Andrews University Responds to Questions Regarding Its New Official LGBT Care Group

In October, Andrews University announced that the Board of Trustees had voted to “approve a plan for a thoughtfully designed, supportive group on campus for LGBT+ students.” The group, named Haven, has generated a mixed reaction in the weeks following. In an effort to address concerns, the University released an official statement on December 5. It follows in full below:

Confidential Care Group for LGBT Students Official statement from Andrews University

Andrews University Response to Questions Regarding Care for Students Navigating Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Differences

Over the past few years Andrews University has been working to respond to questions about sexual orientation and gender identity that have arisen on our Adventist campuses. Our commitment from the beginning has been to hold and put into practice the biblical teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as expressed in our fundamental beliefs and the official statements on human sexuality issued by the General Conference and its North American Division.

A few years ago, the University created a Task Force made up of faculty, staff, students, church leaders and board members. This group worked closely with the relevant subcommittee of our Board of Trustees, which includes significant representation from church leaders. From this collaboration, the University established “A Seventh-day Adventist Framework for Relating to Sexual Orientation Differences on the Campus of Andrews University,”* which outlines our commitment to the biblical teachings and values of the Adventist church and establishes policies that call our students to uphold them. This document sets the expectation that sexual intimacy belongs only within marriage, defined as “a lifelong union between a man and a woman.” Furthermore, the University clarifies that students are to refrain “from romantic behaviors between individuals of the same sex.” This policy is strictly enforced through our student conduct processes, and the Adventist biblical position is taught in our classrooms and from our pulpits.

Having affirmed the University’s commitment to biblical faithfulness, as detailed in the General Conference’s statement on homosexuality,** the Task Force then moved to implement that statement’s call for compassion: “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.”

Additionally, the Task Force also used the Andrews University’s Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary statement, “An Understanding of the Biblical View on Homosexual Practice and Pastoral Care,”*** as a guiding resource for how Andrews University should provide ministry and care for these students.

The Task Force reviewed recent research on over 300 Adventist young adults who identify as LGBT to learn more about their struggles and discovered a great deal of hurt in this population, placing them at a higher risk for depression and self-harm. At nearly all of our North American Division colleges and universities, these students have started unofficial groups—with little to no guidance from their institutions. Our goal has been to create a University-based group where students can receive spiritual and emotional care for their lives that is in accordance with Adventist biblical teaching on human sexuality and the University’s code of conduct (as noted above). In the words of the General Conference statement, Andrews University “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.”

This new entity will not function as a student club or organization, nor will it be a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), as found on so many public campuses. It is a confidential, members-only group that will minister spiritually and emotionally to a select number of students with the influence and care of faithful Adventist mentors. While there will be campus communication to make students aware of the group’s existence, our Framework policy explicitly forbids students from advocating or instigating views or behaviors that are inconsistent with the biblical teachings of the Adventist church.

Overseeing the group will be Judith Bernard-Fisher, director of the Andrews University Counseling & Testing Center. Reflecting on this responsibility, Fisher says, “As I think of God’s immeasurable love for all of His children, I am convinced that His spirit of love and grace will continue to guide our steps as we reach out to our own students through this new group that is committed to providing meaningful, Christ-centered care for these young men and women.”

_____

References

*A Seventh-day Adventist Framework for Relating to Sexual Orientation Differences on the Campus of Andrews University; Andrews University Student Handbook https://bulletin.andrews.edu/content.php?catoid=14&navoid=2578

**General Conference Statement on Homosexuality https://www.adventist.org/en/information/official-statements/statements/article/go/-/homosexuality/

***An Understanding of the Biblical View on Homosexual Practice and Pastoral Care; Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University https://www.andrews.edu/sem/about/statements/seminary-statement-on-homosexuality-edited-8-17-jm-final.pdf

The above statement can also be found on the Andrews University website here.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: SpectrumMagazine.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8450
1 Like

The “understanding or study” is woefully inept. So much misinterpretation of scripture. So sad that this is being so mishandled.

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i think judith is articulating correctly what i hope and believe about this initiative at andrews…i imagine there has been a lot of prayer, thought and research going into the development of Haven…most importantly, there appears to be an openness to the fact that the holy spirit reserves the right to indicate what are the best methods in ministering to LGBT individuals…no doubt Haven represents a learning opportunity for students and faculty alike…this is a new moment, a new direction…i hope we can all support what is happening, rather than imagine the worst…

it isn’t easy growing up adventist, only to gradually realize, as one comes of age, that one’s sexual orientation is wired to exactly what is condemned in the bible in the strongest terms…there is an overwhelming sense of unfairness that settles into the heart, that eventually smothers every capacity to respond to even basic bible truths, like the important concept that god, by nature, is love…none of our kids should be left to deal with these kinds of battles alone…i can’t think of a better time to reach out to adventist LGBT individuals than when they’re impressionable young adults in college, and still in our church…venturing out into the world, for many young gay people, is the inevitable result of church neglect…and the sad truth is that it is a very, very difficult thing to find one’s way back…i think andrews has considered its responsibilities carefully and is doing what it feels it must…i think all of our schools should follow suit…

7 Likes

Oh Dear, I wonder how long she will have her job. “Men and women”…how very binary, and prejudiced against gender non-conformity, I can hear those objections already!

May God bless you in your efforts to nurture the young people.

