Severing Ties with World Vision

wvWe’ve been sponsoring a boy in Bolivia through World Vision. But we are going to end it now, sadly.

Principles Matter

I was surprised when I read the announcement. While I don’t think that continuing the sponsorship would be a formal cooperation with evil–instead, likely only a material, and remote cooperation–I found the decision disturbing because it presents a radical change in the organization’s principles regarding marriage.

If same-sex “marriage” and relationships in general are considered moral by World Vision, that principle will almost certainly affect how they minister to the needy, the people they choose to be missionaries and work with vulnerable children, and so on.

But that’s not the only thing. Through this series of events I learned from a friend that World Vision already promotes contraceptives, including abortifacient ones, among the needy. As a Catholic that is simply not acceptable. If I had known that originally, we would not have sponsored a child through World Vision.


Poor World Vision. The well-meaning president had hoped that this move would increase Christian unity.

Stearns asserts that the “very narrow policy change” should be viewed by others as “symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.” He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.

The Called to Communion guys did a quick and accurate dissection of why this idea of unity is so confused.

Refusing to make a decision is a decision. Changing an important policy is a decision. It chooses A over B and so makes a statement about one’s underlying beliefs and principles.

Today Stearns haplessly lamented that their original decision, which he hoped would lead to unity, actually only increased the division, and now with their reversal of the decision that division is cemented:

This has been a painful week in terms of the division that we created around our initial decision, and then reversing the decision two days later has created a lot of concerns with our employees and our key partners around the country.

And rightfully so. His actions were concerning.

I’m Hateful, Just Like Evangelicals

Liberal Protestant bloggers went into a frenzy, first singing World Vision’s praises (and yelling at Evangelicals who protested) at the initial decision, and then condemning World Vision  when they reversed it (and blaming Evangelicals for it).

Rachel Held Evans immediately jumped into this latest culture war fray:

But please, for the love, don’t leave a child and a community that was depending on you in a bind so you can make a point about gay marriage. It’s just not worth it.

What seems to be lost on Rachel and her followers is that they were making a point about gay marriage just as much as Evangelicals were. Apparently when Evangelicals do it, it is hateful and persecuting. When liberal Protestants do it, it is moral and just.

Also conspicuously absent are words of praise for all the Evangelicals who for years have been sponsoring children, not because of gay anything but because they want to help needy people. Suddenly World Vision makes this decision and liberal Protestants decide that It’s Time to Sponsor Children Because “It’s the Right Thing to Do.”

Wasn’t it the right thing to do a week ago, back when they weren’t doing it?

Once World Vision reversed its decision, Rachel made a false accusation:

I confess I had not realized the true extent of the disdain many evangelicals have toward LGBT people, nor had I expected World Vision to yield to that disdain by reversing its decision under financial pressure.

Wha? Because we support traditional marriage and oppose false ideas about marriage, we “disdain LGBT people.” That is simply not true, and seeks to conflate support for traditional marriage with disdain against people.

Rachel wrote earlier:

The gospel is at stake only insofar as we make one’s position on same-sex marriage a part of it. The gospel is threatened, not by gay people getting married, but by Christians saying support or opposition to gay marriage is an essential part of the gospel when it’s not.

Is Rachel the arbiter of what is essential to the gospel and what is not? By what authority does she make such a determination? Perhaps she formed her opinion about what the Bible says by counting verses like Tony Jones’ friend Rev. Dr. John D’Elia:

Want to know what’s “core” to our Trinitarian faith? Wrestling with the idea of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit–the community at the center of all existence. Perpetuating the lie that issues of human sexuality are somehow central to Christian doctrine, only ensures that our collective eye will remain firmly off the ball.

Let’s simply reflect on the weight of God’s word: The poor and needy are mentioned 400+ times, while homosexuality gets a paltry two mentions (four, at most). Let’s at least agree to order our own lives and ministries according to God’s clearly stated priorities.

This Protestant minister claims to know what “God’s clearly stated priorities are” based on counting up verse mentions. Where does it say in the Bible that that is how we know what God’s clearly stated priorities are? Many important things in the Bible are mentioned only once or a few times, yet we don’t discount them because of that. And if God condemns something as evil, how many times does He have to say so for us to believe it?

Choosing a charity based on their principles is a good thing to do. That’s what Evangelicals do. It’s what liberal Protestants do. The only difference is, Evangelicals admit that they do it and liberal Protestants try to act like they don’t. Their true colors were shown by the World Vision reversal, when their talk about not pulling sponsorships based on the organization’s principles were put to the test, and some admitted that they had made their first gift to World Vision but now would never give to them again.

Not the Only Game in Town

We already sponsor another child through the Catholic organization Unbound/CFCA. After this World Vision fiasco, I am going to investigate whether CFCA also promotes contraceptives. They might, which would be shameful. Hopefully they do not. Giving abortifacients to poor people does not help them.

