Seminary has Trouble Keeping Facts Straight in Homosexuality Statement

In an attempt to respond to the cultural conversation on the LGBT community, the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University published a 21-page document showing just how unfit they are to contribute to the conversation. The document, An Understanding of the Biblical View on Homosexual Practice and Pastoral Care, lacks basic understanding of human sexuality as its authors conflate sex, gender, and sexuality.

But that’s just the tip of the titanic sized iceberg that sunk this document before it even left the Seminary’s harbor. The document took six months to develop by the Seminary Dean’s Council and Faculty. It included “input from Seminary town hall meetings, Andrews University administration, the Lake Union Conference, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and the Biblical Research Institute.”

Frankly, it’s embarrassing that dozens of individuals with graduate level education wrote a document which lacks basic understanding on gender and sexuality. This isn’t a critique on their non-affirming theology of same-sex relationships (which was expected). This is commenting on the fact these authors with PhDs (and a JD) could not fill in as a substitute teacher on a single gender and sexuality 101 class.

In the opening paragraphs, the document says they are addressing “homosexuality, bisexuality, and the variety of transgender identities.” Except, sexuality and gender identity are two separate things. Moreover, nowhere in the document do they actually discuss trans issues. The word transgender is haphazardly thrown in to make sure they got all the letters in the LGBT acronym.

The document discusses “homosexual practice” which – I’m assuming – means same-sex sex. I’m not sure how to “practice” homosexuality and the document doesn’t elaborate either. These issues on language are small but important to illuminate the lack of fluency it has on the LGBT community.

So, the context for this document is severely lacking – and so is the content.

The document has two sections: one on the official Seventh-day Adventist interpretation on six verses that describe same-sex sex. The second section is on a pastoral approach to LGBT people.

The first section is just a regurgitation of the same scriptural understanding of same-sex sex. There is absolutely nothing new than the same positions the Seventh-day Adventist Church has given time and time again – and I wasn’t expecting anything different. The Seventh-day Adventist church and the Andrews University Seminary have yet to engage, on any official capacity, interpretations that differ from their long-standing position. That is despite the fact there are pastors both working in the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist building and at the Seminary that hold (albeit secretly) affirming positions on same-sex relationships.

This section is redundant to the past conferences and resources that have been produced by Seventh-day Adventist official organizations. There are books that debunk this position (my favorite being “Bible, Gender, Sexuality” by James Brownson), so I won’t spend time doing so here.

A more interesting question is to why the Andrews University felt the need to restate their same position? The answer is simple: the cultural shifts in our church regarding the LGBT community has made them feel the need to respond. Yet, they have nothing new to share so the document repackages their old content.

Indeed, they have nothing new to share and that’s seen in the second section on pastoral care. This section doesn’t actually provide any tangible examples of pastoral care. There’s a lot of words but no actual content. They’re saying a lot without saying anything at all.

The entire section says that pastors need to bring “behavioral change” to make LGBT people celibate but be loving at the same time. There’s lots of talk of grace and love and sensitivity towards LGBT people. However, there are no actual ways on how to practically do that. This is in part to the fact that the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference hasn’t provided such examples either. And Andrews University Seminary can’t go and propose ideas that the GC hasn’t already said.

For instance, the document says “we must also be sensitive to the reality of high rates of homelessness and suicide among gay youth.” It also discusses the bullying, hate crimes, and murders of LGBT people and encourages pastors to extend pastoral care. But, how exactly? If my time at Andrews University taught me anything it’s that even just listening to LGBT stories from LGBT students is scandalous. And LGBT students just this last year weren’t allowed to fund raise for LGBT homeless youth – a decision many in the Seminary co-signed.

Indeed, there were no practical examples of pastoral care besides encouragement to lead all people attracted to the same gender to lead a celibate life.

The lack of tangible examples of pastoral care points to the conflict in the Seventh-day Adventist church. Dozens upon dozens of former “ex-gay” leaders coming out and saying the practice not only doesn’t work but is harmful. Yet, it’s still not been fully condemned in the church as many Seventh-day Adventist leaders promote it. Even the document holds out hope for change despite reparative therapy being dangerous to LGBT people.

There is severe cognitive dissonance when the very rhetoric used in the first 15 pages condemning same-sex relationships is what drives many of the disparities the document noted LGBT people face. How is one supposed to address an epidemic – be it homelessness, bullying, or spiritual abuse – that they have caused in the first place?

The Andrews University Seminary is ill equipped to address the LGBT community themselves let alone be giving any advice.

