World Vision US, the founding organization of World Vision International, announced January 9, 2018, that Richard Stearns would retire as president after 20 years of leadership.
World Vision is known worldwide for its efforts to provide food, clothing, and medical care after natural disasters. Utilizing a Sponsor a Child method of fundraising, World Vision has successfully been able to enlist two million sponsors who send funds on a monthly basis toward sponsored children or various projects in communities around across the globe.
Stearns joined World Vision US in 1998 as the organization’s fifth president. Under his leadership, World Vision US has made significant progress towards its bold vision of helping 30 million children by 2022, expanding its annual revenues beyond $1 billion. Stearns has been most well-known for calling the church to respond to the global AIDS pandemic in the early 2000s and the global refugee crisis in recent years.
The World Vision president was optimistic about the future of the organization as he begins to wind down his 20 years of leadership. Stearns said in a press release shared with Faithfully Magazine Tuesday:
“I am as excited as ever about World Vision’s future. And with the leadership of our Board, senior team, faithful staff, and our army of supporters, we will continue to pursue our inspiring mission – to follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”
During his tenure, World Vision US underwent several difficult and rocky issues, through which Stearns showed great poise and resolve. In 2006, three employees for World Vision US were fired because they did not believe in the divinity of Jesus or the doctrine of the Trinity. After years of litigation, World Vision US received a favorable ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirming that they, as a religious corporation, were exempt from federal law barring faith-based discrimination.
In 2014, World Vision US announced that it would hire Christians in same-sex marriages, but quickly reversed the policy in response to the larger Evangelical Christian community. In a display of humility, Stearns offered a public apology on behalf of the entire organization after this policy and announcement and subsequent reversal: “Rather than creating more unity [among Christians], we created more division, and that was not the intent. 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.”
The Board of Directors of World Vision US is currently undergoing a national search for a new president for the 67-year-old organization. Stearns will remain at the helm of the organization until the leadership transition has fully taken place.