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The Gospel and Transracial Adoption

by Dan Cruver Published Nov 24, 2008

jb-watkins.pngTogether for Adoption is committed to helping Christians think theologically about all things adoption. One of the ways we seek to do this is through occasional interviews. Today’s post is our second interview that deals with the issue of transracial adoption.

Our guest is J.B. Watkins, Senior Pastor of St. Roch Community Church, a multi-cultural congregation called to serve the St. Roch and St. Claude neighborhoods of New Orleans. Desire Street Ministries planted St. Roch Community Church in an effort “to replicate its model of incarnational ministry and indigenous leadership development.” Danny Wuerffel, Executive Director of Desire Street Ministries, writes: “Desire Street Ministries exists—to revitalize impoverished urban neighborhoods through spiritual and community development. As a part of that mission, we consciously try to combat injustice and to share God’s heart for the poor.” St. Roch Community Church was launched in January 2007 as a result of this mission. It is a community of believers that is committed to preaching the gospel in word and deed, discipling children, youth, and adults, and addressing the felt needs of these New Orleans’ urban communities.

1. J.B., tell us a little about yourself and your ministry in New Orleans.

My name is J.B. Watkins and I am the Pastor of the St. Roch Community Church plant. Having been planted by Desire Street Ministries, we are a diverse body of believers affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America and located in the inner-city of New Orleans, Louisiana. St. Roch, as a core group, began meeting in February of 2007 for bible study with but a handful of people and plenty of children. Currently on average, we have about 20 adults and depending on the location, anywhere from 25-35 children attending our Sunday evening bible studies. As for myself, I recently joined St. Roch as the Pastor in August of 2007 by way of a previous ministry in Memphis TN. As a church, it is our desire to see the whole of the community by which we reside (St. Roch/ St. Claude), become transformed in every sphere of its existence by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. My wife and I adopted two black boys as infants. They are now six and five. How important do you think it is for white parents to connect their black children to the black community and their black heritage?

I believe that it is very important. As a child with black skin, he will somehow or another always be identified with those of the same skin color. As such, the opportunity should be afforded them to connect with the black community as well as their black heritage. This can have a very positive affect upon the child in that he will be enriched with the different experiences of being raised by white parents and yet having full access and awareness of his black identity. Not only would this prove beneficial for the children but for the different-race parents as well.

3. How can different-race parents help their adopted children deal with racism?

For one, I believe that it is very important to be truthful and upfront about it. The sad fact is that racism, though not as open or blatant as times past, is still very much so alive. This need not be hidden nor denied but carefully and sincerely explained.

But not only is it important to be truthful and upfront about racism, I also believe that this issue must be handled and addressed from a biblical perspective. I believe that the children should from an early age be made aware of the beautiful diversity of God’s creation, which includes ethnical backgrounds. And any attempt to discredit or deny such beauty must be attributed to the devastating effects of sin. In addition to such, different-race parents must help their adopted children to see and appreciate the culmination of the gospel—namely that day in which all types of people will equally, as it pertains to race, stand before the throne of the Lamb giving praise and thanks for what he has done. And not only will this be the case, it should likewise be reflected here and now.

4. Many different-race children struggle with the differences they discover between themselves and their different-race parents. How might the gospel influence how parents address this struggle?

As a biracial child with predominantly African-American features (skin complexion, hair, etc.), I have often struggled with such differences myself—my mother being biracial with predominantly Euro-American features and my father being African-American). One way in which the gospel may influence how parents address this struggle is to help their children to see that the gospel allows for certain differences and likewise celebrates them. It is an all-too common error to associate the reality of differences with problems. And this need not always be the case. Different-race children must be helped to understand that the gospel allows for differences and as such to be different in many aspects by all means ok.

5. Many multi-ethnic families live in non-integrated neighborhoods. They often fear that this will have negative effects upon their transracially adopted children. Is this a legitimate concern? If so, what can multi-ethnic families in this situation do to address this?

I believe that most concerns as they relate to transracial issues are legitimate, this particular fear included. While it would be a wonderful and profitable experience for transracial families to live in integrated neighborhoods, those who do not live in such can offset such fears in a number of ways. The most obvious would be to move to an integrated neighborhood. Another avenue would be to provide a way of access in which different-race children could be connected to environments or neighborhoods akin to their race. This could be done in a number of ways as well. Different-race children could be sent to schools that have a mixed population. Different-race parents can see to it that their different-race adopted children have opportunities to play with some children of the same race, which would open an opportunity for white parents with black children to meet black parents of black children, and that will in turn provide other opportunities to offset raising different-race children in non-integrated neighborhoods.

6. Some supporters of transracial adoption believe that being a Christian obliterates all of our natural differences. They believe that Christianity ought to be blind to all ethnic distinctions and differences. What are your thoughts about this? Wouldn’t it be better to say that Christianity relativizes them?

I believe that Christianity ought to be blind to all ethnic distinctions and differences only as it pertains to salvation and Christ being offered to all (Galatians 3:28). I do not believe that Christianity ought to be blind to all ethnic distinctions and differences simply for the sake of unity; which is where this line of thinking often comes from. I do believe that Christians should strive for unity by recognizing, utilizing, and celebrating various ethnic distinctions and differences. I am reminded of the various people and positions that God used in Scripture to bring about his plan of salvation. He used, prophets/prophetess, priests, kings, men, women, Jews, Gentiles, with their various personalities and backgrounds. It is my belief that we are to likewise relativize not only our various positions and gifts but also our various ethnic distinctions and differences in advancing the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

*This interview was originally posted at From Hope to Reality.

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