Partnering with Non-Christian Organizations: Is Compromise Okay?

A friend recently wrote to me (and I’ve disguised the situation a bit to preserve his privacy):

“My wife and I have been approached by The Kids Help Line to help raise funds.  The Kids Help Line is a national organization to help kids with various problems from simple friendship and parent tensions to issues of abuse, suicide, bullying, teen pregnancy, contraception, sexual orientation and dating.

“Their job is to provide information and help these kids through their problems.  They have a website where there are chat lines and you are able to see how the counselors handle situations.  For the most part I am impressed with their care and attentive listening.  On most inquiries they ask the teen good questions in an effort to get them thinking about the issue from other perspectives.  On pregnancy they offer all the options and while they define abortion as ‘an interrupted pregnancy,’ they do say that there are people who believe abortion is wrong and that there are spiritual, emotional and psychological consequences that need to be thought out.  For a child questioning his or her orientation they refer them to the gay and lesbian society, which upsets me, but I also can’t think of who else they ought to recommend instead.

“So our dilemma: There is an overall good going on, especially regarding abuse and suicide, and there are also issues where their handling would be inadequate from a Christian prospective.

“So can I make out  the trees from the woods and make a wise decision?  I can argue that working with this organization opens opportunities for us to work alongside people who we would never otherwise meet,  people who want to do to good for others.  We may offset stereotypes of judgmental Christians by accepting them into our home and that we will be helping children in many difficult and some very serious situations.

“But I can argue instead that I am partnering with an organization that would be neutral, or worse, on ethical issues such as abortion, sexual orientation and promiscuity, and by helping fund them I appear to be endorsing their stands on these matters.  As a church leader I am leaving myself open to being criticized by Christians who would believe we have ‘sold out.’ So what do you think?”

It seems to me that, as we recall first principles, we as human beings are primarily to make shalom as best we can within the realities of a given situation. We as Christians are to make disciples as best we can within the realities of a given situation. And, overall, we are to make the best of it within the realities of a given situation (so the title of last year’s book!).

In this situation, it seems clear that you can make shalom and in several respects: you help a group that does generally, if not entirely, good work among the needy; you encourage people who might wonder about Christian solidarity with their non-Christian neighbours and with non-Christian organizations; you encourage this group and other such groups to seek out other partnerships with Christians; and more. You also make disciples in that you show both fellow Christians and seekers that Christians are willing to stand with non-Christians in matters of mutual concern; that Christians do not insist that everyone agree with them on every point before they are willing to work with them; and that Christians care about kids’ well-being whether or not they can be converted to Christianity.

As you say, it is not evident to whom a young person wrestling with sexual identity can be referred by a public organization besides those (pro-gay/lesbian) groups organized specifically for that purpose. Yes, families and religious groups should be mentioned as possible resources for Kids Help Line, but of course it’s probably pretty common that the particular families and religious organizations in those kids’ lives are the problem for a lot of these kids. So until we Christians (or multi-faith coalitions, or some other pro-heterosexual groups–or neutral coalitions, which would be even harder to form and fund, I expect) develop organizations that parallel our prolife crisis pregnancy centres, we can’t complain about what KHL does in this regard.

In sum, if we wait to support The Perfect Kids Help Line, we will not support any. And that seems a shame to me.

I deliberately did not support the United Way Campaign at my former university (Manitoba) because of their funding of (prochoice) Planned Parenthood, and I told those who were soliciting contributions that Kari and I gave (substantially) to World Vision, Amnesty International, and our church. There were other organizations doing work that United Way organizations do; we found them; and we gave to them directly. But in your case, I don’t see an obvious alternative to KHL and it seems a fine thing to support, even as I share exactly your reservations about some of what they do.

—That’s what I wrote to my friend. What do you think?

0 Responses to “Partnering with Non-Christian Organizations: Is Compromise Okay?”

  1. communitychaplain

    I would assume that people working for a phone-in agency do not work alone. If a Christian is asked to counsel a crisis where they feel inadequate to address ethical issues because of personal convictions, they could consider the options:

    a) “I’m going to have you talk with my co-worker who can give you some options on dealing with this particular matter.”

    b) Find Christian organizations that present optional views on ethical matters and advocate for the right to also present them as options for kids with a Christian bias or as part of the choices available to any kid.

    c) Be up front with the organization and ask them how they would want you or any other volunteer to handle questions of conscience when counseling kids.

    d) Get some coach/mentor training and learn how to listen more, ask key questions and remember that the Holy Spirit is with you to give you appropriate, truthful words that avert the immediate crisis.

  2. David Strunk

    First of all, I think your advice is very good. I don’t have much to add there.

    Second, I do want to say that, here in Denver, there are advocacy groups and Christian parachurches that deal exclusively with the issue of sexuality. “Where Grace Abounds” ministry does this, is essentially pro-heterosexual, run and started by many who were formerly homosexual. They are for waiting until marriage and all the good stuff. The good thing is that they don’t dodge any question or sidestep any difficult issue. Their ministry is to council those with sexual issues: pornography, homosexuality, or any thing else. I don’t know if there’s anything like this in B.C., but it’d be an admirable recommendation in these parts.

  3. Chris Wignall

    Stack;

    Once again you’ve taken something I was trying to understand and expressed it far better than I ever have.
    I find it interesting how many church people who earn their living in “secular” work environments where they don’t invest themselves in exploring all the ideals and impacts of their employers become concerned when those in ministry or social services aren’t diligently evaluating the theologies of their organizations.

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