Failing the Smell Test: Evangelical Christian Publisher Endorsing Gay Christianity?

Here comes more of what we are going to see a whole lot of: Christian ministries, organizations, publishers, and business leaders trying to thread the needle of compartmentalization between what they say they believe and what they are actually practicing or willing to endorse. In the last three weeks, there have been three notable instances demonstrating the struggle that is coming and which, in fact, is already here.

 

World Vision

First it was the World Vision fiasco when the decision was made to hire same-sex couples for the U.S. World Vision staff (See the Christianity Today article). Though the decision was reversed, it revealed some startling logic from its president, Richard Stearns. After “the World Vision board had prayed for years about how to handle the issue” of “recognizing same-sex relationships,”  World Vision decides to look the other way and hire same-sex couples saying, “We have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue,”  as though that was a good thing. Not only does such logic fail to realize that by making the choice to hire same-sex couples, World Vision was siding with particular churches, but it also demonstrated World Vision’s willingness to check its spiritual and theological integrity at the door for the sake of the operation of its mission. 

 

Chic Fil A and Dan Cathy

Then, it was Dan Cathy who, in the midst of a campaign to promote his new food line and push his business ventures into the gay-rights holy ground of New York, who told USA Today,

All of us become more wise as time goes by . . . .We sincerely care about all people. . . . I’m going to leave it to politicians 
and others to discuss social issues.

Once again, the idea that it is a noble gesture to “pass the buck” and defer to “politicians and others” to decide what is right and wrong. I’m not saying that a person has to take his beliefs and create a media storm as Cathy did when he publicly stated that he supported the traditional biblical view of marriage. But now, though his views have not changed, he seems to have retreated for the sake of “customer service.”

 

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Finally, WORLD magazine reports online that,

Convergent Books, a publishing imprint under the same corporate umbrella and leadership as the evangelical WaterBrook 
Multnomah Publishing Group, is scheduled to release God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines next Tuesday. Vines, a 
24-year-old former Harvard student, attempts to refute biblical passages that declare homosexuality a sin (Can a divided 
publishing house stand?).

Waterbrook Multnomah publishes such authors as John Piper, David Jeremiah, Kay Arthur, and David Platt. Steven Cobb heads up both Waterbrook Multnomah and Convergent. In fact, according to The Christian Post, the two publishers or imprints are virtually the same: same leader (Cobb), same staff, same everything. Just a different name. The CP also reports from an inside source that

Multnomah is now consciously trying to hide from NRB [National Religious Broadcasters] and its members the fact that it is putting out this new project. Insiders are reporting threats should they release any such information outside the company… 

Essentially, Steve Cobb is asking traditional evangelicals to ignore the fact that he is also willing to publish titles that are pro-gay Christianity. More compartmentalization. It is hard to imagine that someone in a board room did not at one point say, “Wow! There’s a whole new market with gay Christianity! Evangelicals aren’t going to like it if we publish gay Christian material but there is too much money at stake if we don’t. So, let’s publish the material under a different name. Maybe no one will notice.” We noticed!

 

Yet Another Example: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Last year, I expressed concern to the Thomas Nelson Publishing company my concerns about an author they endorse, Rachel Held Evans. (Not that they had published a pro-gay Christian book, but that an author they publish also endorses gay Christianity, and by implication, Thomas Nelson.) Just visit Evans’ website and soon you will realize that she is a liberal Christian trying to reform traditional evangelicalism. In part I wrote,

I have always held Thomas Nelson in high regard, assuming it to be a trustworthy publisher upholding evangelical beliefs and values, I am greatly disturbed that you have chosen to stand with an author who openly supports gay Christianity, the Gay community, and by association at least, same sex marriage. . . . The issue is not about the church’s need to lovingly embrace those who are struggling and need the love of God. The issue is that she accepts gay Christianity on its own terms and thereby the whole “Christian LGBT” agenda and perspective. She directs her audience to the Gay Christian Network and others who support the gay “Christian” lifestyle. Am I to assume, by association, that Thomas Nelson also supports the same? 

