Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sack the Board?

I am on and have been on a few boards. I have noticed that it is comparatively easy to lose sight of things, such as the main thing the board is meant to foster, or the distinction between governance and management. It has often struck me that the importance of having a board of more than one person (and possibly more than six persons which (some say) is the ideal size for the 21st century) is that it increases the chances that as a board gets carried along by some zeitgeist away from the main thing, or from governance into management a voice will pipe up, 'This is not right' or 'Stop.'

A day or two ago assiduous readers of internet Christian news will have noted that World Vision US made a decision. Then an outcry. Now we can read that the decision has been reversed. The decision itself is interesting and one which many Christian bodies are going to be faced with in the Western world now and ahead. But what intrigues me right now is that the World Vision US Board in the link above offers such a huge mea culpa re the fundamentals according to which the Board is to operate.

How could it be so wrong according to its own lights?

Perhaps the 'This is not right' member was absent from the crucial meeting.

29 comments:

camostar said...

Maybe I was reading too much into it but I assumed that they came to the original decision to include LGBT persons on staff after long, well-considered discussion but as a result of the backlash from the evangelical world they felt it necessary to not only repeal their decision but to endorse a theological reasoning behind it.

Tregonsee said...

Boards need the right mix of stability and turnover. I have no idea about the WV Board, or how it is chosen, but it looks like a bit more turnover is called for.

Peter Carrell said...

I want to try to remain in the position of being 'intrigued' as that fits with being someone far away. (Though we have a branch of WV in NZ and I am sure their Board is watching this developing situation).

Nevertheless the question is raised by comments above: what kind of Board does not anticipate 'backlash' and either choose to ignore it when it happens OR makes a decision which does not lead to backlash and subsequent backdown ...

Caleb said...

This makes me hopping mad. The evangelical movement is in a sorry state indeed. Rachel Held Evans offers some very necessary (pre-reversal) sanity: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/world-vision

Re: boards and numbers and representatives etc, our current government is making some worrying moves on university and teachers' boards.
A couple of releases from my union:
http://teu.ac.nz/2014/03/minister-pick-women/
http://teu.ac.nz/2014/03/government-teachers-council/

Kurt said...

Well said, Caleb!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Jean said...

Hi Peter in this case I think the board was probably trying to remain neutral on a topic that seems to be approached very aggressively in the US. As for backing down it sounds like they were held to ransom by donors (church goers who support them). If so many kids depended on you I do not envy the position they found themselves in.

What intrigues me more is as World Vision is an NGO (non-governmental organisation) rather than a church; does the US not have non-discrimination laws when it comes to employment? I have never heard before of not having an affair being written into an employment contract (although I certainly agree the action itself could undermine a persons integrity in a position, especially one with ethical or leadership responsibilities).

Eeeek I smell legalism....

MichaelA said...

I have to say that the article by Rachel Held Evans, which Caleb links, is breath-taking in its refusal to confront the real issues. To look at some of her comments:

"I have to ask: Since when? Since when has the reality that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again ever been threatened by two men committing their lives to one another?"

It isn't - not in the least. But the gospel IS threatened if the Church (and that includes World Vision) teaches that it is okay in God's sight for those two men to commit their lives to each other in "marriage". That shakes the gospel to its core. The Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and the Church is commanded to be a witness to truth.

"Since when have the historic Christian creeds, recognized for centuries as the theological articulation of Orthodoxy, included a word about the issue of gay marriage?"

Quite obviously, ever since gay "marriage" was never dreamed of by the church leaders who assembled those creeds. This answer is so blindingly obvious that one can only conclude that Rachel Held Evans was fully aware of it when she wrote. That in turn indicates that she is doing her best to obfuscate, not to confront the real issues.

"Since when have my gay and lesbian friends—many of whom are committed Christians—ever kept me from loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and loving my neighbor as myself?"

Since each person was responsible for their own sin. But if you are telling them that living in a gay or lesbian relationship is okay with God, then the primary sin is yours.

"Since when has a single interpretation of the biblical passages in question here been deemed the only one faithful Christians can have?"

