John Milbank: Adoption reduces abortion, human trafficking and infanticide

"Adoption matters because it helps get rid of a culture of death" by reducing abortion, modern slavery, human trafficking and infanticide, a leading Christian theologian said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a conference in London, John Milbank - Research Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics at the University of Nottingham, Director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy and Chairman of the ResPublica think tank - said "nothing could be more important" than the Church backing adoption.

"I salute evangelical Christians trying to further promote it, nothing could be more important than this," Milbank said.

"Adoption matters because it helps to get rid of a culture of death, and move against the practice of abortion, the practice of modern slavery and people trafficking. It can help avoid infanticide - most of us don't know that hundreds of children in Holland are euthanised every year. It's happening in modern Europe."

Titled "Adoption, justification and the hospitality of God", yesterday's conference held by Home for Good in London bought together leading theologians, scholars and practitioners from across the UK to consider the nature of Christian adoption into God's family, and a 'horizontal' perspective of adoption - making the Church a welcoming community for vulnerable children. A series of talks made connections between the two.

"Adoption is a major metaphor of salvation and relationship with God," Graham Tomlin, Dean of St Mellitus College, argued.

"We are sons and daughters by adoption...We are drawn into the same language that Jesus uses for the Father. The theology of adoption enables prayer - we can only pray if we know God as our Father.

"Adoption [is] at the centre of the theology of salvation, which offers a rich area for theological & pastoral exploration," he said.

Dr Jane Williams, theologian and wife of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, also argued that all Christians are adopted, and that this can be mirrored in adoptive parents offering children a place of "true family. A place where they are accepted, offered love and security, and a safe place to discover their own reality."

However, adoptive families could also teach the Church about real welcome, Dr Williams added, something that Rt Rev Paul Butler reiterated to Christian Today.

"There's a danger that we [solely focus on helping] those who do adoption, but actually there are lessons for all of us from adoptive families about how you are family, and how we help nurture children. Children need loving homes in which to grow up, that's the most important thing," he said.

Bishop of Durham in the north-east, one of the most deprived parts of the UK, Butler said child poverty is "pervasive" not only in economic terms, but also social and spiritual.

"I think we need to talk up spiritual poverty more as well, and emotional neglect and abuse and so on," he said.

"Child poverty in all its forms needs to be a priority for the Church. Adoption in scripture as a whole, and God as the Father to the fatherless, absolutely says we should be really interested in how do we provide for children who need that kind of care, through fostering and adoption."