the organization. Having a significant percentage of yearly revenue locked down in this way makes planning the future of WV’s work significantly easier. It’s much more predictable, month-to-month, than grant funding or large, one-time gifts. Also, the work that goes into raising sponsorships is probably easier and less expensive to scale up. In other words, I would suspect that the marginal cost of raising the next sponsorship dollar declines as sponsorships increase. And finally, these pooled funds (a dynamic you described quite well) aren’t restricted to a particular impact area, in the way that grant funding might be restricted to, say, child protection or water access. That means it’s money that can be redirected to meet urgent and/or unanticipated needs.

        Second, given everything that I’ve written above, I suspect that the marginal impact of every sponsorship dollar lost isn’t static, but that it increases as the decline grows. To put it simply, losing $10 million in sponsorship funds is probably more than twice as bad as losing $5 million.

        Third, an event like this could inject a considerable amount of uncertainty into WV’s financial projections, which will in turn have an impact on programs on the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised if that resulted in some sort of spending slowdown, delay of new projects/initiatives, etc.

        Ultimately what I’m trying to say is that withdrawing a sponsorship will have ramifications beyond the face value of the $35/month that won’t be coming in anymore. You may very well be right that there’s not a significant drop-off in support, but it also may not take a large decline to have a substantive impact on the ground.

        • Jonathan Chan

          One other thing I forgot to add on the other side of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had made this announcement without doing at least some work in trying to forecast what the impact might be, and taking steps to mitigate that, such as waiting for a point in the year when they’re more financially secure. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there had been some discussion with major donors and other significant stakeholders as this conversation evolved internally, to ensure that this announcement didn’t totally break their back financially. All that to say it’s not like they’re totally helpless in the face of whatever financial backlash is occurring, which is the impression you might get from a lot of the uproar.

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Jonathan,

            FANTASTIC comments here. This is all right on. The added uncertainty that comes from de-funding is partly why I encouraged a kind of slow draw-down with notice, so as to do as much as possible to eliminate that uncertainty.

            I’d also suspect that a massive base of month-to-month makes winning grants *easier,* since such grants are built on top of a stable base. WV trumpets the fact that they turn every $1 given in sponsorship into $1.15, or something like that. They’re very good at leveraging that way.

            As to your final point, I suspect you’re probably right. I also suspect that a major part of the backlash is rooted in a sense of being kept out of that process. It seems to me like they would have been better off going public sooner with the news that they were thinking about it, and giving their donors and sponsors a sense of ownership about the process, one way or the other….you know, like they do in developing the communities they work in around the world. : )

            Matt

          • Jonathan Chan

            Thanks for the high praise Matt, I really appreciate it. Though I might add the news of the last hour means that my final comment probably couldn’t have been more wrong!

          • Eric Thurman

            Ah

          • EmilyStrongarm

            THAT is a great point. The people who run WV aren’t stupid and I’m sure they weren’t taken by surprise.

          • Eric Thurman

            “All that to say it’s not like they’re totally helpless in the face of whatever financial backlash is occurring, which is the impression you might get from a lot of the uproar.”

            Come again?

  • Eric

    How many different groups of people does a commitment to “moral integrity” have to harm before you begin to wonder what exactly one is committed to?

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

      Thanks for the comment, Eric.

  • fights

    Unfortunately the problem is much deeper, I have a friend who has a youth she is sponsoring through World Vision. She received a letter from the youth saying he’s enjoying his ISLAMIC studies provided by her funds. She wrote a letter to World Vision about this and they have yet to respond.

  • bondservant1

    If the church I’ve been a part of for a long time makes a change like this, should I continue giving and attending because of the positive impact it has on the community?

    Isn’t that now following “tradition?”

    While I realize World Vision is not a church, it also is not just a business (like Home Depot). And it’s no surprise to people who have looked at the “roots” of the company in the past and decided their money was better spent than contributing to “social justice” and other non-biblical principles that are interwoven throughout the company, and have been for years. The WV yokes to those with a less-than-biblical message is not a new thing.

    Each must prayfully consider what they do without anyone (including myself) telling them what to do. But let’s not justify staying with someone or something that we disagree with when they have changed – i.e. breaking a contract.

  • http://www.traffickingnews.org/ Jason Wert

    FANTASTIC post Matthew. Very well said.

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  • sherri510

    Thanks for this article. I think this is an important issue to discuss. I’m not surprised about the new rationale either, as WV seems to me to have been a little “light” on the Gospel anyway. Another good organization that helps people/children and brings them the message of Christ is Samaritan’s Purse.

    • Eric

      Yeah, all that feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and loving your neighbor is diet gospel, sure. 0.o

      • sherri510

        Wow, well anyone can do these things, but it’s like giving a man a fish rather than teaching him to fish. People need the Lord and there are plenty of organizations that help with physical needs while supplying what people really need, which is the Good News of the Gospel.

        • Eric Thurman

          “Wow, well anyone can do these things, but it’s like giving a man a fish rather than teaching him to fish.” Guess someone forgot to tell Jesus that.

          “People need the Lord and there are plenty of organizations that help with physical needs while supplying what people really need, which is the Good News of the Gospel.” Pretty sure only someone who isn’t hungry or homeless would make a distinction between “help with physical needs” and “the Good News of the Gospel.” More confident that Jesus himself didn’t make that distinction.