Since the scriptures have a plain meaning. Which they do, so let's not go pretending - its not that Rachel doesn't understand the scriptures on this point, its that she doesn't like what they say, which is a quite different issue.

"The gospel is at stake only insofar as we make one’s position on same-sex marriage a part of it. The gospel is threatened, not by gay people getting married, but by Christians saying support or opposition to gay marriage is an essential part of the gospel when it’s not."

Obedience to Christ's teaching is an essential part of the gospel. Since Christ taught that marriage is between a man and a woman, the Church commits sin by teaching otherwise. Note here, it is the church's sin which is the issue. People sin all the time, in all sorts of ways. It has happened since Adam and Eve, and it will keep happening. Forgiveness is available to all. But the worst sin is committed by the Church if it teaches falsely, that something is not sin when it is.

"Furthermore, the notion that the way to “punish” World Vision is to withdraw support from its efforts to feed, clothe, heal, comfort, rescue, and shelter “the least of these” is so contrary to the teachings of Jesus—particularly Matthew 25:31-46—it’s hard to know where to start."

No it isn't contrary to any teaching of Jesus whatsoever, because the money that formerly went to World Vision will find another home which is just as charitable. There are MORE than enough Christian ministries around who feed, clothe, heal, comfort, rescue, and shelter “the least of these” besides World Vision.

"When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong."

No Rachel, it is right, and you are wrong. The correct response was to withdraw support from World Vision and redirect the money to other Christian charities.

Caleb said...

Michael, your entire comment is predicated on one incorrect premise: that "the scriptures have a plain meaning." I take comfort in the fact that that premise is becoming harder and harder to state with a straight face.

You also fail to address Evans' points about double-standards. Do we withdraw donations from World Vision for hiring divorcees, gluttons, the greedy, the prideful, usurers?

Peter Carrell said...

I would certainly be concerned, Caleb, about giving money to a usurer. I might never see it again :)

carl jacobs said...

Caleb

If Scripture is not perspicuous, then what do we know about God, and how do we know it?

carl

MichaelA said...

Caleb, I cannot be held responsible for either your comfort or the straightness of your face...;) You are quite correct - my post is predicated on the clear teaching of scripture.

Re divorces etc, I don't think you have really read my post. Since Christ and his apostles permitted Christians to divorce in some circumstances, how does hiring a divorcee signify anything?

If for example world vision were to publish a policy which said "WV resolves to hire those who divorced in defiance of scripture" then yes I would a problem with it, because WV is then promoting contempt for scripture.

Similarly, if WV were to publish a policy that said "WV wishes to promote the sin of gluttony and therefore will go out of its way to hire people who can prove they are committed to gluttony", then the same applies. So far as I am aware it has not done any of those things, so why are you bringing up a counterfactual?

Caleb said...

Because WV also didn't publish a policy saying "WV resolves to hire those who married in defiance of scripture," or "WV wishes to promote the sin of gay marriage and therefore will go out of its way to hire people who can prove they are in gay marriages."

They published a policy saying they were taking no stance about whether gay marriage is sinful or against scripture, but would leave that question to others, while employing all married Christians [It seems they only hire Christians in the US, which is not the case in NZ].

I wonder if you are ignoring this important difference because your position is predicated on the denial of different interpretations of Scripture on the issue of same-sex marriage?

The double-standard I was pointing out is this: I do not doubt World Vision hires divorcees in defiance of Scripture, gluttons, greedy people and people who receive interest (not sure what Peter's definition of usurer is) - whether or not they have a policy against hiring such people, and whether or not these people would consider themselves guilty of these sins (cf. married gay Christians). Yet their policy and practices on hiring people in these categories are not big news in Christianity Today and the blogosphere, and nobody with sufficient clout to get them to change their minds is calling on them to stop hiring these people.

Caleb said...

Carl, everyone but fundamentalists and Gnostics acknowledges that Scripture offers more perspicuous guidance on some questions than others. The existence of differing defensible opinions on this question suggests it is further towards the "less perspicuous" end of the spectrum than Michael is acknowledging.