The canard that we who have been sponsoring children are doing it for ourselves is bogus. The fact is that I don’t want to support an organization that has bad principles because those bad principles with invariably hurt the people I want to help.

I heard from friends on facebook of several other organizations that help people, without doing objectionable things.

Please chime in with comments on other organizations you know. Katie and I plan to choose one or two to support them.

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22 thoughts on “Severing Ties with World Vision”

  1. Hey Devin,

    I’ve been thinking about this topic (giving up donations through World Vision) for the last couple of days myself; it’s certainly been quite the hot topic among my more liberal Christian facebook acquaintances. In an effort to rebalance the light/heat ratio on the topic, here are my preliminary thoughts:
    1) The idea that one should continue donating to World Vision “for the kids!” regardless of their stance on same-sex marriage is importantly ambiguous. One possible interpretation is that there are no theological changes WV could make such that it would be morally legitimate to cease donating to them. (Suppose, as a hypothetical, WV were to embrace non-trinitarianism or universalism; withdrawing your financial support under those circumstances would still “leave children in a bind” to “make a point” about trinitarianism or traditional eschatology). So if one says that there are simply no theological changes that would justify withdrawing financial support from WV, then that strikes me as an implausibly strong position (that I’m somehow morally obligated to donate money “for the kids”, in essence, regardless of what theologies/philosophies the group espouses or comes to espouse).

    RHE, at least in her later comments, seems to suggest that there are some circumstances where withdrawing financial support would be o.k., namely “when the gospel is threatened”. (Probably, then, she’d be fine with withdrawing financial support if WV were to become non-trinitarian, since she probably thinks that the gospel is threatened if non-trinitarianism is accepted). If that’s the case, though, then we loop into the views you presented above (namely, how does a neutral inquirer know whether same-sex marriage [or any other issue] “threatens the gospel”? And who, if anyone, possess the authority to decide on behalf of other Christians which issues threaten the gospel and which ones don’t?)

    2) Missing from the analysis I’ve seen (but which point you made) is that the only options aren’t “Help children through WV” or “Children starve” – one could also take the $40/month (or whatever) and donate it to some other child-helping charitable organization better aligned with Catholic values. The analysis by RHE (and, as I said, lots of my Facebook friends) seems to miss the point: Is it morally wrong to cease donating to WV and to instead donate to some other organization? If someone says “yes”, then they apparently believe that you’re not only morally obligated to help children, but that you’re morally obligated to keep helping children through WV. But if one says “no” (i.e., that it’s fine to help children by donating the same amount of money through another charitable organization), you’re not “leaving kids in a bind to make a point over gay marriage” since you aren’t “leaving kids in a bind” in the first place. (Granted, you’re now helping some other child B instead of child A that you were originally supporting, but you were already helping child A instead of child B to begin with – and if helping A instead of B did not “leave kids in a bind”, then helping B instead of A also does not “leave kids in a bind”).

    Anyway, there are some interesting philosophical/theological issues lurking here (philosophical issues mostly having to do with our duties to care for the poor and the contours of limitations on that duty), and I think most of the analysis running around is pretty facile. Your analysis went a bit deeper and, thus, I thought was better. Those’re my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth. 🙂

    Yours Sincerely,

  2. When they say “disdain LGBT people” or “hate” or similar accusations, they really mean “morally disapprove of aberrant sexual behavior.” They seem to be unable to make the distinction.

    1. It’s convenient not to make the distinction. Because it serves their agenda that they are all victims, people like us are bullies and hateful, etc. They seem to be unable to think clearly and honestly about these issues, not even seeing their own double standards when it comes to them.

  3. BTW, people in poor countries consider the idea of people of the same sex “marrying” with horror. To them, it’s a bit of laughing the “enlightened” westerners who support such an idea out of the country. And if they insist on staying, they’ll probably be forced to use the broom on them.

  4. With a heavy heart, I sent a message to little Neil and his family, whom we have been sponsoring, telling him we could not support World Vision and why. My guess is that he and his family go to a Protestant church, perhaps one that World Vision supports(?), but I’m sure they were Catholic not too far back.

    The World Vision translators down there likely won’t communicate the substance of the message, so I included in the letter a message to them as well, explaining further why contraceptives do not help people.

    I then called World Vision to cancel my sponsorship, and the lady I spoke with was incredibly gracious and kind. They must be getting cancellations from so many people and feeling sad. They believe they are doing good work, and much of it is good. But contraceptives are not good. She asked the reason, I told her contraceptives, and she said “do you mean the recent policy decision?” And I said no, I mean contraceptives. She couldn’t understand what I was saying for a while, but finally she did. God love her. And God bless them. It shows me how hard it is to support non-Catholic organizations. They do not believe what the Catholic Church teaches and so will do things that are immoral, even without realizing it.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      Yes I did realize that. But the episode revealed these other serious moral issues with World Vision, which for Catholics are extremely problematic. If they were not promoting contraceptives, I think we could still donate to them.

