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US World Vision ignites row over same-sex hiring


Thursday 27 March 2014

The US branch of World Vision has caused headaches for the Australian arm this week, when its president Richard Stearns announced on Tuesday that it would change its employment policies to include Christians who are in legal, same-sex marriages, and then reversed that decision within two days.

World Vision Australia is a separate branch to the US, operating independently with its own employment policies, which are much broader. Most of the local Australian comment in mainstream media has been about the US branch.

World Vision Australia does and will employ people regardless of faith, though a limited number of roles are reserved for those of active Christian faith, including the CEO and senior leadership.

This means that World Vision Australia is a bit like a traditional church school that hires non-Christians as teachers while insisting the principal is a Christian. World Vision US, on the other hand, is a bit like a low-fee Christian school that insists all staff are Christians.

In Australia, lifestyle expectations “are not part of recruitment or employment policy at World Vision, however employees are required to conduct themselves in the workplace in a manner that upholds the value of World Vision Australia,” said the organisation in a statement this afternoon.

Despite the differences in employment policies, World Vision Australia’s chief of staff Leigh Cameron, says a “small number” of supporters in Australia have contacted the organisation about the recent changes in the US, and some have chosen to withdraw their support.

In the US, however, the announcement was a bombshell, with a deluge of complaints from evangelical and charismatic supporters who took to social media to announce they would no longer give to the charity.

Commentators like Gospel Coalition’s Trevin Wax, whilst supporting the protest, suggested American Christians should think carefully before stopping the child sponsorship. On the other side, Christian lefties like Rachel Held Evans were drumming up new child sponsorships in support of the change. At the height of the controversy, the Assemblies of God suggested supporters “gradually withdraw support” from World Vision US.

Bowing to pressure overnight, the decision to employ gay Christians was reversed by the US board.

“The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman,” the organisation said in a letter to its supporters.

The letter apologised for the organisation’s failure “to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of the Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.””

The World Vision US announcements have had some negative effects: children have lost their sponsored relationships and communities in developing countries have lost financial support, World Vision will need to regain trust from its traditional supporters and the reversal may add to the bitterness some in the gay community feel towards Christians.

* In using the term ‘gay Christians’, Eternity is not making any assumptions or judgments in the continued debate on this issue.

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