MichaelA said...

"They published a policy saying they were taking no stance about whether gay marriage is sinful or against scripture, but would leave that question to others, while employing all married Christians..."

Precisely – and that is taking a position. The Bible leaves no room for a concept of "gay marriage". It teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, period. By calling something “marriage” when it isn’t, World Vision took a very clear and strong position, unfortunately against Christ’s teaching in scripture. Christians quite rightly called it to account for doing so.

“I wonder if you are ignoring this important difference because your position is predicated on the denial of different interpretations of Scripture on the issue of same-sex marriage?”

I doubt that you have read any of my posts if you think that! So, wonder away.

“The double-standard I was pointing out is this: I do not doubt World Vision hires divorcees in defiance of Scripture, gluttons, greedy people and people who receive intrest…”

And no doubt homosexuals too. All you are saying is that World Vision hires sinners. Thank you, but I didn’t need you to tell me that! And no, its not a double standard to do so, however much you may (misguidedly) think so.

You still haven’t grasped the point that it is World Vision’s behaviour that is under scrutiny here, not that of its employees. World Vision declared homosexual relationships to be “marriage” and that is a far greater sin than any homosexual behaviour. In response, many Christians have diverted their giving to other charities – as they should.

“The existence of differing defensible opinions on this question suggests it is further towards the "less perspicuous" end of the spectrum than Michael is acknowledging.”

No it doesn’t, because they are not “defensible” in any relevant meaning of the word. Sorry Caleb, but just because someone wants to argue that scripture can be used to defend homosexuality, theft, idolatry or any other sin, does not make it into a “defensible opinion” in the sense that other Christians have to treat it on the same level as disputes over the mode of baptism.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
I am going to weigh in one point.

You say, "predicated on the denial of different interpretations of Scripture on the issue of same-sex marriage."

Actually, there are no different interpretations of Scripture on the issue of same-sex marriage. Scripture has absolutely nothing to say about same-sex marriage. The topic is not known, never discussed, never mentioned in Scripture. Michael is denying nothing in respect of interpretations of Scripture re same-sex marriage. Nothing is predicated on nothing. Nothing can be predicated on nothing.

There are arguments made in theological terms for same-sex marriage. Those arguments employ biblical concepts such as love and justice. There are associated arguments which claim (implicitly or explicitly) that since Scripture is silent on same-sex marriage it is not necessarily against same-sex marriage, and so forth. But any disagreements about such matters are not disagreements about the interpretation of the content of Scripture. They may be disagreements about the application of Scripture to a theological interpretation of the meaning of marriage. They may be disagreements about what the silence of Scripture on a topic means. (There are certainly disagreements to be had about whether Scripture rules out same-sex marriage because of prohibitions within Scripture against sex between two people of the same gender; but that is a dispute over the interpretations of Scripture about sex, not about same-sex marriage).

In sum: Scripture has many interpretations to be discussed and debated, but they are only about the things Scripture says and not about the things Scripture says nothing about.

carl jacobs said...

Caleb

[E]veryone but fundamentalists...

Please define that word. An actual fundamentalist would (metaphorically) burn me at the stake. However according to contemporary usage, I am considered a fundamentalist. The word is so overloaded with meaning I have no idea what you are trying to say, or how it relates to me.

... and Gnostics...

Interesting you would say this since the people who so prominently push the normalization of homosexuality in the church are precise those who reject the words of Scripture and instead appeal to their own sense of enlightenment as the source of Truth. They are the ones employing 'secret knowledge.'

... acknowledges that Scripture offers more perspicuous guidance on some questions than others.

You are correct. I concede the point. Unfortunately for your case, the Scripture is blindingly perspicuous on the subject of marriage, sexual purity, and homosexuality.

The existence of differing defensible opinions on this question suggests it is further towards the "less perspicuous" end of the spectrum than Michael is acknowledging.

