Andrews University Lands on Shame List and LGBT Students Respond

“I think one of the hardest times is when you're just sitting in vespers or church and everything is fine... until the speaker says something negative about homosexuality and how wrong and sinful it is. Suddenly the people around you and the congregation echo their amens and you've never felt so small before. And then in the dorm and on campus people proudly proclaim their homophobic slurs/comments and your friends laugh along. You feel like no matter how good, how friendly, how Christ-like you try to be, no one will like you if they knew the real you. And then you truly feel alone.”

Written by Intercollegiate Adventist GSA Coalition (IAGC) President, Jonathan Doram, during his Freshman year at Andrews University, these words reflect how difficult life can be if you’re an LGBT+ student on a Seventh-day Adventist campus. In addition to normal college stressors like handling classes and eating in the school cafeteria every day, you must navigate the fraught terrain of reconciling your faith, sexuality, and gender identity in sometimes very difficult environments (to put it mildly).

To underscore this point, this week Campus Pride, a national non-profit dedicated to helping create safer college campuses for LGBT students, announced its updated Shame List which calls out the “shameful acts of religion-based prejudice.” Andrews University made the list, partly for its refusal to allow an official LGBT+ group on campus. Although there is AULL4One, an unofficial group that seeks to “create a safe and supportive space for LGBT+ students,” they are not allowed to meet on-campus or advertise to find others who may need help.

In a recent interview, Jonathan Doram, now a Senior at Andrews, stated the following in response to the Shame List, “I think it’s just a wake-up call – that we can keep working harder... view it as a chance to grow and learn from this, that next year we are not on the list.”

Andrews University issued a statement in response to the Shame List:

At Andrews University, we are strongly committed to non-discrimination in the admission and enrollment of our students on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We recognize that LGBT students may be marginalized on faith-based campuses. As a result, in the past few years, we have actively worked alongside our LGBT student community to more fully realize our commitment to creating a harassment-free environment for all students.

Andrews is proud of its LGBT students, and they have contributed in many important ways to the University’s faith and learning community. We will continue to invite their participation as the University seeks to create a campus culture that is reflective of the Seventh-day Adventist commitment to biblical faithfulness, which includes demonstrating care and compassion for all persons.

Unfortunately, the Shame List omitted mention of the growth that has recently happened on campus. During his interview, Jonathan also mentioned how Andrews is blessed with a Student Life team who is “willing to work with students. They want to have dialogue with us...and that’s why I have hope for Andrews.”

As a product of these conversations, the school just released its most comprehensive-to-date Framework for Relating to Sexual Orientation Differences on the Campus of Andrews University. The framework came to fruition after a year-long process of conversations by two university taskforces. One of them, the Teen Homelessness Taskforce, sought to understand family risk factors for Adventist LGBT youth and local/regional needs.

Doram, who served on the LGBT Student Life Practice and Policies Taskforce, shared some of the process: “The beginning of the year started off with listening sessions, where LGBT+ students bravely shared their stories. Although the framework is not perfect – for example, transgender-inclusive policies are not included as of yet1 – it reflects an intentional effort to truly listen and care for our LGBT+ family.” The guiding mission for the taskforce is: How should Andrews University, as a Seventh-day Adventist University, operationalize the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on homosexuality, marriage and same-sex unions in a way that is faithful to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and provides compassionate care for LGBT students?2

In light of these recent events, it’s helpful to ask, “How do LGBT+ students actually feel about life on Andrews’ campus?” Reactions to the Shame List and policy update have been mixed. While some note the important step Andrews has taken, there is worry over the policy caution against student advocacy in public settings. We have included a sampling of student responses below.

...I actually came to Berrien Springs for my graduate education because of the efforts of students to create an inclusive space for LGBTQ Adventists like myself on a campus where we believe God lives, works, and makes a difference in each one of us... I heard about the AULL4One group via Twitter while searching for Adventists just like me who needed to be themselves but still needed God. Here was a group of kids younger than me who had suffered the same scars from snide remarks in Sabbath School classes and academy classrooms as I did. But on this campus, it wasn't outside the realm of reason for them to stand up and say we had the right to participate in the fellowship of believers and students just like anyone else... I'm disappointed that Andrews is on the shame list of unsafe campuses for LGBTQ students. But at least an effort is being made to be inclusive... It's my earnest prayer that it happens well before more people suffer long-term mental and emotional harm, or even death, from an overall culture where marginalizing and discrimination is the proudly upheld status quo…” Anonymous

...the Student Life policy/framework that has been put in place is something that I never would have considered possible within an Adventist institution... Even though the culture and environment for us has improved, there are still situations where I don’t feel comfortable openly expressing my sexuality. My hope is that by working towards a better campus for LGBT students, the people who need to feel safe on this campus will be able to without a doubt...” – Amy Beisiegel, Senior, Graphic Design

...Rereading the "Student Life Policy" made me feel distinctly that I did not have the equal opportunity of finding a life partner or even of living as my whole person. While others in the Adventist church do not have to adopt my personal beliefs, I feel that campus policy prohibiting what I say or do in regards to the LGBTQ community goes against part of what makes up the core of Christian (and SDA) faith. It is these policies that, personally, cause me to feel like less of a person.”Anonymous

...As for the shame list, I was a little surprised we were on there. Andrews is a Christian campus and is moving forward as fast as both political sides of the spectrum will let them...I think the new policy was very inclusive (aside from trans issues) about saying that we are all apart of the Andrews community. It makes me feel more apart of the community here especially considering that they even acknowledge my existence as a lesbian...there's always room for improvement and we're willing to work with Andrews to make it a better experience for all!”Alexis Thomas,Junior, Family Studies

The IAGC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is a group of student-leaders dedicated to creating safe spaces on their university campuses where open discussions can occur. To further its mission, the IAGC will be launching an October fundraiser campaign to help LGBT+ students. As we will be sharing news, students’ stories, and updates throughout the upcoming months, we invite you to follow us on our Faceboook page. Our goal is for every LGBT+ student coming to an Adventist campus to know that they are loved and they are not alone. We want these immensely valued students to know there are countless individuals who are taking a stand for their voices to be heard.

If you have any questions or would like to personally reach out to the IAGC, please contact our President, Jonathan Doram, at iagc.sda@gmail.com or our Director of Marketing & Public Relations, Jefferson Clark, at iagc.southern@gmail.com.

Notes:

1. A smaller sub-committee has been appointed within the larger taskforce with a specific assignment to continue to consider the University’s response to transgender students, as this group works in tandem with the developing position of the denomination on this issue.

2. The Adventist Church’s official position on homosexuality can be found here.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7626

Our denomination (including our churches, schools and evangelistic meetings) is caught between the “official” position of the church and the reality of human life and experience. Being homosexual and being SDA are exposed as completely incompatible given our unwillingness to rethink how we should read the Bible. Only pain, dissension and the loss of our LBGT young members can result. Sad beyond words . . .

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So those in leadership should overthrow the official church position. Refusal to do so is what is sad.

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Trying to adhere to the “official” position of the church is like trying to shoot at a moving target: What was “official” several years ago. is no longer officially condemned. Anyone who has been in the church for more than 25 years, or moved from different areas of this nation has observed that various areas decide what they will accept or reject as “official” and often unwritten rules.

Do the 28 FBs contain a specific statement against LBGT members? Or is it up for grabs by different institutions? The church has long condemned premarital sex, but never enforced as impossible. Yet there is much more in the Bible against same sex “fornication” and adultery than same sex attracted individuals. Is heterosexual dating discouraged on campus? What about homosexual dating? Does only the latter presuppose physical intimacy but not for heterosexuals? Oh, for the inconsistency!

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Note #2 at bottom of article:

"The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that every human being is valuable in the sight of God, and we seek to minister to all men and women in the spirit of Jesus. We also believe that by God’s grace and through the encouragement of the community of faith, an individual may live in harmony with the principles of God’s Word.

