Former World Vision employees concerned about its future

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by ALISON MORROW / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @AlisonMorrowTV

KING5.com

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 27 at 11:00 PM

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- No matter their opinion on same-sex marriage, World Vision U.S. insiders admit there is deep pain within the organization's Federal Way headquarters.

"The effect is going to be the children and those that we serve," former World Vision financial analyst David Tobias said.

Tobias is disappointed in his former employer, which he says is as financially complex as any major corporation.

On Monday, the Christian nonprofit announced it would open employment to people in same-sex marriages. After an uproar from conservative donors, it reversed the decision just two days later.

"It was challenging for me to accept that my gay friends at work couldn't be who they were," Tobias said.  "Really breaking their back and putting their heart and soul into World Vision, then being told publicly they weren't good enough to do it."

World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns released a statement Wednesday asking for forgiveness from those who criticized the organization's decision to change its morality clause.

"We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board's intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead," Stearns wrote. "We are asking for your continued support."

Stearns originally announced that World Vision U.S. leaders had prayed for years over the decision that took less than 3 days to reverse.

"The inconsistency bothered me," Anne Duffy said. "For my own faith and having been an employee, I was concerned for the organization."

Duffy spent four years as a World Vision U.S. media relations manager in Washington DC. She supports the original morality clause that leaders reinstated but is concerned about the publicity damage.

Its Facebook page is now covered with threats from donors on both sides planning to cancel financial support.

Duffy hopes it might turn into an event that makes the nonprofit stronger, if handled more delicately and authentically in the coming weeks.

"If the organization and its top management can rebuild the trust, say over the next one to three years that was eroded in a matter of four days," she said.

For Tobias, however, it's confusing at best. He remembers the organization as one that rarely took a stand on diverse Christian teachings about divorce or alcohol.

"Why is this the line in the sand?" he said.  "If you don't think you can manage through the backlash, then don't ever bring it up."

Tobias questions how leaders could possibly not have predicted the backlash they received, though he wholeheartedly believes in World Vision's mission to give hope and relief in some of the world's most impoverished areas.

World Vision handles nearly $1 billion of relief funds internationally, and Stearns told reporters he does not know how much money they may have lost in light of the controversy.

"The work that World Vision does is supremely critical and I can't think of a better company that does that job," he said. "The effect is going to be the children and those that we serve."

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