As Jeremy so poignantly expresses, at best it is an excruciating journey, and without understanding and support, nearly an impossible one.

May all the young people feel loved and supported and included.

Regarding gender blurring, compassion compels us to look at what we’re doing environmentally as well as socially, I believe.

Are Estrogen Disrupting Chemicals Blurring Issues of Gender?

Although scientists have postulated a wide range of adverse human health effects of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), the nexus of the debate is the concern that prenatal and childhood exposure to EDCs may be responsible for a variety of abnormalities in human sexuality, gender development and behaviors, reproductive capabilities, and sex ratios.

Scientists today are asking hard questions about potential human effects: Do EDC exposures impair fertility in men or women?

Can they cause sexual organ malformations, stunted reproductive development, or testicular or breast cancer?

Do fetal exposures to EDCs alter sex phenotypes? Do they change later gender-related neurobiological characteristics and behaviors such as play activity and spatial ability?

Could such exposures even be involved in the etiology of children born with ambiguous gender?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1281309/


*Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.* --John 7:24
3 Likes

Let us remember the unbending, relentless, implacable demographics of the
LGBT situation : :

One in 20/25 babies are born gay/lesbian, regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion of the parents, or other variables.

These unfortunates, have zero say in their sexual orientation ( just as the lucky heterosexuals have no memory of choosing to be “straight” ).

Modern science has universally rejected “ conversion therapy “, the notion that sexual orientation is changeable ( although some in our church administration continue to cling to this dangerous and outmoded concept ).

Even EXODUS, a gay-run change therapy group, has closed its doors and apologized for the psychological damage and hurt it had caused.

One gay child in twenty five births, means that every family with several children, has a greater risk factor of harboring a non-heterosexual child.

Just as their LGBT offspring have no say / choice / control in this matter, neither do the parents of these offspring.

For decades, the denomination has dealt with its gay demographic by demeaning, denouncing, denigrating, demonizing, despising, deriding, disrespecting, disparaging, and by despicable discrimination.

By the time these LGBT Adventist young people reach the age of twenty five, their demographic has shrunk, from four per cent of the church population, to much lower than one per cent.

Why ? Because people “vote with their feet “ when they are not welcomed.

The church’s “ welcome mat “ remains formidably unchanged.

Hence my advice to all LGBT students on every Adventist Academy and College campus :

Please reduce your student debt by relocating to the nearest in-state-tuition
public high school /community college / university.

Your maturation from adolescence to adulthood mandates a strong sense of self esteem, and self worth, ——-impossible to achieve on a campus where you are scorned, shunned, shamed, stigmatized, and smeared.

You will retain your dignity, your self esteem and your self worth, and not deplete your pocket book when you take charge of your life and exit an adverse Adventist academic ambiance.

“HAVEN “ on the Andrews Campus will never be a true harbor, nor a hedge against Adventist homophobia.

Adventism will always consider you a “ second class citizen “ with all its dismal disadvantageous downsides.

The sooner you move to a more nurturing milieu the better!

Response to Tom Loop
Thank you, Tom, for using the absolutely apt and appropriate (and damning ) adjective
TOXIC,
when referring to the atmosphere and general attitudes in SDA insttititions concerning our LGBT children/youth.
Studies on suicide rates among gay teens, show that those who are born into accepting ATHEIST families have lower suicide rates than those unfortunate enough to be living in rejecting Christian households.

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Which is bogus. As I recall, there were no representatives from the medical field and the only prestigious psychiatrist invited “conveniently” missed his flight to the meeting.

Welcome to the club.

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I am so thankful that Andrews University is reaching out to LGBT students. Jesus shocked the religious leaders of his day by working with those who were considered “sinners.” It is long past time for all who are the disciples of Jesus to love as Jesus did. We are ALL sinners, why should we condemn those who sin differently than we do? Let us quit concentrating on sinful behavior, and concentrate on the only solution to the sin problem – Jesus Christ.

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Robin, I couldn’t say it better myself. While I commend those within Adventism
who genuinely try to understand and support LGBT folks within the ranks, the atmosphere and general attitudes in SDA churches and institutions is seen as so toxic by most LGBT’s, that I think it it"s better for both your emotional and spiritual health to seek educational opportunities elsewhere in a more affirming environment.

You can never be yourself because you will be seen by most in the church as flawed and suspect. It puts a tremendous emotional weight on your back that makes life unbearable to so many. While your straight friends pursue romantic relationships, gays are told to refrain. You can bet that gays who are out and seek friendship with like people will be under an unneccesary and unwanted spotlight.

2 Likes

Mentoring and nurturing usually have a goal and it seems the goal would be for anyone who joins this new group, to change or repress their orientation. Either case is not emotionally or physically healthy, I don’t see this group as described in the article as a safe place for college students who identify as LGBTQ+. In light of the statement released this past week, it is a step backwards for our church. Backwards to becoming irrelevant to society and to God. At some point a remanent becomes a scrap.

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Floyd, My experience with persons who identify as gay or lesbian is that they are unhappy with the Church’s treatment of them. I believe that this group, at Andrews, intends to show love, respe4ct, and acceptance to each member of the group. Why should we treat those with another sexual orientation differently than a person who breaks the Sabbath, lusts, covets, lies, or hates? Every member of the church is a sinner (including the pastor, or Conference officer), why shut out those who are sexually oriented in a different way?