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Critics Urge Grace After World Vision Reversal

By Jamie Dean

It’s been a whirlwind week for those following developments at Christian ministry World Vision.

When the international poverty ministry announced on Monday it would allow its American branch to hire employees in same-sex marriages, the backlash was swift and powerful.

Many evangelical leaders lambasted the decision as a severe compromise of the authority of Scripture. Christian author and ministry leader John Piper called the move “a tragic development for the cause of Christ, because it trivializes perdition—and therefore, the cross …”

Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission noted that afternoon: “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. … And many will shrink back.”

But by Wednesday afternoon, World Vision had shrunk back from its decision. The ministry announced yesterday it would reverse the new policy, and apologized for 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.”

As the development broke, some Christians expressed continued confusion over the massive shift in thinking over the course of 48 hours, and concerns over the judgment of the ministry’s leaders.

In a Thursday morning interview, Moore said those concerns are fair, and that Christians should watch carefully how events unfold: “But we should do that with a hermeneutic of charity—of being willing to take an apology that comes from an organization that says it did something wrong.”

At least one major Christian body agreed. Assemblies of God general superintendent George O. Wood had urged members of the denomination to begin shifting their support away from World Vision in the wake of the original announcement. By yesterday evening, Wood applauded the group’s reversal and encouraged members to reinstate support to the child sponsorship program.

It’s unclear how many donors withdrew support in the two days following World Vision’s announcement. A tweet from a man named Ryan Reed indicated World Vision president Richard Stearns told staffers they had lost 2,000 sponsorships.

The group also receives substantial grants from the U.S. government for its international poverty work, but Stearns claimed funding concerns weren’t an issue in the original decision.

Still, questions are certain to continue for the Christian ministry over the massive, two-day shift. Moore said Christians should remain discerning about any organization they support, and the fact that a longtime Christian organization had been “willing to barter away gospel orthodoxy on such a crucial gospel point is a warning signal to us about the kind of culture we live in.”

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