World Vision and The Public Sport of Evangelical In-Fighting

images-2Watching Christians fight over LGBTQ relations has become entertaining sport for much of North American media. Because the average N American thinks about sex as a form of self-expression, such fighting appears incoherent. When churches start exhibiting vitriol, and publicly withdrawing their support/care to lesbian or gay people (or worse starving children), it appears absurdly contradictory. All this makes Christianity quite the spectacle for people watching from outside. It makes Christianity into an interesting parody, a joke for the Tonight Show, for people who otherwise find Christianity irrelevant.

Painfully, we (Christians) have all been reminded of this dynamic with the World Vision fiasco of the last seven days.

And yet we keep doing it.

We cannot help ourselves.

This is because Christians keep acting like we live in Christendom, even though Christendom is passing away. Churches have less and less influence in society, yet we keeping acting like we do. So when we try to exercise power people resent it. And less and less people understand what we’re saying because the common history and language it takes to understand what we’re saying isn’t there any more. This is especially true when it comes to sexual issues. Add to this that Christianity is split between factions, another sign Christendom (unified cultural Christianity) is fading. So now, we have honest disagreements but for some reason we feel the need to go public with them (because we think people still care). Our family feuds go public and as any family knows, there’s a lot going on in our families that should not be broadcast to everyone because not everyone will get it.

World Vision’s public fiasco over the hiring of Same Sex married couples is another case in point of this whole dynamic. This large parachurch organization, created when protestant evangelicalism ruled large populations of United States and Canada, announces publicly that it will now hire same sex married people. The president along with some officers decide it as a human relations policy change for the whole organization. In the old days (of Christendom), such a decision would be respected by all the underlings. But this consensus no longer exists. And yet Christendom habits die slowly. The ensuing result is all too predictable.

The conservative churches decry it as unbiblical and heresy. The progressive evangelicals decry the conservatives as aweful, outrageous and heartless people. It is all so predictable. The repetitive infighting between the conservative Southern Baptist/Neo-Reformed representative voices and the progressive (sorta) evangelicals (most notably Rachel Held Evans and a whole cadre of progessive voices) has become good entertainment creating huge internet traffic to various sites. Notice however, the actual issue of LGBTQ sexuality never gets discerned, never actually gets talked about. “LGBTQ” in essence becomes an ideology we use to rally against the other side, no matter what side we’re talking about. The end result is both sides do at least feel better about themselves. “We’ve done something!” But in reality, no, we’ve really done nothing.

Christians Should Discern LGBTQ Issues in Local Communities Not Through Public Policy Statements.

Yesterday on twitter/facebook I wrote the following words:

Can we agree? @WorldVisionUSA is not a church or the church? It’s a social service agency representing variant expressions of Christianity.

My point was twofold:

1.) World Vision is not a local church. It is a large organization that really acts like a public service corporation. It is alot like a large university that once had a church behind it but now has lost that direct affiliation. It now is beholden to a huge donor base for its continued existence. It should act like that. If it makes a public statement that statement should be made for the sake of its ‘business interests.” If this is true, then in my opinion, World Vision should have very limited statements about the moral behavior of its employees.

2. The issue of LGBTQ sexual relations/marriage should be and can only be worked out locally on the ground in local communities of mission and sanctification. World Vision is not such a church so it should stay out of discerning these issues.

Once extracted out of the local churches, LGBTQ inevitably becomes a concept, an object, an ideological football being thrown in the air that we now fight over for political tactics. But the resulting discussions/debates have little to do with the real life concerns and issues of sexuality in everyday life. The actual concerns of the health, welfare, sexual development, sexual lives of people, no matter how oriented, are completely avoided, and definitely not discerned. Take a look at all the words written, there is little actual sexual stuff talked about. It can’t be discerned for real in public. Therefore, the church needs to quit making public pronouncements about LGBTQ people. It should instead open spaces for the practice of being the church under His reign where these things can actually be discerned with real people going through real sexual struggles and concerns. (Churches should also avoid making grandiose public statements on the issue. We are afterall not living in Christendom)

Sanctification is part of the gospel. How it happens is in local communities of sanctification through practicing ‘presence,’ the gifts of the Spirit, confession, prayer, mutual submission to God’s voice. Apart from this there is no real discernment under His reign. This too cannot happen in public. The church, by definition, is the local place for such life! (I realize most people have not experienced this kind of church. This is obvious by the way people on my fb page could not understand why I would say World Vision is not the church). These local spaces are where we should be discerning this issue, not in public pronouncements by large organizations. (To me, these pronouncements come off as pontificating to an audience that doesn’t exist any more.)

