By Josh Bryant
The last week has been absolutely insane. I’ve been a longtime advocate for adoption reform because of unethical adoption practices I unearthed as an adoptive father and attorney who has helped others through an adoption. Churches rightly promote adoption. James 1:27 requires us to care for the orphan, and Jesus told us that the Kingdom belonged to little children (Mt. 19:14). There are times however that our zeal for the orphan blinds us to the sin of those who claim to help in the process of adoption.
Let me tell you the story in a nutshell. My colleagues and I have been aware for some time now that certain adoption practitioners were preying on a marginalized community in my area. Last week, one of those practitioners was indicted on sixty-two criminal counts in three states related to fraudulent adoption practices. He was transporting pregnant women from overseas whom he’d offered $10,000 to place their child up for adoption, housing them in very tight quarters which required some to sleep on the floor, and overall valuing these women only insomuch as they had a commodity in their wombs that he wanted to put up for adoption to his profit. You can read more here. I’ve had the unhappy privilege of working with the team helping clean up the mess left by his practices and arrest.
The good citizen model of organizational ethics analyzes conduct as ethical or unethical by whether the actions constitute good citizenship. It is controversial because people can disagree, and those disagreements can be come political. This is a case in which I do not think there should be any disagreement. Churches which encourage Christians to be foster or adoptive parents are good citizens. Without people to take care of the orphan and abused children, the state is in a bind. Foster care numbers routinely exceed available beds. To obey Scripture and care for the orphan is not only classically ethical, it is simply good citizenship.
Urging Christians to be cautious in working with attorneys and adoption agencies does not diminish the value of civic service churches do when encouraging Christians to adopt. In a 2016 article, the CEO of the National Council for Adoption Chuck Johnson lamented the jeopardy the institution of adoption was in due to declining numbers and unethical practices. Put simply, people are wondering if the process of adoption can be done ethically.
Some may disagree, but the ends cannot justify the means. Christian ethics is deontological, meaning the rules determine the results, are the basis of our actions, are good regardless of the result, and serve as the framework within which the result is calculated. In short, the rules precede the result; the ends cannot justify the means. Generalistic ethics such as this say that a person’s actions depend on the result of those actions. Under that theory, murder is good if the victim was a serial rapist. Surely we cannot approve of a person taking justice into his or her own hands on any biblical basis. Neither can we approve of the selling of a child that would most likely have a better life being adopted than not. While churches should promote adoption and foster care, Christians must use caution when selecting those with whom they obtain help in that process. Church leaders must urge the same.
Church General Counsel Managing Attorney Josh Bryant, J.D., M.Div., authors most of the posts in this section. From time to time, he will post articles from others in the field of church growth, administration, and operations.