Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 20 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Is This the Future of Same-Sex Marriage for Evangelicals?

Jeffrey Bruno

Brantly Millegan - published on 03/26/14

The evangelical aid organization World Vision U.S. has decided to agree to disagree on same-sex marriage. Here’s why this was inevitable.

The U.S. branch of the evangelical humanitarian aid organization World Vision announced this week that it will no longer bar its employees from being in same-sex marriages. Employees are still barred from having sex outside of marriage, but “marriage” will now include marriages between people of the same sex. World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns tellsChristianity Today the change is “not an endorsement of same-sex marriage,” but it’s hard to read it any other way.

It’s certainly a disappointing loss for supporters of traditional marriage, but I’m not surprised, and here’s why.

"I think you have to be neutral on hundreds of doctrinal issues that could divide an organization like World Vision,” Stearns explains to Christianity Today in defense of the decision of World Vision U.S.. "One example: divorce and remarriage. [Protestant] churches have different opinions on this. We've chosen not to make that a condition of employment at World Vision. If we were not deferring to local churches, we would have a long litmus test [for employees]. What do you believe about evolution? Have you been divorced and remarried? What is your opinion on women in leadership? Were you dunked or sprinkled? And at the end of the interview, how many candidates would still be standing?”

In other words, evangelical Christians are divided on such a large swath of issues, with no easy way of settling them for the evangelical community, that an evangelical organization must either deem as unessential as wide a range of issues as possible (even if this means, as in the current instance, sometimes widening that area of non-essentials as positions in the evangelical community change) or else make itself impractically narrow.

The problem comes from sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone,” one of the fundamental operating principles of Protestantism. Evangelicals agree with the Catholic Church that Scripture is the inspired Word of God and final in all it says. But evangelicals disagree with Catholics there is any living interpretive body for the Christian community to authoritatively interpret it (what we call the “Magisterium”). This means, at the end of the day, individual evangelicals are left to determine for themselves what they think Scripture says.

This works out just fine for the evangelical community – but only as long as everyone reads Scripture the same way. As history attests, disagreements arise all the time. What happens when evangelicals sincerely and prayfully come to different conclusions about what Scripture says? There are only a few options.

To start, they can just keep on debating with each other until an agreement is reached. This sometimes works, but often doesn’t. When intractable disagreements arise, unless the evangelical community is okay with remaining in a permanent state of debate and thereby making its witness to the truth of God impossible (it’s hard to preach if you can’t determine what it is you’re supposed to be preaching), they’ll need to do something else.

The next option is what I call the fundamentalist route: individual evangelicals can just declare their opponents wrong and go their separate ways. Since there’s widespread agreement on only a few things among evangelicals, this option leaves its adherents fairly isolated pretty much right away. This is what Stearns is talking about when he says if World Vision U.S. took a position on every contentious issue, there’d be no one left to work for them. Further, most evangelicals today realize that privileging one’s own interpretation of Scripture over other evangelicals is, at best, just ad hoc, and at worst, arrogant.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Tags:
HomosexualityMarriage

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
3
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
4
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
5
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
6
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
7
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.