World Vision USA has reversed its high-profile decision, as reported in the The Advocate, to welcome openly gay employees so long as they are married, according to a report from Religion News Service.
RNS posted this letter sent from the president of World Vision USA, Richard Stearns, and Jim Bere, chair of the board:
Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our national employment conduct policy. 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.
We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.
In our board's effort to unite around the church's shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.'s commitment to the traditional understanding of 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." And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.
We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board's intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.
While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.
Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be "an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God."
Sincerely in Christ,
Richard Stearns, President
Jim Bere, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board
The Human Rights Campaign this afternoon released a statement responding to World Vision USA's reversal. "We are devastated by the decision of World Vision USA to purposefully exclude married lesbian and gay employees after only recently taking an important first step in addressing inequality in their workplaces," said HRC Religion & Faith Program director Sharon Groves. "While they said their aim was to respect the diversity of religious viewpoints on marriage, they have now buckled under the pressure of the radical right and alienated millions of fair-minded people of faith.
"At a time when people are losing their lives around the globe simply for being who they are, such a reversal is not just sad but is sends a potentially catastrophic message. The Gospel calls on us to stand with the marginalized wherever they are. Many of the poorest people around the globe who World Vision serves are doubly marginalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. At a time when Pope Francis is asking, "'Who am I to judge?' World Vision has decided they can judge with impunity and at great cost to those who need them the most."
MICHAEL O'LOUGHLIN is The Advocate's religion writer. Follow him on Twitter at@mikeoloughlin.