Thoughts from a Hurt and Confused Adventist

Editor’s note: On Saturday, October 9, General Conference President Ted Wilson gave his customary Sabbath sermon during the Annual Council meetings. This year, he presented a list of what he sees as 14 “faith-destroying theological aberrations” threatening the Adventist Church (you can read a transcript of the message). Among his targets were ecumenism, Eastern mysticism, and the LGBTQ+ community: “Adultery, fornication, and LGBTQIA+ are in direct opposition to God’s law and heavenly plan” Wilson said. The 14 points were also shared on Wilson's official Twitter account, where replies to the tweets were purposely turned off. The author of this opinion writes in response.  


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11453
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That the author is suddenly hurt and confused by this, " ‘Adultery, fornication, and LGBTQIA+ are in direct opposition to God’s law and heavenly plan’ Wilson said" is more surprising than what Wilson said. Has there ever been a time in Adventist history where adultery and fornication were not frowned upon, or when anything other than cisgender heteronormative sex was celebrated openly? Sure, many have enjoyed sex outside of marriage or with various other partners for many years, with or without spousal consent, but the idea that this would be openly accepted is surprising.

Feelings of coitus interruptus? Of course. Sex is fun, regardless of who you decide to engage in sexual activity with. But hurt and confused? Unlikely. It is good to see that the author celebrates a removal of false limits on the full rainbow of consensual sexual expression, but don’t expect that Elder Wilson or the Adventist church will go there.

What hurts the most in this for me is that we have made so much progress in the past 10 years or so helping the church better understand the LGBTQ+ community even to the point where a growing number of local congregations are now fully affirming of LGBTQ+ people, meaning that whether single and celibate, or married to a same-sex or trans partner, they are fully accepted into church fellowship and can hold church offices. It is always difficult to see progress in making the church a more loving, inclusive community trigger a backlash, which although always expected, always hurts. It appears that this is an escalation of the backlash against the positive progress we have seen so far.

All I can say is that I hope this backlash is short and those of us who love our fellow LGBTQ+ members and fully affirm them will step out in even greater love and let them know that they still have a place in the church. Jesus always stood in opposition to judgmentalism and exclusionism. Let’s push back against this current backlash with concerted effort and remember, the GC is not the church, we are.

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I know, as a result of a particularly nasty reponse from Ted Wilson to my arrival to do interviews as part of my sociological study of Global Adventism when he was the Secretary of the Division HQ in the Ivory Coast, how much venom he has personally towards LGBTQ+ Adventists. He also refuses to acknowledge that he has gay relatives, even though when his father Neal Wilson was President of the GC and Grady Smoot, the president of Andrews University was arrested when he “hit on” a male plain clothes police officer in DC while a delegate to Annual Council, and I appealed to him not to just throw Smoot away, but to remember his years of service, and so try to help him, Neal contacted his gay brother, who was Provost of a university in the Mid-West, who found Smoot a position as Dean in his university; I also understand that one of Ted’s cousins was a members of SDA Kinship some decades ago. Ted’s vitriol at this year’s Annual Council is unprecedented in Adventism among GC presidents in such an important forum. It comes in a period when important segments of the church are getting to know, appreciate, and support their LGBTQ+ members and students. I perceive Ted Wilson’s statement as yet another attempt to exert top-down control, to impose his will against the enlightened consciences of other Adventists, as an attempt to coopt the support of bigoted and ignorant Adventists for his attempt to be re-elected to a third term as GC president. It is, above all, an attempt to once again make legalism pre-eminent over love of Adventists for one another.

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I don’t think it’s a hurt of being shocked, but rather a hurt of disappointment and feeling of being thrown under a bus in a very narrow statement on this subject that conflated LGBTQ+ with sexual immorality. It’s not new, but you’d think that in 2021 someone would at least make a distinction between innate preferences and acting on those preferences. In the very least it would be a step in the more nuanced direction.

I don’t know how in this day and age one can be so careless about the language at his position, unless he is intentionally playing “the greatest hits” to Adventists who are over 60 and like that kind of music.

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This seems to be a misunderstanding or deliberate attack. Gender preference seems to be established before birth (Ps. 139).

