On Monday, in an interview with Christianity Today, World Vision announced it was changing its policy regarding marriage, announcing that it will begin hiring homosexuals in same-sex marriages to work for their ministry.
World Vision, based in the state of Washington, employs more than 1,100 people from more than 50 denominations. Some of these denominations now perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, and World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns points to that separated position among the body as to why the leaders of the charity decided to make the change. He said the decison among the board of directors was no unaanimous, but it was close.
World Vision is one of the largest Christian charities in the world.
"Same-sex marriage has only been a huge issue in the church in the last decade or so," he said. "There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that's changed."
The U.S. decision should not be seen as the group endorsing gay "marriage," Stearns said, adding that World Vision continues to "affirm and support" traditional marriage.
Instead, Stearns qualified the new policy as being one designed to create "unity" by not focusing on what he considered non-essential issues, and one outside the scope of his organizations considerations
"We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church," he said.
The announcement created an immediate backlash among the charity's largely evangelical Christian donor base, according to Lifesitenews.
"World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church - which I find offensive - as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church," said Franklin Graham, the president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and leader of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
"My dear friend, Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, would be heartbroken," Graham said. "He was an evangelist who believed in the inspired Word of God."
Allbert Mohler calls World Vision's rationale that they are an operational arm of the church, not a theological arm, "a fatal misreading of reality".
"World Vision claims a Christian identity, claims to serve the kingdom of Christ, and claims a theological rationale for its much-needed ministries to the poor and distressed. It cannot surrender theological responsibility when convenient and then claim a Christian identity and a theological mandate for ministry," he said.
Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, agreed.
"If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it," he said. "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 and, in fact, devilish."
Many church leaders are condemning the changes World Vision is making, and some on social media have espoused dropping support for the charity, but many under #worldvision are calling on donors to remember the children who will be affected by a decrease in support for the charity.
Disagreeing with a decision is fine...dropping a sponsorship of a child is not. #worldvision
World Vision took in more than a billion dollars in revenue last year and serves an estimated 100 million people in 100 countries. According to Forbes magazine, it ranks among America's top 10 charities.