Except there aren't differing defensible positions on this subject unless we want to deny both that words have meaning, and that meaning can be understood. The existence of an opinion and a willingness by someone to defend that opinion does not mean that a defensible opinion actually exists. I can claim that Macbeth is a post-modern feminist critique of late stage capitalism. I could probably even mount a defense of the thesis. That doesn't make the thesis credible.

carl

Tim Chesterton said...

Carl said, 'If Scripture is not perspicuous, then what do we know about God, and how do we know it? '

Well, I don't see how we can deny that there are many different evangelical traditions and schools of interpretation, all of whom agree in theory that scripture is perspicuous (whatever that means), but who still disagree on what it actually means. Calvinists and Arminians, paedobaptists and credobaptists, Trinitarians and oneness Pentecostals, those who believe in baptismal regeneration and those who don't, pacifists and just-war theorists, infralapsarianists and supralapsarianists, presbyterians and episcopalians, those who believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and those who believe it's 'just a symbol'... etc. etc. And of course if we go back in history there are slave-owners and abolitionists too.

So - if it's always so clear, are we all just being intensionally dense? Or what?

Tim C.

carl jacobs said...

Tim Chesterton

You didn't answer my question. Let's stipulate for the sake of argument that Scripture isn't perspicuous. What then do we know about God and how do we know it?

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

Sorry. Peter. I did mean to keep my nose out of your blog, but carl's insistence on perspicuity (better know in plain English as lucidity), has spurred me into action - if only to defend my friend Tim's response.

The lucidity of the Scriptures seems to vary with an infinite number of evangelical viewpoints - only some of which were listed by Tim. For carljacons to therefore continue to insist on only one 'true' evangelical understanding of Scripture seems oddly perverse to say the least.

There simply is no one single interpretation of the scriptures - except for those determine to arrogate a meaning for themselves, exclusively, for their own purposes.

I hope everyone is having a prayerful Lent - in the wake of the Equal Marriage process in the U.K., which seems to have its only problems about biblical origins.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Carl Jacobs, presumably, will make his own response as he sees fit, but you say something which I want to respond to!

I suggest that in general terms there are not an infinite number of evangelical interpretations of Scripture; that although there are many interpretations, they group to a countable number (cf. a not infinite number of evangelical denominations, and in reality just a few groups of Anglican evangelicals (who agree on more things than they disagree on).

On the specific matter of marriage and sexuality I suggest evangelical interpretations of Scripture are very small in number.

I can think of only one evangelical interpretation to sexual relationships between men and women: within marriage, not outside it, or before it.

I acknowledge some variety re remarriage of divorcees and there is a minority of evangelicals around the world who support same-sex marriage.

That does not add up to 'infinity'!!

tachesterton said...

Carl, you will find the answer to your question clearly stated in one of the most perspicuous passages of scripture: John 1:18.

Tim C.

carl jacobs said...

Tim Chesterton

you will find the answer to your question clearly stated in one of the most perspicuous passages of scripture

No, you can't get away with that. You can't deny the perspecuity of Scripture in general and then assert one verse is perspicuous in order to justify some extra-biblical means of knowledge. If Scripture can't be reliably understood then we have to find some other extra Scriptural source of knowledge and some other authority by which to validate it.

But, OK, let's follow that thought a little for the sake of argument. How does Christ make the Father known in the absence of Scripture?

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Gentlemen (i.e. Carl and Tim),
Scripture in Anglican terms is specifically perspicuous on "all things necessary to salvation" (Article 6). The existence of the 39A means that even Anglicans recognise that the teaching of Christ in Scripture can be helped by clarifying and collating key teachings.

Whether Scripture is perspicuous on other things is a point to be considered on a case by case basis.

tachesterton said...

Carl, I must be less perspicuous than I think. I did not think I had claimed that scripture was not perspicuous about anything! (And by the way, I'm going to stop using that word 'perspicuous', because I don't find it 'perspicuous'!) Listing the number of disagreements between Christians who all claim scripture is completely clear and lucid is not the same as saying that the biblical authors don't speak clearly on any topic at all (as Peter has pointed out).

