Cafeteria Christians put World Vision in the crunch


Likely missed in the latest gay marriage kerfuffle is the contortions Christians will come up with to bend scripture to do their bidding—even if it means cutting off funding for the world’s poorest children. At issue is Christian children’s charity World Vision’s reversal after a mere two days of a decision to hire Christians who are married to their same-gender partners. 

“Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.,” said World Vision President Richard Stearns of the original change, in an interview with Christianity Today. “So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles’ Creed and our statement of faith.” A rough two days of Facebook rants and threats to withdraw funding from the $1 billion annual budget of the massive charity made Stearns abjectly reverse course.

One wonders, however, if World Vision took to heart biblical scholar Darrell Bock’s claim that the policy change “was a denial of how Jesus defined marriage as between a man and a woman when he was asked about divorce.” Would that be the passage in which Jesus forbid divorce, which now virtually every church except the Catholic Church permits, despite Jesus’ explicit prohibition? Incidentally, many churches changed their policies about divorce concurrently with changes in civil divorce laws. Their purpose was to respond pastorally to divorced Christians—just as now both churches and states or rethinking their teachings and practices around same-gender sexuality to deal with the pastoral realities of gay Christians.

At any rate, it’s a bit odd to find in Jesus’ saying about divorce an implicit “definition” of marriage that bars same-gender couples while at the same time ignoring the actual purpose of the passage: forbidding divorce! It’s another sign of the shaky scriptural leg Bock and others are standing on when it comes to same-sex marriage, though they nevertheless continue to try to force the Bible to answer questions its authors never imagined. Evidently, that kind of interpretation is sufficient to cut off funding to an organization that feeds hungry children when the organization acknowledges that Christians are not of one mind on the issue of same-gender marriage.

Then again, maybe it’s not. 

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.