Catch up on our curated list of headlines for today, hand-picked from across the Web by Bruce Gourley.
- The Evangelical Crusade Against Immigration (Mashable)
- Christian Bookstores are the Next Gay-Marriage Battleground (The Week)
- Legal Battle Over North Carolina Town’s Sectarian War Memorial to go to Trial (Americans United)
- Historic Cincinnati Church to Become Event Space, Bar (Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Vatican Turns to Wall Street to Fix Bank (CNN)
- Meet the ‘Evangelical’ Catholics Remaking the GOP (National Catholic Reporter)
- Senate Democrats Unveil Bill to Override Hobby Lobby Decision (Washington Post)
- Clergy Divided Over Religious Exemption to Discrimination Ban in Upcoming Executive Order (Associated Baptist Press)
- Anti-Trafficking Campaigner Recognized with Human Rights Award (ABP)
- Disaster Relief Groups Challenged by Border Crisis (Associated Baptist Press)
- Iraq: Christians Flee to Safety (Newsweek)
- Iraq: Inside an Iraqi Christian Ghost Town (Al Jazeera)
- Turkey: Baptist Church Leaders From 120 Countries Gather in Izmir for Congress (Hurriyet Daily News)
- Poll: GOP ‘Support Wealthy/Business/Not for the People’ But ‘Religious’; Democratic Party For ‘the People’ and ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Cares for the Poor’ (AP-GfK Poll)
- A Senator Turns His Bible into a Political Tool (National Public Radio)
- Democrats Fast-Track Bill to Override Hobby Lobby Decision (Huffington Post)
- Gay Rights Groups Withdraw Support of EDNA After Hobby Lobby Decision (Washington Post)
- For a Business Built ‘On a Bended Knee,’ Hobby Lobby Ruling is a Boon (National Public Radio)
- Hobby Lobby Hobbles Worker Voice (Public Broadcasting Service)
- The Supreme Court Turns the First Amendment into a Weapon for Corporations (Daily Beast)
- Obama’s Evangelical Gravy Train (The Nation)
- LDS Church Publishes New Essay on Book of Abraham (Deseret News)
- – Alternative View: Ex-Mormon’ Scholar’s Testimony about Book of Abraham
- Victims Say Pope’s Apology on Sex Abuse Still Doesn’t Cut It (CNN)
- Lawsuit Against Catholic Diocese Questions Confidentiality of Confessional (WAFB)
- Hispanic Baptists Seek Ways to Help Border Crisis (Associated Baptist Press)
- Publisher to Correct ‘Errors’ in Vines Autobiography (Associated Baptist Press)
- Central African Republic: Dozens of Christians Killed by Muslim Fighters (National Turk)
- Syria: Christian Militias Lend Muscle to Syrian Regime in Ongoing Battle Against Rebels (Irish Times)
- Israel: Eye for an Eye: The Bible’s Role in Revenge Attacks (CNN)
- Indonesia: Religion Dark Horse in Election (Al Jazeera)
- Man Dies After Walking into Dallas Church (NBC DFW)
- Billionaire Pastor Farris Wilks and Brother Throw Fortune Behind Getting Bible Back in Schools and Other Conservative Causes (Christian Post)
- Many Members of a NY Church, Now Transplanted Southerners, Will Reunite at West Columbia’s Brooklyn Baptist Church Reunion (The State, SC)
- Vatican: Pope Begs Forgiveness for ‘Sacrilegious Cult’ of Church Sexual Abuse (Reuters)
- Iraq: ISIS is About to Destroy Biblical History (Daily Beast)
- With Florida Camp, Passport Returns to its Birthplace (Associated Baptist Press)
- Bluefield College Suspends Dental School Project Until Funded is Secured (ABP)
- From Minority to Majority: Are Baptists Living Up to Their Heritage? (ABP)
- SACS Commission Releases Statement on Brewton-Parker Accreditation Woes (ABP)
- The New Law of Religion: Hobby Lobby Decision Supersedes First Amendment (Slate)
- Where Will the Slippery Slope of ‘Hobby Lobby’ End? (The Nation)
- Protestors Picket Madison Hobby Lobby Over Supreme Court Ruling (Madison Cap Times)
- Tulsa Protestors Rally Against Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court Decision (NewsOn6)
- ‘A Craft Store is Not a Church,’ Protesters Demonstrate at Hobby Lobby in Mobile (AL.com)
- Hobby Lobby Ruling Crafts Protest (ConnectMidMissouri.com)
- Obama Weighs Steps to Cover Contraception (New York Times)
- Brazil: Child Healers Earn Big Bucks in Booming Business of Evangelical Christianity (ABC News)
- China: Christians Fear New Persecution After Latest Wave of Church Demolitions (Guardian)
- Supreme Court Ruling Legalizes Religious Discrimination (Associated Baptist Press)
- Hobby Lobby Angers Some Christians With ‘Hypocrisy’ (Guardian Liberty Voice)
- Critics of Hobby Lobby Ruling Call for RFRA Appeal (Baptist Standard)
- Christian Conservatives are Trying to Use Hobby Lobby to Discriminate Against Gays (Politics USA)
