World Vision, one of the largest Christian charities in the United States, has announced that its American branch will now be willing to hire gay Christians who are legally married. They are emphasizing that the change really isn’t radical for them, and that their code of conduct for employees remains the same, but they’re simply opening their doors to gay Christians as a show of unity:
World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.
Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule for employees. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities.
In an exclusive interview, World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns explained to Christianity Today the rationale behind changing this “condition of employment,” as well as whether other Christian organizations with faith-based hiring rules should follow World Vision’s lead.
Stearns asserts that the “very narrow policy change” should be viewed by others as “symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.” He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.
World Vision’s board was not unanimous, acknowledged Stearns, but was “overwhelmingly in favor” of the change.
“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”
Stearns took pains to emphasize what World Vision is not communicating by the policy change.
“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there,” he said. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”
“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,” said Stearns. “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.”
The paragraph in bold is important, because anti-gay wingnuts are so keen on painting themselves as victims, forced into things by “gay bullies.” The truth of the matter, as I wrote recently, is that as the culture changes, anti-gay bigotry will become increasingly marginalized on its own merits, just as happened with institutional racism in the church. Churches and organizations like this one won’t be threatened or forced to accept LGBT people in any way, but many of them will willingly change, because their people have changed. The Religious Right is already freaking out over this, but as the group’s president stated, they are doing this willingly and enthusiastically. Remember that next time Bryan Fischer or Porno Pete starts wailing about being “bullied.”