Adventist Theological Seminary Statement on Homosexuality by Jared Wright (Spectrum Magazine)

Eliel Cruz is a speaker and writer on religion, (bi)sexuality, media, and culture at The Advocate, Mic, and Religion News Service. His work has also been published in the Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, Washington Post, Soujourners, DETAILS Magazine, Quartz, Rolling Stone, and various other international platforms.

He's the co-founder and former president of Intercollegiate Adventist Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition, an organization that advocates for safe spaces for LGBT students at Seventh-day Adventist colleges. He has a BBA & BA in International Business and French Studies from Andrews University. This article originally appeared on his website, ElielCruz.com, and is reprinted with permission.

I find the Andrews statement both troubling and somewhat hopeful (although not very). Eliel’s response to it is no surprise to me. He wants to see more forthright progress on these issues, as do I, but I do think his strong desire to see more concerted progress is blinding him to some of the hopeful aspects of this statement, however minor they may be.

What I find most troubling though is exactly what seems to trouble Eliel. As far as I can tell they consulted with no one who might have an adequate understanding of the biological, psychological or sociological issues involved in LGBT. Even looking at all the footnotes and references in the document, it appears that theological consultation and sourcing is all they did. The primary reason I find this troubling is that the Bible essentially says next to nothing about homosexuality itself, and even less about transgenderism. The Bible only deals with specific actions, i.e. sex acts, and ignores the larger context. This should be no surprise, since the cultures in which the OT and NT were written were more concerned with the economic and legal issues of marriage with procreation being an extremely important centerpiece. Even the idea of same sex marriage is beyond conceivable, since such a marriage would produce no progeny, which was the entire basis of their economic and legal underpinnings of marriage. No one at that time would have even considered same-sex marriage.

Since the Bible deals only with the physical acts associated with homosexuality, and even these only in passing, it is difficult to see what the Bible has to say about our modern understandings of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. It is safe to say that all Christians view sex outside of marriage as wrong, and that the very same sexual act that is wrong outside of marriage is considered almost obligatory within marriage. It is also safe to say that all Christians consider sex acts with partners outside of the marriage are also wrong. Since in ancient societies same-sex marriages were not even considered, for the reasons stated above, same-sex sex acts would be considered wrong by definition, i.e. they are outside of a marriage relationship.

This is where I think it is important to bring in experts from outside of theology. Since the Bible clearly has no understanding of the biological and psychological aspects of homosexuality, we must learn from those who have studied it. The document does make this statement:

“Did God make me this way and if so, why?” While a discussion of t he etiology of homosexuality is beyond the scope of this statement, most researchers state that many factors contribute to same-sex attraction and homosexual orientation. Some persons describe their attraction to the same sex as being among their earliest memories and contend that they would not have chosen the painful experience of being gay or lesbian. Simplistic answers to the “why” question should be avoided but we should be clear that all evil in this world is a consequence of the Fall into sin (Rom 3:20, 25)."

which makes it clear that they are beginning to realize the entrenched nature of same-sex attraction. Then they say this:

“If God made me this way, can He change me?” Recent literature denies the possibility that gay and lesbian persons can be changed, and even claims that change attempts are harmful. Other important studies show that there are occasional reliable testimonies of such change among those that seek for faith-based counseling. However, does change mean that all same-sex attraction disappears? Some who are now in monogamous heterosexual marriages report that they still experience homosexual attractions, but that they choose not to act on them. Others have pled with God to change them and have submitted to therapy with the goal of change but have not been changed. They have accepted their same-sex attraction as their life-long reality, and have chosen a life of celibacy. Working through this process, whatever the result, can be extremely difficult. As Christians, love would dictate that we are supportive, within the framework of biblical standards, of people as they work to sort out this matter in their lives and that we affirm their identity as persons for whom Christ died.”

What I find troubling is that they are beginning to acknowledge that, at least some (maybe the majority) who are gay or lesbian, may be that way and cannot be changed, but that the only solutions they offer these individuals is to ignore their attraction and marry someone of the opposite sex, or remain celibate. There seems to be no willingness to entertain the possibility of same-sex marriage.

In essence, for someone who is gay or lesbian (and I am here speaking as a geneticist and biologist), their same-sex attraction is normal for them. Attraction to the opposite sex seems unnatural and even repugnant. So what the church is telling gays and lesbians is that they just need to go against what is natural for them, or forgo an intimate, monogamous relationship entirely.

