Should Christian Foster Agencies Agree to Place Children with LGBT Couples?

Bethany Christian Services, the largest Christian adoption and foster agency in the U.S., recently faced a gut-wrenching decision. Either change its policy and begin placing foster children with same-sex couples—or lose the more than 1,000 foster care contracts the agency had with the state of Michigan.

Bethany chose the former. And now the 60-year-old agency committed to equipping families to be the “answer for children . . . as Christ intended” will place foster children with LGBT couples.

The agency insisted that its decision does not represent a change to Bethany’s mission or Christian beliefs. In a Christianity Today op-ed, Bethany CEO Chris Palusky described the decision as the only compassionate option: “(W)e faced a choice: Continue caring for hurting children in foster care or let our disappointment with government requirements supersede our compassion for kids who have suffered and need a loving family.”

I can understand Palusky’s desire to help children in the foster care system. These often abused and neglected children desperately need Christian compassion and care.

“Though I grieve that needy kids may be hurt, it won’t be because Christian agencies stuck to their beliefs and mission; it will be because the secular state sacrificed the well-being of children for the imagined virtue of political correctness.”

But Palusky’s response is deeply troubling. Palusky does what so many Christians do when asked to compromise their stance on biblical sexual ethics. He presents a false dichotomy that frames the decision in such a way that refusing to compromise one’s principles seems downright cruel.

Yet Bethany wasn’t being asked to choose between giving precedence to “caring for hurting children” or its “disappointment with government requirements”; it was being asked to choose between standing on principle or caving to the demands of a secular state.

Though I grieve that needy kids may be hurt, it won’t be because Christian agencies stuck to their beliefs and mission; it will be because the secular state sacrificed the well-being of children for the imagined virtue of political correctness.

As Christians, who believe that God’s design for marriage and family is critical to the well-being of children, can succumbing to the state’s redefinition of marriage ever truly be the compassionate choice?  

When I heard of Bethany’s decision, I couldn’t help but think of a story I reported years ago concerning foster care in Illinois. In 2011, Illinois passed the Freedom of Religion and Civil Union Act. And like what Michigan just did, Illinois cancelled all its contracts with Illinois agencies that refused to place foster children with same-sex couples.

Hit especially hard by this ruling was a small Christian foster care and adoption agency called the Evangelical Child and Family Agency (ECFA). At the time, the ECFA had 242 foster children in its program, comprising about 70% of the ECFA’s revenue.

Interestingly, the ECFA said it never had a same-sex couple apply to the organization to provide foster care. But if a same-sex couple had applied, the ECFA would have referred the couple to one of several other agencies that would have helped them.

Ken Withrow, ECFA Executive Director

Regardless, the state gave the ECFA an ultimatum: comply with the state’s new requirement or have its foster care contracts cancelled. Cancellation meant that the ECFA would have to lay off 37 staff and face a very uncertain future. Yet that’s precisely what the ECFA did.

“Our mission is to place children in evangelical Christian homes,” Ken Withrow, executive director of ECFA, told me. “We chose not to change our mission and our vision, regardless of what else was happening in government or society.”

This resulted in a very difficult year for the ECFA. But in God’s providence, soon after the ECFA lost its foster care contracts, the state began calling on the agency to meet another need.

Apparently, the state had decided to outsource many of its cases in its Intact Family Services Program and asked the ECFA to take on a heavier load. (Intact Family Services is a program designed to intervene with families in crisis so that children can remain safely in their homes.)

In three years, the ECFA’s Intact Family Services caseload had tripled and the agency was able to begin hiring back some staff members the agency had let go. Now ECFA is running at about half the revenue it was in 2011, as opposed to 30-percent. The transition has been hard, but Withrow says he doesn’t regret the decision the ECFA made.

“(W)hatever the challenge, our answer as Christians must be the same. We cannot participate in something we believe is wrong even to achieve a desired good.”

Today, many Christian organizations are facing, or will face, the same choice the ECFA and Bethany faced. Just last week, Catholic Social Services lost its case against the city of Philadelphia, arguing that the city’s decision to cancel its foster care contract violated the group’s religious freedom. Like the ECFA, Catholic Social Services chose to lose its foster care contracts rather than change its policy concerning placing children with LGBT couples.

The group says it will appeal the decision, but there’s no guarantee the appeal will achieve the desired result. Catholic Social Services likely will have to decide—continue to obey God’s rules or obey man’s? Hold fast to its organization’s mission or capitulate to survive?

God can save needy children without Christian organizations capitulating to the state. Nothing is stopping Christian couples from working with secular agencies to continue caring for foster children. But who knows? If enough Christian groups refuse to play by the state’s repressive rules, it may create a crisis that will force states to work with principled, Christian agencies once again.

But whatever the challenge, our answer as Christians must be the same. We cannot participate in something we believe is wrong even to achieve a desired good. The ends do not justify the means. And as Christians, we must continue doing things God’s way, trusting Him for the outcome. 

