“Room for Everyone”: Swedish Union Issues Statement about LGBT+ Individuals


(Spectrumbot) #1

The Swedish Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has created a document about LGBT+ individuals and the importance of taking care of “all people in a loving way, regardless of sexual orientation or identity.”

Titled “Room for Everyone,” it was created by the Union’s Executive Committee with the help of a study group, and approved on May 12, 2019. “The work has been marked by prayer and sincere talks, we have interviewed representatives of the LGBTQ [community] about their experiences and aspirations in relation to the church and engaged the community pastors and Bible workers to comment,” stated Rainer Refsbäck, executive secretary.

The work for the guidelines outlined in this document first began at the 2017 Union Session, when the Executive Committee was commissioned to provide information and guidance for churches on how to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ members. The study group was appointed in the fall of 2018 and has met over the last several months. The study group consisted of Rainer Refsbäck (convener / union executive secretary), Bobby Sjölander (union president), Lillemor Brandum (deputy chairperson of the Executive Committee), David Cederström (pastor), Liane Edlund (editor / pastor), Jonathan Karlsson (ministerial student / Bible instructor), Christopher Laubscher (pastor), and Anna Tegebo (youth director).

According to the document, the study group based its work on the Bible, reviewed the various statements and studies done by the Church and church-related organizations in regards to LGBT+ individuals, and “interviewed five persons who in different ways have personal experience with LGBTQ and who are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church or are in some way associated with it.” The Executive Committee did not wish to re-examine the Church’s theological views on sexuality and marriage, but rather sought to equip local churches and members on how to better understand and treat LGBTQ members.

The five page document discusses the challenges faced by LGBT+ individuals, stating “Many LGBTQs have learned to live with a feeling of exclusion from an early age, which makes it difficult for them to believe that the Church really welcomes and accepts them.” The document continues,

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden has failed in its relationship to LGBTQs and has neither promoted confidence nor created conditions for constructive dialogue. For a long time, the Church has had a hard time recognizing and managing the complexity of the LGBTQ issue. Although the Church has clear theological explanations concerning sexuality and marriage, these often lack guidance for pastoral and spiritual care in congregations. This lack of knowledge and insight means that members and employees often fail in their response to LGBTQs. There is a lack of clarity about concepts and phenomena, and often the definitions of terms such as sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual practice are confused, which can lead to condemnation of LGBTQs solely for their sexual orientation.”

In a section titled “What Do We Want to Achieve?” the document states, “We want to overcome as many obstacles as possible so that the Church can become a safe place where everyone — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity — can get to know God and grow as His disciples.”

Eleven “We Want to Affirm…” statements are included in the document:

• We want to affirm that God loves everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. We do not condone singling out any group for scorn and derision, let alone abuse.

• We want to affirm all those who have experienced injury or unloving treatment in the church community because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We want to express our grief and ask for forgiveness when this has happened.

• We want to affirm the biblical teaching that God created humanity in His own image, as male and female, and that He instituted marriage between a man and a woman as His original will and ideal for sexual relations. At the same time, we want to affirm the needs of all persons for closeness, meaningful fellowship and loving relationships.

• We want to affirm that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, falls short in relation to the Creator’s ideal and need God’s grace and power. We need humility when relating to one another’s struggles and the pursuit of Christlikeness.

• We want to affirm that the sexual orientation of a person is not a sin in and of itself or a cause for condemnation or guilt. Sexual orientation describes whom a person is attracted to and should not be confused with having an immoral desire. Jesus Christ gives us power and grace to live to His glory regardless of our sexual orientation.

• We want to affirm that only Jesus Christ can save and form a person and that the church’s mission is to invite everyone to closer fellowship with Him.

• We want to affirm that issues of sexuality in general and LGBTQ in particular are complex and not as simple as they often appear. Sexuality is part of every person’s unique personality and affects many parts of life and not just sexual intercourse.

• We want to affirm that Adventist pastors, Bible instructors, leaders, and members wish to support LGBTQ’s need for spiritual development and commitment to Christ in a safe community regardless of their theological notion of sexual orientation or sexual practice.

• We affirm that pastors, Bible instructors and church leaders need education and in-depth understanding of LGBTQs and their spiritual longing and need for fellowship.

