Among the great Latin phrases from church history is Martin Luther’s famous description of the Christian as simul iustus et peccator—at once justified saint and sinner. Cindy Cronk, CT’s director of production services and our longest-serving employee by far (42 years!), appreciates good Protestant theology. She gets what Luther is saying. But she’s had enough of people thinking of her as saint and sinner. She prefers Mom.
Thirty-three years ago, Cronk was the second single person the Evangelical Child and Family Agency worked with in its foster-to-adopt program. Eventually, she says, ECFA greenlit her because they thought it was unlikely that the state would place a black child with a white, suburban, single woman. But they did. (The third single person to adopt through ECFA was Cronk’s caseworker.)
Church is notoriously difficult for single women. As a single, white woman with black children, it was even harder. “I had a real bad time with people mostly talking to me to figure out if I’d been sleeping with a black man,” Cronk says. “People never got to know me. They just made assumptions about me, my education, my work.”
Eventually she found a church where she and her family could be accepted. “But a church that’s good at accepting doesn’t mean a church that’s great about helping,” she says. Informal father-son gatherings tended to forget about her sons. A woman offered to take the kids to her house to bake cookies but couldn’t understand why Cronk asked if she could run a kid to a doctor’s appointment or to childcare instead. “Don’t take the fun stuff! Give me the ability to do the fun stuff!” she tried to explain.
Once church folks couldn’t fit Cronk into their category of sinner, they tried to label her a saint. One of my earliest conversations with Cronk took place shortly after someone had praised her “ministry.” People tend not to make that mistake twice. “They’re not my ministry; they’re my kids,” she answers kindly but forcefully. “I’m no saint. I’m a mom. But the needs really are there.” The people most likely to see her as a saint, she says, are those who seem most blind to the needs around them.
I was eager to hear what Cronk thought about this issue’s cover story. She gave it high praise: “It wasn’t stupid. Most articles on adoption are about parents as saviors.” (CT can be a tough crowd.) She’s glad to read that churches are getting better at integrating single-parent adoptive families. But she’s cautious. Adopting as a single person, especially transracially, is going to be hard even with church support. “A lot of days, you’re just praying a desperate prayer: ‘Lord, you say you’re our Father. Where are you? Show up and take over.’ And he does.”
Ted Olsen is editorial director of Christianity Today.
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