A major, evangelical-run adoption and fostering agency in the U.S. has informed staff that it will extend its services to LGBTQ people.
The Michigan-based Bethany Christian Services was established 77 years ago. Until recently, it did not allow same-sex couples to adopt or foster. It would typically refer gay couples to other agencies.
That changed in Michigan in 2019 after the state said it would stop funding adoption agencies that discriminated against gay people.
Bethany changed its policies within the state following that ruling. Now, in a memo sent to staff nationwide on Monday, it has said that it will be extending its more inclusive policy across the U.S., with immediate effect.
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In an email sent to 1,500 staff, and reported by the New York Times, the organization’s President and Chief Executive, Chris Palusky, said, “We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today.
“We’re taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where all are welcome.”
Bethany operates in 32 states. In 2019, it facilitated 3,406 foster placements and 1,123 adoptions. Besides Michigan, it had already begun to work with LGBTQ families in four other states, often following the threat of losing contracts or funding being cut if it did not do so.
Bethany Christian Services turned away a lesbian couple in 2018 in Philadelphia, with a representative telling them the agency had never placed a child with a same-sex couple. The city subsequently suspended its contract with Bethany and another Christian agency: Catholic Social Services.
Bethany promptly changed its policy in the region, but Catholic Social Services took the matter to court. The Supreme Court is due to announce a ruling on that case this summer.
Bethany’s new policy was quietly, unanimously approved by its 14-member national board on January 21st. It does not use the phrase ‘LGBTQ’ but instead says it will, “implement a nationwide policy of inclusivity in order to serve all families.”
“Faith in Jesus is at the core of our mission. But we are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians of mutual good faith may disagree,” Nate Bult, Bethany’s vice president said, reports Christianity Today.
“We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children.”
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One board member, Susanne Jordan told the New York Times, the agency expected some criticism from some Christian groups over the policy change.
“We recognize there are people who will not be happy. We may lose some donors. But the message we’re trying to give is inviting people alongside of us. Serving children should not be controversial.”