As the events of this week have unfolded publicly resulting in a tsunami of debate, conversation and doubt, it is becoming clear that the foundational issue is not being portrayed clearly. What is the big deal about World Vision’s decision?
On Monday, World Vision announced that they would no longer hire or fire based on someone’s sexuality, but they would leave that to the authority of the individual’s local church to deem appropriate or not. This was cloaked in the idea of unity amongst believers.
Why is this a big deal? Shouldn’t homosexual people be allowed to work? Surely they can feed the poor and help those who are less fortunate? Perhaps allowing people of all backgrounds to work for a Christian non-profit will help them learn the Bible and maybe this is the way God is drawing them to Himself? To repentance?
All of those arguments are valid. But they completely miss the point.
World Vision is a Christian organization. Leadership states that its purpose is to fight all forms of injustice and reach the world for Christ. Because of its Christian identity, they hold an employee code of conduct. To be hired, one must affirm faith in Jesus Christ, be an active member of a local church, sign off on belief in the Apostle’s Creed and agree to a lifestyle that fights sin. It also affirms belief in the Bible as the inerrant (without error) and inspired Word of God, and our authority for life.
What does that mean, what exactly is the lifestyle conduct code? Most of us, Christian or not, could list the ten commandments. Most of us know that the Bible has clearly outlined things that are sinful. Adultery. If you are married and you have an affair, this is Biblically considered a sin (Ex 20.17). World Vision will fire an employee and refuse to hire a candidate if it is known that he is having an affair. Drunkenness. The Bible is clear that getting drunk is a sin (Eph 5.18). Jesus drank wine, so alcohol is not prohibited but to be drunk is indeed a sin. Sex outside of marriage is also Biblically called a sin (1 Cor 6.18). These are all grounds for dismissal from the organization.
So in World Vision’s employee code of conduct, any normal, fire-able sin like stealing, embezzlement and lying are ground for dismissal. Above those normally ethically damnable sins are drunkenness, adultery and sex outside of marriage. While a non-Christian company would not fire you for those personal decisions, World Vision would. Included in this list before Monday was unrepentant homosexuality. The Bible defines homosexuality as a sin:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
– 1 Cor 6.9-10
God is extremely concerned about sin. The only reason Jesus died and rose again is to pay the punishment for our sin. We need a Savior because we deserve to go to Hell for any sin that we have committed. Practicing homosexuality is not going to send someone to Hell more than lying, stealing or murder. But not repenting from it will indeed send you to Hell just like lying, stealing and murder.
World Vision is what is known as a para-church organization. They are not governed by a specific denomination or statement of faith. In fact, they are composed of fifty denominations: everything from Orthodox to Episcopalian. And there are represented within those denominations what are known as “secondary doctrines” and even tertiary doctrines. These are those doctrines that churches believe and hold strongly that do not affect the core of Christianity that is salvation. Included in these doctrines is the debate over birth control, mode of baptism, and women in leadership. On topics like these, World Vision does not take a stand but allows each individual church to interpret Scripture how they understand it.
So now we finally get to the point. On Monday, the board at World Vision attempted to take homosexuality out of the sin and nonnegotiable category and place it into the non-essential category of secondary doctrines. They removed it from the list of sins that Paul says will keep us from Heaven, and said you can decide for yourself. We will not hold you accountable. They will still fire employees for having one too many drinks, but not for marrying someone of the same gender.
IF World Vision had made the decision to remove their Christian identity and overall code of conduct and function strictly as an NGO that helped in disaster relief and community development, this would be a non conversation. Of course all people can work together and unite towards that end. The problem is that they, for two days, stood under the statement that they were changing Scripture, or choosing to not submit to it as the authority for Christians, namely employees.
Praise God, though, that they listened to the counsel of believers and repented of their decision. They could have rectified the situation in two ways. They could have abandoned their Christian identity and then been free to employ people of all world views and could have used the work place as an opportunity to engage people who are not believers, or they could return to the authority of Scripture and maintain their Christian identity. They chose the latter.
Homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin. It is actually reported that there are many homosexuals who already work for World Vision. But they are submitting to the word of God and are fighting their own personal sin, as are the rest of us. We are all fighting the temptation of our own sin of disposition. Some lying. Some stealing. Some pride. Some fornication. All Christians are in the battle for our souls against our flesh, clinging to the power of Christ to free us from sin and its reign. World Vision has simply returned to the God-honoring position that we do not have to be perfect, but we do have to agree with God about what He calls sin. We have to fight our sin, and live a life that outwardly honors Him. And if we choose to give in to our sin, we are disqualified from employment in their company.
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
– 1 Cor 6.11
Praise God we have been washed clean and empowered to live lives that honor Him!