I am thankful to be one of the speakers at the 2017 Together for Adoption National Conference in Atlanta, GA (September 29th-30th). The focus of the conference is “the image of God, the gospel, and the orphan”. During the conference, we will explore what the implications of being made in the image of God have on adoption, fostercare, and orphancare.
This is our precious son.
We have taught him about MLK, and that Americans have not always been nice to brown skinned people.
But, it breaks my heart to think that one day I will have to fully explain to him the complex brokenness of our world.
One day I will have to fully explain our country’s disgraceful history of racial discrimination.
One day I will have to help him understand that we, as a country, have not fully moved beyond these racial issues.
Thankfully, I will also get to point him to the coming day that we read about in Revelation 21.
The day when our loving Father “will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things will have passed away.”
On that day, God will “make all things new.”
On that day every believer, from every “tribe and people”, will “stand before the throne and before the Lamb”, as one (Revelation 7).
How long, O Lord?
This was originally posted at The Biblical Recorder.
I will always remember the moment that Laura and I received Solomon into our care. We were in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our driver came and picked us up from the guest house and drove us through the city into the hills and up to a gated house full of orphaned children. Laura and I stood outside the gate while one of the agency case workers went inside, and after a few moments, our agency worker opened the gate and walked out into the street and handed us our son.
We turned and got back into the van and got situated. As the van pulled off Solomon started screaming and crying frantically. This little child had no clue what was going on. We were pulling baby Solomon away from everything he had ever known. But after a few minutes, he reached his little arms around Laura’s neck and tightened his grip and held on for dear life.
It was moving to see Solomon hold onto Laura, but what really mattered, was Laura holding onto Solomon. Laura and I knew where we were going. We also knew that he was our son.
Solomon came to understand this reality as time went on.
Since that moment, I have never been able to read passages like 1 John 3:1-10 the same: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
As J.I. Packer once said in his classic book, Knowing God: “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.”
As we live the Christian life, we must realize that years may transpire before the believer who is adopted by God may know that he is adopted, have a deep sense of feeling of it. We live in the comfort and hope of our loving Father’s arms. And as we grow, that reality shapes us more and more as we head towards eternity.
The Church has always been God’s plan for building his kingdom, and this includes securing justice for the poor and most vulnerable. Altar 84 desires to work intimately with the Body of Christ to care for the least of these, the orphan. On Friday, March 7th and Saturday March 8th, 2014, Altar84’s kNOw More Orphans Conference will seek to unite the church community for the call to care for orphans and vulnerable children – right here and around the world. The conference will provide AWARENESS of God’s Word and his command to take ACTION.
If you are interested in leading your church to care for orphans and building a church culture of adoption and foster care, I encourage you to consider this conference. The speakers for this conference include David Platt, Russell Moore, Tony Merida, Rick Morton, and more. I will also be leading a breakout session on orphan care and the teaching ministry of the church. I hope to see you there! To find out more click here.
The Ministry of Together for Adoption
Laura and I are so grateful for the ministry of Together for Adoption. Several years ago we attended the national conference in Franklin, TN, while waiting to adopt our son Solomon. If you have adopted, are in the process of adopting, or praying about adopting I would encourage you to attend the Together for Adoption National Conference on October 4-5 at Southern Seminary. If you do attend, prepare to be inspired and equipped for adoption, foster care and global orphan ministry. Here are the details.
Six rich general sessions. Sixty tool-gathering workshops. One breathtaking Story.
In the Bible, Adoption is a story-word. God’s work of adoption within the world is a story that encompasses all of human history, from its pre-temporal beginnings when God predestined us to “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-6) to the eventual renewal of all creation (Romans 8:23)—the Day when everything sad comes untrue. From the Apostle Paul’s perspective, Adoption is the redemptive Story that changes everything for us and the fatherless.
Alongside the six rich plenary sessions, our national conference will provide more than sixty tool-gathering workshops led by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, Dr. Randy Stinson, Johnny Carr, Dr. Jon Bergeron, Gerrit Dawson, Susan Hillis, Elizabeth Styffe, and many other global leaders.