I have expressed these convictions before. For me, the case of World Vision has only convinced me more. What say you?

(If people are interested in this kind of church, may I interest you in a copy of Prodigal Christianity – especially chapter 7,8)

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Incarnational, LGBTQ Issues, Missional Ecclesiology, Missional Leadership, Neo-Anabaptist, World Vision
41 comments on “World Vision and The Public Sport of Evangelical In-Fighting
  1. Hear, hear… preach it.

    That is all…

  2. Branson says:

    I agree on local communities, but I’m also in favor of broader connectionalism between churches as represented in the polity of Reformed and Eastern Orthodox churches. Part of the reasons evangelicals are so polemical in social media is that there is no ecclesial structure–local or broader–that ever actually deals with and discerns a way forward on issues like these.

    So I’d say that evangelicals are so polemical precisely because of their disconnect with Christendom churches. Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and magisterial Protestantism all have avenues of dealing with issues other than Twitter wars. Many evangelicals don’t.

  3. David Fitch says:

    Branson,
    I think that works when you have some form of established church structures (you’re sounding like Ephraim Radner here). But the reality here is the evangelical denominations have become polarized, supported by people/funding agents that refuse to engage the issues. Therefore it is hard enough for me to get young pastors to go to a Conference meeting, never mind adjudicate conflict.

    When Christendom fragments, and it’s a bunch of pieces lying around vying for what power is left, the revolution must again go grass roots.

    • Michael J says:

      Having retired early from one of the mainline Protestant denominations it was quite easy to see this issue fomenting even with the “established church structures” I was part of for so long. I’m probably preaching to the choir here David but this has been headed for such a titanic showdown for some time. In many claiming “church” as their identity these public squabbles have and continue to leave religious institutions wasted along the side of the proverbial cultural roadside. What is interesting is that this particular matter, IMHO, is for all practical purposes going to undo finally any notion of “Christendom” and its perceived power(s) over the conscience of large swaths of people. Its mind/soul boggling to watch what has happened in my lifetime as one debate and another has undercut what has been at least perceived as the brokers of Christendom, and I am not that old. I wonder, as you continue to point out, if this is not some kind of larger Spirit movement to subsequently reduce Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven types to mobilize in those very “local” communities you speak of where the interpersonal and communal encounters carry the interpretive weight of integrating the ways of Jesus, far away from cameras and microphones, or megaphones. I would never use the language that this is a “God thing” but it is amazing to watch this current visceral reaction/responses over these matters undo what so many thought were the real movers and shakers of the Kingdom ways in the world. After taking a Sabbatical about 2 years ago and leaving the insulated bubble of “church” no truer words could be stated in terms of what I have encountered (and maybe should I say not encountered) than your words . . .

      “The end result is both sides do at least feel better about themselves. “We’ve done something!” But in reality, no, we’ve really done nothing.

      When I read that I said to myself, “Wow.” Over the last couple years that thought has been going through my soul again and again. Knowing I don’t have to make a “case” any longer for defending the actual existence of “church” I have been awakened to how little “church” comes up in the larger culture. For as much as church insiders claim to be difference makers in their communities and world “we’ve really done nothing” because much of what is communicated and pontificated as church/christendom is irrelevant to day in and day out life and living. The starkness of that reality has hit home for me. The larger culture understands that too much of what is uttered does not and will not take seriously or reflectively any matters that matter, nor does the culture believe those who claim “church” really want to mix it up in the struggle of living. I also get that my context is my context and this might not be true for all. But this was for me a huge wake up call to know that I and others inside the bubble have convinced ourselves that we continue to “make this difference or that difference” in the world. And just like the about face of WV this week, dollars are at stake for many entities that call themselves church.

      I think this issue of human sexuality will demand an honest step back and could allow for a truer more honest self-critical assessment of what we’ve actually accomplished and more so what such entities that claim Christ, Christianity, Church, etc. etc. etc. have actually become. I began to ask those questions of myself, what was I becoming in the “church enterprise?”

