Saturday, January 8, 2011

Anthony Bradley on the Church and Adoption

Someone alerted me to a post from a seminary colleague of mine, Anthony Bradley. Anthony has become quite a figure in the evangelical world lately. He has been on FOX several times related to his research work on Black Liberation Theology. He also makes a common practice of poking at various evangelical sacred cows using various techniques. He wrote a post about the church and adoption for World magazine a couple weeks ago. Like everything Anthony writes, it's laced with things I find myself in total agreement with and some stuff that makes me shake my head. I think that's how he likes it.

Anyways, one of the challenges of his post is directly at us pastors concerning foster care and adoption. He says we need to lead by example. Check out his opening statement:

How can America have Christian churches and 115,000 orphans? But that is the case, with a sizable group of Christian families in all 50 states and true orphans lingering in foster care year after year. But what would happen if more pastors and church leaders would adopt orphans or model orphan care in their personal lives? Pastors tend to preach and teach about their interests and practices. And American Christians tend to apply the Bible to real life issues after a pastor or recognized leader stirs up interest. So if church leaders would cast a practice-driven vision for orphan care, churchgoers likely would be challenged to participate in one of the most ancient practices of God’s covenant people (Exodus 22; Deuteronomy 14, 16, 24). If a church considers itself a comprehensively “biblical” one it should foster a culture of adoption and orphan care as a practice of “true religion” (James 1:26-27).

Honestly, I am not sure what I think of Bradley's statement. Should a pastor foster or adopt so his people do it? Surely that can be a secondary reason, but it seems like he's saying it's a primary reason for pastors fostering and adopting. I can tell you categorically that we became foster parents because we love children and feel it is a direct response to the biblical admonition to take care of the "least of these" for our family. There are many ways to take care of the least of these, fostering and/or adopting are good ways, but not the only ways. Right now it seems like the best way for us. I do hope that our fostering (and possibly adopting) will encourage various families in our church to become foster parents and or adopt an orphan or needy child, but it's not the primary goal for our doing so.

Being a pastor and a parent is actually pretty difficult. I suspect it's difficult being a parent no matter what your vocation is, so I'm probably just imagining I have a tougher task than you. For a pastor, his family is in a fishbowl. Say what you will, but I know everyone is watching my kids and how we handle them. My children are at church all the time and get away with very little. There are hundreds of eyes on me and my family, that's the way it is. Right now my children are young and somewhat uncomplicated. When the teen years come upon us, I anticipate the fishbowl to become more burdensome. Now their indiscretions are relatively minor, what will they be like in 5 years? I don't know. I'm like other Christian parents who are doing their gut level best, but know we are woefully insufficient. My point is, fostering and adopting is in itself stressful and difficult on a family. A pastor's family comes with some extra pressure that might not be able to handle adding a troubled child with lots of complicated requirements by outside authorities. It's not really reasonable to suggest pastors foster and adopt as a blanket recommendation, as if not doing so shows a lack of sensitivity to the biblical mandate toward those in such need. I totally appreciate Anthony's sentiment, but I am not sure he has thought it completely through. He himself is not yet married, but that doesn't disqualify him from giving his take. World isn't a hack publication, so apparently they were OK with his tackling this subject the way he did.

Regardless of whether you agree with his challenge to pastors regarding fostering and adopting, I appreciate any post that calls attention to the plight of neglected, abused, and orphan children. The Church is specially suited to meet this need. All of us, pastors and lay persons alike, ought to seek God's will about caring for the little ones who are not being cared for. Surely we can do more than we are doing. Certainly God will call us to account.


Les said...

I saw this article, and I agree there needs to be more adopting. But I am also quite sure that the motivation should not to be so a pastor's congregants would follow suit.

I agree with you that the motivation is because you love children.

Having said all that, I do think it interesting that in Haiti, where I'm going back to next week, evangelical pastors are heavily involved in "taking in" orphaned and abandoned children. They also ask their church members to get involved in caring for orphans. They are much more involved in caring for orphans than US pastors are.

In any case, surely more can be done here in the US.

Reepicheep said...

In fairness Les, Haiti is in a situation where orphans die when someone doesn't take care of them. Such urgency jumps in to a new realm compared to here, and so pastors SHOULD do just what you are witnessing in Haiti.

I mean to say that neglected and abused children receive care somehow in the U.S. There are few homeless children, most are put somewhere to receive food, medical attention, and lodging. Thousands of others have foster home placements.

I am not making an excuse for why pastors in the U.S. seem to be less involved than Haitian pastors, but rather noting the very different circumstances facing our two countries at this time.

Reepicheep said...

Les, one other thing when comparing the situation in Haiti and the situation here.

I don't know the state of Haiti's laws and or social services, but I'm guessing they're in total disarray. I'm guessing a person could take in an orphan with little red tape if you live there.

Just getting licensed for foster care in the U.S. takes LOTS of time and training, not to mention money spent to modify your house. Adoption through fostering is often a nightmare with all sorts of complicated court situations and irrational rulings. These factors certainly deter pastors and others from starting the process to become approved/licensed.

Just a thought.

Les said...

Oh yes, you're right about the differences. I did not mean to imply there is a one to one correlation. Yes, in Haiti a child will die or become a house slave to survive. It is much more life or death.

And yes on the laws and requirements here. We do not foster, but have several friends who do. It is very hard.

All said, though, it seems there could be more concern here and less dependence on the government to get the job done. I'm really not trying to be too critical of pastors. I was one for a number of years. I know it was never on my radar. But I just can't shake James chapter 1 either. More discussions like here and AB may help.

Michael Lockridge said...

Let us not neglect the idea of extended fostering and adoption. Granted, not everyone is emotionally equipped to handle the task. Some are not financially equipped, or don't have other resources.

With a body committed as an extended family, however, resources could be pulled together to accomplish the task.

I am speaking very much to myself, here, as well as expressing an idea for others to consider. I need to more actively pursue being part of my church community, and this is something I must very much keep in mind.

Woody Woodward said...

My heart breaks for the thousands of precious ones that have no one to call mommy and daddy. Pastor what you and Shari, Mark and Jodi and I sure others at Redeemer have done has been a powerful testimony for all of us. I am in the midst of following the Lord as for our next steps with Ana and Andrei. Pavel and I have a meeting tomorrow night with 2 possible couples interested in adopting them. I will follow Him where He leads. But I pray a miracle can take place and we can help get Ana and Andrei here in America.