BRI Sounds Off on Women's Ordination, Polygamy and "Trangenderism"

The Biblical Research Institute, the scholarly arm of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, has issued statements on Women's Ordination, Marriage and Sexuality, and "Transgenderism" in the 49th issue of the BRI Newsletter, dated January 2015.

The newsletter's first article, authored by BRI Deputy Director Ekkehardt Mueller, sounds a cautionary note about potential fallout from the current debate over women's ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Mueller notes that as an official entity of the Church, the BRI has not taken a position on the issue either in favor of or opposed to women's ordination. But Mueller, speaking for the BRI, admonishes readers about potential repercussions. He writes:

The BRI is quite concerned about some fallouts of the current debate. It seems that after the Theology of Ordination Committee (TOSC) finished its work, the dispute reached a new level that, in our opinion, is detrimental to the Church and to church members—that is, those directly affected and those listening to the debate. We have the impression that the discussion is no longer on a biblical-theological and factual level but that individuals and groups are being heavily criticized and condemned by others. In theology we refer to these as ad hominem arguments.

Ad hominem arguments, Mueller warns, hurt people, create hostility, destroy trust, and hinder cooperation. "In the end we may have a split within the Church—if not visible, then invisible," Mueller writes. "This may hinder the unity and mission of the Church for years to come."

Mueller also worries about how the debate will look to outsiders.

Non-Adventist observers of the debate may be appalled by what they see happening in Adventist circles and what they read on the Internet. Thus the debate may have negative effects on the Church’s outreach and on its reputation in the general public.

There may be fallout for church members too—specifically young people, Mueller says. He notes that "[t]he ordination debate has nothing to do with the Bible’s most fundamental teachings. It does not belong to the core of Adventist beliefs." And when churchgoers see acrimonious debate over a non-core issue, it might raise questions about the Church itself, Mueller points out. Mueller lists a fourth potential problem, that of erosion of confidence in the Bible because people on both sides of the issue use Scripture to prop up their arguments.

It is perplexing, especially for young people, to see people who hold a high view of Scripture come to different results. As a result, they may conclude that the Bible is irrelevant to some or all issues that we face today, and that the Church has failed to articulate a methodology that brings us all to the same conclusions.

Mueller suggests that participants in the debate over women's ordination should be very cautious, and should stop rhetoric that hurts others.

Below Mueller's article, Southern Adventist University professor of Theology and Ethics Stephen Bauer discusses the "prescriptive authority" of Genesis on Marriage and Sexuality. Bauer asserts,

The book of Genesis functions as the theological and philosophical introduction to the Bible. Genesis 1–4 gives the philosophical definitions for God, man, and the nature of reality used by the rest of Scripture. . . . Genesis 1–2 says that because it was not good for humans to live alone, God created a corresponding partner of a differing gender, so that in marriage a male and a female would become “one flesh.”

Bauer then lists several "distortions" of the Genesis ideal: polygamy, voyeurism, homoeroticism, rape, prostitution, and adultery. Bauer describes polygamy as a sort of gateway drug to other distortions, saying, "Polygyny appears to have been a tipping point that opened the way for more daring deviations in the future." Voyeurism, Bauer contends, was Ham's sin in Genesis 9, in which he looks upon his naked father, Noah. "Ham was playing the voyeur, turning the situation in to a live peep-show," Bauer argues. God designed sex to be "a private act between husband and wife, and not a public spectacle for voyeuristic pleasure," Bauer says.

Bauer says homosexuality (here, male-male sex acts) was the sin of Sodom in Genesis 19, a sin greater than the rape of Lot's daughters. "Certain- ly, Lot’s reaction to homoerotic sexuality is relevant to the contemporary discussion of gay and lesbian rights in Western culture," Bauer writes.

The story in Genesis 34 is about the rape of Dinah, Bauer suggests. Unless it was consensual. "If Dinah’s involvement was consensual, we would then be introducing the issues of pre-marital and extra-marital sex, which are again highly relevant issues for current society."

Genesis 38 depicts Tamar's act of prostitution, which was another deviation from the Edenic ideal, Bauer argues. "It appears that such an exploitive affair was normal in those times," Bauer says. In Genesis 39, Potiphar's wife demonstrates the pitfalls of adultery and non-consensual sex. Bauer asks, "How many date rapes occur because one does not respect the other’s expressed refusal? The themes and issues in this story are certainly areas with which twenty-first century citizens can identify," he says.