      Becoming the butt of a comedy show joke is no longer a joke. And this is no longer about being “debased for the sake of Christ or the cross.” There is something much more at stake here, bigger than the sexuality issue, much bigger which may reduce the noise and pushiness of much that goes for “church.” From a very different vantage point I wonder if the “vineyard” is now changing hands, I wonder?

      • David Fitch says:

        Michael J. So good … Reflecting from the depths of what’s happening.
        Thx!
        DF

      • Kay says:

        You’ve expressed where I have been for the past 2 years. For example, during the Chick-fil-A feud, I thought the message of Christ was getting hidden behind the chicken. And “money talks in Christianity” is the message in the Duck Dynasty & World Vision public displays. I don’t think I can return to my evangelical (fundamentalist) church where I taught Sunday school for decades. What I was hearing (anti-gay comments, we/they talk etc) it became something other than I received at the beginning in my walk with Christ. Love the folks, miss them dearly, but had to move on for the reasons you’ve stated. A sabatical like you or I am one of the casualty refugees in the wilderness.

  4. Jennifer says:

    In general I agree with your post. One point of disagreement is that theological discussions are only for the local church. WV considers itself to be a “Christian” organization, and with that label many Christians will expect Biblical values will be promoted. WV calls itself “expression of the Church on special assignment to care for those who are poor and oppressed”.

    While I believe that WVUSA erred in its judgment with the policy change, I also disagree with a lot of the social media reaction. It was foolish and irresponsible of some to just rush out and cancel sponsorships. Christians are expected to exercise self-control, which includes not jumping on bandwagons without prayerfully considering taking such measures.

    In the end, I agree that “Christendom” is in the past and we need to learn to live in a new world.

    • Matybigfro says:

      Did world vision err in judgement by under estimating the level disruption to it’s misison making this decision would cause, absolutly.

      Was it’s logical argument for changing it’s position flawed, absolutly not it was consitent for it to state that there is a diversity of Christian thought on the subject within the evangelical community and that it should be possible for Christians to see this as a secondary rather than primary issue, The problem is the level of Homophobia within evangelicasim makes this impossible.

  5. Michael Cox says:

    Thanks, Dave!

    I want to complicate this a little, though. It seems to me that there are significant pockets where Christendom is crumbling less slowly. (For example, I grew up in a very “Red” place, Oklahoma.) For folks living in spaces where Christendom is reality, this issue is culture shock.

    I am in no way endorsing or even excusing the attitudes or belief systems that lead to words and actions like those you reference. Rather, I think you’re spot on: even in sub-cultures where “Christendom” is a reality, there is no space for such response. It seems to me that in these places “Christendom” has become an excuse to neglect relationships––the very contexts in which the Kingdom breaks in. Yes, I said it, the Kingdom needs to break into its mock-substitute, Christendom.

    So, it seems to me that we (especially the “we” of Christendom-sub-cultures) have a choice: to respond as citizens of “Christendom” or to respond as citizens of the Kingdom.

    Thanks for highlighting the difference.

  6. Randy Buist says:

    David. What do you mean by ‘grassroots revolution?’ If I missed it, I apologize.

  7. What does it look like for WV to stay out of it? By hiring married same-sex couples? Or by not? Neither option is clearly in or out of it. In fact, wasn’t WV original statement about the change EXACTLY the point you are making in point #2?

    • Matybigfro says:

      Yes it seemed that way, I guess WV’s problem is that it has a the hang over of Christendom policy’s that even changing to make neuteral appear to be a decision in favour of one side or the other.

      The alternatice is the UCCF model of Christian unity, where the concervatives get their way the liberals hang around as long as they can cope before splitting

  8. Chris Morton says:

    It just makes me think the problem might be the idea of parachurches in general…

    • I think that might be too easy a dismissal. Parachurch organizations are not without fault- nor the concept in general. However, Christians in parachurch orgs having been doing for the church what the church has often been unwilling to do for a long time. If we want to critique parachurch orgs, it has to start with a solid affirmation of their faithfulness and a repentance of our failures.

  9. Derek says:

    David,
    Thanks for the post. It clarified for me how you were approaching this whole situation with World Vision. In particular, your tweet earlier today: “I’m embarassed about alot of things, like my own family, but I don’t leave relationships/people every time I’m embarrassed,” makes more sense to me now, I think.