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28 thoughts on “Should Christian Foster Agencies Agree to Place Children with LGBT Couples?

  1. NSJ

    In a straight couple sitch, would you inquire about their Bible reading and prayer life? What else? Do you inquire about their weight? Gluttony is one of the 7 deadly- ya know. Change is hard but it is out there. Gay marriage is legal in the USA. Accept it or build a thicker bubble.

    • Joe

      Yep, gay marriage is legal in the USA. But that doesn’t mean it complies with God’s law. I’ll choose the latter over the former any day.

    • al

      According to the Bible, marriage is ordained by God to be between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 19:4-6). Gay marriage/same-sex marriage is a perversion of the institution of marriage and an offense to the God who created marriage. As Christians, we are not to condone or ignore sin. Rather, we are to share the love of God and the forgiveness of sins that is available to all, including homosexuals, through Jesus Christ. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and contend for truth with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). As Christians, when we make a stand for truth and the result is personal attacks, insults, and persecution, we should remember the words of Jesus: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

      • William

        Well said. The Great falling away has begun.

        • Roggie Mac

          it will get worse sad to say

    • Roggie Mac

      just because its legal doesn’t make it right

      • Cj

        Good evening Roggie Mac,

        The same is true for about 90% of the divorces in this country. So what is the bigger issue? Something that affect about 10% or something that effects the rest. Just because you trotted off to the court house doesn’t obsolve the vows made at the alter.
        Cj

  2. Bethany caved for “filthy lucre.” They were not told that they had to go out of business. They just would no longer receive Government money. While some may think it is better to put these children in foster homes with homosexuals and transvestites, this only reinforces the idea that sexual perversion is “normal.” It also mocks GOD, whose plan is for 1) two distinct genders: male and female; 2) marriage between one male and one female. Children need to be loved. They should not be used s pawns by a state that seeks to destroy what GOD has designed. JESUS said, “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble,” Luke 17:2.

  3. Don Mattocks

    Lots of things are “legal” but also immoral. It’s everyone’s choice where they want to spend eternity, and each of only have two options, but we do get to choose. Looks like those at Bethany (and NSJ above) have made their choices.

  4. Jennifer H.

    Christ calls us to trust him and obey what he teaches-caving to secular pressure is an act of fear.

  5. Larry Bohannon

    The fact and history of Scripture is clear. Homosexaulity and specificly loving committed relationships were never even mentioned in any Bible before 1946. Ignorant people seek to validate their own prejudice by looking to God to condemn love. He doesn’t. Two things Scripture condemns. Deciding that we want to choose our sexual orientation or change it. For another. That is a sin of rebellion against God’s authority. If we are born one way or the other that is God’s decision. The other sin applies to all: sexual gluttony or pleasure seeking rather than choosing commitment and family. Jesus himself even refused to speak against same gender loving relationships. He never said a word. Because there was no need to. It was not sinful. Gays and straights do not have separate rules.They all must follow the Ten Commandments equally. Which means all can find love and when found must marry and have a family.Any Bible that claims Homosexuality is a sin was altered to say this by modern day Churches in 1946. No Bible copyrighted before 1946 said anything at all about actual homosexuality. Period. This is a matter of historic record.

    .

    • Marvin Boorsma

      So…man laying with man is an abomination to God…or

      Marriage is between one man and one woman, the two shall become one…are not in the original scripts?

  6. Leza Nozz

    One must be convicted and faithfully walk in His word to follow God and His commandments in the New Testament. God gave His children the free will of choice. When we choose to disobey there are grave consequences to those choices and at the end of the day we are held accountable of those choices towards God on judgment day. Resist the urge placing judgement or condemning people who think otherwise on the matter. Judgment isn’t yours to give.

    Government and politics have really twisted and skewed all things holy and sacred in God’s presence. Take heed and cloak in His word for the life of a Christian is filled with challenges. It is indeed a battle everyday.

  7. Larry, not sure where you got your information about Homosexuality not being mentioned in scripture before 1946, but that is undeniably false. Any study of Gods Word would reveal to you Old and New Testement, Gods attitude toward homosexuality. Even Jesus reaffirmed this when he said “for a man shall leave his Mother and Father and be joined to his wife and the two shall be one. “ He was reaffirming Gods order of creation from Genesis. Paul also talks about this in the New Testement . Romans 1:26—27. Is very clear, Also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1Timothy1:9-10. Jesus is called in Scripture The Word of God, the Bible was inspired by God, therefore all the words contained in scripture belong to him, whether a direct quote or not. Now I’m not trying to beat you over the head with scripture,,, and while its true the “Word” homosexual didnt appear till 1946 in English bibles its simply because the word didnt exist in biblical days, not until the 1890’s, but the meaning was, And has always been clear. Denying this doesnt change the facts, and frankly ask yourself, why would I care , if the Bible truly did not condemn this. life would seem, for A while, a lot more free, would it not , if we would ignore the words and warnings of scripture. But the creator who made us gave us an operators manual, knowing the things that would benefit or hurt us. Yes there are other sins the Bible condemns, but the seriousness of Homosexuality is that it is a lifestyle, it becomes a trap to those involved. And while all of us can come to Jesus humbly, and confess our sin and repent and make the choice to be a follower of his, this sin of lifestyle is a particularly entangling sin, in that it permeates the life of the sinner, in his friendships, places he goes, groups he associates with. If you are involved in this sin I pray you would recognize your sin, confess it to the Lord and repent, which means to turn away. And find a solid biblical church to guide you in the truths of Gods Word. Ill simply admonish you as Jesus would, repent, deny your old life, follow me and go and sin no more.

