The Pope, World Vision, and Watering Down the Gospel


A few weeks ago, Pope Francis suggested that there should be further study on the issue of marriage equality in the Catholic church. Just a few days ago, Richard Stearns announced that World Vision would be allowing married, gay Christians to work openly for their organization.

One might think that these are fairly benign actions. One suggests further study, one allows, still under fairly strict ethics codes, married gays to work for them. These aren’t stances on the morality of homosexuality, they are simply recognition that this issue isn’t going away and we need to look at the way that the Church interacts with the LGBTQ community, many of whom are a part of, you guessed it, the Church.

And while there are a number of people who have applauded these moves toward understanding, there are some who have loudly spoken against them. I saw one person suggest that we “shouldn’t study sin” in response to Pope Francis’s statement. Following the announcement from World Vision, thousands of people have chosen to end their child sponsorship through World Vision.

The reasoning behind these kinds of comments and actions seems to be fairly universal – as Christians, we can’t afford to water down the gospel. Denny Burk suggested that World Vision’s move means the collapse of Christianity at that organization, because one cannot be gay and Christian. Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition put the loss of sponsors squarely on the shoulders of the LGBTQ community.

When the gospel is watered down, children suffer. Equality might sound good and make us feel all warm and fuzzy, but what we are really doing is compromising, distorting, and diluting the gospel.

But what I fail to see in these responses is any kind of discussion about what the gospel is.

From my years of Sunday School, I remember the teaching being that the gospel is The Good News. The Good News of salvation. The Good News of eternal life. The Good News of being in the family of God. The Good News of forgiveness.

Perhaps that is too simplistic a view, but as one who believes that God is love, it still resonates with me. I love the idea that my faith is based on good news. It’s not something fearful or menacing, it’s good. It’s finding out that you’re getting a raise you weren’t expecting. It’s learning that you’re having a baby after years of trying to conceive. It’s finding that $10 bill in the pocket of the coat you hadn’t worn in a few months.

Good news brings joy. Good news is good, not just for you, but for those around you as well. 

There tends to be a negative perception on those who look down on your good news. When we announce our good news, we hope that it is met with happiness from those of significance in our lives. We want to celebrate. We want to include as many people as we can.

What I see in these responses to what could be good news for many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is the opposite of good news. In the name of keeping the gospel more pure and potent, we see exclusion. Rather than good news that lifts up, we see a gospel that steps on people, making sure they stay in their place.

What I love about the gospel of Jesus is that it’s big enough that it can never be watered down. If God is love, and I  believe with all of my heart that this is true, then that love is infinite. It is larger than anything I can imagine and certainly bigger than any theology I can hold. And no matter what I think or believe, it can never be watered down.

The only thing I see being watered down here is our perception of just how vast that Good News really is.

2 thoughts on “The Pope, World Vision, and Watering Down the Gospel

  1. A gospel which doesn’t call for a radical change of identity & allegiance & obedience is already watered down. A gospel in which the death & resurrection of Christ was never really needed (because we don’t need his justification or sanctification) is a watered down gospel. The gospel is good news because it is given to the poor & the sick; life to dead bones. It is good news because it is a call to sinners to come into the feast of God’s presence through the curtain of Jesus’ priestly sacrifice. But it calls us to come and die to ourselves, to surrender our old identity and life to the lordship of Christ the true king, to submit to a countercultural Spirit-empowered holiness, and a community of sinners-under-new-management. Anything less than a call to die to self is a watered down gospel. A gospel which simply affirms who we are without Christ is not good news at all. That’s probably why we’re told that the gospel of Christ will offend – because it cuts against the Zeitgeist of self-affirmation. But you’re right: God’s love and his grace are vast, big enough for all who would turn in faith, even me. My old identity died, and Christ is my life. I’m called to obedience, but the grace and love I get are not dependant on it, but on Jesus who clothes me in his perfect obedience. That is infinitely good news!

  2. I just got around to reading this, and WV has reversed its decision. A couple of thousand children were dropped by their sponsors. Where is the Gospel in such a despicable action?

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