In an attempt to create unity, World Vision managed to create a hornet’s nest around the issue of same-sex marriage. Its president Rich Stearns openly acknowledges the mistakes the relief organization made while flip-flopping on the issue.
Earlier this week, the World Vision announced that it would allow employees to be in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course, saying on Wednesday that it had made a mistake. The backlash illustrated how evangelicalswill continue to wrestle with a growing cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage.
In an interview with RNS on Thursday, Stearns suggested that the number of sponsors lost was under but around 5,000. Those who sponsor a child pay $35 each month, so the loss could have tallied up to $2.1 million a year.
Stearns also spoke with RNS on how the decision and its reversal has impacted the organization, the number of staff who have resigned and the regret he has had this week. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What has been the reaction since the reversal?
A: This has been a painful week in terms of the division that we created around our initial decision, and then reversing the decision two days later has created a lot of concerns with our employees and our key partners around the country.
Q: Can you say how many child sponsors have been lost?
A: I don’t actually have today’s number but it’s less than 5,000 so far. We’re learning that a number of people are calling back since the reversal to reinstate their sponsorship. They’re forgiving, they’re saying, ‘Hey we stand with you.’”
Q: What about non-religious partners? Have you lost any partnerships with them since the reversal of the decision?
A: Not that I’m aware of at this point. We’re still obviously evaluating the impact of all of this on all of our partners. The important thing for World Vision is that every organization has to clearly define who they are and what they stand for. And we’ve done a pretty good job of that for 63 years, and this week has unfortunately caused a lot of confusion and dissonance across the country, certainly with our closest partners and sponsors, pastors and churches, some who have been with us for decades. The mistake I think we made was to confuse those folks about where we stood on what we feel and they feel on certain issues, certainly the issue of traditional marriage.
Q: Do you know what percent of your givers are evangelicals?
A: I don’t know that percent. Certainly a large majority of our supporters are Christian, but they come from all denominations within the Christian faith. And we have a lot donors who are not Christians, at least a number of them who support us because of the quality of work we do around the world.
SOURCE: Sarah Pulliam Bailey
Religion News Service