- Supreme Court Sides With Christian College in Birth Control Case (Washington Post)
- High Court Blocks Contraception Mandate for Wheaton College (Politico)
- Women on Supreme Court Blast Wheaton College Ruling (Chicago Daily Herald)
- Judge Approves Settlement in Baptist Children’s Home Case (Religion News Service)
- Cultural Shifts and Brain Scans: Is Searching for Spirituality the New American Dream? (CNN)
- 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act, Archiving the Story of the Courageous Four (Washington Post)
- Hobby Lobby Does Invest in Birth Control (CNN)
- Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies and Viagra (Huffington Post)
- In the Hobby Lobby Decision, What About the Beliefs of Employees? (Fox News)
- Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Ruling a Free Pass to Discriminate (NJ.com)
- Longest-Serving CBF Staff Member Retires (Associated Baptist Press)
- Did Birmingham Baptist Association Director Cover up Sex Abuse of Boys by Youth Pastor? Victim Says Yes (Birmingham News)
By SARAH PULLIAM BAILEY
© 2014 Religion News Service
World Vision tested evangelical boundaries three months ago when it announced it would allow its employees to be in same-sex marriages. The policy was short-lived; the relief group reversed it within 48 hours after supporters threatened to pull donations.
In the past, World Vision has requested that it be known as a Christian humanitarian organization, not necessarily an evangelical one, because many on staff are not from an evangelical background. But now, in the wake of the controversy, the board of the $1 billion relief group appears to be steering the ship in a more evangelical direction in an attempt to shore up the base of its support.
Most telling: World Vision is asking board members to formally affirm a statement that marriage is between a man and a woman. And new appointments to the World Vision board include big names from the evangelical community.
Jacquelline Fuller, director of corporate giving at Google, and John Park, another Google employee, left the board after the dust-up. Three other board members rotated off due to term limits. Rich Stearns remains as president, despite some initial chatter that he could be fired for the controversy.
The Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Jerry White, president emeritus of the Christian ministry Navigators, have both agreed to join the board. The new board chair is Joan Singleton, vice president of Milton Hershey School, who replaced James F. Bere Jr.
World Vision was founded in 1950 by Bob Pierce, who also founded Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse and helped spur evangelicals to social action. Employees must be members of a local church, affirm a statement of faith and/or affirm the Apostles’ Creed and sign a conduct policy that includes abstinence outside of marriage.
World Vision has always had an evangelical donor base, but many Americans did not know it was a religious organization — much like many people don’t realize that the Salvation Army is actually a church. World Vision’s best-known program allows donors to sponsor an individual child overseas for a monthly fee, with letters and photos of those kids sent to supporters.
The March dust-up over gay employees moved a divisive cultural issue to the forefront of the evangelical community, forcing both the organization and evangelicals to decide where the boundaries fell on same-sex marriage.
“I think they were a little premature, knowing where most evangelicals were on the issue,” said the Rev. Richard Cizik, who was forced to resign in 2008 by the National Association of Evangelicals after he told NPR he accepted same-sex civil unions. “They not only retreated, but now they’re establishing their bona fides.”
Since the policy change and reversal, the organization has lost about 10,000 of its child sponsors, or 1 percent of its donor base. Sponsors pay $35 a month, so the loss could add up to around $4.2 million annually.
There has been a drop in growth rate, but not a decline in overall donations, according to World Vision spokesman Steve Panton. Cash donations are up 1 percent compared with the same period last year, but less than the 3 percent World Vision had projected.
“We are watching our expenditures closely, but have not cut budgets for the rest of the year,” Panton said in an email. “While we don’t disclose the exact makeup of our donor base, it is fair to say that the overwhelming majority of our individual donors in the U.S. are evangelical Christians.”
