The Parable of the Gay Samaritan

Archbishop Cranmer rather nails it on the World Vision story.

World VisionOn one occasion an expert in biblical ethics and Christian standards of sexual morality stood up to test World Vision. “Chief Exec,” he asked, “what must I do to sponsor an impoverished child in the proper Christian way that is honouring to God in accordance with His Word?”

“What is written on our website?” he replied. “How do you understand it?”

He answered, “‘Our Christian identity underpins everything that we do. Motivated by our faith, World Vision is committed to following the teaching and example of Jesus Christ in his identification with those who are poor, vulnerable or forgotten’; and, ‘Just 75p a day can free a child from the fear that poverty creates. Sponsorship keeps children protected and provides them with clean water, nutritious food, healthcare and education – everything a child needs to enjoy their childhood’.”

“You have answered correctly,” the Chief Exec replied. “Do this and the malnourished, diseased, trafficked and enslaved children of the world will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked the Chief Exec, “But what if one of your employees is gay and in a civil partnership? You see, I read in Christianity Today that you’ve changed your conditions of employment and now accept married gay dudes, who aren’t actually married, you know, in God’s eyes, but you say that abstinence outside of marriage remains a condition of employment, so how does that work?”

In reply the Chief Exec said: “A six-year-old starving boy and eight-year-old trafficked girl were going down from Djibouti to Hargeysa in Somaliland, when they were attacked by fanatical militia. They stripped the starving boy of his clothes, beat him, and then raped and mutilated the genitalia of the girl, and went away, leaving them both half dead. Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the children, he passed by on the other side. So too, Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, when he saw the children lying there, he walked on by. And also Denny Burk, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, when he came to the place and saw them, passed by on the other side.

But a gay guy in a civil partnership, as he travelled, came to where the children were; and when he saw them, he took pity on them. He went to them and gave them bread and water, and bandaged the girl to stop her bleeding, hugging them both to comfort them. Then he carried the weeping girl and put the boy on his own bicycle, and brought them to a World Vision shelter and took care of them. The next day he took out $100 and donated it to the charity. ‘We must look after them,’ he said, ‘and I’m happy to reimburse World Vision for any lost sponsorship you may have as a result of your employing me.’

“Which of these do you think was a neighbour to the children who fell into the hands of the fanatical militia?”

The expert in biblical ethics and Christian standards of sexual morality replied, “The one who showed compassion and sponsored them.”

Jesus told him in his heart, “Go and do likewise.”


As a balance, here’s Ian Paul.

Ian PaulClever as it is, I think this comment makes two inexcusable errors. First, the idea of naming these individuals and suggesting that they ‘walked by on the other side’ is really hideous. In the comments, someone has asked ‘Did you know that Justin Taylor has adopted multiple orphans? Hardly the most fitting to cast as the bad guy in this.’ I am not sure of the truth of this, but surely we cannot be accusing others of lack of compassion without knowing more about them—and even then, is this the right thing to do?

Secondly, Jesus told the original parable to highlight the importance of action. But that did not stop him criticising the belief of the Samaritans in the sharpest terms.

Second Update

Folks have been asking me what I actually think. Simply put, my position is that the Bible makes it very clear the standards of behaviour expected by a Church Leader. It doesn’t say what the standards of behaviour of an employee of a charity should be, especially if said employee doesn’t do any pastoral or teaching work. Frankly, what you do in your bedroom doesn’t affect your ability to do the accounts, but it does affect your ability to preach on what good Biblical accounting should look like.

19 Comments on “The Parable of the Gay Samaritan

  1. Regrettably, His Grace’s attempt to re-mould a parable has resulted in a distortion: a distortion in the form of a straw man. It presumes that following disengagement with the errant charity no further action or sponsorship will take place. There is also a nasty murmur of guilt-casting that Utar has seen deployed by ‘chuggers’ and charity cold callers. Does it need stating that charities do not have a *right* to donations even para-Church charities and in an environment where Christians are mandated to give?

    Unlike His Grace, Utar will offer scripture without manipulation:

    “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”


  2. I disagree with Cranmer’s parable. I think the problem with World Vision changing their policy is that they claim to be an evangelical organisation. Many churches supported them on that basis, not the fact that they did good (if they just did ‘good works’, you might as well support a secular organisation).

    The fact that they moved towards an affirmation of same-sex marriage indicates, to me at least, a clear move away from an evangelical approach to Scripture which I can see why churches / individuals wouldn’t want to support.

    That said, I don’t think I’d withdraw sponsorship from a child either.

    • I thought it was odd that they (World Vision USA) ended up appearing to endorse same-sex marriage in order to maintain a non-discriminatory ‘chastity’ code.

      If they were dodging potential lawsuits, I wonder why they didn’t just remove the chastity and/or sexual orientation condition of hire and then claim they were aligning their US policy with “international standards”?

    • If they base their employment policy on biblical moral categories, then if they are going to employ people in homosexual relationships they should also employ people who engage in other immoral forms of sexual relationship.