The problem at this point is that same-sex attraction and same sex-marriage isn’t even about sex, per se, which is merely a by-product of an intimate relationship. Even many heterosexuals no longer marry for the purposes of procreation, and I would hope that marriage is not practiced simply so that sex may be obtained. Sexual acts, as the Andrews document so cavalierly label what “homosexuals” engage in, are not really the issue. It is more about human commitment and intimacy. How can we seriously view God as someone who would stand in the way of two committed same-sex individuals entering into a marriage relationship so they can join their lives together in lifelong love and intimacy?

When we as a church say to gays and lesbians they are welcome in our congregations, BUT they must either pretend not to be gay or lesbian and marry someone of the opposite sex, or remain celibate for life, we are not being welcoming at all. Who of any of us who are heterosexual would be willing to take a vow of celibacy for life so we could join a church. Catholic priests make such a vow, and look at what evils that has led. We as a church must, if we are truly loving, as God is loving, embrace same-sex marriage. At the very least, we need to discuss it more forthrightly, recognizing that the Bible is not a completely adequate reference from which to make a decision like this.

Equally problematic is the church’s view of transgender individuals. The biology underlying transgenderism is even more compelling, and yet we choose, currently, to deny transgender individuals full fellowship if they follow their own biological realities. I do not believe that God gave us the Bible as a document for solving all church issues for all time. We must use whatever sources of knowledge and ethical reasoning are available, especially when confronted with issues that are barely, if at all, discussed in the Bible.

As I said at the start, I see some hope in this document. Some, just not much. My hope is that Andrews, and the church at large, would invite some experts other than theologians, when they try and decide issues of this nature. I would gladly offer my expertise, if asked.

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Frankly, this magazine sinks lower and lower on the Christianity meter, and is an embarrassement to anybody with even half the sense to use the Bible as the Word of God.

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Eliel. I couldn’t read the article all the way through. it was so offensive in it’s ignorance and arrogance. Good on you for managing to make it through a reading let alone finding a way to write a critique. You’re a better man than me. One day the church might actually allow those in their community who live the experience of being LGBT to speak and they might be able to develop some kind of theology and pastoral care around this issue. i wont be holding my breath though. None so blind as those who WILL not see.

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God said, to obey is better than sacrifice. Isn’t God wonderful. He obeys also. He said He will keep His promise. He is not like human beings. Not only will He keep His promises. He wants to keep His promisesEven more so, He has the power to keep His promises. Don’t you love that about God. Well guess what. He also promises that the soul that sins, and doesn’t give up that sin will die. There is only one way to not die. Sin no more. That is what He said to the woman dragged so inhumanly before Him. He said " Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more." So we who have lied, we can have hope. He doesn’t condemn us. But He says go and sin no more. And those who are homosexuals, He says He doesn’t condemn, but go and sin no more. Brothers and sisters, don’t let satan fool you as He did Adam and Eve.
We are born in sin, and shapen in iniquity. The mind is sinful, not because of God, but because of sin. So if adultery seems natural, it is because we are sinful, by nature. But promises to give us a new nature. A new heart. And if we get confuses about what type of love we should feel for our mother, brother sister,aunt or uncle, God will teach us true love. He said to lie with another of the same sex was an abomination. He will not change His mind. So we need to come to Him and allow Him to change us. And the only therapy that will work is God’s amazing love. He said " if you love me keep my commandments."
Get to know God more and by beholding we will be changed. Behold Him in the morning when you awake. Behold Him when temptation, threatens to break down your defenses. Behold Him when you are battered and bruised from your fall. But reach up as did Peter when walking on the water, reach up and look and be ye saved. Christ come to save us from our sins, not in them. He will free us if we choose Him and not a lie. BEHOLD HIM.

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Perhaps unmarried people can come along for the ride, where it’s no business of anyone what the person’s preferred sexual outlet is. Being uninvited by a church pastor to some discussion with the married women only was so telling of the non-identity status of any single woman- widowed, divorced and the bottom of the barrel, “single”.
Another pastor’s young son showed pure attention to his job of handing out Mother’s Day tokens. If he saw a woman clearly not school age, he handed her one of the gifts. So we can choose to follow God’s guidelines which will keep everyone focused and busy on their own journey. Yet still there’s something damaged in our souls by being called out or ignored. Why doesn’t each church member be required to describe their sexual awakening and desires? Because it is private. How about we go back to human truth, that we are all made from passion, egg and sperm are joined, and we should have been taught our body parts a long time ago, and maybe something about someone of the opposite sex for general knowlege; if someone wants to pray about it, at the very least, remember, “hope is not a method”.

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Perhaps this is an issue for God to sort out & in the mean time we should love & accept everyone equally !

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