Dear Franklin Graham Along With Your Associated Board of Directors,
I’m writing to you concerning the recent uproar involving the non-profit organization World Vision. For the benefit of those reading this letter, I’ll briefly provide the back-story which led to said events into three concise parts:
On Monday, World Vision made the decision to amend their employment standards. Previously, the company had stated that employees were not to engage in sex outside of marriage. On Monday, the organization publically announced that it would now allow the employment of individuals who were in same-sex marriages to be included under their previous standards.
Said World Vision President Richard Stearns:
“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there…Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues.”
As many might have imagined, there was an immediate public reaction. Some Christians heralded the issue and applauded World Vision for their avocation of unity in the church. Others were not so happy. Many who had financially supported children through the organization stated their intentions to cut funding. Numerous Evangelical leaders spoke out against the decision.
Shortly thereafter, I read of the whiplash and public outcry from several Evangelical Christian organizations. Needless to say, there was already more commentary on the event than one could possibly read and process in a day. But your statement on World Vision came across my radar. Because I am an Evangelical Christian and indeed a student at a seminary that has strong traditional ties to your organization, I was curious as to your reaction.
Again, for the benefit of those reading, I’d like to share what it stated:
“I was shocked today to hear of World Vision’s decision to hire employees in same-sex marriages. The Bible is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman.
My dear friend, Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, would be heartbroken. He was an evangelist who believed in the inspired Word of God.
World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church.
From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Scriptures consistently teach that marriage is between a man and woman and any other marriage relationship is sin.”
Upon reading this concise but scathing statement, my heart also broke. And I had a million questions. So I decided to write this letter. Because I’m sure I’m not the only one with these questions.
As I stated earlier, I am a student at an Evangelical Seminary. I am training to become a pastor; my heart’s desire is to serve Christ and His Church. Inasmuch, I submit and adhere to the Evangelical position and the stance of Biblical authority on this issue. It is obviously a question that has presented itself before.
That being said, your reaction prompted questions. So I’m asking you, with humility, I’m asking you Franklin Graham: why?
Why did the actions of World Vision require such a severe and immediate statement? Why is this the manner in which you have decided to handle the issue?
I can understand your frustration with people like me. I am young, impressionable, and culturally influenced. I understand that I belong to a generation of Christians who seem to have dropped the ball from the previous generation; one that fought for the preservation of a Biblically-based moral code in a culture pitted against such.
But I still have to ask: why do you and your organization repeatedly make statements such as these that present the issue of homosexuality as imperatival to biblically-sound Christianity?
Of course, you would probably say, it all has to do with Biblical authority. I too believe in the authority of the Bible and the numerous issues it addresses. But where do you find the authority to place one Biblical issue above another?
World Vision made their original and final decision in an effort to promote unity within the church.
You found this “offensive,” because, according to your statement, the Bible presents a consistent teaching across the Old and New Testament concerning homosexuality. And, thus, that issue has precedence over that of church unity.
But an argument on the basis of “Biblical authority” can be made for numerous issues, the unity of the church absolutely being one of them. Paul opened his letter to the Corinthian church appealing that “there be no divisions among you” (1 Corinthians 1:10). This was his first line of business in the epistle, preceded only by a traditional greeting and thanksgiving. This was a church, as I’m sure you know, planted in the midst of a city and culture renowned for its sexual promiscuity. Yet Paul doesn’t begin his letter with a proclamation concerning any of these topics; he begin it with an appeal to the unity of the church.
In other places Paul exhorts Christians to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit though the bond of peace” and to “live in harmony with one another” (Ephesians 4:3 and Romans 12:16). He encourages us to “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1).
Jesus, of course, also prayed for the unity of his followers (John 17:20-23). Jesus also created numerous scandals for his association with characters of questionable sexual purity (Luke 7:36-50, John 4 being two prominent examples). These were just a few actions by our Savior that outranged numerous members of the moral majority Pharisees.
Where, in your statement, did you present your desire for the Biblical mandate of unity within the church? Furthermore, what about World Vision’s actions were so offensive to you? The fact that they took a stance based on Biblical authority? Or the fact that they took a stance on a different Biblical issue than yours?
Following World Vision’s announcement and your statement of opposition, numerous Christians publically expressed their intention to cut financial support to children whom they had previously funded through World Vision. Their logic rides on the back of the Scriptural authority you so vehemently claim.
But if the Bible has a unified voice on anything it is the Christian call to charity and provision for the poor. The instances in which God expresses his concern for the downtrodden and commands his people to be equally concerned are extensive and not nearly limited to: Exodus 22:22, Exodus 23:11, Leviticus 23:22, Leviticus 25:25, Deuteronomy 10:18, Deuteronomy 15:11, Psalm 69:32-33, Psalm 112:9, Isaiah 41:17, Matthew 19:21, Mark 12:40, Romans 12:20, James 1:27…the list goes on. Quantitative and exegetical evidence clearly point to the Scriptural authority on this issue.
Why are we, as Evangelicals who look to you for leadership, choosing to die upon the issue of homosexuality at the expense of several other issues which present themselves with equal (if not greater) Scriptural authority? Of all the issues concerning which “Biblical authority” is loud and clear…why is this the flagship of Evangelical Christendom?
Maybe it’s not our fault. Maybe its because we took a stance and culture has labeled us as something we are not simply because we choose to speak out on an issue of contemporary significance and political buzz. Maybe we can point the finger.
But your statement saddens me for this very reason. Because I realize we can’t point the finger. This fight didn’t come to us: we went looking for it. We jumped on this issue. Case in point: hardly a few hours passed after World Vision’s announcement before you issued a public and scathing indictment against it.
In moments like this, are we more concerned with defending the Gospel or our own agenda-laden version of it?
Should we not ask this question? Should we not hold our punches for just a moment? At least briefly, momentarily? At least to let each other explain?
I’m asking, because it breaks my heart, the heart I have for the church. “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). Why do we ignore this proclamation? Why is our resolve: “What about a house divided into 33,000 denominations, Jesus? What about a house that is divided over a really, really, really important issue? Surely then it will stand, won’t it?”
I ask because on more than one occasion I’ve had a member of my youth group approach me with all sincerity and question: “why does the church hate gay people?”
I ask because I’m preparing for a summer of church planting in Iceland, a country you recently visited. In researching the religious climate of the country, I learned of numerous forums in which the message of the gospel, the message you carried to the country, was lost behind a veil of perceived homophobia.
I ask because we were warned to be “shrewd as serpents” and as “innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) and I see neither innocence nor shrewdness in our approach to this issue. Instead all around me I see Evangelists rising up against each other, in a public forum, standing upon “the authority of scripture”, attaching themselves to specific issues and allowing this “authority” to create lines of divide through church. Paul warned us that without love our words become clanging symbols (1 Corinthians 13:1). I ask because it appears to me that we aren’t as concerned with properly loving as we are properly enforcing and instead are using these clanging symbols to beat each other down.
I ask because I want to know. Of all the other issues we could chose, of all the fights to pick…why this? Why this fight?
My heart breaks for the church that is snapping from the inside, drawing lines based on a politically charged issue. My heart breaks for the pain we have inflicted, the pain to which we blind ourselves with shaded glasses of “biblical authority”.
So please, tell me. I’m asking with humility and a desire to advance Christ’s church.
I’m asking: Why?
Sincerely and Humbly,
A Fellow Brother