A Response to the Church’s Official “Statement on Transgenderism”

Dear Seventh-day Adventist Church,

I believe in love. This may be why it has taken me these past two years to write this letter. I have been wishing, hoping, praying that love would win. Unfortunately, as of today, it has not, so I am speaking out for love, with love.

I grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I relished Sabbath School, thrived in an Adventist academy, and graduated from an Adventist university. A Spectrum article published in 2018 reported that 59 percent of young Christians leave the church after age 15 years.1 Reasons cited include being turned off by judgmental attitudes and hypocrisy, weariness of church politics, and previous attendance being based on the desire to please others. Until now, I have been in the minority — one of the 41 percent of young Christians who have remained in the church. I credit this to the fact that my mother introduced me to a Jesus who loves, and encouraged me to live my life first and foremost with the goal of building a relationship with Him. In this way, I was able to view my church through a lens of love, and not allow the sometimes judgmental attitudes, hypocrisy, and politics present in any organization, even our church, to cloud my vision. Until now.

After graduating from my Adventist university, I attended medical school. I then completed a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics, and afterward a combined fellowship in adult and pediatric endocrinology. I am a quadruple board-certified endocrinologist, and care for individuals of all ages with a variety of endocrine conditions. A special part of my practice includes providing gender affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) for transgender individuals with gender dysphoria. A person who identifies as transgender is someone whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex designated at birth.2 Gender dysphoria refers to the distress and unease experienced if gender identity and designated gender are not completely congruent.3 Not all transgender individuals have gender dysphoria, but those who do often seek treatment within the health care system, including mental health care, medication management, and surgery. The goal of treatment is to change the body so that it becomes more congruent with gender identity.

As a physician, my primary aspiration is for my patients to have optimal health in all areas of their lives — physical, mental, psychological, social, and spiritual. I wholeheartedly believe that it is my calling as both a physician and a human being to care for all people equally, and show God’s love through my actions. Whether my patient is someone with diabetes requiring insulin, hypothyroidism needing thyroid hormone replacement, or gender dysphoria presenting for GAHT, my response is the same — provide the highest quality care, and love the person.

I was able to do this, while simultaneously taking pride in my membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, until April 2017 when the Seventh-day Adventist Church Statement on Transgenderism was presented. This statement is concerning, as it contradicts known scientific evidence regarding transgender individuals, and also contradicts itself in several areas.

Currently the available scientific literature supports a multifactorial etiology for the development of gender identity, including genetic, biologic, and environmental factors.2 While additional research is needed to ultimately determine the exact mechanisms through which gender identity is determined, it is clear that gender identity is not a choice. I was conceived with two X chromosomes, born with ovaries and a uterus, and progressed through female puberty. I identify as female, but never chose to be a girl. Transgender individuals were conceived and born with chromosomes and reproductive organs that do not match their gender identity. This also was not their choice. Humans do not choose our hair color, height, or genetic predisposition to disease; similarly we do not choose our gender identity. As no one chooses his/her/their gender identity, I cannot fathom any reason why he/she/they should be discriminated against for this. The Seventh-day Adventist Church Statement on Transgenderism begins innocuously enough, stating “we recognize the uniqueness of their [transgender individuals] situation and the limitation of our knowledge in specific instances.”4 It also encourages the church to relate to individuals with gender dysphoria in a “biblical and Christ-like way,” which is a statement with which I couldn’t agree more.

The trouble arises, however, with the Statement’s interpretation of biblical and Christ-like. I believe with all my heart that Jesus’ first and foremost mission, both while on Earth and now, is to love. He came to this planet to show us love through His actions and words, and ultimately gave His life for us. He purposely included unsavory characters in his inner circle, actively worked to fight against discrimination and corruption, and went out of His way to live a life of love and inclusivity. I cannot imagine the Jesus that I know and love telling a transgender man that he can’t be happy, that he can’t be whole, that he can’t be in a loving relationship, because he is “broken,” as stated in the Statement on Transgenderism.4 Transgender individuals are welcomed to membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church only if they are “committed to ordering their lives according to the biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage.”

