Thursday, March 27, 2014

World Vision, Missions, and Sin

In the past couple of days, World Vision had decided, then reversed the decision to hire and allow same sex couples and gay people to serve within its organization.  Their reasoning was that gay marriage is now allowed in so many states and some denominations are starting to recognize the validity of same sex marriages in their tradition.  In an effort to be respectful to the changing approach World Vision wanted to honor the decisions made by these states and churches without making any comments on their own version of legitimacy or understanding of Scripture.

It was, for a short time, a breakthrough of sorts.  At least while it lasted.

The reaction was strong and vocal from the religious right (specifically the Southern Baptist leadership) as calls immediately came to withhold funding to the organization in protest of its recent decision.  Even though World Vision was an organization dedicated to serving those in poverty all over the world he religious right refused to contribute to World Vision and its fight against poverty because of a theological issue.  Now, who loses?  You've already figured this out, right?  Children and families living in poverty all over the world.  How faithful is it to say to people all over the world, "My theology means more than your survival!"

Now, I believe that this withheld support would then be channeled into different agencies.  In fact I will list all of the new agencies targeted for increased donations as these groups withheld their support from World Vision here in this report:

Yep.  This was never about that.  It was about applying financial pressure on an organization to accomplish their goal.  It has been suggested that this is financial bullying. Now, this happens all of the time in our world and we have discovered that the contemporary manner to wage war is with economics.  Hard to condemn a group for withholding financial support to achieve their goal since this is a standard practice today.

I do have an issue with the pressure affecting an innocent party, such as people living in poverty worldwide.  This behavior is the same as church members withholding their contributions to churches when they are upset about an issue(s).  More people are affected than just the party with which you are displeased.

Is the difference between our understanding and interpretation of Scripture so important that this difference of understanding becomes more important than the mission of carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world?  For the religious right, it appears that this answer is yes.  Because suddenly World Vision was not a company devoted to fighting poverty worldwide, but an organization leading people astray with a demented version of faith.  Never mind that this change in policy would have,  in no way, affected the work of the agency. 

For me, this crosses an important line.  Being correct becomes more important than being loving.  Theology trumps service and mission.  The "I" becomes more important than "Christ".  It is idolatrous. 

When this happens, it is our responsibility to offer hope, healing, and repentance to the afflicted.  I am not in favor of withdrawing from the religious right and this righteous call to only support straight people.  I am in favor of increased dialogue on how we together, with our differences, can continue to advance the good news of Jesus Christ together:  To discover and work according to the common ground we share to care for the sick, the poor, and those living in need.

And honestly, I am not sure World Vision is the organization to choose.  Roughly, only about 85 cents of every dollar donated goes to actually help people in poverty worldwide.  While that is a respectable percentage, it means that about 15% of each donation goes to other avenues such as advertising, salary for employees, administrative costs, etc...

In my own denomination we offer three separate special mission offerings where 100% of your donation go directly to help those in need.  To fight hunger and poverty across the globe, we support missionaries through the World Mission Offering:

And there is a special offering collected that is used to bring hope, healing, and recovery to emergency situations such as tsunamis, tornadoes, etc... the One Great Hour of Sharing  100% of these funds that are designated go directly to help in the situation a donor requests:

The administrative costs of these agencies are supplied through other gifts and offerings so that your gifts go directly and completely toward your desired goal.

And this is only the American Baptist denomination.  Chances are other groups have other organizations that offer 100% return on your mission investment.

More importantly than this is the concept that we can disagree on what is and is not sinful and still minister together in the work that God has set before us.  It saddens me that World Vision reversed its decision based on pressure from this religious right who demand it conform to its own theology.  But this sadness does not discourage me from wanting to work with the religious right, left, and center towards reaching out to a hurting, needy world.

Shame on us for fighting about this when there is so much work to do.

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