Emergency teams from U.S. faith-based humanitarian relief agencies are on the ground in northwest Ecuador after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of at least 413 people. The April 16 quake destroyed more than 300 buildings, buckling overpasses and trapping drivers. More than 2,500 people were injured.
Amid killings, rapes and abductions, the international evangelical humanitarian agency World Vision indefinitely suspended its operations in South Sudan’s Unity State over the escalating conflict.
Multiple other aid agencies, including Doctors Without Borders, have taken similar action.
Only a few dozen worshippers attend Boston’s Tremont Temple Baptist Church on a typical Sunday, but the historic church was once so prominent that legendary preacher Dwight L. Moody called it “America’s pulpit.”
This week, Tremont’s massive auditorium played host to influence once again when 1,300 Christian leaders gathered for the Q conference to discuss the most pressing issues facing their faith. There was no official theme, but one strand wove its way through multiple presentations and conversations: America’s — and many Christians’ — debate over sexuality.
While at least three other Christian conferences during the past year focused on same-sex debates, this is the only one to bring together both pro-gay speakers and those who oppose gay marriage and same-sex relationships.
“The aim of Q is to create space for learning and conversation, and we think the best way to do that is exposure,” said Q founder Gabe Lyons.
“These are conversations that most of America is having, and they are not going away.”
Which is not to say Lyons’ decision was without controversy.
Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration project that aims to rally resistance to same-sex marriage, urged Lyons to rescind his invitations to pro-gay panelists, whom he called false prophets professing to be Christians. Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, echoed the sentiment and tweeted that he was “shocked that @QIdeas features pro-‘gay-Christianity’ speakers.”
Lyons did not respond publicly to the criticism, but said such positions were rooted in fear.
Leaders of Christian and Jewish international aid groups say their efforts are often met with twin suspicions: That the real purpose is to proselytize; and that a religious message is tied to material aid.
The two were keynote speakers at a discussion on “Proselytism and Development in Pluralistic Societies,” sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, at Georgetown University.
Both acknowledged at the March 4 event that their motives — “living like Jesus,” said Warren, and “pursuing justice,” said Messinger — are questioned.
At an organization where 45 percent of U.S. senior leaders are women, Romanita Hairston’s gender is mostly a nonissue as she oversees children’s welfare programs at World Vision, the giant evangelical relief agency.
But in the larger evangelical universe, high-ranking women like Hairston remain a relative rarity.
“I think it’s kind of inappropriate at this time in history to be shocked, but I think there are places where I’m one of the few women in a position of authority or shaping theological perspective,” said Hairston, a World Vision vice president who serves on boards and teaches about gender inequity at Seattle Central Community College.
World Vision found itself testing the evangelical boundaries in March when it announced it would recognize employees’ same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, it reversed itself.
At its core, the reversal raised a stark question: Can you be an evangelical and support same-sex marriage?
Reverberations from the policy flip-flop continue to unfold. Last week, Jacquelline Fuller, director of corporate giving at Google, resigned from the international relief organization’s board. Faithful America, an online Christian community focused on social justice, had gathered 16,000 signatures calling for Fuller and John Park, another Google employee who sits on the World Vision board, to step down.
Jarrod McKenna is in trouble. It's not that the dreadlocked Christian activist is at risk of being arrested, as he has been at several anti-war and anti-coal protests. Rather, he has let five-year-old Congolese refugee Zephanta Baganizi eat the leftovers of our very late lunch, shortly before dinner time.
"Have you asked your mum if it's OK?" McKenna asks "Zopho," who is gazing at several pieces of bolani, a vegan flat-bread meal from Afghanistan. Transfixed by the food, Zopho doesn't respond.
"Just a small piece, then."
Zopho grabs the biggest piece. He runs off to his family's apartment, mouth overflowing with fried bread and vegetable filling.
"I'm in trouble," McKenna says.
The interaction between Australian, Congolese and Afghan food, people and culture is not uncommon at a large block at the end of Dudley Street in the outer Perth suburb of Midland.
It is the location of First Home Project; a former methamphetamine lab transformed into three apartments that provide medium-term accommodation at below-market rates for refugees transitioning into their new Australian lives.
Yesterday morning, an op-ed piece went live on CNN by a young evangelical author named Daniel Darling, titled " Millennials and the false ‘gospel of nice.’ Darling’s piece is clearly written in response to many recent articles — like Rachel Held Evans’ recent piece "How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation " — which argue that many of the leaders of evangelical Christianity have abandoned the core convictions and teachings of Jesus Christ and instead have leveraged their faith as a weapon to be used against anyone who disagrees with their political and moral principles that they claim are rooted in Scripture.