          • sherri510

            You’re wrong. Jesus was always about people’s real need to know Him and true life before anything else. He mourned the fact that most people were always looking for a “sign” or miracle rather than the Truth. All I am saying is that one doesn’t have to neglect the feeding of people’s souls while they are meeting their physical needs. I want to support organizations that do BOTH because this life is a vapor and eternity matters most.

          • Eric Thurman

            So how long does the sermon have to be before you give the kids food? WIll 10 minutes do? Or does it have to be 30? Or even 60? Hard to know how long it will take to tell a hungry person that life is vapor.

      • http://www.larryfarlow.com/ Larry Farlow

        When those things are done in the absence of the truth about Christ they are not “diet” gospel, they are no gospel at all. Good works cannot save either those who do them or those who receive them.

        • Eric Thurman

          So I guess Jesus was lying in Matthew 25 then?

          • http://www.larryfarlow.com/ Larry Farlow

            I guess you have to take the whole of scripture into account and not build doctrine around just one passage.

          • Eric Thurman

            Huh. I wonder what you’d say if a Christian who supported same-sex marriage wrote that.

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Here’s an idea, fellas: make arguments that are worked out in full, rather than tossing out tweet-like barbs at each other. The comments here at Mere-O are a haven for me of interested, friendly, and substantive discussion.

            That’s my request, at least. Carry on, if you must…

          • Eric Thurman

            My question was entirely interested, friendly, and substantive, no? So was my first question yesterday about moral integrity and harm.

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Oh, did you mean your first question about moral integrity and harm as a serious one? Because it seemed rather ill formed, and so I thought it was facetious. : )

            I would be very curious to hear you unpack what you mean by “harm”, what groups you have in mind, and how my post above is in fact counseling that people “harm” any of the groups.

            Best,

            Matt

          • Eric Thurman

            Ill-formed? Nice dig, I guess, though it was a blog comment, not a precis of a monograph.

            As for your post, you offer a more nuanced and compassionate assessment than many of your fellow travelers. Yet the fact that you went to such lengths to tease out the issues and implications suggests you already know what I mean. I’m talking about two groups, one, gays and lesbians, and two, children supported by WV. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume you not only hold that homosexuality is sinful, but that same-sex marriage should not be legalized. If so, then I could make a (probably familiar) argument that treating gays and lesbians as second-class citizens by denying them the same material benefits of straight marriages is a form of harm. Let’s leave that one aside, though.

            It is the second group, children, that I’m most concerned with here, as are you in your post. Some conservative Christians, upset with WV’s policy change with respect to hiring gays and lesbians, have expressed their intention to withdraw support from WV and thus from WV’s children. That would at least put those kids at risk of losing the material goods they depend on WV to provide. Harm would be losing those goods, no?

            Now, maybe WV doesn’t get that much money from conservative Christians who now plan on stopping their donations, so maybe few, if any kids, will no longer be supported. Maybe kids not helped by WV will be helped by other Christian groups and the new funds from former WV supporters. Maybe no child will notice, much less suffer want. Maybe.

            What is more than a “maybe” though is the clear willingness of some critics of WV to withdraw support –even if kids do suffer as a consequence. Not to put too find a point on it, the call to stop donations is basically a threat to WV’s children, treating them as pawns in a culture war. Think I’m exaggerating the willingness of those calling others to leave WV? Are you familiar with Sunrise Children’s Services in Kentucky? If not, google Sunrise and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Sunrise’s actual, not theoretical or projected, budged shortfall is around $7 million.

            So back to my original question, put differently for a general, not personal, “you”: what does it say about your Christian character and your understanding of the Christian faith if opposing homosexuality is more important than helping children? What does it say about someone if he or she would rather risk harming children than be seen as helping gays and lesbians (in this case by being willing to hire them as WV agreed to do)?

            I get that the people making this call feel they’ve been forced to make an either/or choice they don’t want to make. I regret that dilemma, I really do. Yet the choices we make in these situations reveals who we are and what we most deeply value. And people who choose to stop giving to WV are choosing to be against one group of people, rather than be for another group. Where is the gospel in that? What kind of Christian is someone who does that?

            Hence your post and its call for deliberation and patience so that support for kids doesn’t disappear. You seem to get not only the dilemma, but the dangers it poses to innocent parties such as the children of WV. If only you’d follow that concern, that suspicion, that compassion a bit farther and step back and ask who and what so-called Christians are becoming when they are willing to harm someone so that they don’t have to help someone else.

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Eric,

            Thanks for the reply. I appreciate it. I’ve got to run into a meeting in six minutes, so I’ll have to be brief and then disappear for a bit.

            This is the claim on which I think we most disagree:

            “So back to my original question, put differently for a general, not personal, “you”: what does it say about your Christian character and your understanding of the Christian faith if opposing homosexuality is more important than helping children? What does it say about someone if he or she would rather risk harming children than be seen as helping gays and lesbians (in this case by being willing to hire them as WV agreed to do)?”