This assumption that gender preference is a choice because of a worldly trend seems to ignore existing research.

Hasn’t our church already hosted a conference in South Africa on this issue? Published a booklet for guidance?

Why would the leader of a socially progressive movement from the last 175 years single this out in a sermon? It’s like attacking a group of people born with blue eyes or some other physical characteristic. It’s deeply disheartening and heartbreaking.

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Last time there was an outright attack on the sanctity of abortion rights despite the best efforts of the President of Loma Linda University and others, and now an attack on sexual diversity. It is outrageous but not unexpected to attack healthy forms of sexuality. This push toward theological conformity has edged out people with different religious beliefs and varying sexual desires for years. If a person enjoys and is comfortable with a sexual position or genital configuration then what business is that of the others? Certainly we have evolved with that diversity and a reasonable diety would appreciate it as well. Who is the church to interpret the divine will? That’s why I am a cultural Adventist but unsure of the inconsistent theology or doctrines of the church. In all reality, the ultimate truth for you is you. Making a play that the divine is to be externally defined and taught is a mockery of individual personhood and our own godlike qualities. The church is a giant conversion therapy facility. It should probably be treated as such.

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I found Wilson’s remarks especially painful. His comments reinforced the bigotry and prejudice inflicted on LBGTQA+ individuals by Christians who claim to be faithful to the Bible. By focusing on a half dozen “clobber texts,” and ignoring dozens of texts that encourage love, mercy, grace, justice, diversity, and inclusivity, he demonstrated that his is a religion of condemnation and judgment, not hope and acceptance.

I’m so sorry that in a church and society so desperately in need of unity and acceptance, the leader of the Adventist Church chose to highlight those things that divide us. Most of contemporary society understands that LBGTQA+ individuals pose no threat. They just want to live lives unhindered by bigotry and prejudice. Christians who don’t understand this will see increasing numbers of young members walk away from meaningful engagement with the church.

Wilson seems to forget that Jesus aimed His fiercest criticism at religious bigots who sought to define the kingdom of God according to their own misguided perceptions. It did not end well for them.

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“Why is a gay person more of a threat to you than a leader who has sexually abused one or more church members?”
Thank you for including this statement. As one who was sexually abused as a child, for years, by a church elder.
I have, as an adult, approached the church at a state level and at the NAD level regarding the local church allowing the abuser to continue in office even when leadership was aware of his behavior. This guy destroyed my life.
The state conference response was a seven-sentence form letter that could have been written by the service desk of a Maytag repair shop. It acknowledged no responsibility and told me to continue with counseling. Even my professional counselor expressed rage at the response.
The NAD response was silence.
The administration of the SDA speaks loudly about selective topics. But they continue to sweep under the rug the voices of those who make them uncomfortable about their own shadow sins.
An example is the NAD enditnow campaign and website. Touted as a public campaign to end abuse in the church, it is nothing more than a tool to teach ways to protect the church from damages should abuse occur.
Check out the website. Not a single story shared from a victim WITHIN the church. Not a single instance of abuse from WITHIN the church. Not a single mention of restitution provisions for damages suffered to a victim from WITHIN the church.
It comfortably shares testimonials of abuses that happened unrelated to the church. But it is time to get personal and acknowledge what happens within the church and take accountability.
This definitely went off topic to your original article, but that one sentence you included was a trigger and an acknowledgment that the church does pick and choose the topics it wants to give the bullhorn to.

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Here’s the thing. There isn’t a movement in the church that’s arguing that rape is okay and that we should be accepting of rapists. There isn’t a movement in the church that’s arguing that racism is okay and that we should be accepting of racists. There is a movement that’s arguing that homosexual sex is okay and that we should be accepting of LGBTQ+. Hence, why it needs to be addressed.

I wish more Adventists marched on the streets in support of black lives matter–and frankly, many Adventists did. I wish there was more righteous anger against the child abuse, domestic abuse, and adultery that takes place within the church. Liberal-leaning Adventists should be the change they wish to see in the church and do these things.

But that doesn’t change the fact that homosexual sex is not okay, and that this is explicitly clear in Scripture.

