Evangelicals are still abuzz from World Vision’s flip-flop from first announcing that it would recognize same-sex marriages to its quick reversal and recantation in response to donors pulling their support for the organization. The issue has laid bare a growing divide among evangelicals on what are the defining characteristics of Christians and evangelicals. World Vision is not just any relief organization — it is symbolic of evangelicals growing engagement with issues of poverty, hunger, and development. The fiasco forced evangelicals to ask questions about which issues are central to their faith: Is it more important to help the poor or uphold traditional ethics of the family and sexuality? The answer was more than a mere lilliputian argument between Big-Endians and Little-Endians. One billion dollars and thousands of lives hinged on how this answer was resolved.

Top international relief and international development organizations

Top international relief and international development organizations in the U.S., ranked by revenue in millions of dollars Corner of Church & State, an RNS Blog Source: National Center for Charitable Statistics ranking of international relief or international development nonprofits in the U.S.


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World Vision is not just the largest evangelical relief organization. It is the largest U.S. relief organization with more than one billion dollars in revenue. This is nearly twice that of Compassion International, Save the Children, or CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere).

Annual revenue reported by World Vision

Annual revenue reported by World Vision. Source: IRS public documents, available at National Center for Charitable Statistics. Graph by Corner of Church & State, an RNS blog. Source: IRS 1099 filings available at National Center for Charitable Statistics


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Like other relief organizations, World Vision has seen its power increase over the past decade. Its revenue in real dollars doubled between 2001 and 2007. Since then, it has consistently raised and spent over one billion dollars each year.

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Tobin Grant

Tobin Grant

@TobinGrant blogs for Religion News Service at Corner of Church and State, a data-driven conversation on religion and politics. He is a political science professor at Southern Illinois University and associate editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

2 Comments

  1. Love ya, Tobin. But no. “The fiasco forced evangelicals to ask questions about which issues are central to their faith: Is it more important to help the poor or uphold traditional ethics of the family and sexuality?” Who wrestled with that question? No one I know (though that dichotomy was certainly used by several critics of those upset by World Vision’s policy change). Rather, the question for those who disagreed with the initial WV move was, “Is this a decision worth moving my support monies to another organization that helps the poor?” If you can find me the evangelicals who said, “World Vision made the wrong choice. I’m moving my $35/mo to FRC,” or who said, “That’s it! I’m done helping poor people now!” I’ll buy you dinner next time you’re in town.

  2. Tobin Grant

    I agree that I simplified the question. But I don’t think you’ve got it right either. I don’t think it was, “Is this a decision worth moving my support monies to another organization that helps the poor?”

    Upon reflection, I think both sides were asking the same question:

    “I want to advance the Gospel by helping the least of these. I want to do so by supporting a Christian organization that does top-notch relief work, a group that can help both the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. Does this decision mean that World Vision is no longer a group that is qualified to do this or not?”

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