  8. MAV

    Great Article, Julie. Thank you.

  9. I’m no SJW, but once again the church, not doing its job of caring for these children, causes the crisis. There should be no need for governmental involvement. It should be completely covered by the church to begin with.

  10. Jennifer Fredericksen

    Julie Roy’s, it’s proof it is all about the business. The profit trumps the Biblical principles. Would you consider contacting me?

  11. M

  12. Cj

    Good morning everyone,

    What about the parable of the Good Samaritan?

    Most of the ‘Christians’ that have posted here seem a smug and self righteous and they walk past children to need help.

    If you wake up after being hit by a car, do you care if your doctor/paramedic/firefighter is a Christian or just good at there job? A previous generation would have had this discussion about a interacial couple or a divorced woman.

    I am amazed that given that only about 10% (at the most) of divorces meet any sort of Biblical standard that Christians have the gall to lecture anyone about marriage. Where in the Bible does it say that trotting off to the courthouse obsolve vows make at the atler.

    — CJ

  13. Jessica Hockett

    First, this isn’t about Christians walking past children who need help. Your analogy regarding the sexuality of a doctor, firefighter, et al has nothing to do with Bethany’s decision.

    Note that Bethany has NOT said they now condone homosexuality or define marriage in any way except 1 man + 1 woman. On the contrary, Mr. Palusky said, “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.” But he poses a false dilemma, claiming that rejecting government policies (read: $$$) would lead to 100s/1000s of children without loving Christian homes. This is both self-aggrandizing and untrue. I appreciate Julie’s example of ECFA. It’s 1 Samuel 3:20 “for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”

    The other unfortunate angle is CT Magazine’s decision to publish an op-ed that is both logically-flawed and ill-supported, Biblically. The headline they chose is misleading (“Christians Can’t Back Out of the Foster System Now”). Also interesting that the sub-head reads “Bethany CEO: Too many kids need loving families. And that’s why we decided to comply with Michigan’s new requirements.” No allusion to why this decision might be controversial.

    I’m not sure what Mr. Palusky submission looked like (i.e., what changes were advised/made), but I also find it odd that we don’t see what the “issue” is until we’re 2/3 into the article. Op-eds aren’t necessarily written in “inverted pyramid” style, but this is still an intentionally “buried lead” from my POV.

  14. David

    How bout this novel idea? Everybody that calls themselves a “Christian” being LED by the pure Holy Spirit of God through pure obedience to HIS rightly divided Word of Truth and PERSONAL sacrifice.
    Then he would lead each and everyone to each and every child that needs help AND supply ALL the provision needed…….. IT ONLY TAKES FAITH TO BELIEVE……..
    I’m guessing that’s why Jesus said ” Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh shall He find faith
    on the earth”…….
    Man’s ways are not God’s ways……… here let me help you God with my “good” idea…….

  15. Harvest refugee

    As former harvest Bible chapel member I am sick of sanctimonious Christian. Are any of those who would repress a same-sex couples from adopting a child and loving that child, willing to adopt all those unadopted children? Since when did they are religious freedom intitle them two religious suppression of others who wish to enjoyha a loving relationship. Are all homosexual gay lesbian persons to go without love and family?? Stop judging others who wish to love.

  16. David

    Yikes refugee! I can’t hardly understand what you are saying, there are so many spelling errors but I
    can totally sense so much judgment from you towards us here….. we should have a coffee sometime!

    “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

  17. Harvest refugee

    John 4:12 or Leviticus 20:13. ?

  18. Carla

    Absolutely not. Why would a “Christian” adoption agency place children in a sinful lifestyle? If homosexuals want children let them have them naturally.

  19. Nothing will stop MacDonald and others like him except jail time. Fooling others for money is the only thing they know and are good at and there is always a supply of those who enjoy for a while being fooled.

  20. Hey Julie, did you know that your “https” certificate isn’t working? just thought I’d mention it. But, well said in this article! It’s sad to see all of those agencies that should be helping Christians adopt and take care of children… eroding spiritually… I think they are falling under the weight of the new requirements from the Rockefeller-agencies… it’s a mess… Thanks for calling it out!

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