“Historically, our church has done a wonderful job of preparing people for eternity, from a spiritual standpoint, but when our presiding bishop came into office he made the decision that we needed to focus even more on preparing people for living in this present world,” said Bishop Edwin Bass, in charge of the denomination’s urban initiatives program.
The initiative helps churches develop programs in five areas: access to quality education, economic development, crime prevention, strengthening families, and financial literacy.
“It’s a change from our normal business,” said Bass, a former marketing senior vice president for Blue Cross Blue Shield whose home congregation, the Empowered Church, is in Spanish Lake, Mo.
“The good news is a lot of our churches are on board.”
By the end of June — and as early as next week — the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of gay marriage nationwide. In a pre-emptive move to refocus narrative and legislative control at the state level, two states this week enacted laws designed to protect religious objection to same-sex couples. Here's how.
For the past 20 years or so, adoption has grown to become a staple of much of Christian culture in America. So much so that one could actually argue that adoption has become trendy within evangelical circles. As I’ve said before, if something were to become trendy, I’m glad that helping kids in need is one of them — though the trendiness of adoption has certainly led to some negative outcomes as well. While I won’t get into all of the aspects where adoption culture has gone wrong — that could take a series of posts — I do want to address what I feel is the most critical oversight we have made, and how we begin to fix it.
Orphan care is critical to the life of a Christian whether one is called to adopt (and trust me, not everyone is called to adopt — it’s not all rainbows and sunshine kisses). Caring for orphans is something we see consistently expressed in both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, James goes as far as saying that caring for widows and orphans is the only religion that God finds acceptable. While Christian culture for the past few decades has certainly taken that calling seriously, I think it is time for adoption culture to shift its focus in order to take the issue more seriously and to more effectively address the real issue at hand.
How did we miss the most important aspect of orphan care? This stems from a misunderstanding and misdiagnosis of the problem. Much of adoption culture has been led to believe that there is an orphan crisis in the world today with somewhere around 153 million children being orphaned. On the surface, this number of 153 million (provided by UNICEF) understandably leads one to believe that tonight there will be 153 million children who will go without the loving embrace of their parents. It’s a number so staggering that one can easily understand why culture mobilized and began adopting these children at rapid pace.
Before she and her husband adopted a son and daughter from Ethiopia, popular evangelical blogger Jen Hatmaker said she had a different view about race in America.
“A couple years ago, I would’ve said we’re moving to a post-racial society because I was so under-exposed to people of color and the issues they deal with on a daily basis,” said the white Christian author, whose home renovation to make space for their growing family of seven was recently featured on HGTV.
As evangelicals have turned their attention toward adoption in the past decade, families like the Hatmakers are grappling with race relations in a profoundly personal way, especially as national news spotlights racial tension in New York, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.
And evangelicals aren’t alone: A new Gallup poll found that 13 percent of Americans believe racism is the country’s most important problem, the highest figure since the 1992 verdict in the Rodney King case sparked riots in Los Angeles.
And, as Gallup noted: “After barely registering with Americans as the top problem for two decades, race relations now matches the economy in Americans’ mentions of the country’s top problem, and is just slightly behind government (15 percent).”
At 5 a.m. on a Friday last August, 20-year-old Joshua Jank’s condition was worsening. Nurses at his hospice home in Fort Wayne, Ind. told his mother to gather anyone who wanted to say a last goodbye.
“Josh spiraled downward very quickly,” Brenda Jank told Sojourners. “In less than two weeks he went from being at home without oxygen to being in the hospice house. He just hit it – a perfect storm.”
It was in the midst of that perfect storm that a movement was born.
O gracious God, we thank you for getting us through 2013 — cantankerous, contentious bickering mess that it was on many public and political fronts — and we pray that you will help us to look back on it as the low-water mark from which American society emerged more civil and united.
For us to see an answer to that prayer, we must resolve to begin 2014 by climbing into stronger, healthier relationships with other people — not waiting stubbornly for them to come around to our way of thinking but deliberately moving to a position from which we love them more, understand them better, and honor our God in a new way.
Move far enough in this way, and we will turn our fractious society upside down.
When people first see our family, they often do a bit of a double take. At first glance, we don’t necessarily look like we go together. My husband and I are both Caucasian, with a quarter Cherokee in me that gives me a little bit of color. Our children are both beautiful African Americans of different shades. When we’re out in public and my son calls out to me, “Mom!” or our daughter calls to my husband, “Dad?” it just doesn’t look “normal.”
The interesting thing that I have learned through being an adoptive parent, especially in a transracial adoption, is that we are a visual testimony to the Kingdom of God. Not everyone might receive us or see us in this way, but the reality is that as Christians, we have all been adopted by God to be a part of his family. Galatians 4:4-6 says this: “But when the right time came, God sent his son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
A controversial Muslim scholar-turned-television-host has given away at least two abandoned babies during his live TV show in Pakistan, saying “it is real Islam” and not exploitation because the infants find homes with couples who want to adopt.
Jesus flips things upside down. DC 127 plans to follow suit.
The Washington, D.C.-based foster care initiative created by the District Church seeks to reverse the foster care waitlist in our nation’s capital, leaving parents waiting to foster the 3,000 children currently on the list instead of children waiting to be taken in by families.
“The heart behind DC 127 is to reflect God’s heart,” said District Church Lead Pastor Aaron Graham. “We believe there are no orphans in heaven. And Jesus taught us to pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And so our prayer is that we would reflect God’s heart, who’s adopted us, by helping adopt and foster kids in D.C.”
Recently Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, talked with Religion News Service about why more evangelicals should adopt.
At the level of the common good, this is something that all people should be concerned about. But it’s consistent for evangelical Christians to be pro-orphan.
What most churches want, when they start to think about this issue, is a preprogrammed initiative, a set of instructions. I don’t think this issue works that way. It has to be organic. It has to be flexible. It has to create a culture within a congregation.
It will be congregational cultures that start to change with the inclusion of the families who are adopting and fostering and caring for orphans. I think that’s a long-term project over a generation, not something short-term.
Read more here.
In a classic 1960 children's book, a baby bird toddles up to one critter after another asking, "Are you my mother?"
For some babies today, there's no simple answer — biologically or legally.
Advances in artificial reproductive technologies mean a baby could have three "mothers" — the genetic mother, the birth mother and the intended parent, who may be a woman or a man.
Statutes on surrogacy, adoption, divorce and inheritance vary state by state, court by court, decision by decision. For nontraditional couples, the patchwork of laws makes it even more complex. New York allows gay marriage but forbids surrogacy, for example, while Utah permits surrogacy but bans gay marriage.
My neighbors signed my report card.
Having had the same conversation countless times in my life, I have learned that one sentence sums up a cacophony of explanations.
It is tricky, I have found, trying to explain why friends are listed as my emergency contacts, why I wake up Christmas morning in the home of people to whom I am not related, and why my parents — both living — have been anything but.
The separation started so long ago that I struggle to remember exactly when it began. When I was starting middle school my mom’s depression hit hard and fast. My dad, who understands love as a finite commodity, could not muster any for me. Loving her meant giving all of it to try to save her. His attempts and inability to do so created a stress that amplified his MS from inconvenient to disabling.
In a moment, it seemed, they were gone.
We were wealthy and Southern and had everything that went along with both: a close-knit community, punctilious social obligations, and money to stay afloat. In the world in which I grew up, everyone surely knew everything about everyone, but damn if they weren’t polite enough to pretend it was all OK. It was a magnificent masquerade.
But the truth remained: I was an orphan.
Hundreds of thousands of embryos are stored in high-tech storage facilities across the United States. To an increasing number evangelical Christians, that’s hundreds of thousands of babies.
Conservative Christians have long joined hands to oppose abortion, often following the lead of the Roman Catholic Church. But evangelicals are leading the charge in adopting embryos, and encouraging people who have stockpiles of frozen embryos to make them available for adoption.
During a decade-long stretch of federal funding to promote embryo adoption, evangelical organizations received most of the $21 million doled out. That funding was cut in July, but leaders at those organizations say the word is spreading about embryo adoption.
When Becky Morlock was asked to adopt a son from India, she said a prayer. Then she hired a lawyer.
More than four years and a long legal battle later, the one-time missionary has returned to the U.S. as a mom with her son Kyle, who was given to her as a newborn. He was just two days old when his birth mother surrendered him as she was discharged from a hospital in the foothills of the Himalayas.
That was the only time Kyle's two mothers met, and their meeting likely saved his life. It also tested adoption laws in two countries half a world apart.
International adoptions have become more difficult and less frequent with tightening laws aimed to curb child trafficking and adoption fraud. In the last eight years, numbers have dropped from a high of 22,991 in 2004 to 9,319 last year, according the U.S. State Department.
As many of us head back to work or school and continue to recover from our post-Thanksgiving-turkey-induced food comas, let us remember that November is National Adoption Month. While we can be thankful that over 1.5 million children have found permanent homes through adoption (according to 2000 census), there are still 107,000 young people awaiting adoption in the U.S. foster care system.
National Adoption Month, which began in 1995 under President Clinton, seeks to celebrate and raise awareness about adoption around the country. Today, the White House is sponsoring an event to honor National Adoption Month with “senior Administration officials, members of the President’s Cabinet, adoption and child welfare experts and advocates, and religious leaders,” according to the White House blog for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
And I'll be your new tour guide here at God's Politics.
Some of you may know me by my more official byline, Cathleen Falsani. I've been a contributing editor and columnist for Sojourners Magazine for several years now, writing a column every other month called "Godstuff" and also have contributed from time to time to this'a'here blog.