The problem with this is that the Bible is silent on issues of gender identity and gender dysphoria. The Statement employs a variety of single Bible verses, taken out of context, in an eisegetical attempt to construct a weak set of explanations for why we cannot simply accept transgender individuals as they are, and love them all-encompassingly because of, rather than in spite of, their identities. When each of these verses is assessed in an exegetical fashion, using the cultural and historical context in which it was intended, we find that the Bible does not discriminate against individuals who identify as transgender, nor does it recommend that we act differently toward anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA.

Even if I believed that being transgender was a sin, or a sign of internal brokenness — which I do not — I would take issue with withholding church membership from people who are transgender. The reason is this: if we are going to prohibit people from becoming members of the Adventist Church for internal defects caused by sin, we must also bar those with obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. We must exclude people who overeat, who speak harshly to their children, who occasionally judge their co-workers, as all these are evidence of sin in the world. God did not create humans to become sick, design our bodies to fail, or plan that we would ever harbor the capacity to be mean, petty, or selfish. Although He did not create us to develop disease, or to sin repeatedly, the fact is that we do — all of us. If we are truly committed to barring sinful people from joining the church, our membership should be non-existent.

I believe that we, as God’s children, have the great honor of showing His love to all those with whom we come into contact. We were not commissioned to judge, to condemn, to pick and choose who can be part of the Adventist club. We have been tasked with the incredible privilege of showing Jesus to the world, and I cannot fathom the Jesus I know actively working to prevent love from being equally available to all His children.

I cannot in good conscience remain a member of an organization that actively discriminates and excludes the patients to whom I have dedicated my career, and about whom I care so deeply, and love so fiercely. I do not feel right being a member of a club in which they are only conditionally accepted. As such, I now, as a not-so-young adult, find no choice but to join the 59 percent who leave the church.

I am not leaving because of judgmental attitudes and hypocrisy, weariness of church politics, or previous attendance being based on the desire to please others, but because the Church in which I grew up, the Church that taught me to love unconditionally, has become unrecognizable. This new Church has become an exclusive club, where in order to be a member one must follow a set of rules that is governed not by love, but by human beliefs and constructs, which we know are inherently prone to error.

I believe in love, and it is in love that I voice these concerns, and respectfully but purposefully withdraw my membership from the Seventh-day Adventist Club, until the time comes when all of us are equally accepted and loved unconditionally. When such a time as this arrives, when all humans are welcomed equally into the church, I will return with them.


Lisal J. Folsom, MD, MS

Notes & References:

1. Sammy Reyes, Generation Change: Why Our Youth Leave (https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2018/generation-change-why-our-youth-leave).

2. Wylie C Hembree, Peggy T Cohen-Kettenis, Louis Gooren, Sabine E Hannema, Walter J Meyer, M Hassan Murad, Stephen M Rosenthal, Joshua D Safer, Vin Tangpricha, Guy G T’Sjoen, Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 102, Issue 11, 1 November 2017, Pages 3869–3903,

3. American Psychiatric Association . Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Publishing.

4. Seventh-day Adventist Church. Statement on Transgenderism. April 2017.

Lisal Folsom received her BA from Walla Walla College (now University), and her MD from Loma Linda University School of Medicine. She is a board-certified adult and pediatric endocrinologist, and provides endocrine and diabetes care for patients of all ages. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and their two adorable Boston Terriers.

Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9824

A brave and loving article! Thank-you for presenting this is such a manner that informs scientifically and addresses some biblical concerns. Hopefully this will enlighten others on the struggles and challenges of those who were born “differently”.


The Yiddish word CHUTPAH is a splendidly apt noun that depicts the despicable audacity, the brazen brashness, the toxic temerity of the Adventist theologians who pontificated on transgenderism in the church’s official statement.

The medical. hormonal, social, and psychiatric components of transgenderism are so complex that only a medical professional with years of specialist training can address them.

Yet these theologians, with zero competence in this complex field pompously pontificated, producing an unscientific statement that made them look ridiculous. And two years later, we still await a retraction or admission of regret.

The church’s stance on all LGBT issues is archaic, antique and antediluvian, as is their miserable medieval misogyny on the clergywomen ordination issue.


Thanks for a clear and coherent analysis of the statement. I hope you’ll come back soon even if official church statements on this and other science-fraught issues continue to fall short. To have a lover’s quarrel with the church will require for all of us continued engagement with it.


Lisal – Yes, if you sleuth out ALL the statements regarding Human Sexuality
that have come from Silver Springs, and prior places, you will find that ONLY
theologians [with NO Background in any of the sciences] proclaim “what is
The Truth”.
They have ALWAYS Refused to have ANY Specialists in the Human Sciences
on their discussion Committees.
By doing this they have Promoted a large EVIL in the church, and have FORCED
good members to become Unloving, UN-Christlike, and rejecting of God’s
Children that He loves.
Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary Readings we will read Jeremiah
1:4-10. The Call of Jeremiah. God said to him, “Before I formed you in the womb,
I knew you. Before you were born I sanctified you.”
This mirrors places in the Psalms where the speaker says God saw how I was
put together in my mother’s womb.
WHO we REALLY are is No surprise to God. God loves. He wishes for Love in
return. That is all.
But, those in Silver Springs, and as it filters down to the local Pastors, and then
to the Local Laity, have DECIDED upon themselves, WHO God loves, and WHO
can be part of the Great Kingdom of Heaven.
And so the “Church” has come up with Rules and Regulation for G,L,T,Q’s
that have no Biblical Basis. And definitely go against Scientific findings.

there are some Congregations in the SDA church who discern WHO
G,L,T,Q’s REALLY are, and accept them as Children of the Kingdom of God.
Baptized, and treat them as Full-Fledged members of the congregation.
But they are few.
There is LOTS of FEAR out there. [Read some of the Fulcrum7 articles]
And this FEAR is promoted in the Laity everywhere.
BUT it has its Beginnings in Silver Springs Committees who have no idea
what they are discussing, but VOTE policy for the World Church anyway.
The WISE understand, and so many leave.
Praise to your parents, who instilled a Love for God in you, not dependent
upon Church Attendance. May God bless you as you minister to All your
Like yourself, I am still a life-long member of the SDA church.


Sorry to see you go.

That’s one less voice for us who have decided to seek change while still members of the church. By leaving, the church’s faction that “contradicts known scientific evidence“ is only emboldened and strengthened and makes it harder for us to “right the ship.”


Leaving an ‘.org church’ can be difficult, but it is not leaving Gods Church! I feel that many SDA’s are beginning to see the difference between the two. I/many were raised to believe they were one and the same. I have a friend, SDA, who married a Babtist. She has attended our church for a long time and enjoys its many functions. Not a member of the SDA church and I would not tell her she should become one. My observation is that she is a fine personification of a Christian. Nothering more needed.


Thank you, Lisal!

You are describing the conundrum for many of us who love the church and find it not in agreement with our values. My husband and I have been in a holding pattern ourselves about what to do. Should we stay part of a club where innocent people are scapegoated? This seems as far from what Jesus taught us as anything.

I’m also puzzled by several things:

  1. There are people who say, “Don’t look at the people in the church, but look to Jesus!” This is great advice if we have a petty disagreement with another person, but when the organization itself starts taking stands and making public statements that we disagree with and fail to see Jesus agreeing with–it becomes a much deeper issue than just looking to Jesus. As a matter of fact, the very reason you (and many others myself included) are feeling cognitive dissonance from these church statements is that we ARE looking to Jesus!

  2. In a denomination with such resources as Loma Linda University, how can the leaders of the church make such rash statements without taking the scientific evidence into consideration? Why are they not consulting professionals like yourself? It seems we have two Adventist churches–those who are educated and those who just make things up as they go to fit their prejudices.

