Two billion-dollar Christian organizations recently announced new policies meant to shield them from culture-war conflicts. Instead, the policies only landed them in the middle of those fights.

In late March, World Vision's U.S. branch said it would no longer bar its more than 1,100 employees from same-sex marriages. In a letter to supporters, president Richard Stearns noted that its employees are from more than 50 denominations, some of which have sanctioned gay marriage. "We have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue," he said. "The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission."

Less than two days after Christianity Today broke the story, World Vision U.S. reversed its decision. Citing "trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18," Stearns said the board decided the change was "not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage."

Meanwhile, Thrivent Financial, a Christian financial services organization with $8 billion in revenues (ranked No. 325 on the Fortune 500), is struggling to unify its core membership as they drift apart on moral and social issues.

In 2012, Thrivent said it would give greater deference to its local chapters. Instead of running the list of organizations that members could give to through its national headquarters, it would allow local chapters to decide. (Thrivent has donated more than $120 million to nonprofits since 2010.) When a chapter added Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota to the list, pro-life members protested. Among them were the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). Since the company had been called Thrivent Financial for Lutherans until March, and until last June had limited its insurance and financial services to Lutherans only, the LCMS and WELS protests were significant.

Within days, Thrivent announced it would not fund the Planned Parenthood affiliate. Then, in February, it announced that it would not fund organizations that primarily advocate or provide services on social issues "such as abortion, sexual orientation, or guns." Because its members' views diverge, Thrivent said, it would not "support organizations and issues that distract, or have the potential to distract, from its common purpose." Communications director Brett Weinberg told CT that Thrivent distributed less than $200,000 to groups that are now ineligible.

The move did not placate critics. "While we applaud the restrictions on funding pro-abortion organizations, this is not the outcome we had envisioned for the more than 50 pro-life charitable organizations that have received Thrivent assistance in the past to provide key support for women, children, and families," LCMS president Matthew Harrison said on the church's website. Similarly, WELS said, "We are deeply distressed that an organization that describes itself as 'faith-based' has taken a position of neutrality on issues in which there can be no neutral position."

Opposition is brewing among Thrivent's liberal constituency as well.

"Thrivent took away the ability of people to support the causes they feel passionate about," said Katrina Foster, a Long Island pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and chaplain to the board of ReconcilingWorks, which led the denomination's 2009 decisions to allow same-sex union ceremonies and ordained pastors in same-sex relationships. "It did not stop controversy. If anything, it created more division."

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