Friday, March 28, 2014

GUEST BLOG: Why Everyone Loses Over the World Vision Controversy

This week World Vision USA changed its guidelines to allow the employment of people in same-sex marriages. Sadly, a few days later they reversed that decision. From a fundraising perspective it is interesting to consider how the flip-flopping in policy could and would lose them supporters on both sides of the fence. But the story is bigger than that, and I asked my good friend Tom Read to write a guest post.

Tom was my best friend in school in Hong Kong and I've known him for nearly 25 years. He is a singer and a songwriter - topping HK iTune charts (beating Adele). He blogs, he tweets, he is one of my favourite people in the world. And he is a Christian.

This week’s controversy surrounding World Vision’s decision, then subsequent reversal of that decision, to allow gay married couples to work at World Vision represents one of the saddest turn of events I’ve witnesses as a Christian in recent years.

For those who haven’t followed the story, World Vision's initial decision was met with a swift backlash from many Christians, particularly those in the American Evangelical community, with many organisations renouncing their support and cutting their funding to World Vision. As more Christians began to cancel their sponsorships in protest, World Vision panicked and quickly released a statement reversing their decision.

Throughout this whole sad affair there really are no winners, only losers. Here’s a look at who loses out the most:

1. The Children
The biggest losers are undoubtedly the thousands of children that World Vision support. If reports circulating on the internet are true, as many as 5000 sponsorships were cancelled this past week. Each one of those sponsorships represents a genuine child in need, and the effects of this will be devastating. The idea that these children have effectively been held as ransom over ideological differences is sickening.

2. World Vision
You can’t help feeling sorry for World Vision, but there can be no denying that this has been a disaster for them, and their credibility as an organisation will have been damaged.

One must assume that their original decision was not something decided over night, but rather something that has been a long time in the making. A decision like this for a Christian organisation would have been talked and prayed through over and over and certainly not something they would have taken lightly. Which makes their reversal of the decision all the more tragic, because it’s makes them appear to be pandering to their donor base rather than standing firm on their convictions.

It’s unlikely that they will recover the majority of the supporters that they have lost over this, and in the process they have ended up disappointing both sides of the divide.

3. The Church
Some Christians will see this as a victory, but it isn’t. There is a time and a place to “make a stand” for what you believe in, and this wasn’t one of them.

The simple truth is that it doesn’t matter one single bit to the children being supported by World Vision whether those working there are gay, straight, single, married, divorced, black, white, or green. What this has done is further expose what I consider to be the "dark side of Christianity”, a side that has nothing to do with Jesus, and everything to do with religion, politics, and ideology.

It doesn’t matter how you term it, it’s rotten, and it’s something that Christians should be ashamed of. There is not a single instance in the bible where Jesus refuses to help someone because he disagrees with their lifestyle. He loved people unconditionally. The moment we put conditions on our love and support, we lose the heart of Jesus.

As I followed the events unfolding online, my first response was to try and counter the cancelled sponsorships by sponsoring a child. I proudly updated my social networks with a status declaring that I was a new supporter of World Vision. I now realise that this puts me in exactly the same boat as those people who cancelled their sponsorships over the decision. At the end of the day, my charity must be motivated by compassion and not agenda.

When charity becomes more about promoting an ideology than helping people, everyone loses.


  1. An ideoology? How about a biblical imperative?

    This is a messy issue but we should remember that Satan is a master of strategy. I would not have cancelled my covenanted support of a child (I support 2 children through other Christian charities) but I would consider in due time shifting my support from a Christian charity that bowed to idols to one that did not.

  2. What WV did was unfair. They knew they were identified as an Evangelical organization, and made a decision they knew wouldn't go down well with many of the evangelicals supporting them. Whilst pulling sponsorship would be extreme, you must understand that people were cornered. I know I would feel cornered. Also it's easy to fall into a 'new legalism' which pitches human rights and inclusivity as markers of true Christ-likeness, whilst condemning those who call out what they feel is a poor decision...

  3. It just Made Christians look mean and revealed their priorities.

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