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TRANSCRIPT: World Vision’s change of course

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April 29, 2014

Hello, this is Russell Moore, and this is Questions and Ethics, the program where we take your questions about issues that you are facing in your life or in your home or in your neighborhood or in your workplace and answer them through the grid of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the question today comes from Michael, and he is referencing the controversy that happened in recent days over World Vision. And before I ask Michael’s question, I will give you a little bit of the context for those of you who don’t know:

World Vision is a Christian ministry that has done very good work when it comes to helping starving and at-risk children around the world. And World Vision prompted a huge controversy in recent days when they announced that they were going to start hiring people who were same-sex married and that they were going to change their policy when it came to homosexuality, when it came to people who were married legally in states. The outcry meant that within, I think, forty-eight hours World Vision said we are reversing that policy. And so Michael says, “Dr. Moore, do you think World Vision changed its mind for the right reasons or simply because they lost so much support within the first twenty-four hours of making the announcement?”

That’s a good question, Michael. My response to that is to say I think that evangelicals made our views clear to World Vision, and I think that World Vision did the right thing in saying we are reconsidering this and we are turning around. Now, I think we need to be the sort of people who are willing to speak the truth, including to speak the truth to and about World Vision when they do something that we believe is unbiblical. But I think we also need to be the sort of people who can take yes for an answer.

World Vision put out a statement and said we apologize. The thing that struck me about this statement from Rich Stearns is that it was unlike many public apologies that we tend to see these days. It didn’t self-justify. It didn’t say, “I am sorry if I offended you. We’re sorry for those that we offended.” It said we did the wrong thing. We lost our way when it came to the authority of the Bible, and we are turning around. We are going to seek to make it right.

Now, I think that we take them at their word. I Corinthians 13, tells us to believe the best, and so I don’t think we can read motives, and I don’t think we ought to read motives. I think instead we ought to rejoice and say unless they prove otherwise, I think we need to take them at their word.

Now, does that mean that we ought to take into account—some people have said well, yeah, but you know, they made a really bad decision in the first place, so how can you trust a board that would make this sort of a decision that is just a clear break from biblical teaching and from two thousand years of Christian witness? Fair enough. Should we seek to watch and to hold World Vision accountable? Yes. We need to watch and to hold every Christian organization and ministry accountable. That’s what the Bereans did when they judged everything that the apostles were saying according to the word of God. They searched the scriptures to see if these things were so. We need to do that all of the time because every human authority is fallible, and every human authority can make mistakes. And so we need to be constantly watching that.

And I don’t mean that we need to have a watchful spirit or a skeptical spirit the way some people do, wanting to pounce on everything. But we need to hold everybody, all of us in Christian ministry, up to the standards of the word of God. True enough.

But we also need to be the sort of people who when somebody starts going in a wrong direction, they are rebuked, then they turn around—I mean the worst thing we can do is to say, oh, well, you obviously just turned around because we rebuked you; that means your motives are wrong. I mean the Apostle Paul confronted the Apostle Peter and said your refusal to have table fellowship with the gentiles—I am withstanding you to your face because you are not living up to what has been delivered to you by the Lord Jesus. Paul did that. Now, what if when Peter turned around and repented the response from the rest of the church is oh, well, he just repented because Paul confronted him; he is just worried about losing the influence that he has among the apostles? Well, you could read all those motives into that if you wanted to. But I think the better way to go is to take them at their word and to say we are glad you did the right thing. And like any other ministry, we are going to be holding you accountable. And if you walk away from the Bible and from the gospel, which is what happened here—I want to be very clear; that is what happened here—we are going to be the people who will remind you there is still an evangelical movement in this world, and the evangelical movement still believes the evangel.

Yeah, we need to do that. But we need to do it as people who take people at their word and believe the best.

What is your question that you have? Send it to me at [email protected]. Maybe it is something that you were reading in your quiet time in the Bible and you say I’m not even sure how to necessarily understand this; or maybe it’s something that you saw on television on the news or read about on the internet and you are saying I am not sure how to think about that as a Christian; or maybe it is a situation that you are facing in your family or in your home or your neighborhood or in your workplace. Send it to me at [email protected], and we will address it here on Questions and Ethics. Until next time, this is Russell Moore.