Bethany Christian Services is the largest Christian adoption agency in the United States. This week, the organization announced that it would begin providing its services to LGBTQ parents nationwide. Their decision is in response to requirements from various states that agencies serve such couples to maintain their governmental contracts.
In 2007, the organization specified that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” However, two years ago, the Michigan chapter changed its policy to begin placing foster children with same-sex couples.
At the time, the CEO wrote: “At Bethany, we believe the Bible is the living Word of God, and we still believe in God’s plan for marriage and family as it is outlined in the Scriptures. At the same time, it is clear to us that Bethany cannot cede the foster care space completely to the secular world and leave children without the opportunity to experience Jesus through our loving care.” (As we will note below, numerous Christian ministries do not believe this to be a binary choice and are continuing to be faithful to their biblical mission in the face of governmental pressure.)
The organization added: “The mission and beliefs of Bethany Christian Services have not changed. We are focused on demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by serving children in need, and we intend to continue doing so in Michigan.”
On Monday, Bethany announced that it would make this change nationwide. Bethany’s vice president stated, “Faith in Jesus is at the core of our mission. But we are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians of mutual good faith may disagree. We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children.”
Beware of “redefining civilization”
This tragic announcement proves at least three points.
One: Government intrusion on religious liberty is escalating.
Jim Daly, head of Focus on the Family, is right: “Bethany Christian Services should not have to choose between holding to their deeply held religious convictions and serving children and families. No government should tell any ministry how to run their ministry, let alone violate deeply held biblical principles.”
Two: Our culture and civilization are at stake.
Al Mohler responded to the announcement: “The moral revolutionaries are now demanding that every single individual in this society, every single institution, every single school, every single religious denomination, every single adoption and foster care agency must pivot.” He added that “Christians have to understand: If you’re redefining marriage, if you’re redefining parent and family, you are redefining civilization.”
Three: We need to support ministries who stay faithful to their mission.
Ethicist Russell Moore responded: “The need is great for distinctively Christian adoption and foster care services” who believe that “children need both mothers and fathers.” He added that “many evangelical orphan care ministries are working, and will continue to work, for vulnerable children in need of families, while still holding to the faith.” I am grateful for Buckner International and other Christian agencies who refuse to mortgage their mission in the face of social and governmental pressure.
“The most potent way Christianity is marginalized”
This story also highlights a critical principle for all Christians seeking to navigate our anti-Christian culture.
Bethany claims to “believe in God’s plan for marriage and family as it is outlined in the Scriptures,” but it will now adopt children to families who reject that plan. The organization claims that their “mission and beliefs . . . have not changed,” but they have adopted policies that clearly violate them. How are we to understand these contradictions?
One of the most tempting ways for Christians to deal with the opposition we face today is to separate our private beliefs from our public actions.
In Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, apologist Nancy Pearcey states: “The most potent way Christianity is marginalized in modern society is through the division of life into two separate spheres: a sacred realm of prayer, worship, and personal morality against a secular realm of politics, business, academia, and so on.” According to this division, our personal values regarding same-sex marriage or any other biblical moral issue should be kept separate from our public actions in secular society.
This juxtaposition allows us to tell churches, donors, and other supporters that our biblical values remain intact while bowing to cultural pressure to conform to unbiblical requirements. Bethany is not the first ministry to strike such a Faustian bargain; I fear that they will not be the last.
“May we be so bold as to set our eyes on heaven”
Let’s close by making today’s article personal: Are you being tempted to separate your personal beliefs from your public life?
For example, are your thoughts about others different from your actions toward them? Jesus correlated anger with murder (Matthew 5:22) and defined lust as adultery (v. 28). Paul exhorted us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Are you willing to pay any price to share your faith with others? Craig Denison asks, “Are the opinions of others really so important to me that I would withhold from them eternal, abundant life with a God who loves them relentlessly and perfectly?”
He adds: “May we be those who set aside our pride, seek humility, and love others whatever the cost. May we be so bold as to set our eyes on heaven and sacrifice this life for the sake of eternity.”
Will you be so bold today?