Loma Linda University and its LGBTQ+ Students and Faculty

During the years after 2008, and especially since 2014, Loma Linda University (LLU) made dramatic changes in its attitudes toward LGBT students, faculty, and staff, and its regulations applying to them. When I was asked to update a presentation that I had made in 2017 to the Asheville, North Carolina, Adventist Forum on the Adventist Church and its LGBT children and members, it was one change that clearly needed to be documented. Since I now live in Loma Linda, I interviewed 30-plus key administrators, faculty, and past and present students during a six-month period beginning in December 2019. I also checked out relevant changes made to policies and handbooks over time. As usual with my research interviews, I promised interviewees anonymity and confidentiality. I do not cite the names of those interviewed or who gave me each piece of information, nor do I tell others verbally what any particular person has told me.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11625
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Thank you, Ron. We are again in your debt for such a detailed analysis of another chapter in the history of the relationship between the Adventist church and its LGBTQ+ members. Your “Recapitulation” alone is worth the price of admission. And your “Coda” is especially prescient.

Indeed, a time is coming when Adventist institutions will again find themselves in a position where “developments by governments or courts prod [them] to be more Christian in their actions.” Given the legal, rather than moral, frame the Adventist church has adopted in its approach to LGBTQ+ persons, this trajectory is all but certain.

One would hope that legislative pressure would not be necessary to convince colleges to be more caring toward their LGBT students. But, alas, as the work of the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) highlights and the tone-deaf response of Christian professors Gene Schaerr and Nicholas Miller illustrates, conservative churches and institutions are in the mood of protecting their “religious liberties” rather than the wellbeing of the students they serve.

God help us, and may we learn from the example of Loma Linda University. In the three-point tension of church teaching, government legislation, and human decency, the best thing a Christ-following institution can do is err on the side of kindness and compassion.

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What wonderful progress since the time when Dr. Lyn Behrens, then LLU president, mistakenly declared that “there are no LGBT people at Loma Linda”. Some gay alumni of the School of Medicine felt unsafe even attending alumni events or returning to the campus for any reason.

Recently the Loma Linda University School of Medicine made the decision to expand their LGBTQ+ curriculum aimed at finding ways to improve the patient experience, quality of care, and outcomes for their local LGBTQ+ community.

It is true that the LLU Church is very cautious (and slow?) to be LGBTQ+ supportive. I wonder, though, if Randy Roberts, LLU Church senior pastor, can be more easily challenged by Ted Wilson than the University administration can be. Ted has been known to micromanage efforts by other churches to be supportive, even though he officially/legally has no legitimate role in that. The church cannot be influenced by the government or accreditation agencies like the University can be.

Hopefully this support is becoming a strong enough part of the School of Medicine “organizational culture” (how things are done) that it cannot be easily changed.

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No, it isn’t just the best thing, it is the Christian thing. It is what Jesus would do.

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Compassion and kindness are not the same as acceptance. We are commanded to love everyone, but not everyone is accepted by God.

The article makes various references to the change in attitude toward lgbt in society…however, society’s view does not determine right and wrong. Society has also changed its view of premarital heterosexual sex, but God’s word still does not accept it

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Question: Are LGBTQ students who are in public same-sex relationships at Loma Linda potentially still subject to discipline? (In other words, does the university welcome so called “practicing” LGBT students and faculty?) I was unable to answer this question from this article.

That’s why we are not to judge. Only God is to judge and acceptance requires judgment, which is out of our wheelhouse. So the answer is simple, if you truly love someone, you will let God do the judging and you will accept them for who they are. You have no idea what this community has had to go through and you don’t know how they have arrived at who they truly are, so just stop the judging. This is God’s issue, not ours.

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Do you believe God left us a moral guide in His word that is to be used to guide us and others to what is acceptable to Him? And do you believe we have any responsibility to guide and encourage those outside His will to surrender their will to His?

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“Love the sinner, hate the sin” usually comes across as condescending and ignorant to an LGBT person.

