World Vision

Jumping into Hot Water

World Vision joins the cadre of organizations to plunge into the pool of social issues and discover it holds hot, unforgiving water.

The $1 billion charity, which is affiliated with evangelical Christianity and provides humanitarian aid, decided to standardize its policies by allowing celibate gay singles and legally married gay couples to work for the organization.

World Vision President Richard Stearns said the decision was consistent with its practice on other socially divisive issues such as divorce, remarriage, baptism and female priests. It wasn't intended, Stearns said, to endorse homosexuality or gay marriage.

"Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues," he told Christianity Today. "It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage."

News of the policy change prompted a not-unexpected uproar in evangelical religious circles. Critics charged that World Vision had betrayed its Christian principles. More significantly, many donors said they would stop giving money to the charity.

The backlash caused Stearns to reverse course within 48 hours and issue an apology in which he asked for forgiveness.