All of this is very fresh in our minds as news broke yesterday that Christian relief organization World Vision lost more than 10,000 child sponsorships from people who disagreed with the organization’s policy change on hiring people in legal same-sex marriages. To many who watched this controversy unfold, this is an utter travesty. It seems simply unfathomable that anyone who claims to follow Christ could justify removing support from the impoverished children that they know by name because they disagreed with the organization’s hiring policy.
In his op-ed piece, Darling argues that the cry of many progressive and millennial evangelicals is:
"If only orthodox evangelical leaders would give up their antiquated beliefs, get more in step with the real Jesus, the church and the world would be better off."
He then continues by saying that:
"embedded in this narrative are two presuppositions: Young evangelicals are fleeing the church at a rapid pace [and] the real message of Jesus looks nothing like orthodox Christianity."
When I read these comments in Darling’s piece, I was utterly fascinated. Because as a millennial evangelical, and one who is participating in these conversations on a national and international level, I have never heard a single person call for "evangelical leaders to give up their antiquated beliefs." I have never heard anyone say "the real message of Jesus looks nothing like orthodox Christianity." When I read Darling’s piece, it became crystal clear to me what the key problem is that is causing so much friction between the "old guard" in evangelicalism and us millennials:
The old guard has confused orthodoxy with their political and moral interpretations of Scripture.
These are important conversations we are having. Where do we invest our money responsibly in organizations who do the work of justice? How do we interpret Scripture regarding sexuality and marriage, and how does that intersect with church and parachurch employment practices? In what ways can we truly love our neighbors — gay, straight, rich, poor, Christian, Atheist? These are questions that matter to real life people in our world, and we must talk about it.
But we are talking too fast.
What is troubling about the events of the World Vision Reversal last week is not just the divisive and contentious nature of the voices coming from different sides of deeply entrenched ideological lines, but the speed with which it happened. So much of the hurt came not from the impact of actual punches, but from the whiplash of sudden, rapid reactions.
It has been a tough go for the church in the United States over the past couple months. The name calling, division, and posturing reached a deafening volume last week in the wake of the World Vision controversy around employing those in gay marriage.
Massive amounts of energy poured into proving our “rightness” and your “wrongness.”
Relationships severed. Most without ever having created the space to share a meal and simply listen to one another.
Social media. Interviews. Articles. Press releases.
There have been so many chiming in on this thing that I saw no need to jump in and, well, to be honest, I’ve just been sad. Sad at the failed state of discourse within the church. Sad at the demonization. Sad that hungry kids across the world were losing their access to basic needs to live as a result of our inability to live, love and lead … together.
Nearly two years ago, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy caused a backlash when he said he supported marriage between a man and a woman. Gay groups announced boycotts, and Christian consumers rallied around the fast-food chain’s chicken sandwiches.
In a recent interview, however, Cathy said that while he still holds the same position, he regrets “making the company a symbol in the marriage debate.”
Similarly, when Phil Robertson was suspended from his popular reality TV show Duck Dynasty for making controversial comments about homosexuality to GQ magazine, gay groups cheered the decision as evangelical fans swamped the A&E network with complaints. Within a week, Robertson was reinstated.
So it was much the same this week when the evangelical relief group World Vision announced that it would allow employees who are in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course, saying on Wednesday that it had made a mistake.
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 evangelicals will 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.
Christian relief organization World Vision has reversed its decision after announcing this week that it will no longer define marriage as between a man and a woman in its employee conduct manual.
The earlier decision was a groundbreaking change for the Christian institution that came with heavy criticism from evangelicals. After its initial announcement, the Assemblies of God had urged its members to consider dropping support.
Ryan Reed tweeted on Wednesday (March 26), “My wife works for WV. In today’s staff meeting Stearns announced that so far 2000 kids dropped.”
World Vision’s child sponsorships are $35 a month, which means the organization could have lost at least $840,000 in revenue over the longterm.
About $567 million of World Vision’s $1 billion budget comes from private contributions, according to the 2012 annual report, according to Christianity Today.
“We’ve listened,” World Vision president Stearns told reporter, to supporters who were concerned about the conduct change in policy. “We believe we made a mistake. We’re asking them to forgive and understand our poor judgement in the original decision.”