            It’s not at all obvious to me that the decision to withdraw funding from WV entails that there is *more* concern for opposing homosexuality than for helping children. I bet we could find lots of reasons to think that’s just not the case among conservative Christians. For one, if we compared the aggregate donations that go to WV and other poverty-based organizations to those set up to deliberate oppose “gay marriage,” I suspect we’d see conservatives give FAR more toward poverty services.

            Second, let’s remember that WV is as large as it is in part because the very people who now have qualms about continuing to give gave for years. That is, if nothing else, a prima facie sign of a serious commitment to ending poverty. To claim that conscientiously withdrawing support is a sign of no longer caring about children, etc. seems to single out one particular moment in their relationship with the organization and ignore that past history.

            But thirdly, and probably most importantly, I think your claim about them caring more about gay marriage rather than children only goes through if they were to give up funding poverty relief COMPLETELY rather than transfer it to a different organization that does equivalent, even if not identical work. There may be reasons why people who started a funding relationship with WV should continue: but if they move to (say) Compassion, that is not a sign that they no longer care about the children they once supported.

            In a hypothetical case, suppose that a person decided that Compassion was more effective than World and so transferred their funding. No one could possibly accuse that person of not caring about poverty relief. So the sheer fact that people are ending sponsorships with WV does not entail that they care *more* about stopping gay marriage than they do about poverty at all. I think, to be honest, your claim only goes through if WV is the only sort of organization that does what it does. But it isn’t.

            The better understanding is, I think, the one I gave in the original post. People give to WV because they care about ending poverty *and* contributing to evangelistic work. The disagreement with WV is on the latter half of that formula, not the first half. And so switching organizations simply has no bearing on their commitment to the first half.

            I would note that all of this means that I think if a person simply stopped giving money altogether rather than changing the recipient that would be a reason to think that your interpretation is right. But given that these are people who have (in many cases) given freely and willingly for years, I’m highly dubious that people are going to give up their charitable contributions toward children in need altogether, rather than transfer them.

            Thanks for the conversation. Feel free to push back. I’ll be in a meeting and so may not be able to respond soon.

            Matt

          • Eric Thurman

            Thanks for yours as well. I’ll understand if you can’t reply soon, of if you choose not to reply at all. I’ll likely be offline a part of the day too. But some quick thoughts.

            “It’s not at all obvious to me that the decision to withdraw funding from WV entails that there is *more* concern for opposing homosexuality than for helping children.” Even when that is the expressed reason for no longer supporting WV? We could each easily find and post a plethora of online statements to that effect, from Al Mohler on.

            “For one, if we compared the aggregate donations….” That would an interesting stat to know, I agree. I’m more confident that the number of people making donations to WV is higher than the number of people donating to organizations opposed to same-sex marriage. But I am curious about the total dollars given to each. In any case, to clarify, I meant “more” in the sense of a higher priority–given only two choices. As I said, I can see where supporter of WV who also oppose same-sex marriage are in a bind of sorts that requires them to make a choice, take some action. I think the decision to withdraw support, rather than agree with WV or disagree yet still support, is a telling one.

            “That is, if nothing else, a prima facie sign of a serious commitment to ending poverty.” True, I grant that with no debate. But I never questioned their commitment to ending poverty in and of itself (though some of the commenters here make me wonder). I simply said they placed a *higher priority* on opposing gays and lesbians than on helping fight poverty. So, to me, the one moment I’ve singled out is, again, quite telling.

            “I think, to be honest, your claim only goes through if WV is the only
            sort of organization that does what it does. But it isn’t.” Two things to say here. One, yes, but…. Yes, there are other aid organizations, but are they as large and effective as WV? Isn’t choosing an “inferior” organization also a choice to decrease the quantity and/or quality of aid provided? And even if that decrease ends up being an materially inconsequential, is it not still symbolically meaningful?

            But, two, let’s assume there will be no net loss for WV’s children. Others will make up for any lost contributions and/or those kids will be helped by the agencies now given additional support from former WV supporters. I’m not just concerned with any actual material harm that might come to WV’s children. I’m at least as concerned with the *willingness* of so many opponents of gays and lesbians to jeopardize those kids by ending their contributions. If no other Christian organizations like WV existed, what do you think those upset with WV would do? Would they continue to give? Or would they stop giving anyway?

            I’ve seen the latter happen in the case of Sunrise Children’s Services, as I noted before, so I’m not as confident as you that past givers aren’t willing to simply stop giving, period, if they see those as the only options. In the current situation, though, again, it is not simply about switching to whom to give–because that is not the rhetoric or language being used by many. We’d need to have a specific example to really go further, but it seems to me the language more often has been “stop supporting WV,” not “give to Samaritan’s Purse!”

            To use the parlance of our times, some Christians are being defined more by what or who they oppose than what or who they support. That’s an easy cliche to shrug off, I suppose, but it does point the deeper question of what our choices say about our Christian character and about how we understand our faith itself.

          • http://caldwa.tumblr.com/ Andrew

            Still disagree, Matt. When people start a sponsorship, are they committing to the organization, or the individual child they are sponsoring? I said earlier that there is nothing wrong with switching to a different org for future sponsorship or donations. But ENDING a sponsorship with an individual person because of this topic of gay marriage, I think, is not right. How do you explain that to the individual child? This switching of sponsorship shows a lack of commitment to the individual child. So yes, in that particular case, it shows a priority of ideology over individual.

