NEW YORK -- A Washington-based religious charity has been forced to backtrack on a pledge to allow the hiring of employees in same-sex marriages, after Christians denounced the move as the work of the Devil.
World Vision, one of the biggest charities in the US, which asks donors to sponsor hungry children, said early this week that it was to broaden its recruitment pool to include gay married Christians as a gesture of unity for a faith that has been riven by the issue of same-sex marriage.
However rather than approval, the charity received immediate censure, with the faithful declaring on social networks and in online message boards that they had cancelled their sponsorships with the organisation.
Less than two days after making the announcement, World Vision, which boasts an annual budget of $1 billion, backpedalled on the decision, calling it “a mistake”.
On reversing the move, World Vision president Richard Stearns told Christianity Today, “We feel pain and a broken heart for the confusion we caused for many friends who saw this policy change as a strong reversal of World Vision's commitment to biblical authority, which it was not intended to be."
"Rather than creating more unity [among Christians], we created more division, and that was not the intent," he added.
Speaking to the New York Times on Thursday, Stearns went further, calling the move “a mistake in judgement”. He also added that “several thousand” sponsorships had been cancelled by Christians in just two days.
The difficulty for such a large charity as World Vision is clear: the organisation boasts scores of different denominations, from Episcopal to Presbyterian, many of which have already made the decision to accept same-sex marriage.
World Vision’s attempt to be neutral on the issue was designed to allow for doctrinal differences within the disparate denominations, however the debate over same-sex marriage, it seems, is too much of a divisive issue to allow for any form of non-alignment.
Still, the vehemence of the backlash is likely to have caught the charity’s board by surprise, with such Christian luminaries as the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary calling the decision as “disaster” and Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, accusing World Vision of ducking “their responsibility to fidelity to God’s word”.
The furore in the US comes as Britain prepares to celebrate the country's first gay marriage ceremonies following a change in the law last year.
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