How Gay Should We Allow Feeding the Hungry To Be?

A Twitter dust-up was stirred yesterday when the board of the American arm of the Christian humanitarian relief organization World Vision announced that it had changed its standards of conduct to “allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.” The letter explained that the change in the employee conduct policy reflects the reality of its engagement with Christian denominations which “in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians.”

In an interview with Christianity Today, World Vision’s U.S. president Richard Sterns affirmed the group’s commitment to traditional Christian values, including sexual abstinence outside of marriage, but the employment policy change means that married same-sex partners will no longer be denied employment or benefits on the basis of the gender of their spouses.

Sterns argued that the decision, which the board did not come to unanimously, would defer theological questions related to marriage and sexuality to churches and denominations. This, he said, was in keeping with World Vision’s role as an “operational arm of the global church” with a service mission rather than as a church body with doctrinal responsibilities. He told Christianity Today: “It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there. This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”

For many religious Twitterati and bloggers, however, the debate is on. For progressives, the move by World Vision is welcomed as an opportunity to move beyond American culture wars in order to address more pressing issues of global poverty, educational access, and economic opportunity:

Elizabeth Drescher [@edrescherphd] is the author, with Keith Anderson, of Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse, 2012). She teaches religion and pastoral ministries at Santa Clara University. She is currently at work on Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of Religious Nones, a project funded in part through a grant from the Social Science Research Council’s “New Directions in the Study of Prayer” project through the Templeton Foundation. Her website is www.elizabethdrescher.com  

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