Thinking Out Loud

March 28, 2014

The World Vision Story Irony

Despite my frequent rant that more balanced journalism comes with the luxury of time, I wanted to quickly document some of the early reaction to World Vision’s reversal of their hiring policy change before suppertime on Wednesday night. Okay, let’s be honest, I just wanted to be one of the first out with the story. So you ended up with this quick post, which was frequently updated, not the least of which updates were to include my wife’s observation that this was, within 48 hours, a microcosm of the “New Coke” story. I do believe that this is the religious news story of the month, and will certainly end up in the top five for the year.

Bene D. went down the same paths as I did and took the time to copy some extracts that give you a more readable story.  But a quick note from Bene this morning alerted me to the excellent piece at Internet Monk by Michael Bell (which includes an excellent David Hayward cartoon).

Without overly dumbing down what Michael wrote, I want to give you Cliff’s Notes version so you don’t miss this. Here are the bullet points:

  1. The issue for Evangelicals here is homosexuality.
  2. A discussion of homosexuality invariably leads to the use of the term sodomy.
  3. Many Bible commentators would have it that the sin of Sodom was neglect of its poor.
  4. On Monday, some Evangelicals withdrew their support from World Vision over the issue in (1) above, and thereby were guilty of (3) above.

Get it?

If nothing else, it’s interesting to think that (again, according to many interpreters) if you pulled your child support between Monday and Wednesday night, you were guilty of sodomy. I don’t however recommend you actually telling that to anyone who withdrew their support.

(Of course, this take doesn’t eliminate other Bible passages on the subject that cannot be so interpreted.)

Then, Michael goes on to note the interesting timing on this vis-a-vis another recent religious news story:

Do you know how much these young people are repulsed by Fred Phelps sign “God hates Fags”? Well, in the minds of many you have just held up another two thousand signs. Fred Phelps died last week, and many said “good riddance”. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that so many would step up so quickly to take his place.

If the shoe fits…

Let me hasten to add here something that I placed in a comment on Wednesday. It was because of the very high percentage of donor money that World Vision spends on fundraising that I/we never sponsored a child. But a few years ago, my oldest son decided to sponsor a child through Compassion.

Seeing the relationship he has through the mail with someone on the other side of the world has made me realize what we missed out on. We’ve already sent two donations to Compassion’s unsponsored children fund and I do encourage people to consider sponsorships through Compassion, Gospel for Asia, Partners International, etc. Most of these agencies place a high, or perhaps higher priority on the proclamation of the good news about Jesus alongside their humanitarian relief and development efforts.

 

 

March 27, 2014

So What If I Told You…

So what if I told you that about half of all people employed by Christian organizations and churches in North America are in no way necessary to the completion of that organization’s or church’s ministry?

The statistic is hypothetical, but I’d still like to propose the possibility that the thesis is correct. There is a lot of fat in a lot of organizations. As attendance grows at weekend services, many churches opt to either go into building program or to hire more staff. At parachurch organizations, structures and hierarchies become bureaucratized and complex. People grow accustomed to their weekly paycheck, and long-time employees appreciate the burden-sharing and never question the additional expenditures. Why rock the boat, or admit that the job you do each day isn’t a real job? Too few charities and church denominations ever take the step of hiring people from the business world who know how to make cuts.

So what if I told you that about 90% of the people employed by churches and Christian organizations are completely isolated from any opportunity to do front-line ministry?

Again, a hypothetical stat, but when you average in all the people in various support services, office staff, etc., and the various agencies that come alongside these same missions and camps and churches are included, it shows that the structure really does mean that, like an iceberg only reveals a tenth of its mass, only a very small percentage of workers are exposed to situations requiring a presentation of the gospel or engagement with those outside the flock. 

Years ago, I remember hearing the phrase, ‘Making a living off the gospel.’  It’s sad to think that this probably takes place today to a much higher level; a much greater degree. Organizations ask for help meeting a payroll that probably doesn’t need to be as high as it is, but perhaps fruit-of-the-spirit virtues like kindness prevent the hard-nosed restructuring that might be needed. 

What do you think? Do you know people who have a career with a Christian organization, but maybe don’t exactly have a job? Do you think a person would ever have the conviction to tell their Christian employer that their job is completely unnecessary? Do you know of a church that simply has waaaay too many staff positions?

