World Vision U.S. is based in Washington, a state that has legally recognized same-sex marriage. World Vision Canada has already complied with provincial laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Yet World Vision leaders stressed that -- even with legal victories for gay rights rising -- the possible loss of money from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) played no role in the short-lived attempt at a compromise on same-sex marriage.
"Concerns over government funding had no impact on this decision," Stearns told Christianity Today.
Meanwhile, World Vision's staff and donor base has been changing, especially among young evangelicals. The charity's idealistic appeal for "church unity" was linked to the fact that its staff now includes believers from 50-plus churches and denominations -- including some from liberal Protestant churches that have affirmed same-sex rites, such as the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Presbyterian Church (USA).
In this case, the goal was to affirm a biblical call to social justice while mapping a demilitarized zone on same-sex marriage between the emerging evangelical left and those committed to defending 2,000 years of Christian doctrine.
A key Southern Baptist leader understood that goal, but rejected the result.
"Richard Stearns has every right to try to make his case, but these arguments are pathetically inadequate. Far more than that, his arguments reveal basic issues that every Christian ministry, organization, church and denomination will have to face -- and soon," argued the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in an online commentary. World Vision cannot "surrender theological responsibility when convenient and then claim a Christian identity and a theological mandate for ministry."
Attempting to do ministry with both liberal and conservative churches "might work if World Vision were selling church furniture, but not when the mission of the organization claims a biblical mandate," he added.