Orphan Institution in Search of Family Homes

by Dennis Carrow

From the sponsoring church arrangement in the effort of evangelism, (i.e., the missionary society), grew the same carnal diversion from the divine pattern in the realm of benevolence. Brethren were not content with following the simple arrangement of the giver sending directly to the needy. The claim was made that we are not getting the job done fast enough, we need to coordinate our efforts and pool our resources – and thus were born human agencies that "took over" the delivery of benevolent services to those who needed them.

The biblical example is that the funds supplied to needy saints went directly where the need existed. However, the newly human-devised institution was not the place of the actual need, it was a vehicle built and established by men through which the resources and services would be delivered. In the realm of benevolence, some churches pooled their resources to build and maintain institutions known as "orphan homes." The building and maintenance of these institutions were implemented to "take care of" the fatherless. However, in most cases they were not fatherless - but the result of a domestic crisis. As with any human innovation to the Lord's way, there was objection. Debates were held and lines were drawn because men stood up, defending the biblical example that the care for these needy individuals was the individual Christian's responsibility and the human institution did not and could not fulfill this individual responsibility. The practice of pure and undefiled religion was an individual responsibility, and such institutional arrangement operated by pooling resources from churches was a violation of church autonomy and charging the church for things it was not responsible for.

Those who opposed these institutional arrangements were labeled as "anti" and, sadly, a division occurred over what the innovators of these institutions called a liberty. Many innovators of those institutions have long since digressed into adding entertainment, secular schools, and numerous other unscriptural items into their budget, all the while writing off the "anti's" as narrow-minded and non-cooperative.

A few years ago the congregation, which I work with as I do the work of an evangelist, had moved to a new location. Not long after our move to the new location an individual who was in an administrative role at the Southern Christian Home (a corporation located in Morrilton, Arkansas, USA which provides for the care of orphans - KS) visited me. (The southern Christian Home was one of the institutions at the center of discussion as churches began "choosing sides" on the institutional question in the 50s and 60s). His purpose for the visit was that he was in search of foster parents to take oversight of the children at the "home."

It had always been the contention from those who defended Biblical truth that the individual is charged by God to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. The point of this administrator's visit (and the brochure he handed me) was to seek "foster parents" (individuals within the church) to provide the day-to-day care of the child. This includes "meeting the child's physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs…. Foster family care means families ministering to families."

In my discussion, the administrator stated that the government had recognized the need for "real homes," not institutions, are what would be most effective and needed for these indigent children. So, forty years later we find the government requiring institutions to go find these children "homes." (The same plea made years ago by those whom they labeled "anti). The sad reality of this arrangement came to full view as I read the flyer that said, in bold print, "Who Has Financial Responsibility? – Foster parents receive a board payment to help defray the cost of the care of a child in your home."

Consider this in full view – the church sends its funds to the institution and the institution - with its board of directors as various facilitators - draw their administrative cost out of these funds. Then, the institution returns to the church – locates individuals who will care for the children and the institution will pay them!

Is this really more efficient? Is this God's design for the work of the church and the control of its funds? Who is in control? Who has the oversight? An examination of the articles of incorporation will reveal the institution and its board of directors have complete control! What is wrong with this arrangement? Obviously, it is a poor arrangement in regard to the management of benevolent funding. But this issue is – there is no Biblical authority! The issue is not whether orphans should be taken care of – of course, they must be! It is a matter of individual responsibility being realized and fulfilled according to God's divine will (James 1:26-27).

Sadly the division over this issue could have been avoided long ago if men and women had humbly submitted to God's will, accepted individual responsibility, and refused to charge the church for things we are individually responsible for (I Timothy 5:8,16).

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