.- Bethany Christian Services in Mississippi has voted unanimously to include Catholic families in all adoption programs.
Sandy and Robert Stedman, a couple who had been denied services from Bethany earlier this month because of their Catholic faith, told the Clarion-Ledger that the policy change is "a true testament to Christians working together to resolve an issue peacefully."
Bethany had initially explained to the Stedmans in a letter that it was the organization’s "understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith.”
But yesterday Bethany Christian Services of Mississippi announced its new policy, saying that it “regrets any pain caused to families, especially to our Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The adoption agency, with offices in 75 U.S. cities, said it would continue to stand on its Statement of Faith but "we realize that we took too narrow a view in assessing adoptive applicants."
Local board president Peggy McKey told the Clarion-Ledger that the agency's past policy of excluding Catholic parents was "unintentional on our part" as Bethany had assumed Catholic Charities gave preference to Catholic couples seeking to adopt.
"We just didn't keep up with the times," she reportedly said.
Bethany Christian Services’ head office in Grand Rapids, Mich., also issued a statement that read: "All families in agreement with the agency's Statement of Faith, including Catholic families, are eligible to adopt."
Choose Life Mississippi, which distributes money received from the sale of Choose Life specialty license plates to 24 adoption and crisis pregnancy centers, including Bethany, said it was pleased with Bethany's decision.
Of the $244,000 generated by the sale of the license plates in 2004, Bethany received $7,053.