          • http://www.larryfarlow.com/ Larry Farlow

            That the whole of scripture affirms the both design of marriage as one man and one woman and the sinfulness of sexual activity outside of that. That’s what I’d say.

        • Eric Thurman

          And how is doing those things *not* reflective of the “truth about Christ”?

      • KeithCrosby

        What does it profit that a man gain the world but forfeit his soul? Are we content to send people well dressed and well fed into a godless eternity? Grace and truth… truth without grace is useless and grace without truth is graceless.

        Yes Jesus took care of physical needs in His ministry but where it was the woman taken in adultery, or the lame man by the pool… He ALWAYS told them to go and sin no more. His basic message was repent and believe the gospel. He told His disciples that the poor would always be with them…

        World Vision and other parachurch organizations usually lose sight of the gospel in about 20 to 50 years… At some point, you can’t support them.

        • Eric Thurman

          So I’ll ask you the same question I asked Ellen, I guess: was Jesus lying in Matthew 25?

          • KeithCrosby

            Eric Thurman:

            You’re engaging in false reasoning by pulling a verse out of context. You are logically inconsistent. Should I hate my mother and father, too?

            You have to take the whole counsel of Scripture and the whole body of what Jesus said throughout the New Testament (and old for that matter) in context, near context and broad context. Should I have my enemies slain before me, as Jesus indicated in Luke 19:12,14,15,27? You’re simply engaging in wooden literalism and choosing not to seriously interact with opposing ideas.

            So, using your method, without thoughtful interaction:

            What does it profit that a man gain the world but forfeit his soul? Are we content to send people well dressed and well fed into a godless eternity? Grace and truth… truth without grace is useless and grace without truth is graceless.

            Yes Jesus took care of physical needs in His ministry but where it was the woman taken in adultery, or the lame man by the pool… He ALWAYS told them to go and sin no more. His basic message was repent and believe the gospel. He told His disciples that the poor would always be with them…

            World Vision and other parachurch organizations usually lose sight of the gospel in about 20 to 50 years… At some point, you can’t support them.

          • Eric Thurman

            No, seriously, was Jesus lying in Matthew 25?

  • Bobby

    Does anyone know the approximate percentage of donations that WV receives from non-affirming churches (or from people in non-affirming churches)? I’d guess that it’s not high. I’d guess that a substantial chunk of its funding comes from governmental organizations (e.g., USAID), private foundations, corporations, and mainline Christians. In that sense, it’s not too different from an organization like Oxfam, despite its evangelical origins.

  • Anucia Maldosa

    I’ve quit World Vision. Sorry, but I’d rather support a purely secular charity than one which distorts Christianity. No one will be led to hell by supporting Red Cross, but innocents who support WV may find the faith taken down a very toxic rabbit trail.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Before boycotting World Vision be sure you boycott all the Gay-friendly corporations including Starbucks, Apple, Target, Disney, Ford, Levi-Strauss, Microsoft, Amazon.com, The Home Depot, Expedia.com, The Gap, Pepsi, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Macy’s, Walgreens, etc.
      Because it would look rather hypocritical to cut off money to Jennifer Ajego’s village whilst still buying your Starbucks Americano.

      • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

        Is there a reason to think that the decision-making process for (a) buying services from companies that do not claim any kind of religious affiliation or motivation is the same as (b) voluntarily donating money to an organization who provides a service (rather than selling a good ) while claiming for itself the mantle of Christianity in its fundraising and its efforts?

        I can see lots of ways in which those are very different cases. In what way are they analogous, such that we should accept your counterpoint?

        Matt

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Hi Matt. Thanks for your comment. Are you suggesting that there is a Christian moral principle according to which it may be morally permissible (or good) to buy a Starbucks Americano, Gap jeans, and a ticket to “Frozen”, but morally impermissible (or bad) to use that same money to support a World Vision child like Jennifer Ajego?

          Could you say more about this because your understanding of the Gospel seems to be very different from mine.

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Nope! I didn’t suggest anything like that. You brought up the analogy, I pointed out ways in which the organizations were disanalogous, and asked you to clarify in what sense you think they are equivalent such that your point holds.

            Best,

            Matt

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            Well if you didn’t suggest anything like that, then I guess there is no moral problem with having one’s Starbucks Americano and supporting Jennifer Ajego.

            In which case, what’s the point of your article?

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Again, I pointed out discrepancies and asked for you to clarify how you think your analogy goes. If you don’t have an interest in unpacking the analogy and working out what force it actually has, then I can’t see why we should simply grant that you’ve made a decisive point against anything that is written above.

            Best,

            Matt

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            Here are the “discrepancies” and parallels:

            Starbucks is a secular, private for-profit corporation that seeks to sell coffee which has taken a stand on a controversial ethical issue different from the stand that you’ve taken.

            World Vision is a Christian non-profit organization that seeks to better the lot of the world’s poor and further the Kingdom of God and which has taken a stand on a controversial ethical issue different from the stand that you’ve taken.

            And I’m saying, if you have moral justification to boycott the latter, surely you have moral justification to boycott the former. And if you think not, then why not?

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Randal,

            Thanks for the reply.