Bauer concludes by proposing the Genesis View of sexuality's purpose:

The entire Genesis record reveals that God’s primary purpose for sexual expression is not for personal pleasure or to get a baby to prop your psyche. Furthermore, sex is not meant to be a tool to manipulate others or a means to exploit or wield power over another. The primary purpose for sexual expression, highlighted by Joseph, is to create and foster a sense of uniqueness, exclusivity, and specialness between a husband and wife in their marriage.

Below Bauer, the newsletter provides an official statement from the Biblical Research Institute on "Transgenderism," a term that does not appear often in scholarly literature, but has gained traction primarily in religious writing. The statement notes that the issue has generated several inquiries because transgender persons have accepted Jesus Christ and have joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The statement starts with a call for compassion. "Oftentimes the affected persons have suffered emotionally and spiritually because of their feelings of gender incongruity and rejection by others. So they need all our love and respect." But the article immediately adds a "however," stating that if marriage is up for debate, the Bible's teachings on marriage should be considered.

The Bible, the statement says, teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman. "[M]arriage between a non-transgender male and a transgender male or between a non-transgender female and a transgender female would be understood as a homosexual relationship, prohibited by Scripture," the statement says. The BRI contends that as far as gender-reassignment surgery is concerned, "Such behavior appears to be a sophisticated form of homosexual behavior that would also militate against the biblical perspective of homosexuality."

The statement concludes that transgender indivuduals should not marry.

For these reasons we strongly caution transgender people against a transgender getting married. However, even if the Church would not approve of a couple’s choice to marry, the local pastor should still minister to those entrusted to his care.

Concerning the appropriateness of gender-reassignment or "sex-change" surgery, as the BRI describes it, the article offers the following:

While the struggles and challenges of those identifying as transgender have some elements in common with the struggles of all human beings, we recognize the uniqueness of their existential situation and the limitation of our knowledge in such issues.

Secondarily, however, Scripture must provide guidance, and Scripture states that human beings are a psychosomatically unified, meaning that sexual identity is not independant from one's body, God is the author of our gender, and we are all corrupted by sin. Our feelings do not always reflect accurately God's ideals and truth. Humans are not created to be disunified, and so, "[s]ince surgery does not solve the situation, a person is more likely to find wholeness and healing by learning to live with his or her sexual condition of a real or perceived dichotomy in sexual identity while leaning on the Lord for constant help."

The BRI strongly cautions against gender-reassignment surgery, calling it "radical" and "irreversible," and calls on pastors and church members to "demonstrate care and regard toward those who struggle with this challenging issue."

Finally, the BRI makes the following two statements regarding transgender individuals:

1. "Should individuals seek to use sex-change surgery as a way of circumventing biblical prin- ciples addressing human sexuality and the proper way to satisfy such desires, they would be acting against God’s revealed will. The Church must remain loyal to its commitment to the will of the risen Lord as revealed in the Scriptures and therefore display love for all."

2. "[W]e do not deny church membership to persons who have undergone sex-change surgery but are commit- ted to the Lord and His will."

Jared Wright is managing editor of

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

This treatment of Transgender issues is an embarrassment. It is an affront to the transgender experience of gender and the psychological health of transgender people who are SDA. This statement makes it seem like a transgender person would capriciously decide on a “Sex Change” to circumvent the Bible. This is an obscene suggestion.


Clearly they do not appreciate the struggle that is the experience of transgender people. Examine the rate of suicide/attempted suicide and suicide ideation rates of transgender people due to gender dysphoria and these comments are ghastly.


Stephen Bauer

THIS is WHY Theologians should NEVER discuss Scientific and Biological Issues. AWFUL!! AWFUL!!

Also, If I read my Biblical Liturature beyond the Book of Genesis correctly, Homosexuality WAS NOT the sins of Sodom as the reason for its demise. Both Old and New Testament.


I downloaded the issue and read the entire section on transgender. They are all over the place…

It seems that they have chosen to look at the work of Anne Lawrence, J Michael Bailey and Paul R. McHugh, and there ilk, as opposed to looking at WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health), AMA, APA, etc. Although the position acknowledges that it likely at least partially biological and even in utero developmental in nature it is a sigh of "brokenness brought about the the sin factor…

And the connection of homosexual desire as a reason for transition, clearly not, as the broad community of science has rejected Lawrence, Bailey and HcHugh…

They do not even attempt to address how to deal with someone who is already in the church only those who come from “outside”.

The only positive is that they do express caution and discourage the idea of reversing transition, but leave that door at least slightly ajar.

We can do so much better, but we must move to have theologians as secondary to some of these conversations not primary.