      Regarding Cranmer’s parable, if someone is sexually immoral it doesn’t mean they do not reflect the image of God in other ways.

    • Why? His views are mainstream even within open evangelicalism. There’s no evidence that he’s personally hostile to gay people.

  3. I think Phill Sacre nails it, as does Ian Paul. I particularly think “Archbishop Cranmer”‘s singling out three brothers and naming them in this “parable” is odious and in flagrant violation of the spirit of his pen name — none of “his Grace” there, nor of God’s.

    And Peter, your position does not hold water. Marriage, including same-sex marriage, whatever I personally think of it, publicly implies a sexual relationship. I don’t need to snoop in their bedroom to make that assumption, it is part of the meaning of marriage. If one holds that sexual relations outside the marriage of a man and a woman are sinful, then a same sex married couple is making a public statement that they are sinning, will continue to sin, and will not repent. I think it is perfectly legitimate for a Christian organization to say they will not hire or retain in their employ people who publicly declare their unwillingness to live as disciples should. It has nothing to do with the ability to do the accounts; it has everything to do with an organization’s desire to be a Christian community. There’s room for sinners as long as they are repentant and teachable, not when they are in open rebellion.

    Anyway, the people who will drop support for WV are those who believe that a Christian’s charity has no value in and of itself but is called for only to the extent that it creates an opportunity for preaching the gospel and gaining a hearing for it. They evaluate aid organizations on the basis of their theological stance and evangelical bona fides. They will drop WV because they feel that WV’s policy change has disqualified them as preachers of the gospel.

    Others believe that a Christian’s charity has intrinsic value as it alleviates the suffering of fellow human beings made in the image of Christ, and that any door it opens for the Gospel is a not unwelcome but seconday, collateral benefit.They will evaluate aid organizations first on the basis of the effectiveness of their programs, although all things being equal they will still prefer organizations whose theology resonates with them. I tend to side with that position.

    These are the folks who will not drop a child they already sponsor through WV (because, after all, the child cannot be blamed for the folly of WV leadership, so why should she be penalized), but if they are general donor or are newly looking to sponsor a project or a child will gravitate to an organization that has not come up with disingenuous arguments for following the Zeitgeist.

  4. “Frankly, what you do in your bedroom doesn’t affect your ability to do the accounts”

    I’m not sure it’s the case that you can divide up a person’s actions into neat little boxes like that. I wouldn’t trust a politician who’s had an affair – if he can lie to and deceive his wife, how can I trust him? It doesn’t matter that he told his wife in the bedroom he is fully committed to her, but he’s telling me he won’t raise my taxes here at this public hustings.

    I’m really and genuinely disappointed that you agree with Cranmer. It’s a load of tosh. It assumes “supporting World Vision” == “helping poor children”, and there’s no other way to do it. It names 3 people quite unnecessarily, as others have pointed out. And I simply don’t agree that it’s unreasonable for a Christian organization to have moral standards for its staff, and for those standards to be scriptural.

    If World Vision had stated their policy with a little more generality, e.g. as “we do not offer employment to those not in good standing with their churches – i.e. significant unrepented-of sin”, and then they made an exception for gay sexual activity, would you support them in that?

    • Church leadership criteria are very clear in Scripture, charity employment status less so. I can’t see a legal occupational requirement for being a charity’s accountant beyond being in sympathy with the aims of the charity. But that doesn’t mean that you have to conform you life to their whims.
      A church can make an occupational requirement of its leaders. The law is pretty clear that charities can’t.

      • At what point did the law become the arbiter of right and wrong? It should be a reflection of it, but it’s not always. “The law is clear” is not a moral argument.

        WV is a para-church ministry. If you set one up, you might decide to employ anyone. But do you really think all such ministries should be forced to hold that position?

        A theological college is another example of a para-church ministry. (I hope you won’t try and argue that training Christians and helping the poor are in different categories of Christian work.) If there’s an atheist who has the necessary knowledge and skills to teach doctrine at, say, All Nations, should they employ him? Or is it OK in that case for them to require that he believe in what the organization stands for?

        In general, people should have the legal right to employ, or not employ, anyone they want, based on any criteria they want, to do whatever work the two agree, for whatever pay they agree. (And yes, I am aware that this permits people to do wrong things. So do lots of other rights.)

        • Gerv,

          I also hate the parabolic casting of conservatives as the priest and Levite. Christ’s parable contrasted the conspicuous propriety of those enjoying religious ascendancy, which is certainly something that conservatives don’t enjoy today.

          Even the casting of a gay guy in a civil partnership as the unexpected hate-figure hero misses Christ’s point. Jews would ostracise a Samaritan for having a mixed heritage, i.e. a lack of pedigree, not for personal moral conduct. The analogy of homosexual relations collapses at this distinction.

          In contrast with Samaritans, Jews could still point, as Christ did, to the fact that they did homage to the God whom they didn’t know. The knowledge of God is through His works of salvation, something which , unlike Samaritans, the descendants of Jews released from captivity could declare from experience.