• We want to affirm that sexual orientation and gender identity per se are not an obstacle to becoming a member and serving. The local church has the authority and responsibility to make decisions, in each individual case and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, on who will become a member, serve, and represent the church according to the biblical principles we share.

• We affirm that the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden needs to continue to work on the challenges and opportunities faced by the Church in relation to LGBTQs. Church leaders and congregations need to continue to study the Word of God and to promote conversation with LGBTQs and about issues of sexuality to make the Church a safe and welcoming place for everyone.

The document concludes with five recommendations from the study group:

• to approve the document “Room for Everyone” as the official statement on values in relation to LGBTQs for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden and its churches;

• that the material “Guiding Families of LGBT + Loved Ones” produced by the North American Division is translated into Swedish and adapted;

• that the study group is tasked with producing study material for members in general about the values that are included in the document “Room for Everyone”;

• that pastors and church leaders receive some form of training by knowledgeable lecturers, a list of literature recommended for reading and a list of organizations that can be engaged for educational purposes in the churches;

• that an overall plan for continued work on the LGBTQ issue is produced by the Administrative Committee in its annual planning

The “Room for Everyone” document is just one part of the work, said Refsbäck. The study group will continue to meet to produce additional material for study and discussion.

The full document is available in both Swedish and English on the Swedish Union’s website. The English translation is also included below:

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Photo by Rajshri Bharath KS on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9658

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

Room for everybody. OK, why draw the line on the use of tobacco, alcohol, bigamy, and host of other behavior aspects. Certainly to shun is a basic sin. What is the line between fellowship and membership? There are a host of reasons I don’t Want membership. But why do some declare the right to membership if outside the 28? Seems the issue is don’t ask don’t tell. I guess the issue is same sex unions seeking membership, is that the same as approval or mere acceptance. It truly is a Gordian knot. I am glad I don’t have to make the rules. The blessings of my marriage are a loving wife of 70 years, three children, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.


(Patrick Travis) #3

Thanks Tom. It’s unclear here whether church membership is offered practicing LGBTQ+ members or is it the proper understanding that Christians are to be kind to all.
These are the sticky hard questions that need to be honestly answered for any denomination.


(Peter) #4

Dear Dr. Zwemer - Tobacco, alcohol, bigamy, etc. are not comparable to sexual orientation! The medical/psychiatric professional community in much of the Western world has studied this issue thoroughly and concluded that sexual orientation is neither a disease nor a choice. (Please refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5 — this professional publication confirms that sexual orientation in and of itself is not a disease.)

Furthermore, it is not our place to ask LGBT people what they do privately, any more than it is appropriate for any of us to ask you about your sexual life. Similarly, I’ve known a number of NAD and GC employees who have told me privately that they drink wine, and it is not anyone’s place to discover that. Respect for privacy seems to be a problem for too many Adventists. It is not appropriate to be looking for or making assumptions as to what we think is wrong in other’s private lives.

Praise God for this very redemptive study and document from the Swedish Union!


(Steve Mga) #5

One of the MAJOR PROBLEMS in Seventh day Adventism is THIS;
We REFUSE to baptize ANYONE who WILL NOT become Seventh day Adventist!
Even though a person accepts Christ as their personal Savior, Church
LAWS FORBID a pastor to baptize just anyone who professes to accept
Christ as their personal Savior.
The person PRIOR to baptism by an SDA Pastor HAS to agree with ALL of
the 28, and abide with other RULES.
In the SDA church, Baptism and Membership are considered BOTH ONE.

NOTE: According to Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul WAS NOT against the
“limited” use of “Jewish” [maybe even Gentile] wine. In fact, encourage
the use of it for his “stomach’s sake.”


(Thomas J Zwemer) #6

Of course it is not a disease, but it is a behavior, The Church has thresholds of behavioral issues. My point is any institution has the right to define the behaviors it accepts and rejects. I have no fight with the Swedish View. But In a similar vein I have no fight with Ted Wilson. I just don’t Agree with his theology and management style. I think he is a phony as a three dollar bill.

P


(David) #7

• to approve the document “Room for Everyone” as the official statement on values…

Some folks believe heaven has room enough for the devil himself!

