Thursday, 27 March 2014

World Vision, Discrimination and a new kind of goat...

I am not the first to comment on the sad events involving World Vision over the last few days. And I will not be the last. But it raises so many issues that merit discussion.

To understand the story we need to go back a few days. World Vision is one the most well known Christian relief charities. It has supported thousands of children through its sponsorship initiatives. In common with other similar organizations it has had to address the question of employing those who are in same sex relationships. Earlier this week we saw a very promising statement, in which they publicly stated that they would no longer refuse employment on the basis of that issue alone. To many, this was a welcome announcement which brought them into line with most modern employers.

Before we look at the depressing reaction from evangelical Christians, let’s just stop and reflect on the implications of that decision. It simply meant that a person in a same sex relationship would be permitted to work on behalf of the poorest and weakest children and families in the world. By any reasonable reckoning that is a good thing. It is something that we should all welcome. Sadly, the powerful evangelical lobby thought otherwise. World Vision faced a torrent of opposition. According to the Apples of Gold Blog they lost as many as 2000 sponsors in a couple of days. As they rightly point out – ‘by any estimation this means that at the very least hundreds of people have decided to take their unhappiness at this decision out on some of the world’s poorest children..’

Do they not see how shocking this is? Do they not see what an image it paints of the Christian faith?

They are saying in effect – ‘…because I disapprove of you, you are not fit to serve the poorest of the poor. And I will bring to its knees an organisation which has had the cheek to accept you.’

It is as if the words of Jesus in Matthew 25 have been re-written. He actually said – ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

He certainly did not say that the King would grab some by the scruff of the neck and say – ‘Ah there’s a catch. You might have fed me, welcomed me, clothed me, and cared for me. But your lifestyle is inconsistent with the priestly laws as set out in Leviticus Chapter 18 so you don’t count. You are now a goat.’

Those who stand alongside the weakest are the ones who are ‘blessed’ and who will inherit the kingdom.

Wealthy and powerful Christians need to look long and hard at those words before they pass judgment on their LGBT brothers and sisters who want to follow those words of Jesus. The behaviour is simply shameful, sad and very depressing.

But what about World Vision? My first reaction was to accuse them of weakness. Why could they not stick to their decision which came following years of discussion and prayer? But, on reflection they had very little choice. If Christians were leaving them in droves, their capacity to help the world’s poorest children could have been terminally damaged. And that was simply not a feasible option. This is why I understand their decision and will continue to support them.  

The decision is regrettable. But the real fault lies with those angry and thoughtless Christians who seem to have lost touch with what it really means to follow Jesus.

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