World Vision, one of America’s largest Christian charities, just made a small but important tweak to its employee handbook: it changed its definition of marriage. Like many religious non-profits, World Vision U.S. can privilege people with certain beliefs in their hiring practices. Until recently, one of those conditions of employment prohibited employees from engaging in sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marriage. Now, the charity’s definition of marriage includes same-sex couples too. World Vision U.S.’s president Richard Stearns told Christianity Today that his charity hopes the change (which still prohibits sex outside of marriage) will become “symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.” As of now, anyone “in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ” is eligible for for employment there. World Vision U.S. is based in Washington State, where same-sex marriage is legal.
Although Stearns hopes that other Christian organizations will follow his example, World Vision has a history of choosing to sit out, rather than take sides, on controversial issues facing the different denominations who work with the charity. That context is important when looking at the World Vision leader’s longer statement to CT: “It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there…This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage,” Stearns cautioned, adding: