Today World Vision made an announcement that it’s changing how it handles LGBT employees, and IMO in a very good way. Previously, they required employees to either be in heterosexual marriages or to abstain from sexual activity. As I understand it, the old policy meant that if you were gay you couldn’t work there and be involved in even a long-term, monogamous relationship. (You still have to be married if you’re sexually active, even if you’re gay; it’s just that marriage isn’t restricted to heterosexual couples.) You couldn’t bring your spouse to the company picnic, for instance, and I’m assuming they wouldn’t be eligible for spousal health insurance or even to be listed as next of kin in a health emergency.
Some people are saying this is a really little thing and doesn’t deserve much praise, but I actually find it pretty courageous. It’s not a big change in a lot of ways, and I want to hear more about what they mean by marriage. For instance, do they mean sacramental marriage (which, to my knowledge, no church offers) or do alternate religious commitment services count? What about government marriage licenses or civil unions? It may well be this seems like a decent step when really it won’t be available to anyone. I’d also like to know how many gay people actually work at World Vision – if you’re not actually hiring them, then this seems like a progressive step when it’s really quite moot.
But I also find myself encouraged because, from a purely messaging level, World Vision made me feel particularly proud of them today. This decision sends the important message both to their employees and to gay people in the larger evangelical subculture that an authentic life is increasingly available to them in that culture, that they don’t have to choose between the common evangelical dream of family and a future together, meaningful work, a chance to effect the world for good — and who they know themselves to be. That’s a good thing in my opinion. It also tells them that there are expectations for how they live that life, too. That there’s a standard that’s meet-able, that doesn’t categorically exclude them from Christian virtue. That’s something many Christians really, really don’t do well with LGBT people. Myself included in the past, and probably to a certain extent todya, though I do hope I’m making progress there. Of course, it’s the nature of progress that you can only really see it in retrospect: if I saw I was wrong in any way now, I’d be changing my actions and thought-processes now.
Of course it’s usually two steps forward with people who take their beliefs as seriously as most people still opposed to homosexuality probably are. (more…)