General Conference Responds to Bisexual Pastor Retaining Credentials

The General Conference and division officers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church issued a statement on April 4 in response to a German pastor who has retained his ministerial credentials after coming out publicly as bisexual. The statement, titled “Reaffirmation of the Biblical Criteria for Pastoral Ministry and the Biblical Teachings on Human Sexuality,” says that the actions of the pastor and his local conference are “inconsistent with the biblical beliefs accepted by the worldwide body of believers.”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12281

There is a wider issue here that is being fought on the battlefield of sexuality. It goes back to 2015 and the vote on WO. The issue is “Who decides who is to be ordained, or accepted in to ministry?” The GC tried to usurp the Union’s with the vote then. They will try again here to grab that authority. If the Unions are to maintain autonomy, they need to hold fast. They stood tall at AC a few years back and will probably have to do it again.

The GC is NOT the centre of authority (no matter how much TW wills it). The GC is a coordinating body, not a governing body. It only has the authority given it by the Unions, and it is time for them to start taking it back.

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There is the conference/union/GC political power struggle. But with all petty ecclesiastical politics, they rile up the people with their silly “how many angels dance on the head of a pin” arguments over the meaning of cryptic texts of dubious authorship written in a poorly understood language upon ancient scrolls. It’s all quite an entertaining circus.

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What is so difficult to understand about the following texts?

Leviticus 18:22 ~ You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13 ~ If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Jude 1:7 ~ Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Romans 1:26-28 ~ For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Mark 10:6-9 ~ But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

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Those texts were translated into English millennia after they were written; with a translation from ancient Hebrew and Greek which none could say with certainty that they understood perfectly.

No one knows who wrote those texts.

There is no credible evidence that the authors, compilers, and editors of those texts spoke for God.

Those texts partially contradict what God has revealed and what we observe in His creation.

Underpinning the political struggle for control is one camp asserting a slavish adherence to ancient parchment while the other camp does not. Hence the entertaining battle for disinterested observers like myself who don’t have a dog in the fight and don’t really care how the issue is resolved. It’s grand theatre. As goes the aphorism, “ecclesiastical politics are so vicious since the stakes are so low.”

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Consider the following:

On Leviticus
Isn’t it strange to quote Leviticus only when it deals with the LGBTQ+ and demand that only this apply? Isn’t hypocritical when you yourself break all of the other requirements under these laws but do not hold yourself equally accountable? Jesus Himself spoke much on this topic and yet like the men who brought the women caught in the act you see yourself blameless?

On Jude
How is it that you ignore the context of the verse and ignore the actual reason for the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah? Did God go to Abraham and say “hey I’m gonna go kill all those icky gay people in Sodom and Gomorrah”? Did Abraham ask God to spare the city based on the number of gay people in it? Try reading the account again to see what it says. What’s more Lot and his daughters who were apparently righteous enough to be spared the judgement proceed to engage in incest. Doesn’t this give you pause to consider that sexuality might not in fact be the reason the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed?

On Mark
Society, be it Christian or otherwise, has long held that human beings are either male or female. Mark 10:6-9 and Genesis 5:2 is often used in religious circles to reinforce the strictly male or female binary ideology. Anything outside this worldview is portrayed as the result of one’s perverted choices and an active rebellion against God—a metaphoric spiritual insurgency.

But is that the case? Is the entire LGBTQ+ community misguided? Studies in the commentaries of Jewish rabbis through the centuries would suggest that they took the complexities of that territory between male and female much more seriously than Christians like yourself do today when they adopt a strictly bigender model

We are all well aware of the Christian worldview on gender and sexuality. Recent religious positions on LGBTQ+ individuals prolong a religious stance that refuses to acknowledge sexual complexity. These uncompromising ideas within Christianity are claimed, erroneously, to be rooted in Judaism of old and the scriptures.

Thus it is essential to review some Jewish theological and legal traditions to see if their society had individuals who did not fit the gender binary construct that we rely upon. How did the Jewish religious establishment negotiate the biblical text with the realities of life vis-à-vis the existence of a non-binary gender individuals? And ultimately, how can this information aid our religious conversations concerning LGBTQ+ individuals?

