Christian Orphan Care/Adoption Movement

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Time Period
2000
Description
The early 21st century has seen a dramatic increase in Christian engagement on behalf of orphaned children, ranging from local and intercountry adoption initiatives. The speed of technology and ease of travel have made the Western Church much more aware of global issues, including orphans. The scourge of AIDS created vast numbers of orphans and raised the profile of orphan need.

Many notable Christian leaders, from Rick Warren to John Piper, articulate a clear, biblical call to adoption and orphan care. More than 150 diverse Christian organizations have joined together through the Christian Alliance for Orphans to grow and to guide the movement toward a larger social impact.

The movement has grown highly diverse in expression. Intercountry adoption played a central role in igniting the movement in the early 2000s, but today orphan care leaders encourage local foster initiatives in the United States in addition to international efforts.
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Narrative
The early 21st century has seen a dramatic increase in Christian engagement on behalf of orphaned children, ranging from local and intercountry adoption to foster care to support of global orphan care initiatives. This phenomenon -- described by Christianity Today as "the burgeoning orphan care movement" (Books to Note, July 2011) -- represents both a contemporary trend and the resurgence of an ancient Christian emphasis.

Care for orphans has been a primary expression of Christian faith since the earliest days of the Church. Leaders were expected to be "lovers of orphans" (Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi). Meanwhile, many laypersons throughout history -- from Afra of Augsburg in the third century to George Mueller in the 19th century -- have led major undertakings to care for orphans. These have ranged from orphan homes to adoption to support of orphan-widow families.

Several factors have helped fuel the 21st century renaissance of this commitment. The speed of technology and ease of travel have made the Western Church much more aware of global issues, including orphans. The scourge of AIDS created vast numbers of orphans and raised the profile of orphan need. Many notable Christian leaders -- from Steven Curtis Chapman to Rick Warren to Russell Moore to John Piper -- articulated a clear, biblical call to adoption and orphan care. Finally, more than 150 diverse Christian organizations have joined together through the Christian Alliance for Orphans to grow and to guide the movement, gaining a voice and impact far larger than any one organization could achieve alone.

The movement has grown highly diverse in expression. Intercountry adoption played a central role in igniting the movement in the early 2000s. Today, local foster care in the United States, international orphan ministry, support of local orphan care movements in developing countries, and focused family preservation efforts are all primary expressions of the movement in action.

Among the indicators of the movement’s growth is the annual Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s (ECFA) annual State of Giving Report, which tracks growth in giving by Christians in 27 discreet categories. For three consecutive years, the report has shown double-digit increases annually in giving to both orphan care and adoption. Each year, both have ranked in the top five among 27 categories for year-over-year giving increases.

The movement also grows increasingly global in scope. National and regional movements are expanding from Ukraine to Guatemala to Kenya. Orphan Sunday -- which began in Zambia to celebrate God’s love for orphans and how ordinary Christians can make a difference -- was known in just a handful of countries in 2010. By 2014, Orphan Sunday was celebrated in thousands of churches across more than 60 countries.

The movement is not without critics. Some interpret all of it as thinly veiled prolife activism. Others point out ways that enthusiastic yet poorly informed efforts to aid orphans can bring undesirable consequences. These include the risk of children being placed for adoption who might have been able to live with their family of origin, and the danger that the presence of well-funded orphanages could pull children out of poor-but-intact families. Many leaders within the movement strongly affirm the seriousness of such hazards and work to erect safeguards against ill-advised care efforts.

While still young, the orphan care movement of the early 21st century evidences a substantive reawakening to a historic Christian initiative.
Biographies
Piper, John
Warren, Rick
Photographs

The Global Orphan Project brochures- Flickr- photo by The Global Orphan Project (CC BY 2.0)

Pictures of children being adopted from India at a u-pick farm- Wikimedia Commons- US Army photo

The Harmons and their foster children- National Archives and Records Administration

Steven Curtis Chapman concert with orphaned kids- Flickr- photo by ashley.adcox (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sophia Restoration Centre AIDS Orphan Care Group- Flickr- photo by khym54 (CC BY 2.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442244320/The-Encyclopedia-of-Christianity-in-the-United-States-5-Volumes
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Jedd Medefind

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