            First, no one has mentioned “boycotting” World Vision. I take it that boycotts are publicly promoted campaigns to not patronize a particular organization. There’s nothing like that afoot here.

            Second, it may be the case that there are reasons not to buy Starbucks. In fact, lo and behold, I’ve taken up that question here: http://mereorthodoxy.com/starbucks-boycotts-buying-coffee-theological-ethics/

            Third, the analogy is imperfect (and so not as decisive as you seem to think) in that it ignores (a) that voluntary contributions have a kind of asymmetry that purchasing products do not. We get something back for our dollar at Starbucks, and so on a cumulative level any “contribution” is necessarily smaller. Also, (b) you seem to be implying that there are no reasons to go on supporting WV. That’s not the case, though. There are lots of reasons to go on supporting WV: but one of the *main* reasons that many people supported them was that they have been committed to a particular theological vision *in addition to* their social work, and we now have reason to believe that commitment has in fact been weakened. If that’s true, then that provides a reason to no longer support them *on grounds that* their distinctive Christian identity has been compromised, and (this is the crucial part) the *reason* that I originally gave money to them was that distinctive Christian identity.

            But people’s purchasing decisions at Starbucks operate on a completely different rationale. Hence, I think your analogy doesn’t do nearly as much as you claim.

            Best,

            Matt

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            You recommend Compassion International as an alternative. I spoke with a Compassion representative just this morning and she was unaware of any policy that precludes Compassion from hiring folks who have been divorced (for reasons other than covenantal unfaithfulness) and then remarried whilst the former spouse is still alive. In other words, it appears that Compassion is willing to hire people who, according to the very teaching of Jesus, are in adulterous relationships.

            So should we boycott Compassion too?

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Randal,

            Do I really need to remind you that no one is calling for boycotts? It’s only been three minutes, man!

            If you’d like to have a substantive discussion about the merits of WV’s policy and why Christians might have reasons to object to it, we can do that…elsewhere. I’d point out that the substance of this post had nothing to do with that argument, though.

            Best,

            Matt

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            Come on Matt, don’t avoid the question. If you think there are moral grounds for a Christian to stop supporting World Vision based on their position on gay marriage, how can you suggest Compassion as an alternative given their position on divorce and remarriage?

          • Scion of Perdition

            Hey, don’t you have your own website where you can prattle away all you like?

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser
          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            Randal,

            Since you’ve pretty badly misconstrued my argument in your post and persist, I’m not sure there’s much point in going further.

            As to your point about Compassion and divorce, I would note that I actually think that divorce in some circumstances may be licit (as do many, many churches) while I think same-sex marriage is licit in no circumstances. Getting into the reasons for that position would take us far afield from this particular post, and I don’t have the time right now, nor the inclination to do so. But for anyone who shares that position, that would be sufficient grounds for preferring Compassion’s position to WV’s.

            Thanks for commenting and replying. You’re always welcome, even if we don’t agree and I don’t have the time to respond to the extent that you would like or think merited.

            Best,

            Matt

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            “I would note that I actually think that divorce in some circumstances may be licit…”

            Yes, and some Christians (including some evangelicals) believe that homosexual unions may be licit in some circumstances.

            Here’s the lesson: Christians (including evangelicals) disagree about all sorts of ethical issues, but we do agree on helping the world’s poor in Jesus’ name whether that be through World Vision, or Compassion or …

            Good talking with you.

          • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

            We do indeed agree about that. Thanks, Randal.

            Best,

            Matt

          • Guest

            Matt,

            Your new pal, Randal, has written what appears to be a somewhat scathing article concerning you:

            http://randalrauser.com/2014/03/stop-supporting-world-vision-on-the-ethical-vision-of-some-conservative-evangelicals/

          • thanksMatt

            Hahaha… How much do you want to bet that the ‘guest’ promoting Randal is – drum rollllllll pleeeaaase – Randal?

          • Guest

            I (i.e. Guest) only wanted Matt to know that Randal wrote a lengthy article about Matt today, and that article is rather pointed. I think Matt (and others) on this forum might want to read the article and weigh in on it. This is an important issue.

          • haha449

            Randal, At first you seem rational and consistent, but your account of the original article and it’s agreements is very weak. It’s not very honest to me. It feels like pure emotional journalism to spark emotional debate rather than having a charitable read to seek understanding. What I see is: you “jump” to starbucks, then “jump” to issue of remarriage. Each of these issues or questions (to most theologians/philosophers) function on different grounds. It’s not the place to infuse all topics in this tread. The author is simply making the case that 1) it’s not biblical, 2) donations don’t function like we all assume, 3) therefore, donate elsewhere and here are some suggestions. The post was not about remarriage (although I do think this is a valid point). I do think it’s more difficult to determine a valid or invalid remarriage, hence I think that most Christian institutions (both church and para-church) have failed in discipline of divorce/remarriage. It’s a major issue to me. Lastly, I will remind everyone, this is a blog, if you are such an academic, then become a professor and publish.. that’s where the debates have been occurring for the past 25 years. Blogs are, usually for, personal opinion, not publishable material. Randel, it seems you assume the latter, not the former in practice.