A rep. from Thomas Nelson replied, in part,

The personal opinions and political views expressed by an author are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect that of the company. Thomas Nelson publishes products written from a Christian worldview, and we respect our author’s right to express their personal opinion. We cannot comment on anything concerning Ms. Evans other than the book that she has published through us.

In other words, We only want to be responsible for what we publish. If one of our authors stands against traditional Christian values, we kindly ask you to forget that while you are reading her books that we publish. 

 

Failing The Smell Test

Back when Bill Clinton was elected the first time, he astutely realized that if he would focus on the economy (“It’s the economy, stupid!”), Americans would look the other way and ignore his Jennifer Flowers discretion if they thought it would help their pocketbooks. He was right. Then, after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he was able to stay in office, even though he was impeached by the House. Is this where the country began to get comfortable with compartmentalizing personal indiscretions as long as publicly the job gets done? Maybe. But when did the Church get comfortable with turning a blind eye to a person’s character or beliefs just so long as they don’t sin around us? It’s like saying to someone who is accusing a man for beating his children, “Hey, he’s never beaten his children around me so it’s none of my business.” Whether it is raising money for the needy, selling chicken , or selling books, it seems that some of the leaders and influencers looked up to by traditional evangelicals are willing to suspend or table their convictions for the sake of business.

Perhaps World Vision Should Ask Evangelicals: “Who Did You Think We Were?”

By Scott Fowler

John Mayer, the popular guitar player and singer, has a song called “Who Did You Think I Was?” Part of the lyrics go like this:

Every mornin when the day begins

I make up my mind but change it back again

I’m a shifter of the shape I’m in

Who did you think I was?

This article asks this question of World Vision and its leadership.

In his article, How World Vision Can Regain Trust, Dr. Michael Brown’s perspective is right on. We must accept World Vision’s statement of repentance. I also think his list of questions for President Stearns are essential to answer moving forward. But there is something else we should ask of ourselves: What is World Vision? Does it claim to be evangelical? Who did we think they were before all of this happened? Were we accurate? I am fully aware that there are genuine evangelicals working in the midst of World Vision but are they in the minority? I personally never assumed World Vision was evangelical. Yet we find that evangelicals are holding World Vision to an evangelical standard. Who did we think they were?

I have read World Vision’s statement expressing its core values. It is a laudable expression of Christian faith and compassion. But we have made certain assumptions. We have assumed that we define Christianity the same. We have assumed that we share the same definition of sin. Do we?

While I agree with Dr. Brown that we should accept World Vision’s statement of repentance, I believe it is fair to ask of Wolrd Vision and its leadership, “Are you repenting of causing displeasure to your evangelical supporters or are you repenting that you slipped into a compromised view of homosexuality? How is it possible that after praying for years about this issue you can make such a decision only to reverse it just two days later? When you made the initial decision to hire same-sex couples was it because you decided that homosexuality was normative? Yes, you said you were deferring to the authority of the local churches, but it seems that you deferred to the authority of local churches that accept same-sex marriage and embrace gay Christianity! Did you decide that it just didn’t matter in the face of doing good deeds unto humanity? If so, isn’t that the definition of a social gospel?

After reading Mr. Stearns’ interview with Sarah Pulliam Baily in the Huffington Post given after the reversal, I have concerns that cause me again to ask, “What do we think World Vision is?” In response to the question:

Did anyone come out in the time between the announced decision and the reversal? In other words, are there any employees in same-sex marriages currently?”

Mr. Stearns answered, “

As far as we know, we don’t have any World Vision U.S. employees involved in a same-sex marriage. With a population of 1,100 employees, I’m sure we have people with a same-sex orientation on our staff. But I think it’s important to say that we respect the privacy of our employees. We don’t ask about sexual orientation in the interview or in hiring because we do welcome people regardless of their sexual orientation if they can affirm the Apostle’s Creed and the statement of faith, and if they can abide by our conduct policy. The conduct policy applies to heterosexuals and homosexuals. We’re not trying to exclude someone because they have a same-sex orientation, but we do have a conduct standard that governs all employees.

