Richard Stearns has every right to try to make his case, but these arguments are pathetically inadequate. Far more than that, his arguments reveal basic issues that every Christian ministry, organization, church, and denomination will have to face — and soon."Unity" at the expense of truth is a false unity built upon a false premise. World Vision, rather than holding fast to the truth of the Gospel, has allowed itself to become infected by the leaven of a handful of wayward mainline denominations which have abandoned that truth. It is a tragedy which will have devastating consequences for suffering children throughout the world.
The distinction between an “operational arm” of the church and a “theological arm” is a fatal misreading of reality. World Vision claims a Christian identity, claims to serve the kingdom of Christ, and claims a theological rationale for its much-needed ministries to the poor and distressed. It cannot surrender theological responsibility when convenient and then claim a Christian identity and a theological mandate for ministry.
Add to this the fact that World Vision claims not to have compromised the authority of Scripture, even as its U.S. president basically throws the Bible into a pit of confusion by suggesting that the Bible is not sufficiently clear on the question of the morality of same-sex sexuality. Stearns insists that he is not compromising biblical authority even as he undermines confidence that the church can understand and trust what the Bible reveals about same-sex sexuality.
The policy shift points back to a basic problem with World Vision’s understanding of the church. No organization can serve on behalf of churches across the vast theological and moral spectrum that would include clearly evangelical denominations, on the one hand, and liberal denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ, on the other. That might work if World Vision were selling church furniture, but not when the mission of the organization claims a biblical mandate.
Furthermore, it is ridiculous to argue that World Vision is not taking sides on the issue. The objective fact is that World Vision will now employ openly-gay employees involved in openly homosexual relationships. There is no rational sense in claiming that this represents neutrality.
In his final comment included in Christianity Today‘s coverage of the issue, Richard Stearns stated: “I’m hoping this may inspire unity among others as well. To say how we come together across some differences and still join together as brothers and sisters in Christ in our common mission of building the kingdom.”
Note carefully that his language is deeply theological — not just “operational.” He speaks of being “brothers and sisters in Christ” and of “building the kingdom.” What kingdom? Whose kingdom?
Writing to the Corinthian Christians, the Apostle Paul stated: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” [1 Corinthians 6:9-10]
The leader of World Vision U.S. now claims that the Bible is not sufficiently clear on the sinfulness of same-sex sexuality and relationships, but he also claims a “mission of building the kingdom.” The Apostle Paul makes homosexuality a kingdom issue, and he does so in the clearest of terms.
Of course, Paul’s point is not that homosexuals are uniquely sinful, but that all of us are sinners in need of the grace and mercy of God that come to us in the gift of salvation. Thanks be to God, Paul follows those words with these: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” [1 Corinthians 6:11]
The worst aspect of the World Vision U.S. policy shift is the fact that it will mislead the world about the reality of sin and the urgent need of salvation. Willingly recognizing same-sex marriage and validating openly homosexual employees in their homosexuality is a grave and tragic act that confirms sinners in their sin — and that is an act that violates the gospel of Christ.
World Vision has made a decisive difference in millions of lives around the world. Its humanitarian work is urgently important in a world of unspeakable need. Last year the organization had a total financial reach of almost $3 billion. Its scale and expertise are unprecedented in the Christian world. That is what makes this policy shift so ominous and threatening.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Mohler on World Vision: Pointing to disaster
Albert Mohler is not persuaded by World Vision president Richard Stearns' rationale for the decision, and sees nothing but disaster ahead for the once venerable relief agency.