March 26, 2014

Breaking News: World Vision Reverses Hiring Decision

World Vision Comparison Question

Is this “New Coke” all over again?

After announcing on Monday that it would permit the hiring of gay Christian employees, late Wednesday afternoon it was announced that the organization would reverse its decision.  At play in the confusion are the people who:

(a) canceled child sponsorships because they opposed the decision
(b) sponsored a child because they supported the decision

Some in category (b) are sticking with their decision despite the reversal of policy today. Here are some random — and not so random — reactions on Twitter just after the announcement:

World Vision Reverses Policy

In my view, this is a week that will reflected in the annals of World Vision’s history for a long, long time. Only with the reflection that comes with much time will we see the ramifications of what they did, and then, why they undid it.

World Vision Flip Flop

The original statement on Monday read in part,

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.

Through our many discussions and much prayer, we began to discern some clarity around this issue. You see, World Vision’s mission is not the same as that of our local churches; nor are we a body of theologians whose responsibility is to render biblical advice and interpretations of theological matters. We are, as our mission statement so clearly expresses, “an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.” And it is this mission that unites us—Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox, nondenominational, etc.—more than 50 different expressions of the Christian faith represented within WVUS alone. In fact, for 60 years the Christian mission of World Vision has been a platform uniting followers of Christ around the world.

There was much conviction in that decision that now is undone. No matter where you stand on this issue, it’s hard not to be confused right now. 

Update 8:08 PM — Three hours in and Rachel Held Evans is at over 400 comments on this. Definitely the top Christian news story for March 2014. 

Update 8:27 PM — Be sure to read Wendy Gritter’s World Vision: A Drama in 5 Acts. Wendy is the director of New Direction in Toronto, a ministry of compassion to the LGBTQ community.


World Vision in Canada: “In Canada, our situation is different because of our legal and political environment…We do not ask questions about sexual orientation or marriage during our interviews, and we don’t have a lifestyle code of conduct for staff.” Read the full statement here

World Vision UK: “…We are, however, a very broad church and as long as applicants for these positions are practicing Christians and will bring a Christian heart and mind to the role it doesn’t matter what creed or church tradition they are part of.” Read more about jobs at WV-UK.

Related article (published before the reversal): Jamie Wright (Un)Follow, (Un)Support, (Un)Sponsor : What does our response to World Vision say about our Faith?

September 19, 2011

When You Spend a Lifetime at “No Fixed Address”

While most American adults can identify the fifty states, many are clueless about entire nations elsewhere, including the countries which make up the "horn of Africa". Can you name the country south of Kenya?

In North America we view homelessness as a crisis, but for nomads in Kenya, living at “no fixed address” is actually a lifestyle; a lifestyle that works, on some level, when conditions are ideal.

But not now. Not when there is drought and famine.

A CNN/Religion article today drives home this point.

According to [World Relief’s Don] Golden, refugees fleeing the al-Shabab-dominated famine areas of Somalia are exacerbating the situation in Turkana, a region already poor in resources. “The old saying is that droughts are natural disasters and famine is man-made,” he said.

But it’s important that relief efforts not make this situation worse:

Stopping people from starving to death is different than enabling them to fend for themselves. “There’s a way of helping that can hurt,” said [Nairobi pastor Simon]Ndegwa, who collaborates closely with World Relief.

This is more complicated with nomadic people whose lifestyle keeps them “on the road” ignoring even national borders.  Eventually, the lifestyle itself may need to change:

[UNICEF’s Peter] Smerdon and Golden agree that to create sustainability for an isolated people in today’s interconnected world, there has to be a bridge. The answer then, lies in education.

Initially, in an emergency situation, “everyone is saying we want water and food,” Smerdon said, “but at the end they are saying we want school fees.”

…”Educating schoolchildren is a way to change lifestyles” for isolated children growing into a globalized world and “therefore they can get a job and provide a lifeline (to their families) when there is a drought,” Smerdon said.

You can read the full article at CNN here.

Consider making a donation to World Relief (USA) or World Relief (Canada) or in the UK through Medair.

Related items on this blog:

How Not to Exploit a Famine
Partnering With Partners — Links to Giving Through Partners International

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