Seventh-day Adventists believe that sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. The Scriptures declare: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24, NIV). Throughout Scripture this heterosexual pattern is affirmed. The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships. Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden (Lev 18:5-23, 26; Lev 20:721; Rom 1:2427; 1 Cor 6:911). Jesus Christ reaffirmed the divine creation intent: “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?” So they are no longer two, but one’” (Matt 19:46, NIV). For these reasons Seventh-day Adventists are opposed to homosexual practices and relationships.

Jesus affirmed the dignity of all human beings and reached out compassionately to persons and families suffering the consequences of sin. He offered caring ministry and words of solace to struggling people, while differentiating His love for sinners from His clear teaching about sinful practices. As His disciples, Seventh-day Adventists endeavor to follow the Lord’s instruction and example, living a life of Christ-like compassion and faithfulness."

This statement was voted during the Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee on Sunday, October 3, 1999 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Revised by the General Conference Executive Committee, October 17, 2012.

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The boys and girls are in segregated dorms. Should perhaps the acknowledgement of gay and lesbian students now make them be required to be segregated from these dorms? If one of the primary goals of the segregation is discouraging sexual relationships between the boys and girls, then how can this be equally applied to same-sex students in a same-sex dorm?

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One could insert several controversial positions into that sentence and it would reflect the thinking of a certain element in our church.

How about this one? “Being an evolutionist and being SDA are exposed as completely incompatible given our unwillingness to rethink how we should read the Bible.”

Is that how we’re supposed to relate to Scripture? Respond to every cultural or scientific trend by “rethinking how we should read the Bible?” Very convenient for those who find certain passages of Scripture inconvenient impediments to their worldview or lifestyle.

Anarchy, eh? Interesting that many commenters here have complained about the very thing you’re advocating: heavy-handedness by leadership. And now you’re hoping for that very thing? Curious. The official church position just happens to be the Biblical one, like it or not.

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It’s not church teachings we’re concerned with, it’s Biblical teachings. That they happen to be church teachings is beside the point. The Bible condemns homosexual behaviour. Period. Now, if a homosexual person comes to an Adventist church, not knowing or understanding the Biblical position on homosexuality, it’t not likely to be the first thing they hear. And it’s not likely a big deal will be made about it, unless they make a big deal about it. But, if they wish to join the church and be baptised, then it will come up for discussion and it will be a sticking point. Then, they will have a choice - choose to adhere to the Biblical standard, or not be able to join the church. Sure, they will be able to discuss this in greater detail with the pastor or elders or whoever is having Bible studies with them, but it the tend it will be a choice - God and His way, or their way up until that point. God calls people to change their ways to be more like Him and to live according to His principles. The choice is entirely theirs. (I’m not saying it’s necessary and easy choice.)

Why should we make it any different? We claim to adhere to Biblical standards, how can it be any different?

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The whole problem could be solved if the church quit micromanaging lives. It’s not the business of the church to insert itself into our lives, telling us HOW to relate to the Scriptures - that job belongs to the Holy Spirit. The only function of the “church” is to draw us to the Gospel as a conduit to the works that the Gospel compels us to do, which is to “go to there whole world and be a witness”.

When the church sets itself up as the judge and jury for our personal conduct it is usurping the authority of God. We glide over the words “judge not” and claim we have to uphold Christian standards AS WE INTERPRET THEM. The Pharacies did the same thing and Jesus admonished them to “remove the plank from their own eye before trying to remove the speck from another’s”. The bigger problem is the church is mainly concerned with HOW THINGS LOOK, rather than how things really are. Had Jesus been concerned with appearances He would never have “eaten with the gluttons and drank with the winebibbers.” This type of judgementalism is what lead to “witches” being burned at the stake. The test for being a witch was to throw the accused into deep water. If they drowned they were exonerated; if they survived they were declared to be a witch.

God gives us the freedom to respond to His Word as we understand it. It’s personal, and the church has no business getting involved. Maybe we need a confessional to keep track of what members really think and do in private.

THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A REPLY TO ALLEN SHEPHERD, NOT ELAINE.

