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Bethany Christian Services to Allow LGBTQ Couples to Adopt, Foster Children

By Yonat Shimron
Bethany Christian Services
Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

 Bethany Christian Services, the country’s largest Protestant adoption and foster care agency, will begin serving LGBTQ couples, a significant change for the evangelical outfit and a sign of the growing cultural shift.

Bethany, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with offices in 32 states, announced the change in an email to employees today. Its board of directors approved the policy change back in January after nearly a decade of internal discussion.

An agency spokesperson said it has already been working with LGBTQ families in about 12 states.

“This decision implements consistent, inclusive practices for LGBTQ families across our organizations,” said Nate Bult, Bethany’s senior vice president of public and government affairs. “We’ve had a patchwork approach for the last few years.”

The change is the latest in a hot culture-war topic pitting faith-based adoption and foster care agencies and civil liberties groups against one another. Many faith-based adoption and foster agencies have come under increasing pressure over the past decade as city, state and federal authorities have added LGBTQ non-discrimination policies. Bethany was among them.

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In 2018, the city of Philadelphia suspended contracts with Bethany for a period of time. The agency then decided to change its policy in Philadelphia and serve LGBTQ couples. 

The Trump administration briefly lifted an Obama-era rule that barred adoption agencies, foster care agencies, and other social service providers from receiving taxpayer funding from the Department of Health and Human Services if they declined to serve people based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

But those rules will likely revert back under the Biden administration.

And in Fulton v. Philadelphia, the Supreme Court is expected to rule later this year on whether religious child placement agencies can refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples. In that case, the city of Philadelphia demanded that Catholic Social Services comply with its requirements, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. When the agency refused to do so, the city opted not to renew its contract. Catholic Social Services then sued.

Bult said that while not all of Bethany’s 1,500 employees may agree with the inclusive approach, most have been supportive and have known that the agency is examining the issue.

“Faith in Jesus is at the core of our mission,” Bult said. “But we are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians may disagree.”

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% 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% of self-identified Christians agree, at least somewhat, that it would be better for Christian agencies to comply with government requirements pertaining to the LGBTQ community rather than shut down. (The survey was taken last year among 667 self-identified Christians.)

Bethany also released a letter showing that its three past executive directors and CEOs — James Haveman, Glenn De Mots and William Blacquiere — agreed with the new inclusion policy.

Leading evangelical conservatives, however, expressed disappointment in Bethany’s decision.

Russell Moore, a leading Southern Baptist and author of Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches, stated, “The need is great for distinctively Christian adoption and foster care services, including that children need both mothers and fathers. Moreover, this move will harm already existing efforts to enable faith-based orphan care ministries to serve the vulnerable without capitulating on core Christian convictions.”

Simlarly, Ryan Bomberger, a pro-life activist and founder of The Radiance Foundation tweeted: “As an adoptee & adoptive dad I’ll no longer support @Bethany Christian Services. The once solidly Christian #adoption org has lurched leftward caving in to #LGBT activism instead of standing up for vulnerable children & #religiousliberty.”


Policymakers have for years been wrestling with what to do with religious providers who have threatened to shut down rather than serve LGBTQ couples.

“There was this idea that if you did not give a concession to these folks that they would take the nuclear option and close,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a professor of law at the University of Illinois at Champaign who advised Utah lawmakers in drafting a bill that bans discrimination against LGBT people while also protecting religious institutions. “Bethany pivoted.”

Yonat ShimronYonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor for Religion News Service.



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27 Responses

  1. Bethany might as well take the word Christian out of their title since they do not want follow the Word of God and the teachings of Christ.

  2. “Faith in Jesus is at the core of our mission,” Bult said. “But we are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians may disagree.”

    But of course there many doctrinal issues about which Christians may NOT disagree, or they aren’t really Christians. Bult is rejecting historical Christianity when he says that approval of homosexuality is a possible Christian position.

  3. What a disgrace, and a shock. I am saddened by this news. I was adopted through this agency and am very heartbroken to hear this as a Christian.

  4. What weasel reasoning. God’s views on homosexual behavior are very clear in Scripture. It is an abomination. Marriage is clearly to be formed between one man and one woman. Period. To subject children to such unBiblical and harmful living situations where they will be confused and misinformed is abusive. I’m just appalled that any organization calling itself “Christian” can inflict this upon impressionable and vulnerable children who have no choice and no way to disagree or “opt out.” In these perilous days God calls us to stand firm on His word not cave to social evil.

  5. They were possibly threatened by various state/federal agencies and/or are afraid of the Equality Act which is well on its way to passing. That doesn’t make craven moral compromise ever okay. If they had principle, Bethany would close up shop rather than be forced to bow down and pray to society’s golden calf of sodomism.

  6. I am just sick! There are a number of people in the “church” that are not Christians, they just don’t know it yet.

  7. Normally, I would be aghast at such a decision. At the same time, I don’t think I want all adoptions left to secular agencies. This is a tough call because the agency will likely have to place children in some unbiblical relationships. I’m not used to waffling on issues, but I think that’s what I just did.

  8. They based this on a poll of “self identified Christians.” There’s only one “opinion poll” that really matters — the Word of God.

  9. The Northern Kingdom of Israel took a poll and 90% of the people wanted their own temple with non-Levitical priests, YHWH in the shape of a golden calf, the availability of idols alongside the craven image of YHWH, and easy local access to high place idolatry options that allowed for free practice of religious prostitution. They, like the adoption agency, didn’t consult the Scriptures. They went with popular opinion and apostate government officials. This is yet another cowardly “Christian” organization, one taking a page from the many Christian colleges that drank the secular Koolaid and got drunk on government subsidies. This is the “Christian” non-profit business model at its worst—the business must be kept alive at any cost. Make no mistake about it, this is about the money. The Devil must be laughing at the purchase of yet another “Christian” organization at so cheap a price. To the Catholics credit, on a number of occasions, they closed adoption agencies rather than comply.

    Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian Lutheran pastor jailed for a decade and brutally tortured in Communist Romania for speaking against the totalitarian state and its suppression of the Church and all free speech, wrote about his surprise that during the time of persecution many pastors, leading Christian figures, and well known hymn writers compromised and worked with the Communist state to persecute fellow Christians. A recent book studied the extant records from the East German Stasi secret police and did interviews with handlers to examine pastors who worked with the Communist state to intercept Bible smuggling, identify “disloyal” fellow pastors and congregants, and gain often paltry gain for their betrayals, while masquerading as Christian leaders. Indeed, so many sold their integrity for a pot of porridge.

    Jesus told us that scandals would come. Peter told us that judgment begins with the house of God. The current soft, slo-mo persecution of Christians is separating sheep and goats, believers from pretenders, wolves in sheep’s clothing from the sheep. The corruption in our ranks runs deeper than any of us believed. God will root it out. I think we will see a leaner but much more faithful church in the coming years. When riches can’t be had by monetizing the faith or great “religious” institutions be built on government subsidy, the Christians-in-name-only carpetbaggers will move on and openly join the world—the place where the money, power, celebrity, and status are.

  10. LAURIE HIGGINS of the Illinois Family Institute gave a heads up about homosexual adoptions a while back…I remember.

    I’m glad this announcement from Bethany is so public. Part of the process of God’s “separation” of WHO IS for Him…and WHO IS NOT.

  11. Adopt a child into your Christian family. It is the best way to ensure the love and faith that is found through Christ. The agencies may reflect the government mandates but our individual decisions and actions will eternally affect the lives of these children. Too many children are waiting.

  12. I wonder what theoretically might happen if the moms giving up their baby specified that the child HAD to go to a male/female family…..could that stand up in court? Very saddened by this news. ..but i do feel for the difficult place that Bethany was forced into!

  13. I have 2 questions.

    1.) Is this a concession tied to government funding? Is so, then of course the government is going to have a say in how you use it.

    2.) What proportion of the adoptions are going to same-sex couple?. 5%? .0005%? That seems relevant to this decision, I would think.

    The bible is equally clear on caring for orphans as it is on homosexuality. If honoring one command has to come at the cost of another, which gets priority?

    Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, plenty of food, and carefree ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Ez 16:49

  14. How sad for the children. Bethany will never have my support. What a disappointment. Why have “Christian” in your name. Fb

  15. Approximately two years ago there was a similar decision made by an adoption agency (denominational and local to us) – one that my wife and I had respected and had done a lot of good. Here, the PA Family Institute offered to help fight for the agency. Litigation fees would have been covered. The agency decided not to fight, but rather go along with supposed requirements by the state. Digging a little deeper, and after several e-mail exchanges and a conversation with a state representative, I discovered the truth. The agency chose to go with the state because there were board members who believed there was no danger to child in the care of a homosexual couple – and they had some ACLU statement to “verify” their claim. Also, they would have lost support from their base with included liberal churches.

    Having done foster care ourselves, we went through a Christian agency. I’m glad we did. At the same time, we had to, at times, take some of the agency’s counsel with a grain of salt. There were clearly times that their viewpoint came from an other than Christian point of view.

    Is state money involved? Absolutely!

    Here is the good news. Christians can be involved in foster care and adoption with “Christian agencies.” Rather than have such “agencies” contract with the state, what would be just as valuable would be to have ministries that promote foster care and adoption and come alongside and heavily support those who take this path.

    To Bethany and others: Yes, I’d rather you take a stand and lose contracts. There would still be ministry that you could accomplish on behalf of children.

    1. sorry, another error. I meant to say “Christians can be involved in foster care and adoption ‘without’ “Christian agencies.” Sorry for being so sloppy in my response.

  16. “The survey also found that 76% of self-identified Christians agree, at least somewhat, that it would be better for Christian agencies to comply with government requirements pertaining to the LGBTQ community rather than shut down. (The survey was taken last year among 667 self-identified Christians.)”

    Wow, now that is a very specific and detailed study. I was a self-identifying Christian for 23 years of my life and then I met Jesus. I wonder if cat food companies determine which brands they will sell by giving the food to humans that self-identify as cats?

    What a crazy world we live in where you can find data to support anything you want to do these days.

    1. Not sure what point you are making. It sounds like you are saying that the author this article had a predisposed desire to make Christian appear to be supportive of Bethany’s decision. If that is your point, I would really question that Shimron is trying to be provocative or sensational. Not sure the article has that tone.

      On the other hand, I do think that Shimron is providing full disclosure by pointing out that this study can’t prove that all 76% are genuine Christians. Even if 25% were tares rather than wheat, this would still indicate a majority of Christians should comply and therefore Shimron is citing something to be taken into consideration.

      Praising the Lord that you truly met Jesus! Better late than never, right?

  17. I am an adoptive parent in Philly and have had a long relationship with Bethany (through whom we were licensed and did the adoption). When Bethany was grappling this issue locally a number of years ago I went on the record with the staff here that I wanted them to become an inclusive organization. Even if we disagree about LGBT affirmation within the church (I realize I’m out of step with Roys’ readers on this issue), the Christian mission to care for orphans should not be sacrificed because of the sexuality of foster or adoptive parents.

    1. I am adoptive parent as well but not thru Bethany. If we are to care for orphans as scripture commands, and as you mention, are we not to do so in a way that glorifies God and is according to His precepts? If we do not is that really looking out for the benefit of the child/orphan? Or are we more concerned with material things than eternal things?


  18. Adopt through Bethany anyway. I will explain why: when you adopt a child, they will be loved and cared for by you, and by default will not go to a same sex couple. Continue to love and rescue children in Jesus’ name!

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