World Vision Is Hiring Gays!

[This post written before the reversal. Didn't change what I say here, but begged other questions about managing the message.]

In the Olden Days, when I was working in World Vision Australia, the World Vision entity in the United States, a.k.a. World Vision (since it was the first one), was generally thought to be the most conservative in faith terms. So imagine my surprise when Christianitytoday.com ran this headline today:

World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriage.

One former colleague shared the story with the status “Wow”. He beat me to it.

Then I read the article and, with the perspective of on Old-Timer Insider, I thought I could see what they were trying to do. President Rich Stearns of the US World Vision is trying not to make a judgement. World Vision reckons this is a question for the church and denominations, not some para-church organisation like World Vision. They would rather follow than lead.

But, as another FB commentator observed, perhaps World Vision "is trying to have its cake and eat it." There is something like truth in that.

The Christianitytoday.com article points out that “Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits private employers from hiring and firing based on religious beliefs. But a 1972 congressional amendment established that churches and religious associations could use faith-based criteria in hiring.” Since then, World Vision has claimed it is a religious organisation, despite its main work not being about religious ceremonies (unless you consider a preferential option for the poor an act of worship – as I do). That 1972 amendment has made a rod for the back of organisations like World Vision in the US, unlike here in Australia.

I left my position as CEO of World Vision Australia in 1996. Unless something was snuck through in the dying days of the last Labor government without my noticing, it has long been illegal in this country to discriminate on religious grounds in hiring practices.

And that’s the way it should be.

What? Is it OK for organisations that hold a strong position on some moral issue to be forced to hire the immoral? Wrong question.

The right question is how should we choose who we want to work with?

Best practice in hiring involves skilled interview staff who make judgements not only about skills, the relevance of experience and qualifications, but also about the soft stuff of fitness for the job. That has to do with organisational culture and style. Organisational belief and practice about workload, autonomy, discipline and a hundred other things. ALL organisations, if they are competent, look for people who FIT. And they discriminate against those who don’t fit. Not on grounds of their religious, moral or any other beliefs, but on the grounds of the organisation’s judgements about how well the candidate lines up with the organisation’s values.

In Australia, we never had the problem that World Vision US faces, because we never asked people if they were adulterers, homosexual, left-handed, over 150kgs or frog-botherers. We just told them who we were, how we went about our day-to-day work, how we had come into being, and what we believed about our mission in the world. We asked for their reactions. You can tell a lot about FIT from that process.

By winning the right to discriminate, religious organisations in the States had to decide where they stand on a long list of issues. Do we hire queers? What about divorced people? What about Roman Catholics, are they Christian? What about the disabled? What about asylum seekers?

World Vision in the States is now discovering how impossible it is to walk away from one position and try to take a no-opinion position.

And what’s my view?

About what? Gays? This is one of many issues where I know what the Bible says, but I don’t make a judgement. Obviously there are plenty of people who are more confident than I. People who are willing to stand up and pass judgement. Not me. I’m already dealing with too much of my own sin to pass judgement on someone who is living in a same sex relationship.

And frankly, the Jesus I know from the Gospels spent a lot of his time with the very people who were on the margins of society. He knew more prostitutes, tax collectors and others from the great unwashed than I will ever know. He loved them without condition. Many were brought into the Kingdom.

I know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God. I can read 1 Corinthians 6:8-10. Paul, writing to the Church in Corinth, lists some examples there of people who will not make the grade. Here is his list:

Sexually immoral
Idolaters
Adulterers
Male prostitutes
Homosexual offenders
Thieves
Greedy
Drunkards
Slanderers
Swindlers

But do you notice what he says next? “That is what some of you were.”  Wait a MINUTE! How did these people get into the church in the first place? Didn’t they have selection criteria?

We never asked people who applied to World Vision Australia whether they were greedy, thieves, drunkards, or queer. As a result we hired some who were. Perhaps at least one who was all four.

Our approach, as much as we as sinners could demonstrate, was to bear witness to the grace and unconditional love of Jesus Christ. In so doing, every now and again, more often than we expected, the Holy Spirit took advantage of our efforts and one more sinner made the grade. Or as Paul puts it, they became “washed, sanctified and justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.”

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