A Christian charity organization has reversed its decision to employ Christians in same-sex marriages, after the move prompted a backlash from its major donors and the cancellation of an estimated 2,000 sponsorships meant to help impoverished children around the world.
World Vision had said Monday that it was changing its longstanding policy against hiring Christians in same-sex marriages. But on Wednesday the charity's president, Richard Stearns, announced the reversal of that decision in an internal letter, a copy of which the organization emailed to Al Jazeera.
“The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy,” Stearn wrote in the letter to supporters of World Vision, which is an international aid organization dedicated to eradicating poverty and assisting children around the world. It has attracted tens of thousands of donors to sponsor children who live in poverty.
The charity’s current hiring policy requires employees to sign a code-of-conduct contract agreeing not to engage in premarital sex, or to commit adultery if they are married. The charity, which is located in the Washington state city of Federal Way, is allowed to have such a hiring policy under U.S. law because it is considered a church.
The new hiring policy was just that, a World Vision employee who spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity said — adding that it did not mean that World Vision was taking a stand on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Stearn said many World Vision donors had been angered by new hiring policy. In the letter, he wrote to them, “We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
At least 2,000 sponsorships were reportedly dropped in response to organization’s hiring policy change, a World Vision employee said. The source added that 60 church partners called in Tuesday to drop their affiliation with the international charity.
“People were hugging and saying how relieved they were," the source told Al Jazeera. "Another co-worker was relieved because she was planning to quit after the announcement.”
“I know of only one other person who is disappointed, and we are forced to whisper our disappointment in the corner like it’s some dirty secret that we support equality.”
The charity’s announcement on Monday that it had changed its hiring policy in order to accept married, gay Christians was welcomed by some – but angrily criticized by most of the organization’s donors and affiliated churches.
Comments by readers on an article announcing the decision Monday in Christianity Today, a popular online Christian news source, reflected the discontent.
Most comments angrily condemned the decision, saying same-sex marriage contradicts the Biblical definition of marriage.
“No matter World Vision’s excuses, they have chosen to tolerate a lie; that in actual fact removes them from the realm of true Christianity. Hence, I will have to terminate my support for World Vision and find a Christian relief mission that does stand on the unchanging truths clearly revealed in Scripture,” a reader wrote.
But some called for tolerance: “There seems to be quite a bit of hate here so I just want to remind everyone … Jesus loves you! All of you!”