          • Frankly Bored

            Yeah, because someone with the handle “Scion of Perdition” is obviously a follower of Jesus…

          • haha449

            Although I don’t agree with your statements above and you seem to not have answered the direct question, this however is a VERY good point.

      • Frankly Bored

        I don’t recall any of those corporations presenting themselves to the world as Christian organizations. World Vision does. Claiming to be Christian while defaming Christ is somewhat worse than hypocritical.
        Thanks for the reminder that supporting local small businesses is important since you are more likely to be giving your money to people who share your values.

      • RM

        None of the companies you mentioned state they are a Christian organization. They are not hypocrites, just lovers of sin. A Christian organization is held to a higher standard, because the bear the “title” Christian.

      • Rob Mongeau

        there’s one difference here, WV claims to be christian, and is somewhat a part of the face of christianity, not the others

      • Kimo

        Randal–Your argument was addressed by the Apostle Paul in I Cor. 5:9-11.

      • Sid Sorces

        We sponsor five children. Today we have deactivated our account and committed those children to the sovereign grace of God. If you do not understand the grace of God, you will not understand what we have done in the name of not treading on the blood shed on the Cross by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. We love gays — Christian or not — who want to marry, but we will not affirm a lie that leads to death.

  • Stanley

    Both sides are unwavering. This is and will continue to cause more division than unity. Please read the following “press release” I created. This is the message I wish World Vision would say (I think they’ve made a huge mistake). I think if they said something like this it could really please both sides of the issue: http://worldvisionpolicychange.wordpress.com If you like it, please share!

  • http://www.winsomearrows.com/ Joan

    I appreciate your encouragement to careful and thorough thinking on this matter.

  • http://www.4simpsons.wordpress.com/ Homer J

    I am extremely disappointed with WV and politely but firmly let them know that via email yesterday. My contact called to tell me that she would be forwarding my email on. I told them I would continue the relationship we’ve had with our two remaining sponsor children (both 10+ years) but would cease all support of WV after that.

  • http://www.larryfarlow.com/ Larry Farlow

    This is really not a hard decision. WV has decided that repentance is no longer the mark of a Christian. That puts them outside of orthodoxy. If they still insist on claiming they are a Christian organization in the face of that, believers have no choice but to withdraw support. “Do not even eat with such a one” is the apostle Paul’s instruction for dealing with those who claim the name of Christ but deny Him through their actions.

  • http://j.hn/ John Dyer

    Matt,
    Thanks for writing so clearly and outlining the many possible positions and their repercussions both in the short and long term. I wish there were more writing like this.

  • http://hereiblog.com/ Mark Lamprecht

    Thankfully, I do not sponsor through World Vision, but through Compassion (for 8-9 years now). If I were using WV the decision to stop would be difficult considering the child being sponsored.

    However, let’s think for a minute about unrepentant sin in the church. I know WV wants to push most of the doctrinal disagreements as local church issues. Yet, at the same time they still have certain areas of morality that they enforce outside the local church.

    Now, consider someone caught in unrepentant sin who ends up going before the church and still not repenting. This person would be cut-off from the church. In similar manner, it may be argued that WV has simply established that it is ignoring and affirming unrepentant sin. Therefore, it should be no surprise if some Christians decide to end the relationship.

  • Jason M. Kates

    I appreciate your thought out and reasoned response. It was very helpful for me, and hopefully will be for others.

  • Justin Matthews

    A very helpful and articulate response, Matthew. Subscribe I shall to this blog of yours. :)

  • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

    All,

    I just wanted to make three very quick points. (That’s kinda like the pastor who says “just one more thing,” isn’t it?)

    First, thanks for reading this post. I am most grateful for that.

    Second, thanks for the kind things that many of you have said about it. Even if I haven’t responded to everyone, I have been very gratified by them.

    Third, thanks for the constructive conversation in the comments. (Special props to Jonathan Chan, whose insights are of the “must read” variety.)

    I have long maintained that Mere-O’s comments were a haven of civility and smartness, even when there are disagreements. While many of y’all are new here, I am glad that has tradition has been continued.

    Best,

    Matt

  • Rick DeLorme

    Thank you Matt, for bringing up things to thoughtfully consider.

    I have read many perspectives from different viewpoints. Yours seem to capture the difficulty, as a person who believes in the inerrant message of the Gospel, and wants to do no harm to God’s Word.

    I must say you are wise and gracious, and have helped me in my thinking process on this.

    Thanks for considering those in need of material things that World Vision helps provide, and also for the spiritual needs of all from an eternal perspective. I think you captured the essence of both.

  • Jeanne Sapp

    Very well said. Thank you.

  • Kimo

    I really don’t see a choice. Romans 1:32 is clear that those who approve of sin are just as guilty as those engaging in it. WV is approving of sin; I will be approving of sin if I support WV. We are in this mess because organizations are caving and conforming to the world, not the Word of God. The Lord was clear with Israel: just a little idolatry was not acceptable to Him. So should it be with us.

  • JGS

    The latest…

    • Sid Sorces

      Too late, as far as I am concerned. I have already informed them of my decision and I believe God’s sovereign grace is moving in some wonderful way here that I can not fathom at this moment.

      • Eric Thurman

        So you were donating before, but aren’t now?