    If I am hearing you correctly, you are lamenting the public nature of this disagreement and the fact that no substantive discussion and discernment can take place through blogs, tweets, etc. These sorts of announcements and the various responses to it only witness to division.

    I think there is a lot of merit to this critique. But I still have some practical questions. I understand and appreciate the importance of the local church as the body of discernment on issues regarding sexuality. I share the Branson’s approach above that mentions the connectivity of local churches in a Reformed polity, something Evangelicalism and the Neo-Reformed camp within it lacks on the whole. But how can we have substantive conversations and discernment across local church and denominational lines apart from blogs, tweets, etc.? Of course, getting together in person would be great, but without some sort of institutional facilitation, I fail to see how these conversations can be representative of broad movements/camps/denominations. In other words, are you saying that disagreements between local churches should just remain as such and we should affirm each other as brothers and sisters without really talking about disagreements we might have, even when those disagreements might call one local community’s Christian identity into question?

    My guess is that you don’t think blogs should be used to discuss differences and seek discernment, otherwise you wouldn’t be blogging, on this topic no less.

    So what should we be doing when progressive Christians and say, Neo-Reformed Christians have a substantial disagreement about sexuality. How do we deal with this disagreement?
    Thanks,
    Derek

    • David Fitch says:

      Derek,
      I think you’re reading me too broadly. I am talking about the public policy statements made by Christians to wider non Christian cultural audiences which then break out into ideologizing divisive contests before the watching world.
      In addition, there are discernments that require intrusive discussion, presence and the actual concrete working of sanctification on a local basis. These discernments are best handled within local contexts where truthfully they can only happen. Then when God works … we can report on these things from a local context, as one’s own witness. This then forces other Christians in other contexts to ask and discern the same things in their own lives. I take this to be what hapened with Paul the apostle, the discernmenst over the Gentiles eating meat etc…

      Civil discourse over blogs between Christians can still work to these ends.

  10. Nathan Smith says:

    David,

    I am with you on your justification for local discernment as a primary way to do these kinds of conversations. I believe that was the actual impetus behind the decision of World Vision – giving up conduct code decisions to local bodies.

    I do think it’s important to account for Paul’s view of this conversation for a number of reasons,

    1. He circulated letters to other churches to be read that had context specific issues that weren’t related to any and every church his letters were circulated to. Even today, we read other church’s dirty laundry and internal issues as a manual of discernment. Is there a place to continue doing that today?

    2. 1 Cor. 14: 33b-34 has Paul saying this – “As in all the churches of the saints, 34 women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says.” Given that this isn’t an interpolation, are there people in the broader church that can make these kinds of decrees as Paul did? He was including churches that weren’t planted by him in this as well.

    3. 1 Cor. 4:17 indicates that Paul is interested in teaching certain things to people in the churches everywhere with authority, not just as a guest speaker who doesn’t have local authority. A number of these churches wouldn’t have been planted by Paul and would have their leadership and elders. Paul believes it is proper to extend his authority into other local communities which have no direct or necessary affiliation with him.

    I know Paul can be problematic, but I wanted to push back a bit and ask how you would handle Paul’s understanding of his ability to speak into a local faith community – any faith community, with authority.

    Nathan

    • David Fitch says:

      Nathan,
      Yeah … I think WV made a strategic error in making this is a public policy statement. They should have just deferred without any hoopla…
      And on the apostle Paul… well there are things that come directly from the Lord thru the apostles … and carried on .. the deposit of the gospel. Then there are discerned local; extensions of the outworking of the gospel, like Gentiles eating meat etc… These later instances were worked locally and moved up to the apostleship to become policy for the whole church. this is how see this issue needing to take shape …
      DF

  11. Jason says:

    I am troubled by point one. Doesn’t the para church and the church all sit beneath the authority of the Bible? Also doesn’t World Vision have a statement of faith that reads that the Bible is that authority? (Greg a Strand posted the letter by David Stearns in which he admits as much) That statement is their agreed upon contract with their supporters and must be adhered to in trust. To not do so is a breach of character and integrity.

    As a WV supporter there needed to be a broader conversation that happened with supporters before rolling out such a decision. I agree we ought to love the LGBT community but first we in the Christian community need to define that otherwise in our attempt to love others we will sidestep loving God first.

