Viewpoint: It Really Is Complicated

Last week, Washington Adventist University hosted a week-long spiritual revival entitled It’s (not) Complicated. According to the poster taped all over restroom stalls and bulletin boards across campus, the main objective of the revival was to discuss the Christian perspective on dating, relationships, spiritual living, sex, and homosexuality. Due to obligations I have in the university’s choir, I was only able to attend Wednesday and Thursday evening. When I attended on Wednesday, the pastor talked about the myth of finding “the one,” and how we needed to prioritize improving ourselves as human beings over searching for the perfect person. Generally I agreed with what he had to say about maintaining positive and healthy relationships. It was a solid sermon, and I left feeling encouraged.

Thursday evening I heard that the pastor would be talking about homosexuality, the word being spread around like it was a disease. Part of me didn’t want to go because I saw no point in purposely raising my blood pressure, but my curiosity got the better of me. I have personally heard only one or two sermons that vaguely revolved around the concept of homosexuality. During high school I sat through several lectures in Bible classes that made me particularly uncomfortable. Thankfully, I grew up being a part of fairly liberal church families and inclusive youth groups, so I haven’t had to experience as much conflict as many other queer people of faith face. I thought that I should at least see what pastors were saying about people like me these days, hoping I would be pleasantly surprised. Sadly, I wasn’t.

Students pray during the "It's Not Complicated" Revival at WAU. Photo: Vanessa Baioni

Every point the pastor made was a sentiment you have probably heard before. He mentioned how in Genesis God laid out His plan exactly the way He wanted it to be. He promoted celibacy and forced loneliness, speaking out against the “gay lifestyle.” He claimed that God could deliver you from homosexuality. He said that those who live a homosexual lifestyle would not inherit the kingdom of God. The only thing that seemed different was that he attempted to delve more into psychology books than scripture. He must not have researched hard enough on sexuality itself, because he specifically said, “There are four kinds of sexuality: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender.” I don’t know if I should begin with the fact that there are more than four sexual orientations, or if I should mention that “transgender” is not a sexual orientation.

The pastor did talk about the importance of Christian college campuses being safe places for homosexuals, just as it should be a safe place for all sinners. He asked the crowd how they could show homosexuals the love of God when they gossiped about them and ostracized them. Of course, he used this to encourage students to embrace homosexuals in order to hopefully persuade them to stop living their lifestyle. He then proceeded to compare homosexuals to pornography addicts and bank robbers. The longer he spoke, the more ignorant his comments became. It seemed as if every time he said something positive and forward thinking, he managed to take ten steps backwards.

What really broke my heart was the question and answer session after the sermon. Students anonymously would text their questions and the pastor would answer them to the best of his ability. “Will I go to heaven,” “Should gay pastors step down,” “How do I come out to my parents,” “My friend was abused as a child by a man and she only feels comfortable with women. What do I do?” These questions were proof that I am not doing an adequate job. I am the president of an unofficial gay-straight alliance club on my school’s campus called Q&A (Queers and Allies). We’re a confidential support system for students of gender and/or sexual minorities. We’re a safe space for those who feel unwelcome by the Seventh-day Adventist church, or who feel as if they can’t express themselves freely due to the current social climate of our school’s campus. This is all well and good, except that almost no one is aware of our club. We are afraid to tell our campus that we exist.

I don’t need to prove to anyone the validity of my views on what the Bible says about homosexuality. I have made peace with the fact that I am a lesbian Seventh-day Adventist woman. I do not serve a God who would turn me away from eternal life for loving one of his children. However, not everyone is at peace with who they are. I didn’t write this to pick apart a pastor’s theology. I wrote this because that pastor asked the congregation if this was a safe campus, and truthfully, the answer is no. I wrote this because there are people on this campus who feel unsafe and alone; who feel like that have no one they can talk to without being told that they need to pray their gay away. I wrote this because I want faculty and staff to read it and consider how they can reach out to their students. I wrote this because I need help with maintaining a club that has only met twice because they’re afraid to assemble on campus. I wrote this because queer people of faith exist at Washington Adventist University, and they don’t have adequate support.