Good point Steve. Christ made wine and the the master of ceremonies said it was the best. Grape juice is grape juice. Not all wines are created equal.

One can be an alcoholic and not drink. Likewise, one can be gay and not commit sexual immorality. The problem is when the church sanctions sexual immorality. You might as well join the world if that’s the way it is.
@niteguy2


(Cfowler) #8

In the SDA church, does it really matter what Paul says? It is more about what Ellen White says.


(efcee) #9

The issuing and re-issuing of statements is all well and good, but until LGBTQ individuals see for themselves a full inclusion into fellowship - including the invitation to serve to the utmost as elders and pastors, then the LGBTQ community will not feel welcomed and included - at all - and they will continue viewing us to be hostile to them. I really don’t think any of us would feel welcome in a place where we are not treated as absolute equals in every respect.


(Cfowler) #10

What are some other MAJOR PROBLEMS you see in the SDA Church?


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #11

My admiration for Scandinavians, in general, knows no bounds.

The Baltic is one of my favorite tourist destinations and I have spent many happy times in their capital cities.

Plus, NORWEGIAN AIRLINES is my favorite carrier — their fare prices and their service unmatched — check them out!

That said, the statement from the Swedish Union, ROOM FOR EVERYONE is a plethora of pious platitudes.

It is a twice-told tale of trifling trivia, regurgitating the NAD document GUIDING FAMILIES OF LGBT plus LOVED ONES.

Both documents purport to be a loving outreach of inclusivity for our LGBT offspring, and so I suppose that is an advance from the shunning / shaming / stigmatizing / sullying solutions to same sex attractions that have been the prior modus operandi of Adventism,

The problem with both documents is that it does not address the “elephant in the room “ :

The pernicious, punitive penalty that our church imposes on its LGBT offspring :—— LIFE LONG LONELINESS, also known as “ celibacy “.

The Swedes do not subscribe to the US Constitution giving Americans the unalienable right to the “PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS “.

However I am sure the Swedes would agree that a pinnacle in the pursuit of happiness is finding a soulmate and the ineffable ecstasy that erupts from “being in love “ — this “pursuit of happiness “ is egregiously denied our gay children.

Our LGBT community is a significant sub set of our church ( five per cent )…

Most informed, educated people now acknowledge that gays / lesbians have zero input / choice / selection in their same sex attractions.

Everyone also agrees that our LGBT adolescents have identical levels of teen age sex hormones as their straight siblings and cousins,

The church’s insistence on life long CELIBACY. nullifies all the “affirmations “ and protestations of inclusivity and outreach.

We decry the celibacy requirement imposed on Catholic priests and nuns — at least those celibates make an informed ADULT decision to be sexless. — our gay / lesbian adolescents have it foisted upon them, through no fault of their own.

The celibacy issue is a callous cruel condemnation creating a companionless existence.

As I have said elsewhere, while sex is an important element of marriage, the affirmation aspects of matrimony — the validation, companionship, devotion, loyalty, support, approbation, acceptance, are an ineffable component of marriage.

To permanently deny romance with all its affirming attributes to people who have done no wrong is surely sadistic.

Another inalienable right to happiness,’s surely being able to find employment and adequate housing, which was the goal of the US EQUALITY ACT recently passed in the US Congress

While the NAD and Swedish statements are an improvement, no amount of pontification will counteract the recent toxic travesty of the GC who actively opposed the EQUALITY ACT that would have ensured employment and housing for LGBT individuals.

Our church hierarchy threw our LGBT offspring under the bus, denying them protection from discrimination in employment and housing and protection from hate crimes.

This should be a red flag / wake up call, for all Adventist gays and lesbians, that the church does not have your best interests at heart.

The hateful, hurtful homophobia of our hierarchy eclipses attempted outreach from Swedes and the NAD to ameliorate the fate of our same sex family members!


(Peter) #12

Robin,

You can’t generalize this and say it of every Adventist church! I don’t see the Swedish Union statement as pontificating. I see it as compassionate progress. Change is often best accomplished incrementally - and I believe the Swedish Union’s statement is an encouraging step in the right direction. Sorry, but I believe you’re seeing the glass as empty rather than partially full.