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The attempted takedown of Adventist student life policies (above) may be worth a read for those seeking to sharpen their use of language in writing such documents. However, there really is no end to the sort of deconstruction undertaken there. No text, however precise, is beyond interpretation or questioning. Hence, the legal profession.

The provided commentary belies resistance to any policy that would seek to limit the behaviors of college students, particularly when it comes to sexual activity or substance use. Such prohibitions are said to be “puritanical.” Yet, in one form or another, all higher educational institutions–whether public or private, liberal or conservative–wrestle with student conduct related to these issues and find themselves trying to manage such behavior (or its consequences) in some way. See, for instance, the burgeoning Title IX industry.

The charge that policy makers tacitly condone unromantic hook-ups, and therefore are tone-deaf to current college student behavior, is clearly false. Otherwise, they would not have forbidden premarital and extramarital sexual activity in the first place (which includes such hook-ups).

To suggest that restrictions against same-sex romantic or sexual activity is tantamount to bullying or harassment seems to be unwarranted. Has harm been done to LGBT persons by some of the religious rhetoric used in the Adventist church? Absolutely. Could harm result from not allowing LGBT young adults to mature sexually in the same way as their heterosexual counterparts? This is a real possibility that conservative Christians have not yet addressed. We can articulate (via biblical arguments) what we are against, yet cannot provide an alternative account of flourishing for the vast majority of LGBT persons.

However, attempting to characterize a code of conduct as petty and puritanical is not helpful toward this end. Denominational colleges and universities, as James Londis pointed out at the beginning of this thread, have little choice but to work between the “rock” of the official position of the church and the “hard place” of the lived reality and experience of our LGBT youth.

I would like to ask church leaders to refrain from seeing this as a cultural issue pressing against the church. Rather, I entreat them to hear it as as a deep cry, coming from LGBT youth within our church family. They want to be loved and accepted, just as they were before they came out. They want to remain Adventist and to be belong and grow as young Christians . They want to find a full and meaningful life, and for some this may mean pursuing a lifelong relationship with a member of the same sex. Even if we disagree with that, we cannot and must not fail them as our own.

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If we can admit, even slightly, that the biblical world is a pre-scientific one, filled with explanations for behavior and events that made sense to them but cannot and do not make sense to us, we may find the courage to rethink our “settled” beliefs. And that includes our “moral” and ethical beliefs.

We do not stone adulterers any longer, tolerate slavery, minimize women’s opportunities, ostracize lepers or believe that every exhibition of “demonic” behavior in the New Testament is best explained as demon possession (some may be, but all?) We may quote both the Hebrew Bible and Jesus supporting heterosexual marriage based on the doctrine that "God created male and female and they should become one flesh,"but we now know (a) that not every being on earth is the result of an individual, divine act of creation and (b) not all of us are “male” or “female” in the terms we used to assume had a clear definition. If in fact even some are born “gay,” what moral implications follow for believers in Christ? Can we say with absolute certainty that “God created” everyone male and female as traditionally understood? That only they can become “one” in marriage?

Some homosexual activity is not related to being LG in one’s nature, and, in that sense, may be rejected as a violation of Scriptural teaching? But is that equally true for those whose love for a same-sex partner is consistent with one’s sexual nature? Could Scripture have even imagined this being possible in that time and place? Our past refusal to consider this issue as anything but fixed in Scripture led to a number of marriages (not all) which should never have happened for either of the partners. Our unwillingness to even listen to the stories they tell about themselves , coupled with our eagerness to embrace the charlatans who insist that “conversion therapy” works, makes us culpable in the suffering of our LGBTQ children and members. Further, Insisting they must be celibate to be an Adventist Christian is a legalistic, oppressive answer to a profound human dilemma. It may be the “right” answer, but its rightness is too quickly embraced by many who have no true understanding of the people or the issues involved.

