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.