Who authorized you to determine who is accepted by God? You focus on less than a dozen Bible verses in forming this opinion while seeming to ignore many other things that the Bible says are wrong. IMHO, it is wrong to pick and choose like this!

Take time to study the history of marriage, to study marriage in Old Testament times, and the role of sex in that. I believe you are judging based on a narrow, limited understanding - viewing this topic through 21st century lenses,

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Hello Peter. It’s tough to have these discussions because I’m aware my views may and will come of as condescending among other things. But I also think we have to be free to express our ideas and understanding of scripture since we’re all looking to be part of 1 body of believers.

No one authorized me to be the final arbiter of right and wrong…that’s the Bible’s role. but my question would be, how many scriptures do we need to establish a belief?

Jesus said clearly in Matt 19…”have you not read that in the beginning God Created male and female and joins the two together so they are one flesh…so what God has joined let no one separate.”

I’ve heard a lot about how the argument against anti homosexuality scriptures is that the writers didn’t know or weren’t aware of gender identity and being “born” homosexual etc. but this quote is straight from the Creator’s mouth. Jesus the Creator, the all knowing, the Word who inspired the Scriptures surely knows and knew all the questions that would arise around LGBT issues…and yet when He spoke of marriage He allowed for only 1 arrangement. 1 man and 1 woman and God as their Uniter. No premarital heterosexual sex either…I don’t like that but it’s His standard…He sets the rules we are to live by.

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If a same-sex couple is married, their relationship is totally legal for any person on campus. Any couple shacking up, no matter the genders involved, is subject to discipline if discovered. --Ron Lawson

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Personally, I have deep doubts about the moral guidance purportedly offered by lots of biblical passages, especially such Old Testament stories as the commands to go kill every man, woman, child, animal, Jeptha’s sacrifice of his daughter, Lot’s offer of his daughters to fulfill the sexual lust of the drunken Sodomites to mention a few. On the other hand, I find the changes over time of how eunuchs were treated very thought-provoking, beginning with their rejection (they had to stay outside the camp, away from the sacrificial and worship system and opportunities initially) to the statements by the prophets that there was room for them, and finally the declaration of Jesus that there were 3 kinds of eunuchs, one of which kind sounds very much to me like gay men, another like transsexuals, and his encouragement and welcome of them–as with all others marginalized by society. He says that we are to love as He did, and that is the fulfilling of the law.

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I find it curious that Randy Roberts was not asked the reasons for the apparent disparity. I asked him if he had seen this article and was aware of the comments made about the LL University Church and the seemingly lack of support of LBGT individuals. He told me he was not approached or asked about it. Who better to address the topic? While the administrators interviewed may have had insights into the reasons for the disparity, Randy would have been able to address it directly.