While I don’t believe the GC has a healthy/fair interest of LGBT people, there are Adventist congregations that do have the best interest of LGBT people in their hearts, and show it by their inclusive acceptance. You were, for many years, a member of such a church. So I’m saddened at your seemingly blanket criticism of our church.

Please remember that there is really no denomination that totally has the best interest of LGBT people in mind. The Methodist Church, ELCA Lutheran, United Church of Christ can be known as supportive - however some of their congregations are quite the opposite. It is wonderful that you’ve found a very positive experience with a Methodist Church. Unfortunately, that can’t be translated to ALL Methodist churches.


#13

AKA Chick-fil-A types :wink:


(Edwin ) #14

Great article, Room for everyone it is, the explanation on the LGBT+ Is also unprecedented and there’s the sexual practice that those identifying with LGBTQ may not necessarily practice.

Discriminating against them is confirming mission is for the “righteous” and not the fallen
World.


(Michael Wortman) #15

Good point, David. Not all wines are created equal. And if one didn’t trust a master of ceremonies evaluation, there are a number of reviewing venues to help with the selection process. :slight_smile:


(Steve Mga) #16

Peter –
Great response!
Yes, ALL Christian Protestant and Catholic denominations, groups have
difficulty with the issue of “What to do with GLT+ who are God lovers
and want to be a part of His family here on earth.”
Fortunately, more and more INDEPENDENT groups of believers within
these Denominations are discovering that, as Peter discovered, “God is
no respecter of persons.” And are inviting them and any “partners” into
their fellowship. This includes Baptists, Methodists, and EVEN some of
our Seventh-day Adventist Local congregations. [other Christian
denominations have been inclusive and inviting for a very long time.]
For many, it has been incremental, as you have pointed out. But IT IS
happening.
It took Peter a VERY LONG time to be comfortable with the idea of
entering a non-Jewish home even, and then to HAVE to eat with them.
Plus, someone TOLD ON HIM back in Jerusalem! and he was brought
before the high church committee to be charged with a “grievous sin.”
Later, he became careful in doing this when “the brethren” visited. And
Paul later stated how he went toe to toe with him for being two-faced in
his deportment with the Gentiles when his friends were around.
Our SDA church leaders [the NAD] have NOT learned the lessons of Peter.
Our Swedish Union appears to be learning the “Lesson of Peter” and the
sheet. And hopefully more Union Leaders will learn the “Lesson of Peter
and the Sheet” and not call any person “Common or Unclean.”


(David) #17

Thanks Michael. I’m a wine maker too so I know a little about wine and the difference between it and grape juice. My wine is probably better than the stuff Noah made but it will never compare with what Jesus made! :slightly_smiling_face:
@mwortman1


(Bryan Ness) #18

Robin,

I agree with what you say in so many ways, but also have come to realize that the church will not arrive at the fully affirming stance that is so essential for LGBTQ+ people to feel truly welcome. I see the Swedish Union document as an incremental step that takes us one step closer than the NAD stance. At least the document does not explicitly require celibacy for those who are LGBTQ+. It doesn’t address it directly, either, but does imply that same-sex committed relationships are not condemned outright. It also seems to leave it open to local congregations to make their own decisions about church membership, implying that same-sex couples could be full and active participants in church life. I am not sure they could have gone further than that and not caused open controversy.

I do hope this is not the last incremental step we see. I do hope that someday, hopefully not too long from now, that full acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ+ people occurs, and that same-sex couples can be seen as equal in all senses in the church community.


(Steve Mga) #19

Bryan –
the Swedish Union did what they could to “open the doors” to Love
of Neighbor.
One cannot command Love.
Only the One who IS Love can command Love. And only as individual
members receive Love from the One who is Love, can love be shown.
THIS is WHY it Requires that acceptance be up to individual congregations.
But the PERMISSION to Love has been put on paper. It is OK to Love NOW!


(Bryan Ness) #20

Indeed, and why I do appreciate what they have done. I have many LGBTQ+ friends who recognize this as positive progress, but many of them also still, even with statements like this one, feel rejected. I just hope that the more church members get to know LGBTQ+ people and the more they understand the biology behind what makes a person LGBTQ+, they will eventually give full acceptance. Being LGBTQ+ is not something a person can make a conscious choice about, it is just who they are and that is what we need to recognize.