World Vision Reverses Policy That Allowed Hiring Of Gays

The Christian charity had said earlier gay marriage was an issue about which Christians of goodwill could disagree, and hoped the policy would be understood in that way. Conservative donors objected.

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The Christian charity World Vision announced this week it would begin hiring married gay Christians, but then quickly reversed the decision because of a backlash from evangelicals. NPR's Sam Sanders has more on the controversy.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: World Vision is big. It brought in over a billion dollars in revenue last year. Its mission is simple: Raise money to fight poverty, and sponsor lots of children across the globe.

(SOUNDBITE OF WORLD VISION AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: We are World Vision, and we believe in children. We believe in God's calling to help them flourish and achieve a full life.

SANDERS: What they haven't believed in for years is hiring non-celibate gay people. But on Monday, World Vision announced that gay Christians in legal, same-sex marriages could work for the group. World Vision said Christians already disagree on lots of things - divorce, women clergy, evolution. Gay marriage could fall in the same category. People of goodwill could agree to disagree.

ROBERT STEARNS: We sought to create some unity, but we ended up creating much more division.

SANDERS: That's Robert Stearns, the president of World Vision. He says the reaction to the announcement was strong. Some evangelicals said that World Vision had abandoned evangelicalism. Stearns says thousands canceled sponsorships.

STEARNS: I was a bit surprised by the backlash although in retrospect, I should not have been surprised because we know this is a sensitive issue.

SANDERS: So sensitive just 48 hours after the change, World Vision apologized and reversed its decision even though the charity's home state, Washington, has legal, same-sex marriage. Ken Berger is the president of Charity Navigator, a group that tracks nonprofits. He says what happened to World Vision is an example of a charity not listening.

KEN BERGER: The bigger you get, the more of a distance, if you will, there is between the leadership and the average donor. Some people are saying, well, now that you've done this, how can I trust you?

SANDERS: World Vision says they'll work hard to undo the damage done this week. The group says since the policy reversal, it's already seeing some of that trust and donor money start to return.

Sam Sanders, NPR News.

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