I will rarely discuss religion on here, for various reasons, one of them being that there are just so many people who do it better than I could. I’m writing this realizing that many have already written about this over the past few days, and it is likely that I am adding to the noise.
To recap: On Monday, World Vision USA, a humanitarian organization announced a policy change: they are now hiring gay Christians in same-sex marriages. Truth be told, I (and others) were entirely unaware of their employment policy. From Jen Hatmaker: “…with employees from over 50 denominations, some of which sanction same-sex marriages (United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), as well as staff in the 17 states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex marriages are legal and binding, World Vision has chosen not to make this issue a condition of employment. Rather, they are leaving the theological sorting to the local church of which WV considers their organization an ‘operational arm,’ not a ‘theological arm.’”
From Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision: “It’s been heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the church,” he said. “It’s tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We’ve got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity.”
The backlash was immediate and fiery. Many felt betrayed and deeply hurt because this went against their core beliefs. Many were elated. I watched – dismayed – as the internet blew up with anger and vitriol. People declared that they were going to drop their sponsorships. I engaged in hard conversations with evangelicals and atheists, homosexuals and heterosexuals, the mourning, the hopeful, and the angry. Some applauded World Vision. Friends rallied to get children sponsored to make up for the sponsorships dropped.
[4.3.2014 update: In a conference call with Rich Stearns, we discovered that World Vision made the policy change months ago. A disgruntled World Vision employee brought the change to the attention of Christianity Today. Christian Today asked World Vision for an exclusive, and World Vision then had no choice but to make a public statement, as Christianity Today would have run the story without it.]
Yesterday, World Vision announced that they reversed their decision. Naively, I was shocked.
I am an imperfect human. I do not claim to know all – or even most – about faith and theology. I find that I have more questions than I have answers. Part of the journey – I think – is in the seeking. While some of my own friends, some of the people I commune with and worship with may think it’s sacrilegious to feel the way that I do, I think that the seeking, the questioning, the uncertainty… it’s okay. It’s part of my own journey. It’s part of my own story.
And so I hold tight to some simple truths while I seek more truth. I know what God says about loving others, loving the fatherless, loving the needy, loving people.
I couldn’t sleep last night. I had a dull, consistent ache in my chest. I sat at my desk and watched my Facebook inbox fill up with messages from people on both sides of this. But this is not about me. This is not about them. This is not about homosexuality. This is not about the people warring over doctrine.
Then I read that an unofficial source stated that as of Tuesday evening, 2,000+ children had been dropped.
[4.3.2014 update: In a conference call with Rich Stearns, he confirmed to us that the updated count is now 10,000 children.]
I know doctrine is hard. I know that homosexuality is a volatile topic in the church. But it is devastating that so many people would withdraw their support from children they have developed relationships with over the years and helped financially because of an employment policy change.
Last fall I spent in a week Guatemala with World Vision. I gave up a week away from my three young children, a week of salary; my husband gave up a week of vacation time, because there are children who lack clean water, food, and healthcare. Because there are children who are victims of human trafficking. Because it was my hope that sharing these stories would inspire people to help.
And so I cried last night. I cried for myself. I cried for my brothers and sisters that feel betrayed. For the people in the LGBT community who applied for employment at World Vision to discover a few hours later that they were no longer welcome to work there. For those on both sides who are confused and frustrated; for those who can’t pick a side. But mostly, I cried because we have so utterly failed so many children.
2,000 of them lost a sponsor.
2,000 of them, treated as pawns.
2,000 of them, who know their sponsors by name and send them drawings and write them letters.
Adults who had pledged to support these children, had put their photos on their fridge, had written letters and sent birthday money… rushed to their computers and phones to cancel their sponsorships, to contact their banks and put a stop payment on automatic renewals, to sever a relationship and sacrifice the well-being of a child due to a policy change. (Someone’s going to point out the way the finances work with humanitarian organizations. Fine, here’s another analogy. The loss of 2,000+ sponsorships also means a non-profit is suffering a sudden loss of $76,000 in donations per month.)
From Rachel Held Evans: “When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong.”
There’s a lot of grief and confusion and anger. Coming from me, as well. But the ones who are really affected… how do we explain it to them?