I agree 1,000% with Steve. When theologians attempt to tackle and make decisions on biological and psychological conditions, as well as all scientific questions they are out of their realm and it’s all over their head to begin to understand such situations. There is a time to speak and a time to remain silent and it seems theologians have the impossible belief that they can address all human conditions with supreme authority. They should have the knowledge and humility to remain silent rather than speaking and appear to be mere humans no more informed than their average member. What hubris!


It is tragically ironic that after Mueller’s legitimate, accurate, and timely cautions regarding “potential problem[s]” with the way women’s ordination issues have been handled, the newsletter totally and completely ignores all of those cautions as it moves to issues of “Marriage and Sexuality”!

I am completely appalled at Bauer’s pick of Biblical passages that he claims have “prescriptive authority” in these areas! It seems to me that he not only shows an abysmal lack of knowledge about the complexities of physical gender issues, but also a very faulty exegesis and application of the principles of scripture and an astonishing lack of human compassion and respect for persons who are not "just like him!

I find myself in complete agreement with the “millstone” passage of scripture! If this is the best that our BRI can offer in the way of leadership in Biblical applications… … …

So sad. What a tragic “fall” from the ideals and views of those who first founded this organization they called the “Biblical Research Institute”.


I suspect Dr. Mueller does not, in reality, speak for the entire staff of the Biblical Research Institute when he describes the ordination issue as “non-core” and implies that both camps in the debate hold a “high view” of Scripture. The work of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee demonstrated, in my view, a conclusion quite to the contrary. Without the culturalized de-sharpening of key Scriptural passages and a notion of interchangeable gender roles at odds with the Biblical testimony, the case for women’s ordination cannot stand.

I fully concur that negative attacks on individuals have no place in the present controversy, or any other. But to warn one another of the destructive consequences of ideas remains a sacred Christian duty, one epitomized by the labors of the ancient prophets and apostles and the Savior Himself.


An attempt at a Tour de Force that blew up in their face. Tom Z


“Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities round about in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” *Jude 7).


Finally something good to read after a fairly quiet holiday period so far.

I go the opposite way to the commenters so far. I appreciate Stephen Bauer’s input to the discussion on sexuality. It is well thought out and Biblical, which is the most important thing here. I might add that living out your feelings is a poor caricature of a life. Feelings are fickle and subject to change. Truly living is to stand for principle, and specifically Biblical principle, as God designed us. To stand up against sin and against a sin-warped world and say No, God made me a man (or woman as the case may be) and I will be a man (or woman). And if necessary, to learn to become what God has made you to be.

Gender reassignment surgery is exactly as the BRI described - a sophisticated form of homosexual behaviour. And further, one cannot create a real penis or real vagina in someone who doesn’t have one. It is a sophisticated counterfeit.

I disagree with Ekkehardt Mueller and the BRI’s take on the ordination debate.

The TOSC presented many papers but in the end did not conclude with any recommendations on what ordination actually is (biblically) and what it means. This should have been done before any recommendation was made as to who should or shouldn’t be ordained. So the first question was not answered, the second cannot be dealt with.

And secondly, I disagree with Ekkehardt Mueller when he wrote the following:

I disagree whether some of those truly have a high view of scripture. For the Bible must be understood as written. I feel that many people refuse to be convinced by Biblical arguments. If you argue from the Bible that because of A, B and C the conclusion is D, and it is clearly backed up by the Bible, and someone refuses to accept such reasoning, then I suggest the problem is not one of people on two sides with a high view of scripture disagreeing, but that some have a slightly lower view of scripture which can be moulded and adjusted to take in or to reject certain positions that one is already convinced of.

Just as those who are able to fit millions of years and evolution into the Biblical account of origins I would argue do not have a high view of scripture, because scripture clearly says something else, and those who would accept homosexual practice in the church also do not have a high view of scripture, because scripture clearly says something else, the debate on ordination must follow the same path. Ultimately, the pro-women’s ordination position relies on the argument “the Bible appears to say x but in reality it means y”. If the Bible clearly demonstrates something, and people argue the opposite, where is the high view of scripture?

Further, why should the world church be bound by TOSC when it is a largely North American committee, not representative of the world church? Where were all the African and Asian committee members?


Both Bauer and you are absolutely and categorically wrong on this issue. There is no other way to say it.