Together for Adoption National Conference Details
General Session Topics
- The Story Gone Wrong (Mike Reeves, author of Delighting in the Trinity)
- Stories of the Fatherless (Dr. Sharen Ford, Manager of Colorado State’s Permanency Services Unit)
- The Story Re-Written (Dan Cruver)
- Our Lives Re-Written (Mike Reeves)
- Stories of the Fatherless Re-Written (Vermon Pierre)
- When Everything Sad Comes Untrue (Scotty Smith)
8 Breakout Session Tracks
- Stories about Beginning the Adoption Journey (Pre-Adoption)
- Stories from Experienced Adoptive Families (Post-Adoption)
- Stories from Experienced Adoptive Families with Special Needs
- Stories about Foster Care within Families
- Stories about the Orphan Crisis from Experienced Organizations
- Stories about Financing your Adoption Journey
- Stories about Developing Ministries for Adoption/Orphan Care Movement
- Stories about God’s Work through the Theology of Adoption
Download the PDF version of the Breakout Sessions listed according to their Story-Tracks.
I count our adoption as a great privilege and stewardship granted by God. When we celebrate birthdays, watch movies as a family, and wrestle like superheroes I am reminded of the beauty of adoption that brought us together as a family. This child who was once an orphan now loves me and calls me daddy. When I look at him I don’t see our differences, I see my son. The first time I held him as a baby in the agency house on a hillside in Africa, I fell in love with him. As we stood in front of the judge in Addis Ababa and she pronounced that we were his parents, I felt the weight of the profound task of fatherhood. Though I am not a perfect father, here are two things I do know: God providentially arranged for Solomon to be in our family, and I am called to continue the Christian heritage passed unto me by my own father – both in gospel word, and kingdom deed.
Through our adoption I have learned many things about fatherhood, and more importantly, many things about the gospel. My prayer is that our story would encourage all who read it.
I thought it would be helpful to provide some context to the discussion on adoption and orphan care in light of Kathryn Joyce’s recent comments on NPR related to her new book The Child Catchers. Joyce does raise legitimate concerns about orphan care and adoption systems in her article, though she is a little too inflammatory and cynical in her diagnosis. Joyce rightly observes that we live in a fallen and broken world. However, broken systems do not dismantle our call to care for neglected children. Christians are also broken people saved by the grace of God. We still see through a glass dimly. There are times when we could have addressed these issues with more wisdom. My concern here is that Joyce is a little off the mark in discerning our motivation behind orphan care.
As for Southern Baptists…
In this post I can only offer one opinion from a specific sector of the evangelical world, namely, the Southern Baptist Convention. Also, I am only going to respond to part of her observation about the evangelical world of adoption. I have not read the book. But, in the interview she argues that;
“Evangelicals felt that they had kind of unfairly lost a claim to the good works side of Christianity, the social gospel, the helping the poor,” she tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies, “and so they wanted a way to get back into doing something for poor people’s rights, and adoption and orphan care came about as something that, I think, they could really invest themselves into without challenging or changing their stances on the other social issues that they care about.”
To be fair, evangelicals have picked up involvement in adoption and orphan care in recent history. But the reason for doing so is not because adoption and orphan care are simple social causes that we can jump on without challenging or changing our stances on the other social issues. The impetus behind the movement is rooted in the resurgence of conservative theology. In June of 2009 the SBC overwhelmingly passed a resolution proposed by Russell D. Moore promoting adoption and orphan care, which in part reads:
That we encourage local churches to champion the evangelism of and ministry to orphans around the world, and to seek out ways to energize Southern Baptists behind this mission.
Interestingly, orphan care has long been a part of Southern Baptist life. Since our very beginning, Southern Baptists have taken the call to orphan care as a divine mandate. In 1845 the Southern Baptist Convention was formed with two cooperative ministries and one agenda. The two ministries were the Foreign Mission Board (Now the International Mission Board) and the Domestic Mission Board (Now the North American Mission Board). The initial agenda of the Convention was simple; to combine the efforts of autonomous churches for one sacred effort, namely, the proclamation of the gospel and the demonstration of Jesus kingdom. One phrase in the original constitution of the SBC reflects this clearly:
“It shall be the design of this convention to promote Foreign and Domestic Missions, and other important objects connected with the redeemer’s kingdom.”