Even the Jews understood sexuality is a spectrum and isn’t choice, how is it you as a Christian could have missed this in-spite of the information and truth of the matter being available to you?

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Now that’s some top-notch snark at Ted Wilson.

And they’re failing at their primary role. Back in 2020, the lack of online resources from the GC was a gaping hole (and then they were like “why are so many of our churches ignoring us and reopening?”) I don’t think I’ve ever been quite that depressed or disappointed. They couldn’t even coordinate an online GC session. But why was I surprised? That’d be different, and the GC doesn’t do different. Growth rates are non-existent, and they don’t have a single new idea outside of going “TMI!” and approving a EGW Writings Coordinator position.

But oh man, let a single pastor get out of line, and they can get together an entire committee and issue a worldwide statement faster than you can say pitchforks and torches.

They spent the last 3 months putting everyone on blast in the quarterly, so we can all feel safe knowing the “storehouse” is using its compulsory funds on stuff like this.

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As you know, ceremonial laws, referring to the priesthood, sacrifices, temple, cleanness, and so on, are now fulfilled in Jesus and therefore no longer binding. Civil laws are those pertaining to the governing of Israel as a nation ruled by God. Since we are no longer a theocracy, these laws, while insightful, are not directly binding on us.

Moral laws refer to the 10 commandments that forbid such things as adultery, theft, murder, and so on are still binding. Some specific sexual sins (rape, incest, and bestiality) were mentioned separately from the 10 Commandments as noted in Leviticus 18. It is clear in the context of this chapter that God is against same-sex sexual activities. He finds it detestable in that Old Testament chapter, and in the New Testament noted that those acts are unnatural and that people who practice them will not inherit eternal life.

It is puzzling and disturbing to me that Seventh-day Adventists would succumb to the devil’s trick of confusing or distorting the word of God so as to get mankind to do the very thing that the word is forbidding. He tried this in the beginning in the Garden of Eden and was successful, and he is trying it again as life on this planet is about to come to an end. Unfortunately, he is achieving great success to the point that an SDA pastor thinks that he can endorse the LGBTQ lifestyle and still continue to be a pastor! May God have mercy on us.

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Does anyone know if he is married? Has he experienced what we SDAs call a “moral fall,” which is (or should be) a career-ending act of sexual immorality committed as a pastor? Has he ever had sex with a man? Has he left the door open to the possibility of having sex with a man? Is he presently in love with a man? Has he been blackmailed? What is the explanation for the timing of his announcement that he is bisexual? What expectations does he have for himself with respect to his sexual behavior in the future?

Did the Conference leaders ask him any of these questions? Why should we have to guess the answers to these simple and reasonable questions.

His sermon is disquieting. The comparison between him and Hagar, a rape victim, is odd, but that’s not what invokes feelings of anxiety and worry. It is the sermon’s vacuousness, in circumstances in which particular content is necessary, that should trouble all of us. What is particularly offensive about his sermon is that it seems to have a camel’s nose under the tent quality.

In my opinion, given what little we know, the GC’s response is proper and necessary.

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Beverley,

Your first paragraph is spot on however on your second paragraph you contradict yourself by saying Levitical law regarding sexual sins are still valid. Seriously, did you not realize that these laws include other things and that you are only choosing to pick out parts you want and throwing out the rest? It wasn’t until I realized this that it dawned on me that I misunderstood these issues.

It is a willful lack of understanding the context and original meaning of the Bible authors on this matter that causes us to misunderstand. You have been provided much light on this matter and yet still, like the Pharisees of old, inserted your own worldview/sensibilities then claim the moral high ground. This level of thinking is the devil’s trick and as Adventists we should be ashamed of ourselves for falling for such an obvious trap of the enemy of souls.

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An entertaining circus… but there are a lot of casualities along the way. But… do they care? NO way!
With all that testosterone, they need to figure out who has the… I’ll stop there. It reminds me of a bunch of roosters prancing around doing a lot of crowing, but not much truth to it.

