The heavy involvement in foreign adoptions by American evangelicals, many of whom have developed a “theology of orphans,” may be a factor in increasing cases of abuse and corruption among some adoption agencies and the countries of adoptees, according to recent reports. Journalist Kathryn Joyce has been among those reporting on how “some evangelicals have fueled the global adoption frenzy” and how this has had unintended consequences in the growth of trafficked children, according to an interview in Sojourners magazine (September/October).
Joyce says “adoption has become a powerful metaphor in many evangelical churches studying and preaching what has become known as adoption or orphan theology. Many leaders within the movement teach that earthly adoption is a perfect mirror of Christian adoption by God, and it’s a way “Christians can put their faith into action in a very personal way.”
Leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention churches and Saddleback Church’s Rick Warren have urged Christians to consider adopting children from developing countries, and many of the largest adoption agencies are Christian. Joyce adds that evangelical families often enter the international adoption process without realizing the potential for corruption in agencies and impoverished countries, where children might be coerced from poor but intact families.
In the evangelical magazine Books & Culture (August 26), writer Jonathan Merritt acknowledges that the evangelical partnership on adoption, found in such a group as the Christian Alliance for Orphans, seemed a “perfect match…Evangelicals, who routinely affirm the authority of Scripture, were confronted with unambiguous biblical admonitions to care for the ‘least of these’ and to ‘look after orphans and widows in distress.’
Additionally, the new emphasis on adoption tapped into the group’s opposition to abortion.” Merritt also noted
that the huge swell of evangelical adoptions in many countries during the early 2000s was rife with misinformation (such as exaggerating the actual numbers of orphans) and corruption in “sending-
But Merritt argues that Joyce’s reporting of the evangelical adoption movement paints with too wide of a brush. Her portrayal of fringe groups and large home-schooling families, such as those in the conservative “Quiverfull movement” is misleading. It actually represents a small and unrepresentative percentage of evangelicals involved in the issue. He charges that Joyce’s recent book on the subject ignores the work of the evangelical
Bethany Christian Services, the largest adoption agency in the U.S., which has addressed many of Joyce’s concerns, including safeguarding against child trafficking.
(Sojourners, 3333 14th St. NW, Suite 200. Washington, DC 20010; Books & Culture, 465 Gundersen, Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188.)