While orphan care fell under the banner of ‘other important objects’, it was important none the less. The foundation for such social ministries came from the desire to provide gospel signs amid the rubble of a broken world.
Adoption in Early Southern Baptist Theology
“Baptists have long been considered a ‘people of the Book.’ Various Baptist confessions demonstrate the way in which the Bible is viewed as the Word of God and is, therefore, authoritative for the faith and practice of every believer and church”. In the larger framework of evangelical Christianity, Southern Baptists have not always been known for their contributions to theology. As one historian put it, Southern Baptists “have been more active than contemplative; they have produced more doers than thinkers”.
Yet searching the work of early Southern Baptist theologians provides a glimpse into the importance of the biblical doctrine of adoption. Baptist Theologian John L. Dagg opens his discussion on the theology of adoption by explaining it as it is practiced among men: “an individual receiving the son of another into his family, and conferring upon him the same privileges and advantages, as if he were his own son.” Unlike Northern Baptist theologian Augustus Strong, who placed adoption as a sub-category of justification, Dagg argued that the theological truth of adoption is a blessing that rises higher than justification because in its relational aspects adoption secures the love of God, the discipline of God, and believers are made heirs of God.
The relational aspect of the doctrine of adoption is further described by Southern Baptist James Petigru Boyce, who wrote that “the sonship ascribed to the believer in Christ, is best understood by considering its gracious origin, its peculiar nature, and the wondrous blessing which it confers.” Boyce noted that one experiences a “closer and more endearing relation to God” because of one’s adoption through Christ. Like today, the stunning reality of one’s adoption in Christ was most likely the theological motivation for the early Southern Baptist’s orphan care endeavors.
Orphan Care in Early Southern Baptist History
If one takes a close look at the denomination’s history they will find that Southern Baptists organized several orphanages across the southern states dating back to the 1860’s, most of which ministered to Civil War orphans. The correspondence of the Domestic Mission Board’s secretary, W.S. Webb, concerning the situation of orphans in Mississippi following the Civil War enables us to see the importance of orphan care in our early history as a convention. Historian Keith Harper notes that Webb “estimated that there were some 5,000 to 10,000 orphans in the state and some 50,000 Baptists whom he chided for neglecting Biblical commands to care for the poor and needy”. Ignoring the call to care for orphans, argued Webb, “would mark [Southern Baptists] with a pusillanimity that would deserve contempt from the world.” While Webb’s challenge went unheeded by some of his specific audience, there were Southern Baptists who took up the call for orphan care. Harper writes:
Southern Baptist orphanages tried to provide the best possible medical care and education for their children. They also tried to provide a homelike atmosphere that gave orphaned children, in addition to mere shelter, a sense of stability in community.
Beyond that, Baptists were influential in developing orphan care systems such as the ‘cottage plan’ orphanage (placing children in self-sustaining cottages with a housemother), the ‘placing out system’ (a forerunner to modern foster care), and even the ‘apprenticeship model’ (placing children in specific homes for training in an industrial trade or framing skills) throughout the American south. Even today state children’s homes continue to be a part of the Southern Baptist convention’s care for domestic orphans.
There is a rich history behind the efforts of orphan care in the Southern Baptist Convention. Though we are currently separated from the founding efforts recalled above by over a century, Southern Baptists still have a divine mandate and a social situation that calls us to care for the orphans. It is interesting to note, as one historian posits, that the controversies of the 1970’s and 1980’s between the conservatives and moderates over the authority of the Bible was more closely tied to the abortion issue, thus the sanctity of human life, than many Southern Baptists realize. However, there seems to be little evidence of an adoption and orphan care movement during this period.
