By Bob Allen
Southern Baptist leaders say World Vision’s decision to hire gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages puts fundraising ahead of doctrinal fidelity for the Christian humanitarian organization started in 1950 by Youth for Christ evangelist Bob Pierce.
World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns told Christianity Today the parachurch group’s American branch is changing its employee conduct policy to allow a professing Christian who is legally married to someone of the same sex. He said the policy is consistent with the ministry’s standard of “abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”
Stearns said it’s an attempt to stay neutral on the controversial issue of same-sex marriage, which is tearing apart many American denominations and churches.
“World Vision is a good thing to have, unless the world is all you can see,” quipped Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in an article on the ERLC website.
“At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Moore said. “If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2,000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said it’s what happens when a charity tries to expand its donor base to include organizations that disagree about essentials of the Christian faith.
“If you’re going to define Christianity in such a way that it involves everyone that may call themselves a Christian church or denomination, if you’re going to extend your employment pool and your donor base to that kind of broad and comprehensive understanding and identity, then you are going to be accepting many things that are theologically incompatible with the Christian faith,” Mohler said in a podcast March 25.
“This is not the same kind of issue as talking about the debate between egalitarians and complementarians in the church,” said Mohler, who has a Ph.D. in theology. “This is not the same kind of debate as the conversation about divorce and remarriage. Here we are talking about the radical redefinition of marriage in our time, which is all about the normalization of homosexuality as a sexual behavior.”
Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate arm, suggested that “gay Christian” is a contradiction in terms.
“Stearns says that ‘every employee’ must be a ‘follower of Jesus Christ’ even as he affirms that some of his employees will be living in open immorality,” Burk wrote in a blog dated March 25. “What does this mean? It can only mean that he believes being a ‘follower of Jesus Christ’ is somehow compatible with being in a same-sex marriage.”
“Following Christ is not a choose-your-own-adventure story,” Burk said. “King Jesus defines the terms of our discipleship. He is very clear that there is a narrow path that leads to life and a broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). The path of sexual immorality — including same-sex immorality — goes along the broad path (Mark 7:21; Rom. 1:26-27). Thus it is impossible to be a ‘follower of Christ’ while endorsing or participating in a same-sex marriage.”
Mohler said in his blog March 25 that references by Stearns to “brothers and sisters in Christ” and of “building the kingdom,” beg the question of what and whose “kingdom” he is talking about.
Mohler quoted First Corinthians 6:9-10: “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.”
“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,’” Mohler said. “The Apostle Paul makes homosexuality a kingdom issue, and he does so in the clearest of terms.”
Mohler said the worst aspect of the 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,” he said, “and that is an act that violates the gospel of Christ.”
Moore said on one level the new policy isn’t surprising, because, “The constellation of parachurch evangelical ministries founded after World War II have been running headlong, with some notable exceptions, toward the very mainline liberalism to which they were founded as alternatives.”
“We’re entering an era where we will see who the evangelicals really are, and by that I mean those who believe in the gospel itself, in all of its truth and all of its grace,” Moore said. “And many will shrink back.”
“There’s an entire corps of people out there who make their living off of evangelicals but who are wanting to ‘evolve’ on the sexuality issue without alienating their base,” Moore said. “I don’t mind people switching sides and standing up for things that they believe in. But just be honest about what you want to do. Don’t say ‘Hath God said?’ and then tell us you’re doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church.”
“Donor bases come and go,” Moore said. “But the gospel of Jesus Christ stands forever.”