World Vision President Richard Sterns and board chairman Jim Bere stated Wednesday that they have reversed the decision to allow the prominent Christian relief organization to hire homosexuals in same-sex marriage in the United States.
After facing a firestorm of protest, the relief agency sent a letter to supporters saying the board had made a mistake and was returning to its policy requiring celibacy outside of marriage "and faithfulness within the Bible covenant of marriage between a man and a woman."
"We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness," the agency said in the letter, signed by World Vision president Richard Stearns and board chairman Jim Bere. Here is the full statement:
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 Beré, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board
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," Stearns said in an interview with Christianity Today released Monday . "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.
[Editor' note: reporter Don Pittman contributed to the report.]