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I agree… what is so difficult? It is OBVIOUS that there is not one word in there that is talking about someone who is LGBTQIA+. It is amazing how wrong people get these texts. Text out of context is pretext and it literally kills queer Adventists. It would be worth taking a few minutes and actually studying what these texts are about. Alicia Johnston’s booK; The Bible and LGBTQ Adventists is a great place to start (www.aliciajohnston.com) or if that book is too deep for you, you can try UnClobber by Colby Martin available for free on the Kinship website: www.sdakinship.org

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You are right about Satan… the devil has most of the church fooled about LGBTQIA+ and sexual orientation. It is the devil’s biggest accomplish to fool the church into refusing to actually study these “clobber” texts and welcome queer members as equals with everyone. This is going to be the biggest red stain on the legacy of the church. I love my church, but it makes me sad about how wrong they (the GC) are when it comes to the gay members.

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A good friend of mine once explained to me that in the Adventist Church, power goes from the bottom to the top, unlike as in, let’s say, the Catholic Church. Now why is the GC concerned with this issue? An overwhelming majority of the local church Hamburg-Grindelberg, which Sasa Gunjevic has been pastoring for the last 13! years, wants to keep him as their pastor. The Hanse Conference want to keep him as a pastor. If power in the Adventist Church really went from the bottom to the top, this issue would have been settled.
In my opinion, people in the Adventist Church should ask themselves if they want to follow Jesus’ example who shared his meals with prostitutes and tax collectors (prostitutes, not ex-prostitutes!), or if they want to form some kind of “club for the holy”. If they choose the latter I wish them good luck - I do not know any person who would qualify.

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I expect that all the persons involved in the decision making process at the conference level did not get their degree in a chocolate easter egg so this is not about theology.

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Old Testament stuff gets cherry picked. We don’t sacrifice animals, and don’t have death penalties for adultery. The hygiene rules regarding women’s periods and men’s wet dreams are ignored.

At the same time I don’t hear the uproar against Lot offering the mob in Sodoma and Gomorah to rape his daughters, and then later on, having sex with both of this daughters.

Moses gets away with munder, David disposes of the husband to cover up his Batsheba affair, and Solomon, a Bible author, probably has sex with hundreds of his wives and concubines.

Why can’t we read the Bible through the eyes of Jesus? But I’m sure we can’t agree on that either.

But as with many other world religions, we are extremely busy regulating sexual behavior. It always seems to bubble up to number one of the top ten list of “sins”.

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According to a Gallup poll from February 2022, about 7% and Americans self-identify as LGBT+. The statement issued by the GC, although originally targeting one individual in Germany also sends a strong, terrifying message to thousands of SDA pastors, teachers, church leaders, and members who thus identify, and daily carry a heavy burden of pain, shame, and fear. Most feel they must live a life of secrecy, or risk getting fired or dis-fellowshipped. It is also known that the rate of suicide attempts in this group is higher than the average population. Assuming that a 5% number is approximately correct, this means that about one million SDA’s belong to the LGBT+ group. Or to put it in more concrete terms, for a given group size of about 300 members, be it a local church or the GC Executive committee, it would be about 15 individuals. They desperately need our outreach, love and understanding! The church should be the first to offer cities of refuge to those who today feel as outcasts.

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Yes, it seems like a good tactic for dealing with the likes of Ted, who only wants to drag the church into the past.

How many times must we fail to see the “forest” for the trees of doctrine and propositional clarity. The earliest Christian community was a marvel because it exhibited a dramatically different way of life, the one celebrated in Galatians 3: 26-28, one so shocking this new “way” of living was all that world talked about. Not doctrines, but their “inclusion” of people that are ordinarily kept marginalized. For us to mark him as a violator of “doctrine” while knowing nothing about him as human being, a child of God, a proclaimer of the Gospel, is not the Christian way of life. A community known primarily for who cannot belong to it, is not Christian.

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Why do you think that knowing the answers to these questions is any of our business? Would it really make a difference? God knows the answers and that should be sufficient. God hasn’t removed him from the pulpit yet.
Maybe we need to ask every cis-gender male in the church these questions and see who is left standing. I can guarantee you that there wouldn’t be all that many.

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