  12. Brian Mann says:

    David, you wrote exactly what I’ve been feeling this past week. We’ve gone Jerry Springer on each other, and it’d be funnier if it wasn’t so heartbreaking.

    This kind of anger and spite comes from deep wounds and real brokenness on all sides, the sort that makes people paranoid and irrationally fixated on the error of others. People in that state can’t hear the hate in their own voice, they’re convinced that they’re trying to help.

    Evangelicals needs healing. The LGBTQ community needs healing. And the poor among us (as you pointed out) need a sandwich. Fortunately our God specializes in all that.

    It’s been a lousy, embarrassing week for Jesus people in America. But I feel like God’s telling us to hang in there and find some healing. Once we receive it, we’ll be able to share it with others.

    Thanks for your article.

  13. Ed Gungor says:

    Loved this. Thx!

  14. JMorrow says:

    Some insightful views on the bigger picture in your post. I can think of many reasons why the local church is, as you suggest, a better locus of discernment on this and other issues. Another root of the problem that this debacle and others like it are uncovering is that for generations the US Church has lacked a robust public theology that guides Christians in their relationship to society, economy, culture and state.

    Have we sufficiently appraised, from a theological perspective, what it means to be (in your words) either a “social service agency representing variant expressions of Christianity”, or a “public service corporation” or “a local church”? WVUSA with its statement of belief for all employees has attempted some kind of hybrid. However, its not the option Christians have exercised to express their faith in the public realm, or cooperate with those who while not sharing their culture or values, nevertheless seek a common good. So what would it mean to differentiate these various forms of Christian witness and accord them contextualized metrics for discerning faithfulness? Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

  15. Randy Buist says:

    I so appreciate your thoughts David…and then this afternoon I made the terrible mistake of reading a couple of blogs from The Gospel Coalition people on this issue.

    For the first time in my life, I fully understand why people are leaving the church. May God forgive and heal, but how do we speak of God’s love when we have so much hatred towards those differing from us? At my heart, I want nothing more than people to come and live into the kingdom.

    Unfortunately, those folks seem more interested in getting it right than the gospel message. Is there any way forward really?

    Catholics are finding public witness with Pope Francis leading the way; perhaps it’s time for progressive Jesus people to find a home in the old tent again?

  16. David, thank you for your insightful article on the World Vision USA debacle. You bring out a sad commentary when you say, “we have honest disagreements but for some reason we feel the need to go public with them (because we think people still care).”

    Yes, I suspect most of evangelical Christendom (oh, I’m sorry–I mean some of the evangelical believers in the USA) still think of themselves as part of a great, nebulous religio-nation that “keeps Christ in Christ-mas.” In specific places in these United States, that is still true. But not widespread, in these post-Christian times. I can see that clearly, from my years of ministry as chaplain in an urban hospital in Chicago.

    When I served as chaplain, I was less concerned about whether the patients and their loved ones had “appropriate” religious views and more concerned with my use of the ministry of presence in trauma, grief and end-of-life situations.

    Serving in an ICU, or cardiac care unit, or hospital emergency department sure puts a different spin on things. This World Vision spat dims in comparison.

    However–now that I have just started at a small congregation in the Chicago suburbs in an interim pastor position–my situation has changed once again. I’ll be interested to see what happens in my little corner of the church. Or, the Church. Again, thanks for your excellent article! @chaplaineliza

  17. It’s certainly something I can agree with that it shouldn’t be the onus of any Christian with a Twitter account to convince the world of the sin of homosexual sex, but Fitch, in my opinion, lops off a significant part of the whole debate when he talks about how Christians should contend with LGBT individuals. He seems to be saying that we shouldn’t tell anyone via Twitter, blog, or anything else like that whether they are in sin. I agree. But the other component is: should we call out organizations that drench their work and very existence in Christianity if we think they make a statement allowing sin? World Vision is not a church, true, but it is Christian, from its statement of faith to the FAQ excerpt regarding “Will my sponsered child hear the Gospel?” I think it would be a similar situation if, say, the President said that Christianity does not consider homosexual sex sinful. He’s high-profile enough that it does indeed warrant a public response, a loud cry of, “I disagree!” Thus, a large nonprofit like World Vision, with sponsors all over the world, might necessitate a whole salvo of Christian voices decrying any decision it makes those voices deem to be in doctrinal error.