        • Sid Sorces

          Acted hastily and without careful consideration (sort of like WV’s BOD!). Will continue support through year-end while informing WV we plan to reallocate funds to Compassion International which does like work around the world. Concerned about continued fallout at WV and how the character and culture of the ministry may be changing. After 20 years of support it is time for a review.

  • Sid Sorces

    We have given many thousands of dollars to WV over the past 10 years — five children plus responses to appeals for disaster aide with generous gifts because we believed they had {boots on the ground) and that our gifts were given in the name of Jesus Christ. That ended today. We have been to Charity Navigator and preliminary research suggests they are even more effective and efficient at what they do in the name of the Lord.

    • Sid Sorces

      Don’t know why, but it seems that my suggestion of checking out Compassion International as an alternative to WV was dropped. Check out charity navigator . com and review their info; I believe they may be even more efficient and Christ-centered than WV.

  • Eric Thurman
  • pcsrocky

    The only thing World Vision will understand is if people pull their money en masse. That will let them know, without a doubt, that people are upset with their decision and don’t agree with it. The old saying is unfortunately true “money talks.”

  • Mama Re

    Please check out Compassion International. I have supported this child development Christian organization for 30 and I have dropped in unexpectedly on child sites around the world. I have visited the children I’ve sponsored. I have never been disappointed in what I found. The relationship fostered between sponsor and child is real, not just a ploy. They consistently get top ratings for responsible money management.

  • Bobby

    In thinking about this a bit more, I guess I’m more and more surprised by the outcry. I’m a member of a church in a fairly conservative Reformed denomination PCA). The denomination would object to the ordination of presbyters (e.g., pastors) who are in sexually active same-sex relationships. Further, it would object to a presbyter’s officiating a same-sex wedding ceremony. But each local congregation is left to develop its own policy for handling laypersons who are in sexually active same-sex relationships. In most instances, the church elects not to exercise discipline, and merely asks the couple not to conduct themselves at church in a manner that would offend others unnecessarily. I suspect that many evangelical churches handle the issue similarly when it concerns laypersons in a same-sex relationship.
    Working for WV is probably closer to a lay position than an ordained position. In that sense, I don’t see that the WV policy is altogether inconsistent with how many conservative churches would address the issue.

    • kjs

      “But each local congregation is left to develop its own policy for handling laypersons who are in sexually active same-sex relationships. In most instances, the church elects not to exercise discipline, and merely asks the couple not to conduct themselves at church in a manner that would offend others unnecessarily.”

      Are these “laypersons” members of the church? I can’t imagine such a lackadaisical approach to church disciple for gross public sin in any of the PCA congregations of which I’ve been a member or attended regularly. Perhaps these “laypersons” are non-members? Still, the official position of the PCA is that “Churches should actively seek to lead the homosexual person to confession and repentance that he might find justification and sanctification in Jesus Christ” as affirmed at the 5th GA.

      • Bobby

        Yes, they are members. There are at least two gay couples who are members of my PCA church. Further, the statement adopted at the 5th GA is merely pious advice, whose merits are assessed independently by each session. The PCA is not a top-down denomination on such matters. Lastly, I’m not sure what you mean by “gross sin.” I wouldn’t view gay sex as being any worse than gluttony, gossip, etc. See, for example, Richard Hays’s analysis of the issue. Do we refuse communion to fat people?

        • kjs

          Being “fat” is not a state of sin; gluttony is a sin, and one may be a glutton without being fat, as one may be fat without being a glutton. A person who openly persists in unrepentant gluttony after admonition should, in fact, be refused communion, as should any person openly persisting in any sin whatever without repentance. I’m not sure your rubric for determining same-sex sexual activity to be no worse than gluttony and gossip; do you deny that there are degrees of sin, or do you believe it to be a lower degree of sin? Scripture treats homosexual conduct as being at least as heinous as any other form of fornication.

          Not knowing the specific situation in your church, of course, I’m unqualified to speak to the reasons why any openly same-sex couples have been admitted to membership. However, if they have been admitted to membership in spite of ongoing sexual relations between them, such a serious lack of discipline may warrant even that charges be brought against the members of the session.

          • Bobby

            Got it…because there are lots of evangelical churches out there exercising church discipline against those who overeat. Further, I have no idea what the sex lives of these same-sex couples entails. Romans 1, after all, isn’t too specific about what specific acts are being criticized as unnatural. So, the issue is not as open-and-shut as you seem to suppose. As far as the rubric is concerned, I pointed you to Richard Hays’s book on Christian ethics. It takes an approach that is fairly consistent with Scripture’s teaching. In contrast, you seem to be prostrating yourself before a false idol of heteronormativity, which owes itself more to 19th Century pseudo-science than to anything in the Bible.