Jesus’ example in Scripture is that we as a church should be loving towards sinners, and we as a church fail at that sometimes. But when Jesus was left alone with the woman caught in adultery, He didn’t say “go on sinning” because God doesn’t care about sex; He said “go and sin no more” because sexual sins are some of the most devastating sins that affect families today. They lead to children born in single-parent homes, growing up either without a parent or without one place that they can call home, with the loving support of both parents who live together. (It’s for this reason that the church was wrong to relax their views on divorce.)

When a middle-aged Adventist comes out as LGBTQ+, it destroys communities. Suddenly children have to deal with a broken home, living in two homes, and now they are statistically more at risk of poor achievement in school. Suddenly a spouse is told that “till death does us part” isn’t actually going to happen and they’ll have to be a single parent for the next decade or more. (Taken from a real situation, with identifying details removed.)

Look, I agree that the bigger threat to the church is the pastor, teacher, or elder who engages in sexual abuse. But people don’t dispute the evil of those things. Sola Scriptura is the foundation of the Adventist church, and it would be threatened by the acceptance of sexual choices outside of God’s plan.

I understand that some people think that God’s rejection of homosexual sex in the Bible is on par with God simply rejecting people because they were born the wrong way, but Science doesn’t even agree that people can be born LGBTQ+. Unless that changes, LGBTQ+ is a choice that goes against what God prescribes for us in Scripture, and we as a church have to stand for the wisdom and love that flows throughout Scripture, even when it is unpopular to do so. It may be “progressive” to support LGBTQ+, but it’s also progressive to support smoking weed and surely no one would argue that’s good for a person’s health.

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The inclusion of “IA+” is confusing. Intersex refers to mixed biological traits there from birth, like having ovaries and a penis. Arguably the result of sin, but hardly a sin on the part of the baby. Asexual people aren’t interested in sex with anyone. Does the practice of celibacy Jesus and Paul for some people become a sin because you are asexual? Or is the tagbag of letters merely met to denounce people who make us uncomfortable?

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Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.

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Thank you for your encouragement to not give up on the church and Christ’s call to love others. I relate so deeply to this post and have a semi-regular crisis of conscience when I am reminded of how the church at large views my LGBTA brothers and sisters, compared with the Jesus I know and love.

The dissonance comes as an employee and member of the church, who has witnessed friends and loved ones cast out by words and hate like Wilson’s spewing this week. You’re right-he is not the church, nor does he speak for all of us. I pray we can find a way to live as Jesus called, which I believe to the core of my bones that it is to LOVE others and that we have no power or authority of condemnation. I am in the minority from a group of friends from an SDA university who is still a member of the church and this with women in leadership, is at the core of their drive to walk away.

Thank you to the writer for carefully and honestly saying what so many of us are already thinking.

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“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:27)

“But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” (Mark 10:6)

I don’t want to offend anybody but should not it be God who, as the Creator, decides what the extent of sexual diversity is, rather than man?

Really? Never saw this written in the Bible. But what I have read is that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

And I think that, for a Christian, the ultimate truth is Jesus.

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Please do some study about this. Do you know anyone? Have you read statistics for suicides for people who tried to “pray the gay away” and it never happened?

What if gender preference is NOT a choice? Did you choose your gender or sexual preferences?

What is it called to hide one’s eyes from the suicidal youth who have tried but cannot change? Have you read the testimony of @backwoodcutter who has posted extensively about his life experience and struggle with “change”?

We know a lot more about biology, hormones, birth, and sexuality now more than ever.

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Elder Wilson epitomizes a certain SDA mindset that looks for the perfected last generation that will prompt Jesus’ return. Sadly this and the incorrect understanding of judgement around our controversial Sanctuary doctrine turns the Everlasting Gospel on its head and leaves us with the covert legalistic pathway to oblivion. Jesus is THE ONLY Saviour and has won the victory over sin and evil. Everyone of us is a sinner (which incidentally includes the LGBTQIA+ folk). Some of them are in this category by deliberate choice, most of them by genetic or biological variation did not have a choice to be this way. We all are of the corrupt human sinful nature and as such are in the same boat – all sinners needing the Saviour.

