One of America's largest Christian charities announced Monday that it will hire Christians who are in same-sex marriages, saying the "very narrow policy change" was ""symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity."
World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns told Christianity Today
that he hopes the Federal Way, Washington-based agency will dodge the division "tearing churches apart" so it can focus on serving the poor.
Stearns said the relief agency's board wasn't unanimous but was "overwhelmingly in favor" of the change.
"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," he told the publication.
"It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage." He cautioned against reading "a lot more into this decision than is really there."
"This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage," he said. "We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support."
"We're not caving to some kind of pressure. We're not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us," he added.
"This is not us compromising . . . This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more."
Started by evangelicals, World Vision has an international operating budget of nearly $1 billion and conducts economic-development and emergency-relief projects around the world.
Last year, the charity reported receiving 18 percent of its annual funding from the federal government. Federal agencies have for several years faced pressure to require any group that receives federal funding to end any hiring restrictions on gays and lesbians.
Stearns told the magazine that World Vision has never asked about sexual orientation when interviewing job candidates but screens potential workers for their Christian faith.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states, including Washington, and the District of Columbia.
"I hope if it's symbolic of anything, it is symbolic of how we can come together even though we disagree," he told Christianity Today. "We — meaning other Christians — are not the enemy. We have to find a way to come together around our core beliefs to accomplish the mission that Christ has given the church. We feel positive about what we've done. Our motives are pure."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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