World Vision Eyes Policy Change
Anyone who bought the media's line that Christians don't care about the issue of marriage found out yesterday just how wrong they were. The church not only cares about marriage -- it remains a priority for Bible-believing Christians. Every American, no matter where they stand on marriage, was stunned when World Vision -- one of the largest charities in the country -- walked away from 60 years of moral tradition by agreeing to hire same-sex "spouses."
Fortunately, they hadn't walked out of earshot, as thousands of Christians jammed phone lines and email boxes with messages of shock and dismay. Some of the most influential Evangelical leaders weighed in publicly and privately, while supporters took their outrage directly to the organization's executives. Some churches were already making plans to redirect fundraisers to other groups when word broke that World Vision had reconsidered. Barely 48 hours after departing from the straight and narrow, President Richard Stearns released a statement officially reversing its short-lived plan to bring about "unity" in the Church.
After an emergency meeting of the World Vision Board, Stearns offered a profuse apology for the betrayal felt by so many supporters. "We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness. ...[W]e failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.'s commitment to the traditional understanding of biblical marriage and our own statement of faith, which says, 'We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible authoritative Word of God.' And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners... We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to biblical authority."
For Christians across America, who continue to be disappointed by the compromise of Christians on biblical marriage, this should be a source of encouragement. Like so many people relieved by the course correction, we welcome World Vision back with open arms. It takes a lot of courage in this culture to own up to a mistake of this magnitude and apologize.
Unfortunately for the organization, even short-term failings can have long-term consequences. Even as they reconcile and reengage the ministry, plenty of people will have questions about how a Christian organization could take such a radical departure from biblical teaching without someone sending up a warning flare. To them, it's not an issue of forgiveness -- but trust. How could World Vision get it wrong on something so fundamental as biblical sexuality? In many ways, this is a teachable moment for the entire Christian community -- and an opportunity to every ministry, pastor, church, and spiritual leader to refocus themselves on the transcended truth of God's word. The Psalmist wrote, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light until my path." This is the moment for every Christian ministry, every Christian church, and every Christian home to make sure that God's Word -- and not the "good" of the world -- is what lights our way.
In Senate, No Lee-Way on Religious Liberty
Most of yesterday's Senate Armed Services hearing focused on cuts -- including the deep ones made to military religious freedom. Piggybacking on the House hearing last week, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) took the opportunity to ask the hard question of Air Force leaders, who assumed they would be fielding questions about spending, not the branch's latest episodes of faith-based harassment.
Like a lot of leaders, Sen. Lee was outraged by the Air Force Academy's outrageous overreaction to a cadet's handwritten Bible verse on his dorm room whiteboard. Academy officials insist the cadet removed the Scripture voluntarily. However, the enormous pressure on the cadet was evident in the Academy's statement, which admitted that the Air Force chain of command met with the cadet prior to the removal of the Bible verse. "How can this particular Bible verse, quoted by this cadet from the Book of Galatians, simply declaring his faith from which he draws inspiration, placed on a board that is traditionally used for that purpose -- to reflect that cadet's personality and sources from which the cadet draws inspiration -- how can that be deemed inappropriate?"
Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright replied with the Pentagon's typical mantra -- insisting she didn't have enough details to comment. (You'd think with all of the media and congressional attention that she would have taken some time over the last two weeks to get informed). Instead, all she had to offer was that the Defense Department does "support one's freedom of speech, and we totally support the freedom to exercise your religion." As a Catholic, she said she keeps a mass card on her desk. "I don't start out my meetings that way, because as a leader of 32,000 people that would be inappropriate. But I use that. And so I think that common sense needs to clearly be applied... But when you're a leader, you have to understand that you have all faiths that you command, and you must respect everybody's faith." Frederick Vollrath, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management agreed, saying, "free speech and exercise of religion is part of what makes America, America."
True, Sen. Lee agreed, but, as he emphasized, this pattern of religious intolerance doesn't seem to match what military officials continue to say in congressional testimony -- namely, that they support and encourage Christian expression. It's alarming, Sen. Lee went on. "Much as it would be alarming, I would think, if someone came to you and removed something from your desk that is a source of faith and inspiration." We applaud the Utah leader and others for seizing every moment to keep the issue of religious liberty front and center.
Free Willie: Robertson Son Speaks Openly about Values
Billy Graham's son is a lot of things, but shy about his beliefs isn't one of them. Rev. Franklin Graham continues to be a source of encouragement and backbone for the Christian community -- speaking out on issues of biblical import that others seem to dodge. He was one of first people to comment on the World Vision fiasco and refuses to back down on some of the biggest cultural debates of our time. On Tuesday, in an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Franklin explained that he owed his fighting spirit to his dad, Billy.
"You talk about controversy -- my father stood with Martin Luther King in the early 1960s. My father never worried about polls. I don't care about them, either. And with the issues we are facing today -- if my father were a younger man, he would be addressing and speaking out in the exact same way I'm speaking out on them." And that includes one of the biggest cultural flashpoints of our generation -- homosexuality. "I love people enough and care enough to warn them... that if they choose to continue to live in sin, God is going to judge them one day..."
Another family with a legacy of faithfulness -- the ever-popular Robertson clan -- hasn't let December's "controversy" stop them from speaking the truth. The stars of "Duck Dynasty" are as up-front about their values now as ever. In a sit-down with CNN, Willie Robertson was asked about his dad's comments on homosexuality. "[Phil] made Christmas very interesting for us," the CEO of Duck Commander joked. "He just said what he thought, what was on his heart," Willie explained.
When CNN's Kyra Phillips asked if Willie shared those beliefs, Willie said simply, "I believe what the Bible says." Then, "[W]e certainly don't profess to be perfect. Because we have our own sins that we deal with." His wife, Korie, was just as supportive of her father-in-law. "Anybody who knows Phil knows that he is about love and his message is about God's love, God's grace, and his forgiveness, ultimately."
We tip our hats to both of these families for being a voice of compassion and conviction -- even in the pressure-cooker of Hollywood and the media. FRC is excited about the possibility of having members of both the Graham and Robertson family at our upcoming May pastors briefing, Watchmen on the Wall. Al Robertson, the oldest brother of Duck Dynasty fame, is confirmed -- and we hope Franklin, who is invited, will be able to speak as well. Encourage your pastor to attend! For more information about the event, click over to the Watchmen webpage.
** FRC's experts have been busy this week, cranking out a slew of op-eds on some of the hottest topics of the week. Our new Director for the Center of Religious Liberty, Travis Weber, had a great piece on the HHS mandate in First Things: "Not Just for Profit." Senior Fellow Bob Morrison harkened back to the 40th President with his piece, "Why Reagan Spoke of an Eleventh Commandment." Also, don't miss Nathan Oppman's column in Conservative HQ, "Common Core and ObamaCare: Two Peas in a Pod."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.