Bethany Drops Ban on Catholic Adoptions

Published: Jul. 20, 2005 at 10:23 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2005 at 12:13 PM CDT
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By Davis Brister

Judgment day has come for a group of Christians looking for change in a top state adoption agency's policy.

Wednesday, the national and state boards for Bethany Christian Services announced the adoption of new measures which will allow Catholics to use their agency.

This time last week Bethany Christian Services in Mississippi did not allow Catholics to adopt because they did not agree with their statement of faith.

Now, they're apologizing for what they say was a misunderstanding and hoping their new policy gives birth to greater dialogue between Catholics and Protestants.

Bethany Christian Services, State Director, Karen Stewart says,

"Any time your practice is questioned in any way," said Bethany state director Karen Stewart, "that's serious. It's something you need to look at and reflect upon."

So the Board of Directors at Bethany Christian Services of Mississippi took action. Leaders say the decision was a week in the making.

"We actually met last week," Stewart said. "(We) began to look at this (and) evaluate the practice."

Tuesday night the board met again and changed its policy. They'll now allow Mississippi Catholics to adopt.

Sandy and Robert Stedman, Catholics who were turned away from Bethany, were pleased with the change. "We came together as Christians and Americans and Mississippians, and we resolved a solution very peacefully and very Christlike," Sandy Steadman said.

"I just appreciate Bethany for taking care of this in a fast manner," Robert Stedman said. "It's not fair, and it never was fair."

Bethany also drew praise from leaders in the Catholic Community, including Father Kent Cowlds. "This was never about condeming them (Bethany)," he said. "We realize a lot of unborn children have been saved because of their work."

That's what leaders at Bethany want people to know. "Since 1984, Bethany has been an alternative to abortion ministry," Stewart says.

The service has also been a place where more than 400 couples have adopted children.

Now that Catholics have been added into the mix, all sides say there is no looking back. "As Christians, we do need to stand together," said Stewart. "We need to dialogue more, we need to understand each other more."

Sandy Stedman says many people asked her why she and her husband took their concern over the matter to the media. "It was never to divide," she says. "It was only to unite."

The national Bethany board has passed a measure that requires all local boards to comply with their policy. Nationally, Catholics have been able to adopt.

As for the Stedmans, they've found an agency in Utah where they plan to adopt their first child. If they ever decide to adopt again, they say they wouldn't hesitate to return to Bethany.