Why the North American Division Sexuality Statement is a Disappointment

Just over a week ago, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists released a statement on human sexuality. As far as I could tell, the document only clarified the unspoken standpoints that were already understood within the current Adventist community. I was disappointed with the document, though I wasn’t expecting to be particularly pleased with it either. After reading it a couple of times, I closed the tab on my browser, sighed heavily, and moved on with my evening. During the following two or three days, I read other people’s comments on the NAD’s statement on social media. Some people seemed pleased with the statement, others were unimpressed, and many more fell somewhere in between. What particularly grabbed my attention were the responses of people who believed the document was progressive and that the church has made a huge stride in a positive direction.

I went back to read the statement over and over again, trying to find the groundbreaking portion. The statement differentiated between sexual orientation and sexual intimacy, saying that while one’s sexual orientation wasn’t a choice, the church doesn’t condone the companionship or the sexual intimacy of same-sex couples. The statement encouraged the LGBT community to engage in all elements of church worship. The statement also urged the Seventh-day Adventist church to be sure to point everyone to Christ, to display Christ-like behavior, and to treat everyone with love and respect. After reading the document for about the fourth time, I wondered to myself, Oh, is that it? The fact that the church has evolved and is treating us a little bit less like second-class citizens?

I can appreciate that this statement on human sexuality is a significant improvement over the way Seventh-day Adventist institutions used to handle the presence of the LGBT community. Not that long ago, lesbian and gay individuals faced the choice between living their lives deeply closeted or undergoing damaging reparative therapy. That said, as a queer woman of faith from Generation Y, the fact that this statement is considered a giant leap forward saddens me. This statement's guidelines are all my generation has ever known (with minor variations depending on one's local church family). According to this document, monogamous, Christian, same-sex relationships are not recognized. They are condemned--not only by churches, but also by educational institutions. Dedicated educators and longstanding church leaders could be fired for participating in a same-sex wedding--some already have been. LGBT support groups on Adventist campuses go without faculty sponsors because of the fear of losing one's job. Young adults who hold leadership positions in their churches could be unable to fulfill their duties because their open views would be considered a liability. While the Adventist church our parents knew is different from the Adventist church we grew up with, we must be careful not to use the slow evolution of the church's standpoint to downplay the issues that queer people of faith currently face.

The most fundamental flaw of the document is that LGBT Adventists were not invited to be a part of the very conversation that specifically concerns them. The statement openly admits the church’s ignorance on people who identify as transgender. This could be easily remedied by inviting transgender people to the discussion. Their omission was not for lack of their presence in the Adventist community. How valuable can queer people of faith really be to the Seventh-day Adventist church family if they will not offer them the opportunity to be heard? The thinly-veiled theme running through this statement is that this church loves the LGBT community, yet it simultaneously condemns LGBT individuals. I do not disagree that this statement represents a step in the right direction. We have come a long way from turning the LGBT community away from church fellowship. However I urge people of all generations in the Adventist church to remember that there is, and will always be room for better demonstrating God's love for all people. The conversation on the LGBT community is a good starting place.

Sydney Portela is a psychology student at Washington Adventist Univeristy and the president of Queers & Allies of Washington Adventist University, an unofficial club on the WAU campus.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7181
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Of course church leaders would be removed for participating in same-sex marriages. You do realize that same-sex marriage is a fundamental indicator of the end-times and our views on the end-times as it is? This article is a little over the top.

No, someone in a same-sex relationship should not be in a leadership position for the same reason someone that condones viewing pornography as acceptable should be. It’s one thing to struggle with a predisposition but it’s another to accept it as being appropriate within the church leadership. We could easily conjure up 100 references from secular sources that label the benefits of masturbation or viewing pornography, but does that shift God’s word or His laws?

The writer completely glosses over crucial, and objective, facts to create a defense for those predisposed to homosexuality to act out. Nope, it’s not ok and the day that it becomes accepted behavior is the day our church takes a step towards apostasy.

