Just two days after the U.S. branch of World Vision announced that it would begin hiring gays and lesbians in legal marriages and those who are abstinent, the Christian nonprofit reversed course.

Image source: World Vision

Image source: World Vision

In a letter sent to supporters Wednesday, the humanitarian organization asked for “forgiveness” and said that the initial decision was a “mistake,” according to NPR.

“The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman,” the letter read.

World Vision’s quick turnaround on the issue appeared to be a reaction to the immediate outrage from Christian circles.

Shortly after the organization announced that it would employ gays and lesbians, George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination, put out a statement expressing disappointment and calling for members to divert funds away from World Vision.

“Because of this policy change and the need to maintain continuity of care for the people who most need our help, I encourage Assemblies of God churches and individuals to begin gradually shifting their support away from the U.S. branch of World Vision to Assemblies of God World Missions, and other Pentecostal and evangelical charities that maintain biblical standards of sexual morality,” Wood said.

Image source: World Vision/Christianity Today

A copy of the letter in which World Vision reversed its recent employment policy change (Image source: World Vision/Christianity Today)

Similar reaction reverberated through evangelical circles, as many tried to come to terms with the organization’s profound policy change.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday evening, World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns struck a very different tone from earlier in the week when he first announced the initial decision to hire gays and lesbians.

“The last couple of days have been painful,” he told reporters, according to Christianity Today. “We feel pain and a broken heart for the confusion we caused for many friends who saw this policy change as a strong reversal of World Vision’s commitment to biblical authority, which it was not intended to be.”

Stearns said the policy change created division and that this was never the organization’s intent. If he could do everything over again, Stearns said he would have consulted more with supporters and Christian leaders before implementing the new policy.

“Our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake … and we believe that [World Vision supporters] helped us to see that with more clarity … and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake,” he said.

When announcing the initial policy change, Stearns said it was not an instance of the organization caving to outside pressure, nor was it an endorsement of gay marriage.

Instead, he said, it was an effort to step out of the gay marriage debate and to let churches make decisions for themselves. By allowing gay Christians to work for World Vision, he said, the organization was simply recognizing the determinations and theological views of individual churches.

“This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage,” Stearns said Monday. “We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”

But while Stearns initially contended the group was simply deferring to individual churches, he said Wednesday that World Vision “cannot defer to a small minority of churches and denominations that have taken a different position.”

(H/T: Christianity Today)

We discussed this story with the Family Research Council’s Chris Gacek and Blaze Faith & Culture Editor Billy Hallowell on Thursday’s BlazeCast: