A Sabbath for Homosexuals. An Oxymoron or a Blessing?

Oliver Sacks, “In memoriam” (1933-2015)

For this is what the LORD says: "To the “homosexuals” (eunuchs) who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant, to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.” Isaiah 56: 4,5.

The 14th annual European Kinship Meeting (KEM) took place on August 27-31, 2015, in the charming and breezy city of Florence, Italy. Well organized by Ruud Kiebomm and Lisa Verona, LGBT Adventists from all over Europe met to share their experiences and to encourage each other in their Christian living. Under the general title of “This Church is Our Church, is your Church, is mine” and led by an emphatic Italian pastor, the group tried to understand and discover the sense and need of healthy religious roots and belonging. Two dimensions were kept closely in mind during the whole long week-end.

First, the enormous value of the real, concrete life of these Adventists – sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of us all – who attend the same Sabbath school meetings, sing the same hymns, and read the same Bible. Adventists who are deeply attached to the same hope in Christ’s second coming. This heterogeneous and existentially rich group, here in Europe or elsewhere, doesn't represent a problem or a risk for Adventism, as some still believe, but rather a resource and an opportunity to understand and re-articulate the real priorities in our Church. Being a religious community very much attached to its high ideals and standards it becomes easy for Adventists to forget that those values are emptied of meaning if we isolate them from the actual life and experience of the people they are supposed to inform and orient. Real people are not ancillary realities or entities subservient to ideals. Rather they help correct, reshape and – above all – distinguish which ideals are ideological and dehumanizing and which are life-promoting and thus truly binding.

The concrete life of people can't be reduced to just an application of our ideals. It must become the assessment-place of our cherished high ideals. This happens in healthy families and must also happen in our Adventist community. Ideals can help us but may also deeply damage us. Ideals are not God, and therefore are not absolutes in themselves but need to be continually assessed and re-oriented. The best way to do this is by confronting them with the real lives of people. That is what LGBT Adventists can really represent for us. A mercy, a gift, a human space to check the validity and real force of our ideals. We can't give them up. We would become poorer and hollowed, merely methodological Adventists without dimensions of hope and laughter. A reduction to religious machines, trying to make others as predictable as ourselveves.

Second, we have used the Bible to keep us blindly attached to our unduly absolutized ideals. This attitude is visible in the rule-based understanding of the Sabbath, the Second Coming, vegetarianism or other life-style issues. But we can't rescue and renew these fundamental Adventist experiences if we keep maintaining the same rigid and monolithic principle-based hermeneutics. For this reason our typical “exclusive principle-based” hermeneutics must become an “inclusive poetic-narrative hermeneutics” that allows us to privilege plurality and complexity instead of univocal homogeneity. Our exclusivist hermeneutics has led us to deform our understanding of the Sabbath. We have been attentive to all the passages which are predominantly rule-based and therefore exclusivist. But the Bible also has strong inclusive Sabbath-related verses such as the one quoted at the top of this essay. In reality both perspectives belong to the Bible, the inclusive and the exclusive. But we need to modify and update our massively exclusive Sabbath hermeneutics introducing important corrections. And the most important corrective is to allow inclusive texts their rightful dominance. This is just what Jesus himself taught us in the Gospel: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

This is what the group gathered in Florence was debating, without fully realizing it, after the opening Friday evening meeting, in the nice but still impersonal hotel “Stibbert”. A seemingly practical decision: where to go to church Sabbath morning. But the discussion also implied an important theological positioning. They decided to go to the Central Adventist Church in Florence because that was the place where they felt the most sense of belonging. During the service the leading Elder welcomed the Kinship group and the Italian Adventist University, “Villa Aurora”, offered its beautiful garden to have the afternoon Sabbath meeting – thus showing an inclusive Sabbath hermeneutics.

This same inclusive hermeneutics caught our attention later that afternoon by the corporative reading of Oliver Sacks' last short narrative “The Sabbath” that simultaneously had appeared some days before in the New York Times and in the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/opinion/sunday/oliver-sacks-sabbath.html?_r=0 ) Sacks' narrative indirectly describes three important conditions about religion and the Sabbath:

  1. The bewildering ambivalence of religion – every religion. Religions can both help and damage. We’ve known that since … forever. But usually we interpret this fact in a convenient way, believing that wrong religions do really damage but not the true ones (i.e. ours). Sacks' point, however, is that “true religions” are the ones which damage the most. His own very Orthodox English Jewish Community gave him an incredibly positive sense of belonging but simultaneously a chronic and incurable sense of rejection when, on one Sabbath day, he confessed his homosexuality to his father. When his mother also learned this she screamed at him, saying: “You are an abomination. I wish you had never been born."
  2. Religions survive more for the relations they are able to build and care for than the doctrinal apparatus they proudly exhibit and defend. This is not a matter of whether the religion is conservative or liberal. Sacks implicitly welcomes the positive figure of his religiously orthodox cousin Robert John Aumann – winner of the 2005 Nobel prize in Economics for his work on Game Theory. He praises the deep religious commitment that pushed Aumann to say he would have renounced the Nobel Price if had he been invited to go to Stockholm on a Sabbath. But Aumann's religious commitment was never divorced from a deep human warmth, tenderness and inclusiveness. So much so that, in his last visit to Jerusalem, Sacks and his lover Billy were invited by Aumann to join him and his family at their opening Sabbath meal.
  3. Religions are not true because they believe correctly in what God, reality or human existence is. All religious ideas are just approximate knowledge. For this reason both true and false religions keep making mistakes. Their truth-validity resides instead in their capacity to confess, repent and re-orient themselves in favor of people’s well-being and renewal. The Jewish community that had excluded him, after 60-65 years, now welcomed him back and accepted him and his partner Billy without understanding. Sacks says of this moment: “The peace of the Sabbath, of a stopped world, a time outside time, was palpable, infused everything”. And, sometime after his visit to Jerusalem – laying in his bed, beaten by irreversible metastatic cancer – Sacks still feels himself coddled like a baby by the memory of his inclusive and welcoming Jewish family, and the Sabbath blessing they succeeded in transmitting to him. That blessed memory gives him peace and trust when he writes: “I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”

In our last meeting with the Kinship European group, near the “Ponte Vecchio” in Florence's magic “Oltrarno” quarter, we were eating a delicious pizza and still remembering the healing touch of Sacks’ narrative on the Sabbath when we got the news that he had passed away that same day.

Sixty years had passed until his orthodox Jewish family and community that rejected him finally welcomed him back again – and still without understanding. But they did. Will we be able to do the same?

How many Bryan, Carlos, John, David, Linda, Klaus, Ulrich, Marjorie, Gianni and Carmen Adventists need to pass away, isolated and abandoned, without having been included in our church’s Sabbaths? Oliver Sacks was blessed and, with timid and wavering hope, I dare to trust it will also be true for my children, in the community where they were born.

Hanz Gutierrez is a Peruvian theologian, philosopher and physician. Currently he is Chair of the Systematic Theology Department at the Italian Adventist Theological Faculty of “Villa Aurora” and director of the CECSUR (Cultural Center for Human and Religious Sciences) in Florence, Italy.

If you respond to this article, please: Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7072

I don’t issue Marraige licenses and I am not a judge. I think the writer defined our role as kinship. all have sinned and come short. all have been Redeemed by the same blood. Thank you for an excellent essay. Tom Z


Wow. When did the word ’ homosexual’ become a synonym for the word ‘eunuch’? I had always thought that an eunuch was a sexually inactive person either because of castration or a birth defect which resulted in the same effect. Some persons also chose to be eunuchs by denying themselves sexual congress for whatever reason. An eunuch was therefore a person who had no sexual capacity to function or who by choice chose not to exercise that capacity. When and who was it that made that fundamental epoch making discovery that the word ‘eunuch’ in the bible was synonymous with the word ’ homosexual’ to the point where ISA. 56:4 can now be translated “To the “homosexuals” (eunuchs) who keep my Sabbaths…”? What indeed have we come to?


Yes, I think that the analogy can be made for: Eunuch=Homosexual. There are those in Adventism who deems them “Less than”- but clearly we are all Children of God. In the eyes of our Creator we are the same and He shall miss even the loss of one of His. Perhaps we can start to see through His eyes…

Wonderful article, thank-you.


