NASHVILLE (BP) -- Leading Southern Baptists are thanking World Vision U.S. for reversing a two-day-old change in its employee conduct policy that would have allowed the major hunger relief organization to hire legally married homosexuals.
World Vision's U.S. board of directors announced Wednesday (March 26) its abandonment of the change in policy it had made Monday (March 24). World Vision reverted to its longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.
Southern Baptist lead ethicist Russell D. Moore, who had called the original change a mistake that threatened the Gospel of Jesus Christ, tweeted thanks and praise to World Vision for its decision.
"World Vision has done the right thing. Now, let's all work for a holistic gospel presence, addressing both temporal and eternal needs," tweeted Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "World Vision's right decision, as articulated in their board letter, conveys a spirit of Christlikeness and humility in tone and content," he added in a follow-up tweet.
World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns and board chairman Jim Bere announced the reversal in a letter to supporters, expressing regret that they ever changed their policy in the first place.
"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," the letter reads. "We ask that you understand that this was never the board's intent."
"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."
Moore urged Christians to rejoice at World View's repentance.
"It's the older brother who questions motives in repentance. Don't be like that," Moore urged, evoking the Luke 15:11-32 story of the Prodigal Son. "The father's house rejoices, receives."
Frank Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, also expressed thanks to World Vision, while encouraging a steadfast allegiance to biblical authority that would have avoided the controversy in the first place.
"We are thankful for the change in policy direction by World Vision, a ministry that has helped millions of people over the years," Page told Baptist Press. "However, I long for the day when people make decisions based not on pressure from other people but pressure from our Lord and His clear, inerrant word."
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, is among those appreciative of World Vision's reversal.
"I am grateful for the reversal by World Vision. Their leadership has shown courage in publicly reversing their decision and reaffirming their commitment to biblical standards," he told Baptist Press in an email interview. "Admitting a public mistake is difficult and I affirm them for quickly correcting their egregious decision."
World Vision never intended to indicate an abandonment of the biblical definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, the board said, but had sought to be inclusive of all supporters, who represent some 50 religious denominations.
"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,'" the letter said. "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."
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, expressed encouragement at World Vision's remorse, and urged that Christian benevolence be channeled through groups that stand for biblical Truth.
"I encourage Christians to care for the least of these, partner with organizations that will do so in biblically faithful ways, and stand for truth at the same time," Rainer said in a written statement. "I am encouraged to see World Vision has reversed course on its policy of hiring employees in same-sex marriages. I was grieved to hear some at World Vision considered a change to the definition of marriage as a simple disagreement among denominations. It is not."
World Vision identifies itself as a "Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice," working in nearly 100 countries.
Earlier Baptist Press stories on World Vision's decision can be accessed here
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress
) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp