Bethany Christian Services is an evangelical adoption agency that ranks among the country’s largest adoption and foster care organizations. On Monday, the New York Times reported that in a significant shift, Bethany will begin offering its services to LGBTQ couples. In the past, Bethany, like many other Christian adoption agencies, has refused to place children with same-sex couples.
“We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today,” wrote Bethany president and chief executive Chris Palusky in an email. “We’re taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where all are welcome.”
Bethany is based in Michigan but has offices in 32 states, making it the largest Protestant adoption agency in the U.S. In 2019, it oversaw 3,406 foster placements and 1,123 adoptions. In the past, Bethany would often refer same-sex families looking to adopt to other organizations, which former employees told the NYT was an “informal policy.” But it’s an informal policy that has provided new shortage of legal challenges as a growing number of states have determined that agencies that decline to work with same-sex families are risking their government contracts.
It’s been a point of enormous controversy in the country as numerous agencies have mounted legal challenges to state requirements providing protections to same-sex couples, saying such laws violate religious beliefs regarding same-sex relationships. Bethany’s new statement doesn’t mention LGBT families by name, but does say that “Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.” The policy switch was unanimously approved by the board in January.
“We’re opening the door to more families and more churches,” board member Susanne Jordan told the NYT. “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.”