    Furthermore, Fitch talks of “discerning” LGBT issues. For some, this is a valuable option. Others have the LGBT issue well discerned. Very few Christians would call on us to collectively “discern” whether, say, a politician commiting perjury is a sinful act. It’s lying, it’s a sin, we call a sin a sin. That’s exactly how millions feel about “LGBT issues.” Don’t expect them to carefully peruse pro and con lists, consult a plethora of scholarly works on the subject, and retire to their chambers to contend with this “three-pipe problem.” Obviously, any sin connected to the LGBT movement is a more sensitive subject than something that’s been a crime for centuries, but this also isn’t the first time we’ve had to think about the issue. Millions have ready-made responses, will deploy them immediately, and, at least in their minds, are doing the Lord’s work in doing so. Any programmatic statement on this week’s events should take that into account, and I think Fitch could’ve done a better job of such.

    What I will agree with is that Christendom either is in the past, or needs one more good shove from Christianity to get it out the back door. As soon as we stop talking about this “Christian nation,” we can stop using the law of God in the public sphere as a ransom demand and start using it as an invitation.

  18. Ed Brenegar says:

    Both sides of the ideological divide are trapped in their own modernist cul-de-sac. Both believe that truth is primarily an idea, expressed in words,and embedded in institutions. As a result, we fight over language, while Rome burns.

    I know it is common to speak of post-Christendom, but are we not approaching a moment when even that designation says more than is real?

    My hope is not in these institutional forms, though I live, work and serve in one of those. I am not a pessimist. I’m a hopeful realist. And even with this kind of distraction, I am more hopeful now than I’ve been in a decade or more.

    • Ed, I’m not sure that does too quickly assume (and thus dismiss) the very real human motivation- not merely ideas or ideals- on both “sides” of the issue. There is surely a degree of that at play, but we can’t treat the response as a lump-sum whole. Many, myself included, engaged because of pastoral, relational connections. As you say, even though we don’t place our hope in the institutions, lives are caught up in them and are deeply impacted by them.

  19. Tim Hoekstra says:

    David, Thanks again for these thoughts…they have helped me with my own. I am a part-time staff member of Team World Vision which is a part of broader World Vision US. I have been in on some of the internal communication to staff about what was going to happen and what did happen. This communication was poorly done, by the way, due to many factors – pressure, underestimating, leaks, tension, lack of clear thought and commitment, etc. I actually now think that the leaders of WVUS were attempting to position the organization to clearly be in the very position you are describing. They are in these international partnerships with WV Canada, WV UK, WV Australia, etc. that already function simply as social agencies that seek to honor the “social values and ethics” of Jesus and use them at a leadership level as their motivation and empowerment. Employees are asked to follow them with that spirit as they do their work. But those employees are not hired on the basis of lifestyle, etc. – simply on their abilities and commitments to the cause and in agreement with the values and ethics from a social standpoint. And as we know, by law these partners must honor this dynamic. That has actually helped them know that they are not a church or the church.

    WV US was seeking to get ahead here on this one in light of recognizing that they are not and should not seek to be the church or a church. They recognized through employee questioning and pressures over a number of years that there are 50 denominations represented among their employees and that included a number of different perspectives on the Bible and life issues, etc. Much of how they communicated this was unclear and poorly worded to us and to the broader partners.

    Then what we saw happen was the expression of the identity crisis within a particular segment of the church – ironic isn’t it that they believe only others have an identity crisis especially with sexuality. The church told the leaders of WVUS that, in their identity crisis and inability to work in a pluralistic setting, that they were not going to put up with WVUS putting this ball in their court. This got heavily out of control on the messaging side. WVUS leadership panicked, and this is my opinion, because bottom line they saw that children on the ground in the poorest countries of the world would die within the next months because of lack of funding for programs already in the works. Now, did they say that? No. But I truly believe that was what was underneath it all.

