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Evangelicals and Adoption: An Evil Obsession?

In an NPR interview earlier this week, Kathryn Joyce took to the airwaves to promote her new book on adoption which she bills as a “shocking exposé of what the adoption industry has become.” However, based on her interviews, endorsements, reviews, and marketing copy for the book, it is more of a hit-and-run journalistic hatchet job on evangelical adoption than a substantive investigation of any kind.

My friend Jonathan Merritt also wrote a helpful piece yesterday at the Religion News Service on this issue in which he exposes similar holes in Joyce’s claims in a Mother Jones article, and I would encourage you to read it as well. As Jonathan explains,

Allegations of child abuse should not be ignored or minimized by anyone for any reason. The proper authorities need to investigate these allegations, and they should not only punish anyone at fault, but also take appropriate measures to prevent this sort of occurrence in the future.

At the same time, one has to make a logical leap of stratospheric proportions to assume that the behaviors of this family are somehow representative of the thousands of Christians who adopt each year. Joyce presumably knows this, so to build her case, she leans on a slew of fringe ministries, publications, and personalities.

So, indeed, the evangelical passion for adoption has increased! But, who knew that adoption was really a bad thing being done by really bad evangelicals…

In the recent NPR interview, Joyce:

  • hinted that the current evangelical adoption movement is in response to bad evangelical PR;
  • claimed that by rescuing orphans physically, adoptive parents also think they are saving their soul;
  • indicated that Christians must reflect their salvation experience by then going and adopting children;
  • shone a spotlight on corruption among adoption agencies;
  • overstated the very real, and very rare, danger of human trafficking through adoption;
  • painted broad, demeaning strokes against all foreign adoptions based on three extreme examples.

Joyce does get right that there has been a boom in evangelical adoption; shockingly, Christian parents do want to raise their children (adopted or natural-born) to one day know Christ as their savior; there are corrupt adoption agencies; and trafficking does happen. I also appreciate her recognition of some positive situations, such as the involvement of Saddleback Church in Rwanda. But based on the testimonies I’ve heard and read from those who are leaders in the evangelical adoption movement, these incidences of corruption are not normative, and this should have been acknowledged even more than it was.

So I’d like to use my blog today to open the discussion beyond the fringes.

I’ve asked some of the most well-respected evangelical authors and leaders involved in adoption to share their response to the claims made in the NPR interview, the Mother Jones article, and Joyce’s book. My guests are:

  • Tony Merida: professor of preaching, conference speaker, church planter, adoptive father to five, and coauthor of Orphanology.
  • Rick Morton: education minister, adoptive father of three, conference speaker, adoption ministry founder, and coauthor of Orphanology.
  • Johnny Carr: national director of church partnerships for Bethany Christian Services, conference speaker, father of two adoptive children, and author of Orphan Justice.
  • Rebecca Caswell: adoptive mother of four and board member of Lemonade International.
  • Jedd Medefind: president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, and former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.