Finally, chalking it all up to “liberals” who care nothing for the authority of the Bible is a “red herring” which steers the church away from the hard work, study, and yes “prayer” this dilemma requires,

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Ellen White condemned ownership of a bicycle. Period. Ellen White urged that every girl should be taught how to saddle a horse. Period. Ellen White asserted that volcanoes were caused by fires burning underground. Period.

Understanding culture and science does matter. Inspired counsel always has a historical context that we should seek to understand before we claim complete understanding.

Amen. Except that some, unfortunately, continue to denigrate women’s abilities and impede their opportunities.

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-A most important, even essential attribute needed for success and happiness in life is SELF ESTEEM.

This is particularly important in the late teens and early adulthood.

For that reason I advise no teenager or young adult who is LGBT, to even consider enrolling in an Adventist academy or college. That is, not until the denomination stops its current attitudes and theologies which result in shunning, shaming, denigration, discrimination, disapproval, and other damaging bullying and belittling.

All of this is gravely injurious to the self worth and self esteem of our LGBT offspring, and can even result in suicide, or severe clinical depression.

Our teenagers would be far better off if they enrolled in the nearest public institution that had in-state tuition. A saving both for their finances and their self worth.

Adventist colleges rank highest in the nation among those whose graduates have the most student DEBT!

And probably rank near the top of those most detrimental, deleterious, destructive and damaging to the well being of gays/lesbians/transgendered.

If our Adventist LGBT offspring have not been so severely hurt by our church’s hostility and still wished to remain Christian, I would advise them to seek out the closest RECONCILING Methodist Church. These are congregations which embrace LGBT people with inclusiveness and loving kindness.

Such a polar opposite to many of our Adventist congregations, families, academies, and colleges where only HATE and HURT are dispensed.

The Methodists have a lot to teach us – they have been ordaining women pastors since 1956. And they have many reconciling congregations with inclusiveness for gay/lesbian/transgender individuals.

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This would have been me in the early 1980s. It’s encouraging to see that the window dressing is getting an overhaul, however, until the SdA church accepts its LGBT+ members and students as equals and quits stigmatizing them, this is nothing more than redecorating. Bigotry is ugly, and it needs to stop.

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Define ‘enforced’, please. Are we the FB (fundamental beliefs) police, or the doctrine police? I think that is one of the areas where the church completely forgot it’s true purpose - not judgment or discrimination, but unity and inclusiveness.

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To those who think that truth is about the abstract and experimental notions of ‘coherence’ and ‘correspondence’ between propositions, no experience of truth can exist without some kind of existential participation in a community. This is the paradigmatic truth of Christianity, where truth is truth as incarnational truth, in contrast to abstract and speculative metaphysical theologies (often repressive). We don’t need to spend our lives wondering, as Augustine did, what it is we believe in when we say that we believe in God. We have the answer, because Jesus is the paradigmatic incarnation of God; a God who is deeply involved in human affairs.

Christianity, Adventism included, has for too long been held hostage to strong and speculative metaphysical theologies, driven by the need to control and define purity. What we call ‘revelation’ has cogency, only, insofar as we recognize that our common vulnerable historical and conditioned existence is our horizion of meaning-making and redemption.

That is, the experience of Christian truth is deeply incarnational and is above all centered on a willingness to embrace and hear the vulnerability of my cohabitants in this world - the basic existential condition for all of us - be it straight or gay!

If not, we cannot call ourselves Christians.

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A perusal of the Shame List reveals that there are institutions with enrollments as low as 100 students included, yet there is only one Seventh-day Adventist institution on that list. There are many Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist, Wesleyan, Catholic, Lutheran, etc. institutions listed. How could this be? Are the policies and procedures at Andrews that different from the other Adventists colleges/universities in the NAD?

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Shame list, indeed. Sexual orientation is one thing, Sexual activity outside of Marrage is other.tZ

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My 2 cents (sorry, long post):

First, this is complicated and runs up against 150+ years of history, tradition and ingrained belief’s. SDA’s from a historical context believed that they follow the whole Bible; Old and New Testaments. And, that SDA’s believe they have been given special understanding as to what the Bible says (E.G. White, prophesy). That understanding led to a very conservative faith (not in the political sense) that has had much legalism about it. For example I’m ashamed that as a 12 year old, I told a 9 year old kid he was going to Hell because he was a Catholic (this was a long time ago), but I learned that in SDA schools.