  3. And lastly, why oh why, do we have so few men at the top making decisions for everyone else? I have recently been attending a Methodist church because a friend was a pastor there. I have learned their church has a lot more people making the choices of the denomination. It resembles congress with many educated minds coming together to discuss the challenges of the denomination. There is not one or two men at the top manipulating how the process happens. The Methodist are struggling too about these issues but the entire western half of the US has decided to buck what they decided at their General Conference about excluding LGBTQ people. In contrast, within Adventism, we have a few conferences who ordain women and they have been scapegoated and shut out. Sandra Roberts is the poster woman of the abuse given by the hierarchy of the patriarchy–she is still not in the yearbook and has been ignored since she took office and for what? Her gender!

There is a nasty thread of power over and control being dished out by the Adventist powers that be–it’s not right, it’s not fair and it is not Christ-like.

Now what to do about it? Where can sincere, loving Adventists meet and shake the dust off from the evil men who run our church? May God help us!


Adventist Today has a neat short article – Question and Answer –
regarding why the under 30 are leaving the church.
Has a bearing on this article and the one on “unity” posted on 8/23.

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Thanks Dr Folsom for writing this timely article. You state your case very well. I too am very sad at the careless statements the church makes about our LGBTQ community. The church is becoming more and more irrelevant in today’s world. These statements of exclusion overpower the original message and charge of the church.


Dr. Folsom,
It’s saddening that you decided to leave, though I understand perfectly that there are times when we must refuse to participate in groups that violate certain basic principles of human conduct. Especially when it’s a religious group.

Though more voices, no less, are needed to speak in favor of those who have a hard time in society due to gender issues, your decision appears irreversible. I hope you will continue committed to the cause of those who need understanding and support - and are not getting it from the Church they love.


Thank you, Dr. Folsom, for a clear witness to the gospel.

As to Silver Springs Statements … I have decided rather than to blindly follow policy, to stay with my conscience and not let my life be lived by someone else’s “recommendations” or world views. I am bound to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel of love, peace, freedom and inclusion - nothing else.

Raising our voice against injustice will take various forms. I have great respect for yours. And will continue to monitor and question mine. Thanks.


It is not you leaving the church but the church which at its foundation on this and other topics that crumble around you. You find yourself wondering why others have abandoned reason for fear and knowledge for tradition.


Thank you for expressing yourself so well in this topic. The church is entirely wrong in its position on trans people, as it is also wrong on its stance toward LGBTQ+ people as a whole. I am sad to see you leave over this but fully understand and support you. Some of us have chosen to remain in the church regardless. I do so so that I can continue to minister to the LGBTQ+ members we still have in the church. Fortunately, in spite of official church policy, there are accepting and affirming communities within the church. It continues to be my prayer and hope that the church will change and become fully affirming.


I will have one comment on this. Society has a right to have an opinion and laws on LGBTQ and so does any church organization. And, often on many issues never the Twain shall meet.
I think that is fair.


Pat, what is “fair” about a “right” that diminishes the value of an individual because it runs counter to what God says that we are all created in His image? Especially when that “right” was formulated by a select group of individuals without any expertise on the subject.


It is fair in that they have that right to allow as members who they want. Just as any other church has. None of that precludes the necessity of kindness to anyone…including non members.

Society formulates rights and privileges as citizens of that society choose. LGBTQ has established many “rights”/ privileges there.

That’s what I mean as fair.
I dont want to enter a periphery discussion. Just clarifying that you. I can make that comment without even referring to a religious reference of any kind.


I thought we were talking about what is “fair” about “rights” when you sprinkle your post with “LGBTQ” and then conclude with “I done want to enter a periphery discussion.” Are you fishing for another discourse? :rofl:


The article is about LGBTQ and they do have secular rights.
Churches have rights to receive members who share their creed/ beliefs as does ( not by law the Rotary Club etc.)
Why is that hard to understand?
Christians are to be kind to all humanity but all humanity is not a member of the church of Christ…or Jewish…etc. Those are bilateral choices.
Why the laughter? Just common sense Elmer. Not fishing for anything. All I wanted to say. Clarifying my very first comment.


I find it insincere for a religious organization to endorse a “right” that destroys the very foundation in which it stands. That is what is “hard to understand,” although I guess you are right that everyone has a “right” even if it were to destroy their identity. After all, I see them in my psychiatric clinic where they ask me who is to blame for their miseries. I tell them to look into the mirror.