I think that the teaching Jesus gives us about the Father in the gospels is very clear. When this teaching appears to be contradicted in other parts of the Bible, I will tend to interpret it in accordance with the words of Jesus. This by the way, was C.S. Lewis' rule, and he was hardly a liberal.

I think that the Bible is less clear, for instance, on the subject of whether or not I may lend out money at interest to my fellow-believer. Whether the ending of money at interest functioned the same way in ancient Israel as it did in modern venture capitalism is a legitimate question of interpretation, and although I myself (as an instinctive socialist) might be tempted to appeal to 'the plain meaning of scripture' here, honesty would compel me to admit that the reality is more complicated than that.

Tim C.

carl jacobs said...

Tim

So we aren't so far apart then. My mistake thinking you denied perspicuity in general. And frankly I don't assert it in general. There are for example three subjects I never argue about.

1. Baptism.
2. Eschatology.
3. Communion. Well, except for arguing with Catholics about the Mass.

I am really not interested in converting people on any of those subjects. The Scripture simply isn't clear enough to parse the difference between the competing positions. If you are convinced of a position, that is fine with me. Honor God in Christian liberty. OK, I hate they way Evangelicals will baptize a five year-old on profession of faith. It's paedobaptism by any other name. And I consider Dispensationalism to be a wooden exegesis of Revelation. But I am not sure why those issues should divide a church. And yet those are the issues that frequently divide churches.

I have to go to bed. I will return to your list of differences tomorrow. But really. One of your examples was Infralapsarian vs Supralapsarian. I'm a Calvinist and I can't keep them straight. I read about them once - once - and said "People argue about this stuff?" It's not even a Scriptural issue. It's doctrinal speculation.

See, I should have been in bed fifteen minutes ago.

carl

Caleb said...

Peter...

Feel free to replace "interpretations of" with "ideas about how to apply" in my sentence to which you were responding.

I agree with you; in fact one of the reasons why there are different defensible ideas about how to apply Scripture on this question is precisely because what we need to evaluate today (same-sex Christian marriage) is something that Scripture does not address; indeed, something that was never seen in the contexts of the biblical authors.

Carl...

Re: Fundamentalists: For the purposes of that comment I was simply defining fundamentalism as the idea that it is 100% clear "what Scripture says" in response to any possible question.

Re: Gnostics... Irrelevant straw man argument.

Anyway, thanks for acknowledging we agree about Scripture being more perspicuous on some topics than others. Where I (disagree with you and Michael (and why any further debate between me and him on this question is just going to go around in circles) is on how perspicuous Scripture's guidance for the question of same-sex marriage is. The point of my previous comment was to highlight that this is the site of our disagreement; not whether (or how) Scripture is perspicuous and where we should get our guidance.

And a general comment (I'll also post it on the other blog entry; I hope this doesn't violate your blog rules; if so delete it here)...

Some more sanity from Evans and Tony Campolo (who take different views on same-sex marriage). I'm disappointed Evans and Campolo's consensus on the World Vision kerfuffle isn't the consensus of all those commenting here.

MichaelA said...

"disagree with you and Michael (and why any further debate between me and him on this question is just going to go around in circles)..."

I am sorry Caleb but I disagree - the debate is not going around in circles at all. I (and others) have pointed out to you that the Bible treats marriage as being only between a man and a woman. It allows no room for same sex "marriage" whatsoever. You haven't attempted to deal with that point. That's not going around in circles.

MichaelA said...

"I'm disappointed Evans and Campolo's consensus on the World Vision kerfuffle isn't the consensus of all those commenting here."

Why would it? As the World Vision issue shows, it is certainly not the consensus of a very large number of evangelicals, and World Vision's response shows that it understood that there were a far greater number of evangelicals were concerned by its actions than actually complained.

Rachel Held Evans is not significant as an evangelical commentator, and Tony Campolo only to a limited extent.

Caleb said...

Hi MichaelA. See my responses on the other blog where I've started to articulate that (and Peter has linked to an essay where I articulate it better).