It’s (not) Complicated is an inaccurate title for subjects that are intricate by design and may require delicate handling. People need to know that everyone exists on a broad spectrum of gender identity, sexual orientation, and romantic orientation. People should be taught that this is normal, and that God loves us fiercely regardless of who or how we love. I am working hard to help Q&A grow so that we can further spread the message of God’s unconditional love, but I need help wherever I can find it. To those who I have reached out to so far, thank you so much for your love and kindness towards the members of Q&A and supporting our cause. To those students on campus who may be struggling with their identity, there is hope, and there is a safe space for you. To those who interact with my fellow students on a daily basis, please show them support and kindness. That is not complicated.

Sydney Portela is a sophomore psychology student at Washington Adventist Univeristy and the president of Queers & Allies of Washington Adventist University, an unofficial club on the WAU campus. This article originally appeared on her blog, Where There Is Love, and is reprinted here by permission.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I wish it wasn’t so complicated. It seems like each succeeding blog on this topic is met with more misunderstanding and hostility.
Folks need to stop and think about what Jesus said about how we treat the least of these. How many more suicides is it going to take before some folks get it. I know people try, but the sterotypes still linger and hurt.


Pastors should not abuse their status by speaking on subjects with which they have no expertise.

However, I am more concerned with the audience. Are they really so compliant and gullible? Offer no critique of this man?


Of course I do not agree with everything the pastor said. But I want to focus on this bit here:

So you decided to attend a SdA institution? Knowing what they believe about same sex relationships. This doesn’t make sense to me.

I was brought up in the Eastern Orthodox church. Once I found the SdA church I left the Orthodox church. It was that simple. I did not hang around and try and force them to keep the Sabbath.

I’m reminded of a story I heard recently. Happened at my church before I arrived. A young gay man left the church to pursue, I would imagine, to living a gay lifestyle. Fair enough. However, sometime had gone by and he returned, trying to get everyone in the church to follow and agree to what he saw as right, and they obviously didn’t. I’m sure they tried to tell him this, and why they couldn’t agree to such things. So how did he react? He reacted by coming to church that Sabbath, and for the next few Sabbaths in a row, with a rainbow sash around his chest, standing in protest during the sermon. No one threw him out. And allowed him to continue. Why? I simply don’t understand. Why do people try and force their ways upon others. Why not join an organization that adheres to your beliefs.

Again, it just doesn’t make sense to me. But then again, I was not brought up in this church.

Oh, btw, before you continue believing how unloving this church is to gay people. Maybe you should have spent some time with me and my secular friends, before coming to Christ. And the things we said and did. You all have no idea how good you have it.


Hmmm… Tony, you seem like a person who sees things in black and white.

I doubt people decide to go, or not go to church based on one particular doctrine.

Also, just because a church has a doctrine, it doesn’t mean that every member agrees with that doctrine. A church can evolve as new information is gathered.

Also, you may go to church, because you have family or friends who go. You may have grown up with the church, and so are comfortable in it. You may even agree with most of what the church believes, and the alternatives aren’t as satisfactory.

In this environment, pastors should keep to what their expertise is. And the starting point would be keeping the golden rule.


Then that’s fine Andrew, stay at that church you grew up in. But dont force it to change to suit you.


Nobody is forcing anything. I don’t understand your point.

I’m not necessarily talking about this particular story. I honestly don’t know if the writer of this article wants to change the churches views on same sex relationships.

I am unaware of what personal issues you have then, so I can’t comment.

Of course, she does, TonyR… get real! And so do countless others who through no fault of their own were either born “other than heterosexual” or through unavoidable life experiences became unable to react sexually in a heterosexual environment.

And so do countless others of us who are known as “gay allies” who recognize that there is more to relationships than sex and that “it is not good for (hu)man to live alone” all the days of his/her life, is more important than what gender one has for a life companion.

It is IMO very shameful for a church which purports to be Christian to not only not be the leader in a more Christ-like way to relate to those who don’t “fit” the traditional gender models, but to "cast them out of the synagogue… AND out of the “family”… not only the church family, but in all too many cases, out of their own families as well.

Open your eyes, read, and attempt to comprehend the witness brought by those who have long experience with these topics. I think you will agree that our church needs to change its views/attitudes on “same sex relationships”.



The author is open about the fact she’s lesbian - she doesn’t really discuss her own journey, only her reaction to the meeting. But she writes as one who is comfortable in her own skin, and in her relationship with the Lord. She experienced sad disappointment at the views of this particular pastor, and to the extent his views are representative of the church, it probably follows she would like to change the views of the church.

