One of America’s largest Christian charities has announced that it will recognise the rights and entitlements of employees who are in same-sex marriages.

World Vision is one of the largest Christian charities in the world, providing disaster and other forms of aid to 250 million people annually. It operates in nearly 100 countries worldwide and has revenue of approximately $2.79 billion (£1.69bn).

World Vision has more than 6,000 non-Christians in its 40,000 strong workforce – although in the US the charity has won court cases allowing it to discriminate on the basis of religion, and to require employees to sign a declaration of faith.

In a more progressive move, the charity announced yesterday that it will recognise the rights of employees who are in same-sex marriages – although it stressed the decision did not amount to a political endorsement of marriage equality.

World Vision USA President Rich Stearns said: “I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue.

“World Vision is a multi-denominational organisation that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians.”

Mr Stearns told Christian Today: “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. 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.

“This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture. People can say, ‘Scripture is very clear on this issue,’ and my answer is, ‘Well, ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.”

The president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore, spoke out against World Vision’s policy on his website, where he claimed that: “At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it.

“If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.

“We empower darkness when we refuse to warn of judgement.”