No doubt taking a day off is a blessing, but the real blessing comes to those who are obedient to God. Remember the blessings for obedience/curses for disobedience in Deuteronomy?

  1. If you rest on the Sabbath while maintaining a sinful life, the only blessing you get is the results of the rest. If you rest on the Sabbath while living in obedience to God, which includes practicing self-denial and abstaining from that which God forbids, God blesses you far more than just the results of what we do. (That’s why if the Israelites would have been obedient their enemies wouldn’t have attacked them and insects wouldn’t have eaten their crops.)

  2. The verse about eunuchs is talking about eunuchs, not homosexuals. There are other verses in the Bible about homosexuals. You know exactly what they say, and it’s not encouraging. How is it that a theologian can make such a basic mistake? What are our “theologians” teaching our students?

  3. If you’re going to have a group for Adventist homosexuals, why not have one for Adventist chain smokers, Adventist adulterers and Adventist thieves?

Obedience is better than worship:

“What pleases the LORD more:
burnt offerings and sacrifices
or obedience to his voice?
It is better to obey than to sacrifice.
It is better to listen to God than to offer the fat of sheep.” 1 Sam 15:22


Thank you, Hanz, for courageous and honest storytelling!

We all need to be reminded that human existence unfolds not within homogenous coordinates. A number of conditions, which challenge dogmatic notions of lived experience, shapes us. I feel pushed against the wall by your story, and, hopefully, that will make me more existentially musical. This is the challenge of plurality, at the core of the human condition, that absolutist normative notions of being-in-the-world denies.

We all need to realize that tolerance and understanding is a contingent an open-ended willingness to embrace the “different other”, and it is rooted in the recognition that we are all co-habitants in this world. Judith Butler (an American philosopher) reminds us of the reality of co-habitation, and that “to co-habit is prior to any possible community, nation or neighbourhood”. It is a basic condition for human existence.

Life is precisely the place where we jointly face the risk of human fragility, vulnerability, intolerance, and dispossession. Its ethical challenge, she claims, is that “we must actively seek to preserve the non-chosen character of inclusive and plural co-habitation”.

Your story of a Sabbath in Florence, in memory of the late Oliver Sacks, gives thickness, substance, and blessing to my life!


Wow, now there’s some creative translating for you. Not one English translation that I could find gave that spin on it. This is very disingenuous, and eisegetical. A terrrible example of “Scriptorture.”


What, if true, does that have to do with the interchange of words that have no commonalities in the Hebrew. As Birder said. Eisegesis.


Kim, Eunuchs=Homosexual is I must confess, not something that I had ever thought about. I’m not disagreeing with you, it’s just not what had ever crossed my mind. I did understand that it was political in both ancient as well as more modern cultures but = to homosexual from scriptural interputation would be new for me.

In keeping with the request that each of us is only allowed the one response I will have to depend on others to help me understand more about this interpretation.

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I have comments and questions. (I’ll do a second post on questions as it’s much different than the comment).

While I read the article with interest, not sure I agree with Hanz Gutierrez. First, his interpretation of eunuchs in scripture is not supported. While I suppose it could be true that homosexual equals eunuch, I don’t really see any evidence that this is what Isaiah is saying. In verse 3 it says "… Neither let the eunuch say “Behold, I am a dry tree.” (NAS), which seems to indicate unable to produce children, not homosexuality.

Hanz suggests our reading of scripture is too legalistic and we ought to read it poetically. That’s an opinion, not a fact. That goes for the rest of Hanz’s assertions. The idea that all religious ideas are approximate knowledge does not match an Adventist worldview, where we believe we have specific knowledge as revealed by the visions of Ellen White. To believe otherwise is to change the character of Adventism into another Christian faith.

While I’m open to considering multiple interpretations of the scripture, it’s hard to see how this article fits in with what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist.


(I have a separate question for the author and for commentors)

Questions about homosexuality and Christianity.