The organization works with several hundred corporations, and “less than a handful” dropped their partnerships, though Panton declined to give specifics.
World Vision is a powerhouse in international aid and American giving circles, wrote Joy Portella, president of the nonprofit consulting group Minerva Strategies, in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. World Vision is among the top 20 organizations that raise the most from private support, according to The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 400 rankings.
World Vision is the second-largest organization in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, behind just the Salvation Army. In 2013, World Vision received nearly $179 million in grants of food and cash from the U.S. government and other agencies, according to its financial statements.
As a parachurch organization — independent of any one church’s or denomination’s oversight — World Vision is different from a group such as Catholic Relief Services, which is controlled by the doctrine and rules laid out from the Roman Catholic Church.
“World Vision has Christians and non-Christians within their donor base. All of that came to a head over the gay marriage debacle,” Portella said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they are retroactively finding themselves an evangelical organization. They’re not going to gain anyone’s trust in waffling in their image and brand.”
The dust-up created additional confusion for the organization’s international affiliates, even though the policy applied only to U.S. employees. International World Vision entities, including those in Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, clarified that they are separate entities with separate policies that follow local nondiscrimination employment law.
Other World Vision affiliates, meanwhile, took steps to clarify that they weren’t bound by the World Vision proposed policy, which could be seen as unbiblical in parts of Asia, Africa or South America.
The long-term impact of World Vision’s decision could take time to assess, since some donors forgave the aborted policy change and continued sponsorship. But it’s not the first nonprofit to face pushback and an abrupt about-face.
In 2012, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation cut funding to Planned Parenthood over concerns about abortion but later reversed its decision after many supporters balked. As a result, Komen lost about $77 million in contributions, sponsorships and race entry fees (about 22 percent) between 2012 and 2013, according to recently released financial statements.
“World Vision could have a very strong evangelical base that is forgiving,” Portella said. “While it was a big deal in the philanthropic and religious news world, it wasn’t as big a deal where everybody knew what was going on. I could see a certain segment of the population not being clued in. They kind of got lucky.”
- BJC’s Brent Walker, Others React to Hobby Lobby Decision (Baptist Joint Committee)
- In Hobby Lobby Case, Supreme Court Chooses Religion Over Science (Mother Jones)
- Some Christians Against Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision (KFOR)
- Mormon, Catholic Leaders in Utah Laud Hobby Lobby Ruling (Salt Lake Tribune)
- Baptist Pastor Charges Thad Cochran With Illegally Paying for Black Votes in His Mississippi Primary Win (Forbes)
- Cornerstone Church Planning $15 Million Retirement Community (Tennessean)
- Sudan: Sudanese Christian Says There’s a New Problem Every Day (CNN)
- Hobby Lobby Wins Contraceptive Case (Associated Baptist Press)
- Supreme Court Rules Against Obama in Contraception Case (CNN)
- The Hobby Lobby Decision Isn’t Narrow (MSNBC)
- Ginsburg: ‘Radical’ Hobby Lobby Ruling May Create ‘Havoc’ (National Journal)
- Supreme Court Finds in Favor of Hobby Lobby; Southern Baptists Rejoice (Baptist Press)
- Hobby Lobby Decision Gives Hopes to Catholics, Southern Baptists (Tennessean)
- Response to Hobby Lobby Ruling Runs Emotional Spectrum (Religion News Service)
- Tennessee Baptist Leaders Move to Revoke Pastor’s Credentials for Licensing Women Ministers (Raw Story)
- LDS Church Issues Statement on Priesthood and Apostasy (Daily Herald)
- Local Wiccan Uninvited to Give City Council Invocation Due to ‘Community Fears’ (WHNT10, Huntsville, AL)
- Indoor Fireworks Star in First Baptist’s Patriotic Event (The State, SC)
- Brewton-Parker Challenges SACS Accreditation Finding (Newnan Times Herald)
- Republicans Woo Evangelical Base to Recapture the Senate (Washington Post)
- In GOP-Leaning States, Religion Offers Valuable Connection with Voters for Southern Democrats (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- LDS Church Leaders: Priesthood Blessings, but Not Ordination, Equally Available to All (KSL Utah)
- Vatican: ‘Stolen Our Flag’: Pope Says Communists are Closet Christians (NBC News)
- Nigeria: Gunmen Torch Churches, Kill Dozens in Nigeria (Fox News)