Perhaps this was due to the hesitation among conservatives towards social endeavors as an implication of the moderate’s drift towards a theologically bankrupt social agenda. Even still, there has always been a desire among Southern Baptists to seek the welfare of the city and to love one’s neighbor as a sign accompanying the proclamation of the gospel, even if we haven’t gone about engaging these issues in the wisest way. Nevertheless, the divine mandate is still before us. The specific call pertaining to orphan care is well reflected in our current denominational summary of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message:
We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.
Since its conception, the Southern Baptist Convention has out grown its name. Our gospel efforts reach far beyond the southern states of North America. Moreover, there is still an orphan crisis. Immediate indigenous situations (like the civil war) are no longer the sole source of the orphan crisis. Globalization has flattened our distance from third world poverty, the AIDS epidemic, and unwanted pregnancies.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest protestant denomination in the United States, with over 44,000 churches in all fifty states, and is now more than 160 years old. If the Church is truly, as Merida and Morton argue, the most powerful force in the world, then we must not remain silent or still. As for the Southern Baptist Convention specifically, according to historian Nathan Finn, the strength and longevity of the convention is evidence that, “…autonomous churches believe that they can accomplish more when they work together than they can as individual congregations.”
I am thankful for the resurgence in connecting our orthodoxy to orthopraxy. Like our early Southern Baptist theologians, are regaining a sense of God’s heart for the helpless. Moreover, we need to consider the model of early Southern Baptists who saw their mission in terms of both evangelization and social outreach to the less fortunate. May we be faithful and fruitful in advocating for the poor, marginalized, abandoned, and fatherless.
Below is the full text of a post written by my friend Trevin Wax titled 8 Reasons for the Media Blackout on Kermit Gosnell
On Twitter and FaceBook today, #Gosnellis trending. The reason for the social media buzz is the strange silence of the mainstream media regarding one of the most gruesome murder trials in American history.
To put the Kermit Gosnell trial in perspective, consider other famous cases of child-killing. From Susan Smith toAndrea Yates, and most recently the horror of Newtown, we are accustomed to 24/7 news coverage of these types of tragedies.
Not so with Dr. Gosnell.
Here are the reasons why:
1. The Gosnell case involves an abortionist.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the abortionist must be portrayed as a victim of hate and intolerance, not a perpetrator of violence. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortionist” separate from testimony about dead women and children.
2. The Gosnell case involves an unregulated abortion clinic.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the clinic must be portrayed as a “refuge” for women in distress, not a “house of horrors” where women are taken advantage of. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortion clinic” away from negative connotations.
3. The Gosnell case involves protestors who, for years, stood outside 3801 Lancaster and prayed, warning people about what was taking place inside.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the protestors must be portrayed as agitators and extremists, not peaceful people who urge mothers to treasure the miracle inside them. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps the abortion protestors from looking like heroes.
4. The Gosnell case involves gruesome details about living, viable babies having their spinal cords “snipped” outside the womb.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the details of an abortion procedure are to be avoided. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps people from asking why such violent killing is unjust moments after birth, yet acceptable at any other time during the pregnancy.
5. The Gosnell case raises the question of human rights.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the discussion must always be framed in terms of a woman’s “reproductive rights,” not a baby’s “human rights.” But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps people from asking why “reproductive rights” should trump “human rights” – or why a doctor devoted to “reproductive rights” would (without any apparent twinge of conscience) violate human rights so egregiously.
6. The Gosnell case involves the regulation of abortion clinics.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the clinic must be portrayed as under siege from anti-abortion extremists. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that will keep people from pushing for policy change and further regulation of Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.
7. The Gosnell case exposes the disproportionate number of abortion clinics in inner cities and the disproportionate number of abortions among minority groups.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the discussion must be framed in terms of providing “access” for low-income, minority women. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps people from wondering if perhaps some abortion providers are “targeting” low-income, minority women.
8. The Gosnell case competes with recent stories about states enacting broad laws banning many abortions.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the choice of coverage must focus on the threat to a woman’s “right to choose.” But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that will keep Americans from joining together to enact more common-sense regulation of late-term abortions.
Lord, have mercy on us.