The author, Hanz suggests that there is a place for homosexuals (and given his comments about Oliver Sacks and Billy it appears that he is speaking about those living a homosexual lifestyle) in the Seventh-day Adventist church. But, I’m wondering how that is.

Today, many of us read verses about homosexuality and abomination with a different eye. We look at the other things the Bible and Leviticus declares to be an abomination and wonder if this is God’s law, or a product of the times and culture. We look at the evidence of Christ’s love for those deemed unfit for society and ask how can we judge and condemn someone because of this difference.

But we also have 10 Commandments that are the basis of our faith including you shall not commit adultery, which we have defined as a sexual relationship out of marriage. However, ample evidence exists that many Adventists do not follow that proscription. Whether it’s a couple living together, single people who sometimes have sex, or an individual who violates their marriage vows, there is plenty of evidence that this commandment is not always grounds for someone to be removed from the Adventist faith. Even ministers who stray are not removed from the faith, although they are removed from pastoring (but in my Conference, not fired but no longer pastor, must undergo a multi-year process to pastor again) So what does that mean for the gay Adventist? In Adventism is it okay to be a gay person, but one who is celibate? If the State (Gov’t) announces that gay marriage is legal, then for Adventists is it okay to be a non-celibate gay person, just so long as you’re married to your partner?

Jesus said " A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34, 35 (NAS). How does this allow us to relate to gay people?


If it is so easy to misunderstand and misrepresent Hanz’ use of scripture as has been done in the few comments here … how much easier is it to misunderstand and misrepresent scripture itself. We are so sure of “our” scriptural interpretation that we don’t even consider alternatives.
The point Hanz was eloquently making certainly was NOT a new exegetical attempt at understanding the “eunuch”, but the unusual, and in our circles very unexpected sense of inclusivity … for which you find many examples - in both the OT and most certainly in the NT.
Thank you Hanz for giving us a glimpse of an inclusive Sabbath theology - which I believe goes far beyond the LGBT issue discussed here.


Wonderful points regarding inclusion and acceptance as Sabbath rest, even though there exists theological disagreement between people. It is touching that a religiously orthodox cousin would invite, welcome, and include someone whose “lifestyle choices”- to use the American Evangelical term- were in stark contrast with the belief system, without a reported attempt to “lovingly convince them of the error of their ways” Simple inclusion. Lovely! This is true religion.

My issues tends more toward the idea that the same methodology of reading of scripture that opens my acceptance of homosexuality, does not fit with SDA fundamentals. Perhaps I am simply missing feeling part of a community of belief. But since I don’t believe (the doctrines), that becomes more difficult……

I will hope for more real humans showing inclusive love, and hope that I will demonstrate that same love to others.

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The apostle Paul knew some who were enchained by these sins, but loved them too much not tell them the truth: “Be not deceived” . . . those who do such things “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Paul said, “And such WERE some of you.” He did not advocate accepting such into membership. If a believer persisted in deliberate, open sin, Paul said “With such a one no not to eat.” Paul knew the truth and deliverance in our Savior’s words, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” It is TRUTH that sets one free, not a lie that says, “You shall not surely die.” It is love that dares to tell the truth!

Our very time is described in Testimonies, volume 5, pages 209 and 210. We as Seventh-day Adventists must not be among those who “try to throw a cloak over the existing evil, and excuse the great wickedness everywhere prevalent.” We must be God’s humble, peculiar people, who truly love and care about souls, who have “a soul anguish, which is expressed in lamentation and weeping, reproofs and warnings. . .those who have a zeal for God’s honor and a love for souls will not hold their peace to obtain favor of any. Their righteous souls are vexed day by day with the unholy works and conversation of the unrighteous. They are powerless to stop the rushing torrent of iniquity, and hence they are filled with grief and alarm.”

“Our only safety is to stand as God’s peculiar people. We must not yield one inch to the customs and fashions of this degenerate age, but stand in moral independence, making no compromise with its corrupt and idolatrous practices.” Child Guidance 449.

This from the Spirit of Prophecy makes the truth unmistakable:

" . . .the earth is fast becoming a Sodom. The Sodomitish practices which brought the judgment of God upon the world, and caused it to be deluged with water, and which caused Sodom to be destroyed by fire, are fast increasing. We are nearing the end. God has borne long with the perversity of mankind, but their punishment is no less certain. Let those who profess to be the light of the world, depart from all iniquity." RH Nov. 10, 1884.

"Not one particle of Sodomitish impurity will escape the wrath of God at the execution of the judgment. Those who do not repent of and forsake all uncleanness will fall with the wicked. Those who become members of the royal family and form God’s kingdom in the earth made new, will be saints, not sinners. TSB 119.

“Sodomitish Impurity. Oh, how disgusted is God with the tame, lifeless, Christless efforts made by some of those who profess to be His servants! God’s work must be carried forward strongly and upward. This cannot be done unless the sensuality that corrupts the whole man is separated from the religious experience. This work must be done.” TSB 119

If Kinship is using its influence to excuse sin, we can know that the Lord is not in this organization. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Proverbs 28:9.

“Whatever contradicts God’s Word, we may be sure proceeds from Satan.” PP 55.


“There is no one righteous. no not one.”

She was writing to all; no one sin was pointed out in those paragraphs.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

“The crime of you sister Sodom was pride, gluttony, arrogance, complacency, They never helped the poor and needy,You have done far filthier than they did. By your filthy practices you have made your sisters seem almost innocent,”


The following is taken from John 8

Just to refresh your memories regarding sin. The two key verses are 10 and 11.
First and foremost the question Jesus asked was “where are your accusers?” Secondly He said. “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” The key to all of this was lifestyle change which few are willing to do.

John 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.


The best leadership skill our Church’s current administrators have shown to deal with the reality of the homosexual population so far has been “Deny & Postpone.” (or, “Ignore& Kick Out”). For how long more do they want to just ignore reality? Their ineptitude to engage in the conversation in a serious way is an attestation of their complete inadequacy for leading a Church with real people.

The first aspect that has to be dealt with is the fact that information about the BIO-NATURE of the homosexual orientation was missing completely only a few years ago. Nowadays, with brain imaging techniques and other scientific, psychiatric and psychological resources, ignorance has been reduced significantly - but not so in Church!

Until the Church leaders mature in their knowledge of the facts, until they become emotionally mature to discuss this issue seriously, until they decide to finally stop their insensitivity toward the members of the SDA homosexual population, the only thing we will continue to see is their current childish, irresponsible, and ineffective behavior.

To the Author:

Great, realistic essay! A pleasure to read.
I really would like you to please elaborate a little bit on your statement,

In your opinion, has the Church been dealing seriously and honestly with the “concrete life of people?”

@elmer_cupino wrote:

I hope the Author will be able to also comment on this. Why is it that our Church is around 170 years old, and only now talking about finally developing a valid, solid, and reliable hermeneutical taxonomy? Shouldn’t this be the first step before daring to dictate spiritual norms and regulations to millions of believers, only to say, 170 years later, “Sorry for the inconvenience. We are going to work on it. Soon, …very soon.”

Any input on this as well, Dr. Gutierrez?


“ All religious ideas are just approximate knowledge.”

At best, everything we believe begins with an assumption. The a priori assumption in religion is the existence of God with the a priori being a product of our perception, cognition, emotional value and as validated by social consensus. These factors interact and allow us to identify, evaluate and compare a wide choice of assumptions. In our church, the limiting factor is the choice of our corporate “hermeneutics.” And until we expand and modify our hermeneutics, our interpretations must be skewed to reflect our corporate biases. Thus, we only find what we are look for.


Waw! It is all this implacable demonstration that questions Hans’s article.
When Adventism will reset to “hear” what Scripture says rather than to shine on mathematical proofs, based on biblical litteralism and aleatory Ellen White’s “it has been showed to me”, our Church really find the meaning of his mission. Currently Adventism products of GMO seeds…as eunuchs…:wink:

I agree hearing “homosexual” instead of “eunuch”. As @cincerity.



And Adventist cowards
Adventist self-promoters
Adventist gossipers
Adventist liars
Adventist gluttons
Adventist non-pray-ers
Adventist abusers
Adventist manipulators
Adventist Pharisees
Adventist coveters
Adventist overeaters