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By the time I realized the disparity between church and university, we were a couple of months into the COVID epidemic, and I was doing all remaining interviews by phone. I figured that Roberts would be pretty busy in that situation, and so began by calling one of the senior associate pastors. However, when he realized the thrust of my interview, he said that the only person who could answer my questions was Roberts, and told me that I should call the office chief to arrange that. I did that immediately, but it was several months, and several more calls, before I was able to connect with Randy. Since I had promised to submit this paper, along with the much broader one that covered the Adventist Church and its LGBTQ members (which was published in the magazine in December 2020, and also featured in four parts on the website some months later), I attempted successfully to interview another long-term Associate Pastor, who confirmed that the church’s position then was as I reported in this paper. I did have a good discussion with Randy Roberts eventually, when I decided to focus on a personal question, which was whether or not I should move my membership to the church since I now lived in Loma Linda. As a result of what I confirmed from him, I decided it was best at present to keep my membership in a truly welcoming congregation, even though I now find the freeway travel for me to get there too daunting at my age to actually attend there. It is ironic that I am heavily involved in an excellent Sabbath School class at the LLUC that has proclaimed itself to be welcoming and lives up to that, and I will probably return to services at the LLUC when I feel safe to do so (I am avoiding large gatherings because of COVID) , because I very much appreciate Randy Roberts preaching. But I do not feel yet that it is sufficiently safe for me to feel comfortable bringing my membership there. Perhaps I should explain that after a lifetime as an LGBTQ+ Adventist existing in unwelcoming churches, I dealt with my situation about three decades ago by moving my membership to a welcoming congregation across the country at the invitation of the pastor, even though I could attend there only occasionally, attended a totally welcoming Forum chapter where I was president for 41 years and which met weekly but where I could not have my official church membership because it was an independent congregation, helped form SDA Kinship and worked with it at the frustrating long-term task of trying to encourage Adventists and our churches (and ultimately the church administration) to become a truly non-judgmental, loving, and welcoming place for all. These strategies worked well for me. But most LGBTQ+ Adventists have had really difficult and disappointing experiences, because the vast majority of Adventist churches are still not welcoming. Let me give you a personal example: When, after retiring, I moved from NYC to a warmer climate, the church I began to attend discovered I was a professional musician (I had a second career as organist, choir director and singer in Anglican/Episcopal churches in both Australia and NY) they asked me to play the organ and lead song services. But after the pastor leaked the fact that I had told him I was gay, all those opportunities ceased abruptly, people became nervous in their in interactions with me, and for months I sat alone in services until the elderly wife of an elder, who also sat alone, decided to sit with me–something I appreciated greatly.But eventually the stress of attending that church was a major reason in my decision to sell my home there and move to Loma Linda, in the hope of finding a better church situation. I know many Kinship members who have decided to cease attending such churches after similar, and often much worse, experiences. Shouldn’t church be a place where all, no matter how marginalized by society, feel wanted and safe? Are churches that fail to do that really Christian churches?

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In light of your church experiences in North Carolina, I greatly admire your generosity in continuing to arrange (Zoom) Forum meetings for church members in and around Asheville interested in Spectrum and Kinship issues.

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Thanks for your warm sentiment, Michael. I also found a lot of Adventists whom I appreciated a great deal there, especially after I took steps to found the Forum chapter, which was originally an attempt to make such friends and to arrange to feed me spiritually while there, but which I had learned to appreciate enormously during my decades in NYC. I have actually pondered with myself many times, wondering it I would have actually stayed an Adventist if I had not found the Forum congregation on my third Sabbath in NYC.

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Yes I do, but with reservations. The bible, with the acceptation of the 10 commandments, was written by humans with their human flaws. I own a book which is over 1 inch thick that outlines the flaws and contradictions in scripture. Most of them are of no consequence, but some are flagrant. There is a tremendous amount of inhumanity in the OT and some left over vestiges of legalistic Judaism in the writings of Paul, that leave doubts about some of the “so called” rules. And it is laughable to try and pit the bible against science. The very first chapter makes a mockery of what we now know as scientific fact. Then there is the whole thing of “interpretation”. So, I guess my response to you would be, not necessarily.

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The problem here to me is that those who proclaim that they are encouraging others to surrender their will to what the Bible says (because it is the will of God), always seem to think that that means surrender to their interpretation, and there are all these people doing that who have differing interpretations! I don’t see how this fits together with what Jesus had to say about it is not our position to judge others. I fear that we too often create God in our image. As a historian and sociologist I have become very aware of the extent to which different parts of the Bible reflect different times and societies, but we keep trying to mold them to our time and society.

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The biggest issue I think is that folks like Yoyito ignore all of the other rules and stipulations that reside in Levitical law. These include circumcision, beards, slavery, sabbath rules, clothing, and the list goes on and on and on. They pick this issue out and make it the only one of importance. They pretend that cultural norms of the ancient past or present don’t matter but act as if we should conduct ourselves and live in the society of the authors of the Bible. As Jesus said “you hypocrites…” you cannot be a Christian and ignore its principles and demand that the Torah and Levitical law be enforced.

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Excellent point, David.

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