The Story: The country’s largest evangelical adoption and foster-care agency has abandoned its previous stance on biblical morality and says it will now place children with openly gay and transgender couples.
The Background: Bethany Christian Services announced on Monday that, effective immediately, it would begin providing adoption services to LGBTQ parents across the country.
According to The New York Times, the Michigan-based evangelical organization announced the change via email to about 1,500 staff members that was signed by Chris Palusky, the organization’s president and chief executive. “We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today,” Palusky wrote. “We’re taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where all are welcome.”
Since 2007, the organization had a position statement saying that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” But that policy statement was removed by the group’s board of directors this past January. The new policy states that “Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.”
Nathan Bult, Bethany’s senior vice president for public and government affairs, told the Times that the current board includes members with “diverse personal views on sexuality.”
What It Means: In Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, Bill Gorton asks his fellow veteran, Mike: “How did you go bankrupt?” “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”
That’s also the way moral bankruptcy tends to happen.
In 2019, Palusky wrote an op-ed for Christianity Today explaining why his organization was conceding to the state’s demands to place children with homosexual couples. Palusky explained his group still believed that the Bible is the living Word of God and that 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,” Palusky added. “Therefore, we will continue foster-care operations in Michigan and serve all families in Michigan for foster care and foster-care adoption in compliance with our contract requirements.”
Bethany faced the difficult decision of complying with the state and continuing to serve families—or risk closing its doors. But at the same time another private child-placing agency, St. Vincent Catholic Charities, faced the same choice as Bethany. The difference between the two groups is that St. Vincent refused to bow to an oppressive and unjust state government. Because the Catholic group refused to back down, it won a temporary victory—and retained moral credibility.
As TGC Council member Albert Mohler recently wrote:
[St. Vincent Catholic Charities] was forced into the choice. It could either stand for Catholic doctrine and theology, or it could continue its ministry. And it decided to keep the Catholic part of Catholic charities. But what see here in the case of Bethany Christian Services is that the part they’ve given up is actually the Christian convictional part. The part they have decided to retain is the with governments at the state and local and, for that matter, conceivably at the national level that are now meeting the demands of the moral revolutionaries.
Bethany initially took a different path, choosing to concede gradually. In 2019 they agreed to place children with LGBTQ couples in states and localities where that was required by the government. Almost exactly two years later, though, a complete concession happened suddenly. Bethany has decided to start placing children with such couples even in localities where they are not compelled to do so by the government.
The first concession was somewhat understandable. Forced to choose between the immorality of placing kids in LGBTQ homes and not helping orphans at all, they chose to comply with the government. But the latest decision was not made because of an outward compulsion but from a lack of biblical conviction within the organization.
Why did Bethany give up so easily? Perhaps because it knew Christians wouldn’t care.
As Religion News Service points out, “In making its decision, Bethany commissioned Barna Group, a Christian polling firm, to ferret out the views of Christians about LGBTQ adoptions. Barna found 55 percent of Christians said either that sexual preference should not determine who can foster or adopt, or that it was better for children to be in an LGBTQ home than in foster care.”
The survey also found that 76 percent of self-identified Christians agreed, at least somewhat, that it would be better for Christian agencies to comply with government requirements affecting LGBTQ people than to shut down.
This is becoming an unfortunate pattern among Christians in America today. We are willing to stand by our convictions until it becomes costly. We’re willing to be principled until we might lose, and then we consider it not only justified but almost mandatory to revisit our principles in favor of holding on to power or influence. It can seem there’s almost no moral conviction we’re unwilling to abandon if we believe the end result is justified.
Rather than consulting opinion polls, we should be consulting God’s Word. There we would find James telling us, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). And we’d hear Paul tell us, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).
Scripture is clear: Christians aren’t called to win. We’re called to persevere. While we may lose the fight, we should never abandon our allegiance to biblical morality for what we perceive as a greater good.