Congregations part ways, frustrated with Bethany over same-sex adoption


Karis Wentz

Bethany is the largest Protestant adoption and foster care agency in the United States.

Coopersville Christian Reformed Church’s council voted Monday to remove Bethany Christian Services from their regular offering list, following the adoption and foster care agency’s decision to begin serving LGBTQ couples nationwide.

Coopersville is one of multiple churches in the CRC to part ways with Bethany. The organization is the largest Protestant adoption and foster care agency in the United States. In 2019, Bethany began placing children in Michigan’s foster-care system in LGBTQ homes. 

Bethany provided a statement to Chimes but declined to respond to further questions.

“We are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians of mutual good faith may disagree. We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children,” said Nathan Bult, Bethany’s senior vice president of public & government affairs.

Although the Grand Rapids-based agency is a non-denominational ministry, the CRC has approved BCS for congregational support.

The CRC headquarters declined to comment on this story, as BCS is not accountable to Synod or any other denomination governing bodies. Synod reviews the list of accredited non-denominational organizations annually.

Individual congregations have expressed frustration with Bethany’s policy change. Rev. Tyler Wagenmaker, pastor of Beaverdam CRC in Hudsonville, Michigan, said that his congregation stopped holding offerings for BCS after the 2019 foster-care decision, opting to route those four to six annual offerings to a crisis pregnancy center instead.

Bethany’s decision to serve same-sex couples nationally solidifies Beaverdam’s choices, Wagenmaker said. “By doing this, they alienate many of their traditional supporting churches and families,” said Wagenmaker.

For other churches, the support remains, although the enthusiasm for Bethany’s work has been dampened. Rev. Ken Kruithoff, the pastor of 1st Allendale CRC, said that he can’t think of a single family in his church not touched by adoption or foster-care, some through BCS. “I expect that there will be a certain amount of widespread disappointment in what many will see as ‘caving in’ to the demands of secular culture,” Kruithoff said.

Kruithoff said that it would be better for children to be adopted by a same-sex couple than continue to live in unsafe homes. “What these children need most is a home environment that is safe, stable, and full of love,” Kruithoff said. “Any home that could offer children these things is certainly an upgrade for the child, but the best situation for them would be a traditional family.”

Kruithoff and his family have fostered seven children over three years and adopted one of those children through Bethany last December. Rev. Lloyd Hemstreet of Coopersville CRC and his family previously worked with Safe Families, a Bethany organization. When the Hemstreets wanted to pursue fostering, they opted for Catholic Charities’ program, as they felt that BCS had given in to the Michigan state government’s demands.

Both Wagenmaker and Kruithoff disputed whether BCS needed to serve LGBTQ couples in order to continue their partnerships with state and local governments. Bethany faced legal trouble in both Michigan and Philadelphia for refusing to place children with LGBTQ couples. 

“The reason this decision is causing so much grief is that Bethany is supposed to be a distinctly Christian organization, and many see this as a departure from their projected identity for no good reason,” Kruithoff said. “The reality is that the foster care system is so overloaded that the state needs organizations like Bethany, so this policy change seems more like capitulation to the secular worldview than for a noble cause.”

Wagenmaker pointed to how Catholic Social Services was currently suing the city of Philadelphia for not renewing its contract because the agency does not serve LGBTQ couples.

Multiple pastors suggested that if more families in the CRC were willing to adopt, Bethany would not have made this decision. “If BCS was flooded with Christian homes full of God-fearing spouses who lived and modeled scriptural and historically orthodox marriages, then there would be no need for BCS to make the decision they have,” said Rev. Aaron Greydanus, pastor of Raymond CRC.

Kruithoff said, “Instead of complaining about this, Christians need to step up in a big way. Now is the time to do so.”