I used to see this issue very differently myself. I grew up Adventist, with a pretty rigid view of right and wrong. It was probably not until my late 30’s that I even entertained the idea that homosexuality just might not be sinful.

I read some good books, and I met some people (outside the church) who I became friends with, and learned they were gay. I think it was a combination of some education, and personally getting to know some gay people, that helped me realise my former views were problematic. At about that time my first marriage failed as well, and I came to understand that sometimes life just doesn’t work out how it was meant to, and you have to make the best of it.

The evidence strongly points to a view that in at least a majority of cases, people don’t choose their sexual orientation. Moreover in the majority of cases, it isn’t related to parenting, childhood abuse, or other environmental factors. They were just born that way, and from their earliest recollection, found they were attracted to people of the same sex rather than those of the opposite sex. And so-called reparative therapy has proved both ineffective and harmful.

If we can accept that this is the dilemma in which gay and lesbian people find themselves, we can surely extend some compassion in our expectations of them. I fully understand your comments about attitudes in parts of the secular community. The church is by no means the only culprit in at times, increasing the burden that these people bear.

And nobody is suggesting everybody in the church has to see this the same way - what some of us hope for is acceptance despite a different point of view, because we acknowledge that salvation is a personal matter. I’m no longer an Adventist, and one reason among others for my leaving the church, was the way the church officially treats gays and lesbians.


I had gathered as much. But I thought, just in case I’m wrong, I wont say it.

Do you know whats really unloving Bille? People trying to force their way upon others. Even going as far as referring to them as “unloving,” making people feel guilty, because they dont see things the way they do.

Oh, my eyes are open. I’m sure, together with the world, and its secular media many will be forced to change their beliefs. Even if its only so as not to be attacked.

Not I. Unless I can be shown me, by Scripture. As it was reveled to me that women can be, and should be, pastors. Which did not come by people calling me a hater, sexiest or close minded. All those words ever did was made it all that much harder for me to find the truth, because it hardened my heart. I absolutely hated when I heard people being referred to those names because they simply couldn’t see it the way they did. But finally, a sermon at my church, with the Bible open and text after text was presented, the Greek, and whatever else was needed, was revealed to me and others. Then I, at a later time, checked it out for myself and saw that it made sense.

This is the only way you will reach people. Use Scripture. If used correctly, it will never fail you.


Superbly written. Thank you for sharing that Robert.

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Thanks Tony, you’re very gracious.


Then you also know your view on homosexuality can change. You never know, you may then seek to change the position of the Church on it.


I agree with this, but I think we should also get to a position where we don’t even acknowledge being gay as an issue.

To try and explain my point. Take for example, racism. We can go on acknowledging black issues and the wrongs and rights. But we are, in so doing, simply making them victims again. So, I think we need to get beyond this narrative to one which I refer to as ‘post racism’. Then, in this new world order, when racism occurres it would be obvious, and seen as absurd behaviour.

The same, I think is true with regards to gay people. Ultimately, it just shouldn’t be an issue. And when we get to that point, we will also see ‘gayism’ as equally absurd.



I agree with your observations - it shouldn’t be an issue. However for gays and lesbians growing up in the church as it presently stands, it is an issue because they find their life experience to be at odds with what they’ve been taught. Until the church changes, this will continue to be the reality that Adventist gays and lesbians experience.

Additionally, I was primarily addressing my comment to someone with a substantially more conservative stance than my own, and was trying to find some common ground on which to dialogue. :smile:


Seems preaching focuses on the sins or behaviors the pastor is not guilty of. I’d imagine more pastors sin missing a 12 inch putt time after time. Tom Z


From my observations that is the modus operandi of all too many who support the gay agenda. Notice the hullabaloo in Indiana because a religious freedom law has been enacted.

If X operates a company which does specialty baking why should it be required to serve a gay couple? We are slowly losing our freedom to choose with whom we do business and associate.

In my view the impetus is all about protecting alleged gay rights at the expense of the freedom of straights.


Not by a long shot should the church change its views on gay relationships. Exactly why should a church change its Bibically based view of gay behavior merely because culture has so overwhelmingly accepted and now endorses aberrant behavior?

Once the church attempts to reinterpret Scripture to accord with cultural pressures it has lost its raison d’etre.