So, World Vision has no problem with gay Christianity.

When asked,

What kind of church do you attend, and has that informed your personal view on same-sex marriage?

Stearns answered,

“It’s a Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Seattle area, but I don’t want to drag them into this. I’m not telling people where I stand on same-sex marriage because I don’t think it’s relevant.

Even the Huffington Post recognizes that a person’s church affiliation affects one’s opinions and that those opinions affect one’s decisions!

When asked about his opinion concerning the emphasis evangelicals put on sexual morality, Stearn, in part, said,

“But we all have to admit that issues like this distract us and take up more time than they should or than they ought to. We’re trying to call people to our mission and let’s come together and change the world. I wrote a whole book called “Unfinished” that’s about the kingdom mission that was given to Christ is unfinished 2,000 years later, and we need to finish the job, working across differences. That’s not saying we shouldn’t violate core principles of our faith in various faith communities, but we have to come together to finish this kingdom mission.”

As far as I can see from World Vision’s statement of their core values, their mission is to relieve human suffering among the poorest of the poor. Who doesn’t applaud that? But that is not the kingdom mission! The mission is to go into all the world, preach the gospel, teach people to obey Jesus commands, baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to make disciples. In the process of fulfilling that great commission, yes we meet human need, regardless of our success at converting those in need. BUT, we can’t compromise the biblical truth and principles of the spiritual mission for the sake of completing the social aspect of the mission.

Some will say this article is mean-spirited. It is not meant to be. But we must answer the most fundamental questions concerning where we stand on gay Christianity. If we don’t, the same thing that happened to World Vision is going to happen to churches and ministries all across America. Genuine evangelicals must consider their endorsements and ask themselves, “Who did we think they were?”

World Vision’s “Lose-Lose-Lose” Situation

By Scott Fowler

As any who are following the story have already heard by now, World Vision reversed its decision to hire same-sex married couples. Unfortunately, this situation is a lose-lose-lose situation.

The first loss came when the initial decision was made. According to an Associated Press article report (Major Evangelical Charity To Hire Married Gay Christians), Richard Stearns, President of World Vision indicated that “the World Vision board had prayed for years about how to handle the issue as Christian denominations took different stands on recognizing same-sex relationships.” Initial response to World Vision’s decision from traditional evangelicals was sadness, disappointment, dismay, even rebuke. It’s decision to hire same-sex married couples in order to avoid division thereby shirking its responsibility to stand behind its own statement of faith in some attempt to remain neutral by deferring to the authority of local churches all while claiming that it was not compromising but holding true to Scripture was a ludicrous attempt at a balancing act that was doomed to fail. And fail it did, setting up the second loss.

The second loss came two days later when the decision that came after years of prayer was reversed and labeled a mistake. Okay. It’s a tough spot to be in for World Vision. By their own admission they “failed to seek enough counsel” from their own Christian partners (World Vision Reverses Gay Marriage Decision). It is possible to become myopic when we allow ourselves to become too isolated. It happens. But the problem now is that we are left to surmise that if the leadership at World Vision had felt no negative feedback it would have stood by its decision to hire married same-sex couples. The current leadership at World Vision is capable of making this kind of decision when left to its own counsel. So, even though their decision has been reversed and a sincere apology has been given, it seems that we now know where the leadership of World Vision really stands on the issue. This is a demonstration of its biblical hermeneutic.

The third loss is felt by true evangelicalism as a whole. It is just one more prominent ministry that has demonstrated that it does not understand the full seriousness of the battle that is engulfing evangelicalism and the believing Church. One by one ministries, leaders, politicians, and families are succumbing to the pressure of the culture and their own subjective experiences to compromise in their beliefs causing the Church’s cultured despisers to question just how deep our convictions go.