        1. Hey Bob,

          I’m not Devin (big surprise!) but I’ll take a stab at answering your question. (Devin’s more a theological expert than I am, though, so I’ll defer his correction if he better understands matters than I do.) Criminally short answer: Yep, the use of all contraceptives is immoral.

          Somewhat longer answer (which explains rather than just states the conclusion). The Catholic Church believes “natural law” (NL) theory to be the correct ethical theory (and, for what it’s worth, so did I prior to becoming Catholic). To criminally oversimply, NL theory holds that all things have ends, or purposes, or goals (this concept is expressed by the lovely Greek word “telos”, pl. “teloi”). To intentionally act in a manner contrary to a thing’s telos is morally wrong. Now, the teloi of sexual relations are twofold: One end/goal/purpose of the sexual act is unification (of the persons and their marital relationship) and the other is procreation (i.e., reproduction). Since one telos of the sexual act is procreation, and since contraceptives intentionally act in a manner contrary to one of the sexual act’s teloi, contraception is morally wrong. (Brief clarification: Sexual acts must be reproductive “in type”, but reproduction need not result from each and every sexual act in order for it to be moral! Consequently, all sexual acts which are not reproductive “in type” are immoral, and thus contracepted sexual acts are immoral [and plenty of others types of sexual acts as well….])

          That said, there are two important caveats worth mentioning. First, one is not morally required to have the maximum possible number of children (and indeed under certain circumstances having children might be imprudent). A moral way to avoid having children is to use methods of Natural Family Planning (that is, spouses intentionally choosing not to engage in sexual acts during fertile periods – an uncontracepted sexual act during a known infertile period is still reproductive “in type” and hence Natural Family Planning is moral). Second, and perhaps obviously, I assume you’re asking about contraceptives used as contraceptives; if one takes a contraceptive drug for a morally legitimate medical purpose then that’s not immoral (because then one isn’t intentionally acting in a manner contrary to the sexual act’s teloi). Easy example: The drug progestin is a commonly-used over-the-counter method of hormonal birth control. Taking birth control to intentionally render the sexual act infertile is immoral as discussed above. But progestin is also a clinically-successful way to treat irregular menstruation and endometriosis (that is, to treat certain bodily diseases). So if a doctor thinks the best way to treat a woman’s endometriosis is for her to take progestin, then a woman can morally take progestin (because the intention of taking the drug isn’t to render the sexual act infertile but to cure the disease). So it is immoral for contraceptive drugs to be taken as contraceptives, but if a contraceptive drug is taken for curing an illness then that’s morally allowable.

          Apologies for the length, but answering questions well occasionally requires some detail. And Catholic sexual ethics sounds quite silly unless one takes the time to understand the bigger ethical picture behind them, namely NL theory. If you have followup questions, etc., feel free to ask (there’s obviously a lot more that could be said by way of clarification, but I thought it overlong as it was!) Have a great Sunday!

          Yours Sincerely,
          ~Benjamin Keil

          1. Ben,

            The requirement to not exclude either goal from sexual relations is the basis for sex outside of marriage being immoral, something that practically all Christians agrees, because the place for procreation is the family, which demands the commitment of the sexual partners in marriage for life.

            If both aspects of sexual intimacy were morally separable, then there’d be no moral reason to not practice sex outside of marriage, for it would bond lovers more effectively than dinners and movies. Even homosexual sex could then be difficult to be considered immoral.

            Yet, this is exactly where we are. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, condemning contraception, said that, were separating the unitive and the reproductive aspects of sex moral, these very things would happen. Fortunately for us Christians, we don’t have to rely on our own opinion. Our Lord, Himself and through His prophets and apostles, has left us His Law of Love. Breaking any of His laws is not only an offense against Him, but against the nature He gave us too.

  5. Hey Devin. We had to sever ties with Compassion International. When I came back to The Church I contacted Compassion. We were on our 2nd child. We were doing extended aid to get her through hotel management. Because she was in Philippines I wanted to know if she was Catholic so I might communicate more effectively. Compassion said they had “adversarial” relations with the Catholic church in the countries around the world. Our girl left the program soon after this . We will never sponsor through them or World Vision. We give to Food for the Poor. Also like Mary’s Meals.

  6. Devin, pls report what you discover, if anything, about Unbound/CFCA. We support a child through them (they have always impressed me, and looking fwd to what you find).

    1. FJ,

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t know the reasons they did it, except what they have sent out in their mailings. On the one hand, “CFCA” is an unwieldy acronym that doesn’t mean anything to most people, while Unbound is a better brand/logo/message.

      On the other hand, “Unbound” has a connotation that resembles liberation theology ideas, especially in a Catholic Central/South American context.

  7. Hey, Devin. Look into Operation Underground Railroad. They are an organization that rescues children who are being trafficked. We just found then this past year. If you look under the Learn More tab it tells a lot more about the org.


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