          That said, I’m still inclined to agree with Peter’s view about certain types of employment. Although laws can be immoral, sometimes the law gets the balance between freedom of association and employment discrimination right.

          St. Paul’s was very clear about the purpose of separation. Firstly, it was to ensure that any ministry conducted by the church leadership did not attract charges of hypocrisy: ‘We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.’ (2 Cor. 6:3) This explains the moral qualifications for bishops and deacons.

          For those outside of ministry, St.Paul sought to use the freedom of association to shame those who disgraced their professed adherence to Christianity. They were not expected to dole out punishment by withdrawing the blessing of a livelihood:

          ‘Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed’ (2 Thess. 3:14)

          Again to the Corinthian church: ‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.’ (1 Cor. 5:10)

          ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.’ (2 Thess. 3:6)

          This practice of a private association shunning a professed believer is very different from a relief agency that actively seeks general public sponsorship withdrawing the disbursements of those funds from anyone who don’t live up of its code of sexual morality.

          If the code is even-handed, why not apply moral scrutiny to donors as well? I used to think otherwise, but I hope you won’t argue that donation is a very different category of Christian work from its collection and disbursement to help the needy.

          • The question is not “what is your, or my, view of the right hiring approach for Christian charities”, but “are we so sure we are right that we are willing to use force of law to compel others who take a different view to adopt ours”? You are quite welcome to believe that Christian charities should not avoid hiring those in open sin – but do you really want to say that they should be denied even the option, in violation of the consciences of their leaders?

            FWIW, some moral scrutiny is applied to donors, even in the secular sphere – witness the pressure on political parties to return donations which came from convicted fraudsters. But association with someone’s sin is connected to knowledge of it.

            • “Are we so sure we are right, that we are willing to use force of law to compel others who take a different view to adopt ours”?

              Right about what? The law isn’t compelling anyone to change their personal beliefs. It only restricts your freedom as an employer to impose detriments on the lives of those who fall short of those beliefs.

              The law may well violate the consciences of those Christian charity leaders who consider it unconscionable to employ even those whose private lives are impertinent to the prospective role. Too right!

              For instance, that sort of conscience would prevent World Vision from hiring an IT Project Manager, who mentioned at second interview that part of his motivation to succeed was because his fiancee had just told him he was going to be a Dad.

              No ‘Congratulations! So, when are you getting married?’ Instead, it’s ‘Our policy on pre-marital sex is very clear. Next!’

              Wrong, wrong, wrong.

              • Again, it’s not about whether they would be right or wrong to hire that IT manager, it’s about whether you think they should be forced to violate their consciences and hire him. Remember that stuff Paul said about the weak and the strong. I’m disappointed to hear you say “too right!” about the violation of another man’s conscience.

                • I’m sorry to disappoint as we are normally on the same side of the fence.
                  That said, I would distinguish the absolute freedom to restrict the livelihoods of others from your last intimation of Paul’s instructions regarding the exercise of autonomy over matters of personal discretion, such as the consumption of food sacrificed to idols.

                  The realm of one’s public capacity and one’s personal discretion differ considerably. In essence, you decry the imposition of one corporate power (the law) to disarm the ability of another corporate power (World Vision) to cause detriment in roles outside of public representation on the basis of morality.

                  Respect for autonomy does not confer the right to impose whatever livelihood penalties on others that one’s conscience. Does preventing him from managing the CRM system destroy their weak consciences, with the threat of causing them, as Paul describes, to inadvertently abandon their walk in Christ?

                  If this outtcome was really at stake for these charity leaders, I might be inclined to agree. However, we both know that it isn’t.

                  • Bedtime, but: refusing to employ someone is not a “detriment” or a “livelihood penalty”. If so, I would be being detrimental to billions of people.

                    “For the State to treat as a religion any employer who purports to embrace Christianity is wrong.”

                    I’m not arguing for the right of freedom of (non)association only for Christians. I want it for everyone. Everyone should be free to employ or not employ who they like, using their own criteria.

                    • ‘refusing to employ someone is not a “detriment” or a “livelihood penalty”.’

                      But that’s not your line of argument. You support refusing to employ even an otherwise better candidate on the basis of a Christian’s personal morality. That’s not a detriment to billions, only to those capable candidates who are rejected for falling short of an employer’s religious code.

                      ‘Everyone should be free to employ or not employ who they like, using their own criteria.’

                      My pic is on this page. I hope the history of my people gives you some idea why I’d disagree with that.

        • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that it’s illegal for a Christian charity or school or whatever in the UK to discriminate on grounds of religion or sexual orientation, except in a very narrow set of jobs which involve teaching. Christian charities, when advertising for accountants or whatever, have to bank on people deselecting themselves when they realise they’ll have to attend prayer meetings etc. Are the rules different in the US? Despite this, it’s still impossible to get any kind of public funding as a Christian charity, no matter what the content of what you’re doing.

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