It is easy to see that over the coming weeks thousands of evangelicals will withdraw their support from World Vision. And Dr. Moore is absolutely right. As this begins to take place, thousands of children will suffer because of the lack of funding from their former sponsors who decided that this theological and political issue was more important than their life. It is a sad day when followers of Jesus Christ will chose to make a theological/political point by withholding funds from children in life-and-death situations.
It is indeed a sad day for evangelicalism. It is sad because we have willingly put on blinders to hide our eyes from the truth of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have chosen to ignore the entire example of his life and the bulk of his teachings and instead pick up our weapons and engage in culture wars instead of working to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, which, by the way, sums up all of the biblical laws. We have chosen to ignore Jesus’ harsh words to the Pharisees who valued doctrinal rightness over the sacrifice of justice that God has always called us to.
Christian relief organization World Vision has announced that it will no longer define marriage as between a man and a woman in its employee conduct manual, a groundbreaking change for an evangelical institution and a signal that gay marriage continues to affect religious organizations.
The organization’s U.S. branch will recognize same-sex marriage as being within the norms of “abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage” as part of its employee conduct code.
“I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue,” said World Vision’s U.S. President Rich Stearns in a letter to employees .
World Vision is the second-largest organization listed with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, behind Salvation Army. It also ranks among America’s top 10 charities, with revenue around $1 billion.
Many of today’s evangelical Christians seem to be taking to heart the words traditionally attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
Or at least they were at the recent Q Conference here, a gathering of more than a few of the most influential and innovative mover-shakers of the evangelical world.
Over the course of two days in a format similar to the popular TED talks, the speakers spoke passionately more about what they were doing to make the world a better place than they did about getting more butts into pews on any given Sunday.
To coincide with the opening of the 2012 London Olympics on Friday, Christianity Today had an insightful profile of Team USA member and former "Lost Boy" — runner Lopez Lomong, who was abducted from his home in Sudan during the 20-year long civil war.
According to the profile:
That story starts in 1991, when Lomong's home village of Kimotong was attacked by rebels in the second Sudanese civil war. "I was 6 years old when I was abducted at church, which met under a tree," Lomong told Christianity Today at his training base in Portland, Oregon. "They ripped my mother's arm from me, throwing me and other boys into a truck; they blindfolded us, then drove us to a prison camp that trained rebel soldiers."
Lomong and a small group of boys managed to escape from the torturous conditions they found themselves in, and found their way to a refugee camp near the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where Lomong “remained for 10 years.”
Every day, millions of children go hungry. But it doesn't have to be that way.
- Hunger is the world's No. 1 health risk, causing more deaths annually worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
(Source: World Food Program)
- One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonite.
(Source: World Food Program)
- There are more hungry people in the world (925 million) than the combined population of the United States, Canada and the European Union (841 million)
(Source: World Food Program)
Find out about the causes of hunger — and the solutions — in a new video from World Vision Australia (with music by Gotye) inside the blog...
The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the reality of climate change are both victims of western culture’s remarkable capacity to accommodate and neutralize that which is most critical of it.
Early in the civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin said to King, “I have a feeling that the Lord had laid his hand upon you. And that is a dangerous, dangerous thing.” Similarly, the FBI once described Martin King as the “most dangerous man in America” – and yet, as Martin Luther King Jr day rolls around again in the United States, we are often presented with a figure that seems more like a cheerleader for the status quo rather than a prophetic challenge to it. Somehow, it seems we have made this dangerous figure very safe.
For instance, in a speech at the Pentagon commemorating King’s legacy, the Defense Department’s general counsel Jeh C. Johnson remarked, “I believe that if Dr King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”
But to claim that Dr King would be pro-war today is as likely as him being pro-segregation. After all, this is the Dr King who said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” And this is the same Dr King who said in his speech on 4 April 1967 (a speech that turned three quarters of American public opinion against him), “To me the relationship of the ministry [of Jesus Christ] to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war.” And this is the same Dr King who said, the night before he was murdered on 4 April 1968, “It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”
Some 15 years ago, my aunt and uncle gave me the gift of goat for Christmas.
Let me rephrase: They didn’t give me an actual goat, but they donated a goat — in my honor — to a village in the developing world.
At age 15, I was less than pleased. The plight of starving children and the needs of my indigent brothers and sisters around the globe were far too serious and far too abstract for my selfish teenage brain to wrap itself around.
Today, though, I find myself in the ironic position of wanting to buy goats, mosquito nets, and other items as Christmas gifts in honor of my own family members. This causes me to look back on my selfishness as a teen and see how blind I was to the idea of grace — to the beauty and significance of my aunt and uncle’s gift.