As part of that tradition was very conservative viewpoints on human sexuality and relationships. This is part of our basic belief’s that individuals should only have intimate relations within marriage and that marriage is confined to one man and one woman. As other posters on this thread have said, “that’s what the Bible says, period!” (never mentioning all other texts that talk about a variety of other abominations such as mixing two types of cloth together.).

In a changing world, how do we reconcile faith traditions that are presented in the form of law with changing mores in society - does that mean we give up our Christianity - give up our unique place in Christianity as Seventh-day Adventists? We could argue, as many Sunday-keeping churches have that Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection ended the need for the Old Testament (and SDA theology does argue that for what is defined as ceremonial law, although it’s convoluted in Liv. what is ceremonial and what is not), but then does that no longer make us SDA’s?

Or in fact, has our inability to change with the times and recognize love and forgiveness as the message of the Gospel and that Grace, not obedience to laws including such as what happens between consenting adults is not a matter for exclusion from the Church, that our inability to change really makes us like the Pharisees of Jesus’s day?

Or, are these changing social mores really a test of our faith? That God is calling us to be a separate and distinct people who are “in the world, but not of the world”? That God is calling us like he did Joseph not to compromise our beliefs, or Abraham to make painful sacrifices, including possibly our own relationships, or Jonah, where we are to be obedient even when we don’t want to - is that the lesson to be learned here? That true faith means rejecting any creeping compromise, no matter how rational it appears. That’s certainly the lesson that the Church has taught it’s young people since the 1,800’s.

These are difficult questions. After two years in SDA college, I left to go to public college because I believed that if your are required by dogma to think a certain way in one area (religion), it means that you cannot truly question in any others. I still believe that and yet as my oldest child entered University last week and she chose a public university, a part of me wished that she had chosen an SDA school, where celibacy is considered to be the norm and there are many safe spaces that don’t rush a young person to make impulsive choices and possibly where she might find someone to love of a similar faith experience who makes it easy to continue worshiping in the same faith tradition.

While my personal viewpoint is one of acceptance, I accept that there are people different than me and that they love God just as I do. I also do not condemn that person who believes that their view is biblically correct and that their interpretation is the only one (although I heard a sermon recently by an SDA Pastor that delved deeply into the Hebrew and Greek root words that suggested our English interpretation may not be the only way to view this subject).

I’ll continue to pray for the believers in Christ, that he may provide support for those in need and clarity for all.

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I like your post, which is very thoughtful.

Yes, people love to say this. My response is, “have you read the bible”? Most of the heroes in the bible had multiple wives, or slept with their slave girls, or other similar things. Girls were sold into marriage by their fathers. These stores are told with no indictment of the hero, just as information or to move the story along.

Couples often simply announced their marriage in old times (especially among the poor) after sleeping together.

Very little about examples of biblical marriage are anything like our modern conventions. Those who think there are such examples are reading the bible wearing rose colored glasses. The reality is that our marriage conventions are western, sprouted out of Europe. They bear little to no resemblance to ancient forms of marriage, including those found in the bible.

Edit:

Yes, for this role of a church leader it was important to call out the case that he should be married to only one woman, because there were other common cases, or because he needed to be married in the first place. We’d very likely not write this today as 1) we don’t tend to require that church leaders be married all the time, and 2) we don’t have other common cases, at least in the west.

This indicates that the happy couple is having sex, the act that joins you as one flesh. It does not say the man should be married to (should own in those days) only one woman.

A key concept, expressed here in the last phrase “let no man separate”, is a prohibition on adultery. At the time adultery was limited to the taking of another man’s wife. “Let no man separate”, is another way of saying don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, as she is his property. But, if you wanted to have sex with an unattached woman, that was not prohibited. (This is an example of how their attitudes were different than modern conservative attitudes toward marriage and fidelity.)

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