Jesus said “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37. The LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters like all of us sinners come to Christ because he is the Saviour and Lord. We must welcome them in our churches even if we struggle with a visible aspect of their sin (and our own less visible sin- Romans 7:13-25) because we are not the judges of humanity, again Christ alone has been given all authority and he is the true judge.

I salute Adventism which strives, like the author, to reveal and emphasize God’s love for all sinners. As Ellen White says “Jesus is attractive” (RH Aug 2, 1881) and we need leadership who upholds as supreme the doctrine of God’s love. It includes LSU Church within its welcome statement “…We strive to be authentic, transparent, inclusive, and compassionate—to be congruent between our talk and our walk. Grace shapes the ways we pattern our shared lives and is expressed in a commitment to wellness. We are as weak as our most vulnerable member and as strong as our healthiest. Thus, our congregational liturgy closes with, “Be Well.”
We are at our best when we are willing to be relevant, raw, and wrestling with our faith.
We are also seeking reconciliation with those we have left out. Though we have said, “You are welcome here,” we realize that many in the LGBT+ community, in particular, do not feel included. We confess that we have fallen short. Aspiring to follow Christ’s command to love one another, we resolve to work for change in our church community to be fully welcoming and affirming for all LGBT+ people. As we work to make concrete changes and open new conversations, please hear us when we say, “ALL are welcome here.”

May the next GC Session elect a president more like our former leader Elder Jan Paulson who espoused an open, transparent and welcoming message to God’s lost children in the world.

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Interesting. For all of Ted’s reference to the foundational concept of “Sola Scriptura”, one cannot help but notice that a majority of his authoritative musings are based on the works of Ellen G. White, rather than holy scripture.Much has been published by credible researchers regarding the source(s) of EGW’s “inspiration” and prophetic utterances. To stake one’s salvation and understanding of the will of God upon such a dubious foundation is perilous, indeed…

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Scripture is explicitly clear on nothing. The word and meaning conveyed by homosexual wasn’t even part of Scripture until relatively recently.

I know it’s convenient to blame someone for how they were born, but it won’t solve any problems. Communities may be destroyed here because the church and society has taught people that those in the LGBTQ+ community are aberrations. Do you know what destroys communities? Separation as a result of any cause. In this case, a community may be destroyed because we’ve been taught to reject them. You may as well say someone being born with a specific skin color or shape of their face is the reason why they deal with racism. This line of reasoning is what we were taught by Christianity at large, but is wholly fallacious and destructive. The reason why communities are destroyed when someone comes out as LGBTQ+ is because we’ve been taught to be bigots; that’s it.

Sola Scriptura is rendered useless if we don’t know how translations and the cultural understandings of Scripture have changed over time. You truly believe, deep down, you or anyone else knows God’s plan by simply reading the Bible as it sits? You know SDAs have debated over where commas belong, right? You also know there was no punctuation in the original text, right? One of our core beliefs—about what happens to our souls immediately after death, whether they go right to Heaven, etc.—hangs on the position of a comma. Sola Scriptura

Eh, what? Science largely agrees that people are born with a particular hormonal makeup in their bodies, dictating what society typically refers to as gender. This is such a disingenuous statement. If we take your principle—requiring unanimous agreement for anything for it to be valid—Christianity is rendered invalid because the is no unanimous agreement on any Christian belief. Science itself is rendered invalid.

Pleeeenty of people would argue this.

I encourage study on the topic of the Bible, re: LGBTQIA+ (start with Unclobber by Colby Martin) as well as on the topic of Biblical interpretation consistency (see The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allison Barr).

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This is the exact thing I thought right after processing my utter disgust at seeing Wilson’s tweets.

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Actually, A stands for allies, of which I am one. And I believe that acceptance of gender-different people is a present truth that the Holy Spirit is bringing to our awareness, not just to Adventists but to all Christian groups and other religions. If you are willing to read a few of the many, many books that have studied this issue from an informed viewpoint, you will understand that the traditional viewpoint is not logical in today’s knowledge.

And I for Intersex, should make it abundantly clear that those differences that are obvious for them represent the brain differences which we cannot see in other gender variants.

Along with Ron L, I find it very hard to understand Ted’s hatred of LGBTQIAs when he has a gay uncle and cousin.

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