The Biblical Research Institute, (BRI), either needs to be officially dismissed by the corporate chief elders or if, perchance, the chief elders have not noticed the Holy Spirit's directive in this regard, they should at least radically attempt to immediately revamp its membership to be much more representative of the voices of both women and men of the church who are open-minded to the more intelligent leanings of the Holy Spirit.  
For the BRI not to understand that the issue relating to the ordination of women is a moral one saddens many.  For the chief elders in the corporate structure to continue to impede the Holy Spirit's calling of women to be ordained comes very close to be an unpardonable sin.  
I note with interest, the article's accompanying photograph must be outdated.   Angel Manuel Rodriquez, the former BRI chair is in the picture, standing on the far right.  We owe a debt of gratitude to Rodriquez.  Once retired and out from under the thumb of the chief elder, Rodriquez produced an intelligent thesis, which shed present truth on the church's long-held, erroneous belief in male headship in the home and in the church.  
Many have understood Rodriquez belief long before his belief was published.  Yet, many of the corporate, chief elders, because of their misogynistic underpinnings, find Rodriquez's white paper not palatable. Sad.  Excellent comments have been listed addressing the BRI's feudal/feeble attempts at addressing matters, wherein, obviously, they have sadly proved their incompetency; sufficient rationale in support of the aforementioned notion that it's past time for a house cleaning.

carolyn, do you believe that chaz bono has a real and functional penis…a penis is an extremely complex organ…i doubt very much whether the surgeries and hormone treatments that go into transgenderism can really replicate one…

BRI seems to suggest that transgender status is God’s will. Tom Z


"Should individuals seek to use sex-change surgery as a way of circumventing biblical principles addressing human sexuality and the proper way to satisfy such desires, they would be acting against God’s revealed will."

I have never read a medical case, discussed a clinical case with a medical team, nor have been referred a patient, wherein the patient requested for sex-change surgery to circumvent biblical principles. “Doctor, I am requesting a sex-change to circumvent biblical principles.”

Is there a physician who is a member of the BRI? Maybe formulating the problem properly could lead to viable resolutions. This, together with polarizing leaders bode poorly for the church. Is this the best this “scholarly” arm of the GC can come up with? I hate to think that this reflects the current thinking at the GC. Please prove me wrong.

Until then, may God have mercy on us all…


Time for you to read again and ask for the Holy Spirit to help you understand the truth.

This is a sad case of assignment of moral values to natural variations in nature. For some concrete examples, just look at the Wikipedia entry for “Sex Change”.

The Spanish Slugs that proliferate in my backyard every summer, can be simultaneous hermaphrodites: just look again in Wikipedia on “Gastropod Reproduction”.

Moral values are also sometimes assigned to vicious animals, poisonous plants. and even thorns on roses or thistles.

The more we learn about the diversity, we risk either being dazed and confused, or becoming the judge who decides which are the “good” parts of nature that are created by God and which parts have been perverted by Satan. Both are futile.

It may be difficult for us to accept the diversity of living beings, because there are many things we don’t like to see. A lion starting to eat a zebra alive when still pursuing it, a brutal mating battle among bulls, or cancer eating a human body from the inside. If we let our feelings judge God’s work of creation, we place ourselves above Him, an ultimate blasphemy. Instead we need to step back in awe and wonder, and accept that there are many things we don’t understand. And also accept that life is based on a cycle of life and death, of eating or being eaten. Our pretty view of Edenic paradise may be naive if we assign it specific behavior, food types, or reproductive mechanisms to it.

Instead let’s be enthralled by the great stories of the Bible as grand revelations of God wanting the best for us, and not as scientific descriptions. Let us not let the unexplained destroy our faith. Instead, let God be great and let us be humble.

And let us not become like the vicious carnivores we often despise. Let us not attack, condemn, or destroy those people who have a genetic variation that is part of the diversity of nature. Christ encouraged us to love those who were different, downtrodden, despised and rejected. And for many of us that must not become an insurmountable challenge, but be the hallmark of a true Christian.


Ekkehardt Mueller understates in all diplomatic gentleness the carnage that is being inflicted upon the Seventh-day Adventist Church by opponents of women’s ordination.

It is striking how the arguments urged against women’s ordination mirror the arguments that were advanced to justify slavery. Upon reading The Religious Defense of American Slavery Before 1830 by Larry R. Morrison, I was stunned to see that the approach to Scripture taken by the antebellum apologists for slavery is eerily similar to the approach taken by Seventh-day Adventist male headship theorists.

Blood will not be spilled in San Antonio, but there will be a reckoning. No Seventh-day Adventist male headship theorist should feel any succor from the fact that history is often slow in making judgments. The claim made by these theorists–every single one them either in blatant or nuanced form–that women do not bear the divine image to the same extent as men will not be forgotten or overlooked. Ideas have consequences. History will eventually record that the Seventh-day Adventist Church suffered unspeakable shame and disgrace from its ecclesiastical refusal to affirm what Scripture teaches about the nature of women and what the Lord has called men and women together to do.


Disgusting, inappropriate qestion, Jeremy.