    So, now here we are with this segment of the church incapable and unwilling to see and work with the world they are functioning in. They demanded through money and other threats that WVUS join them back in their part of the little sub-culture they function within. WVUS acquiesced and tossed this ball down the road where it is likely the law will change and they will join their partners in functioning the very same way because they were forced to. Everybody remains in an identity crisis – WVUS and this small segment of the church. And along the way this segment of the church and its leadership showed their unwillingness, unpreparedness, and inability to thoughtfully and authentically and patiently work with their people and the people around them on sexual identity and more. They simply from a distance took the easy road of declaring “we are committed to the authority of the Bible” that leads us to take this stand… blah, blah, blah – as if that helped any one of their community members to work in the pluralism of their daily world. It certainly didn’t invite anyone working their way through their sexual identity to do it with them. In the mean time, the world goes on and moves forward and this part of the church gets further swallowed up by the gap that exists between them and that world. And this part of the church becomes increasingly irrelevant to that world and simply plays intramural theology with the members of their own campus.

    These are some of my developing thoughts about what I am seeing. They are not complete in anyway – they are certainly mine and not that of WVUS in any way. Thanks to David and all of you who have been writing for helping me to continue forming my own leadership within the church and society.

  20. Tim Hoekstra says:

    I should add that while all of this is going on the work on the ground to those in desperate unjust poverty continues at a quality and high level. I will be taking a group to Rwanda in May and they will see that while we argue there are life and death decisions being made on the ground in countries around the world day in and day out.

    • @Tim, God bless you and your urgent ministry to Rwanda. I know that it will impact many people for good (as well as for God). And thank you for your insider’s viewpoint. It was instructive to learn that WV international is as diverse as you say. 50 different denominations? (Sounds like a melting pot of religious-ness. )

      While I respect and honor Jamie’s comment that individuals are impacted by this debate, I want to say again that there are certain traumatic and critical-care issues that–to my mind–transcend this LGBTQ concern of the Evangelical wing of the Christian church. @chaplaineliza

      • Why must it be privileged in that way? Why must any issue “transcend” the importance of another? If our fundamental starting point is the image of God in every person, then I am not sure how we can accept that kind of hierarchy of value.

    • David Fitch says:

      Excellent. Thanx Tim for the perspective and good words.

  21. Tim Hoekstra says:

    Thanks, Elizabeth. It is actually WVUS that has 50 plus denominations represented amongst the nearly 1,000 employees. There are around 40,000 employees within the entire partnership of WV – therefore, beyond the US many, many more denominations – and therefore church perspectives. That is why it is better for WVUS to understand itself as not being a church or the church – as David says – local church communities work these things through in the best ways – or at least they should.

  22. Matybigfro says:

    Sadly occurances like this give allot of us very little hope in local discenment that evangelicals are able to discern anything past their own ingrainde prejudice.

  23. John Backman says:

    “The issue of LGBTQ sexual relations/marriage should be and can only be worked out locally on the ground in local communities of mission and sanctification.” I’ve been pondering LGBTQ issues for many years, which makes me wonder why this is the first time I’ve ever heard THIS thought. It’s fascinating. Yes, it probably has its limitations that will require more coffee for me to come up with, but man, it feels fresh and sensible.

  24. Tom says:

    One thing I’ve noticed lately about posts concerning the same-sex issue is that some authors/contributors seem to be advocating for dealing with this issue on a personal, communal, and local level as opposed to a higher level. What’s interesting to note is that if you hop over to First Things Magazine their contributors are dealing with it at a higher institutional level (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/04/the-church-and-civil-marriage ) This is very interesting because I think both ways are valid. I think these two levels of addressing the issue, both at a local level and at a higher institutional level, speak to the divide today in our ecclesiology when it comes to both the universal and local aspects of the church. I think there is a valid approach from both. While local may be the Anabaptist strength the Catholic, Orthodox Church and possibly the older mainline denominations are better an leveraging the universal/institutional approach. I often wonder if that is why today we see the formation of so many alliances and coalitions among evangelicals that more or less coalesce around their particular traditions. Sadly, all this speaks to the divisions of the one true church – whatever that was or use to be before there was a Rome.

  25. Rev Clyde Baker says:

    Two things. One, the LGBT issue for Christians will certainly be solved at the Christian community level. As more and more LGBT Chrisitians seek greater involvement and positions in their local faith communities, more and more straight Christians will find their myths about LGBT sinfulness vanishing and the faith community will be strengthened. Two, inversely to item One, the fallacious application of incarnational theology as a sheepskin to the evil of LGBT discrimination will be exposed for the horrible theology that it is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
Categories
  • No tweets available at the moment.

Follow Me on Twitter