          • kjs

            Gluttony is wanton indulgence, not mere overeating, and being fat is neither of these (though it may result). Gluttony is also not as egregious a sin as homosexual conduct or other varieties of fornication, which themselves are not as egregious as outright idolatry. Do we admit unmarried adults engaged in mutually consenting incest or prostitution to membership, and allow them to partake of the Lord’s Supper? Or do you think there is no sin, practiced openly and unrepentantly, which may warrant exclusion from the sacrament? In your church, is gluttony a problem that is being ignored? If not, does the lack of discipline for gluttony in other churches justify your church’s lack of discipline for homosexual conduct? Even if your church, or the church in general, is turning a blind eye to gluttony, this does not excuse a lack of discipline regarding homosexual behavior; it is only an indictment of the church’s lack of discipline in general, and at least some degree of hypocrisy. As for the specifics of these same-sex couples’ sex lives, what is important for our purposes is that they have any kind of active sexual relationship at all, which I remind you is what *YOU* claimed. Such a relationship is clearly and ineluctably forbidden by Scripture, and should not be tolerated in members of the church.

            Regarding Richard Hays’ rubric, while he is correct so far as he goes in saying that the thrust of Paul’s argument in Romans 1 is that all sin is the result of rebellion against God, he is certainly wrong that Paul therefore regards all sins as equally reprehensible. Paul’s use of homosexuality as the culminating sin illustrative of man’s idolatrous rebellion against God is instructive in itself of the great severity of homosexual conduct. Moreover, Hays is unequivocal that persons who experience same-sex attraction should not engage in homosexual conduct, but should seek abstinence if they are unable to change their orientation. As for my alleged “idol of heteronormativity,” I don’t think I’m guilty of the charge, though you’re welcome to attempt to prove it (I have read Michael Hannon’s essay).

        • Bobby

          You seem to be filling in a lot of gaps regarding your reading of Romans 1. I’ve been a member of PCA churches for 20 years (except for a brief stint in the South, when I attended a PC(USA) church). Hays’s view is widely accepted, as far as I can tell. Further, I’ve never heard of anyone interpreting Romans 1 as you have suggested. It strikes me that you have something of an axe to grind on this issue, and that you may harbor a certain amount of anti-gay animus. I’m also glad that you read Michael’s article. He hits the nail on the head regarding his diagnosis of evangelicals’ tendency to rely too heavily on modernist assumptions. I think there’s also a tendency to develop our theology reflexively in response to various skirmishes in the so-called Culture Wars. I don’t have such issues. My philosophical commitments lie in the post-structuralist direction, e.g., along the lines of Catholic philosopher David Schindler. I’m pretty favorably disposed to Peter Leithart as well. Further, I’m pretty ambivalent about social conservatism. FWIW, I’m in favor of civil same-sex marriage, as long as conscientious objectors can opt out of direct participation in a same-sex marriage ceremony.

          • kjs

            - The view that all sins are equally reprehensible is widely professed (mostly out of a commendable desire to avoid appearing self-righteous), but belied by the reality that most of the people so professing still regard certain sins as worse than others, and act accordingly. This doesn’t mean they always prioritize correctly, but few people actually *act* as if all sins are equal, and I don’t believe there really is scriptural warrant for them to do so. Some sins are worse than others, e.g., murder is worse than adultery.

            - Read Robert Gagnon if you find my understanding of Romans 1 so foreign.

            - My understanding that the Bible forbids homosexual conduct does not rely upon modernist assumptions about sexual orientation.

            - You are far too ready to make accusations against my character and personal motivations (“prostrating … before a false idol of heteronormativity,” “axe to grind,” “anti-gay animus”).

          • kjs

            I’ll further note that the PCA formally holds doctrinal standards which state that all sins are not equally heinous. See the Shorter Catechism Q&A 83, and the Larger Catechism Q&A 150-151. I don’t know how commonly elders or ministers take exception to this doctrine.

          • JamesM3

            ” It strikes me that you have something of an axe to grind on this issue, and that you may harbor a certain amount of anti-gay animus.”
            I’m going to play referee and throw a yellow flag on your red herring. In following your dialogue, I don’t see where your foil has been guilty of such. Just saying.

  • http://newstechnica.com David Gerard

    I think the important thing is to make sure the secular world identifies Christianity with hatred of gays. If you can just hammer home that one message, the Kingdom will follow.

  • singer

    When I heard about the decision, I prayed. It is not man World Vision, or any of us will answer to, it is God. I saw this decision as a removal of God’s hand from this ministry, not because God hates, but because He is Holy. My support for a child or community also involves those the children are being exposed to. Risking exposure to those who openly practice sin is not a risk I want to stand before God defending. I’m glad World Vision has reversed their decision, but my response to their initial decision was already made. A sweet 8 year old girl through Compassion International, who was waiting 369 days for a sponsor, now has one.

    • fights

      Thanks for sharing the name of the charity. I decided to sponsor elsewhere as well and I will be looking there!

    • Eric Thurman

      Were you previously donating to WorldVision?

      • singer

        Yes. My husband and I have been long time supporters. It just so happens that we were notified last week that the child we were supporting was no longer in the program. No explanation was given. We were contacted by World Vision and my husband asked them what happened and they could not tell us anything. Our relationship with that child was severed and we were asked to support another child.

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  • Benjamin

    I plan to quit World Vision right away. What’s the point of helping a child, I ask you, if it might ALSO provide employment for someone else who doesn’t meet my stringent criteria of “exactly like me”? I do this to feel I control the world, not to help strangers; if it feeds and clothes TWO people and one’s the wrong sort, that’s the very end of my Christian love.

    You people are horrible and don’t even realize it.

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  • Mindi

    All you people should be ashamed of yourselves…