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Ok, but a little harshly said. But where - except RCC theology - (“contra naturam”) - do you find something about masturbation in and around the Bible ? What else is your target in helping Gods word or His laws ?

This Monday and Tuesday I was downtown for scientific upgrading. Univ. Prof. Dr. Brigitte Hackenberg displayed her experiences with the problems and sufferings and pains of people with difficulties of their gender, their families .included.

I was ashamed : WE look through our stovepipe , see Gen 1 : 27 and Matth 19 : 4 and omit the compassion Jesus shows in Verse 12. We take the Genesis - text for the title of our church periodical and are blind for all the multiple transgenders difficulties. But we have our good advices for obesity, hypertension - - - and “No Smoking” - programs - the worlds best, as you know… Only they were not mentioned in another workshop about nicotine problems ( - we are not aware of).

WWJD ?

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Hi there Sydney,

You have identified a key issue: Why was this statement made without including EGBT people in the discussion? Don’t live your life in reference to individuals, groups or organizations that exclude you from decision making processes. If you do, it will be pain instead of gain. God’s opinion is the only one that matters, so relate directly to Him in prayer and in a study of His Word in its proper context on all these issues. Blessings, Rene Gale

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This document saddens me every time I talk about it with my LGBTQ+ friends. You are so right, Sydney, it was a major lack of foresight to exclude anyone from the community who was to be affected by the decisions voted on in the document. The problem is, it is even worse than that. Not only did they not invite anyone from the LGBTQ+ community to participate or provide advice, they didn’t even include anyone who understands the community and the biology/genetics/psychology/sociology of the people so easily pigeon-holed by this document. There was not one psychologist, psychiatrist, biologist, geneticist, sociologist, social worker, or anyone else who has relevant expertise to talk about the LGBTQ+ people the document was aimed at. This makes me both sad and angry, but sadness is the dominant emotion at the moment. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Sydney. God Bless!

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Sir,
You obviously do not have a gay son nor a lesbian daughter, and I hope that none of your grandchildren or other close family members are gay or lesbian.

If they were, would you condemn them to lifelong loneliness and a total lack of of companionship till their dying days?

May I predict sir, that if you would lose your spouse, you would remarry in less than a year, not for sexual reasons, but because of intense loneliness.

Having lost a spouse myself, I know whereof I speak. I would not wish such a devastation on anyone, but when you, and the nine drafters of this document, find themselves in such a desperate state of loss and loneliness I hope all will have a consciousness raising EPIPHANY -------this is what I condemned my gay/lesbian brothers and sisters to endure!

I have known bereaved widowers to marry “bimbos” just to escape the loneliness!

Equating homosexual orientation with pornography and masturbation shows an abysmal ignorance of human sexuality on your part.

Neither of those “sins” has such disastrous consequences for unhappiness, loneliness, rejection, and suicide.

The author of this post finds the North American Division Statement on Sexuality a “disappointment”. I find it an EMBARRASSMENT.

I experience chagrin, mortification and shame that my church displays such a lack of scientific understanding on the subject. Is not Loma Linda University part of the NAD? Where is the appropriate MODERN, contemporary, cutting edge statement from their department of psychiatry?

They would be extremely reluctant to produce one, because it would lead them to fall into disfavor with either the GC or the accrediting bodies – a no win situation!

But more than the shame I feel that the church I love is still in the “dark ages”, the lack of compassion, sensitivity and love evinced by the sexuality statement and the ignorant comments it has engendered, makes we want to “vote with my feet” and find a church home that displays more understanding compassion and love!

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If all the addicts to pornography; and all the masturbates were to excluded from church fellowship and participation, the church would collapse inwardly.

That’s because those are unseen and unknown. Not like same sex couples or transgender individuals. This hypocrisy reeks to high heaven for presenting a statement only of those visible “sins.” If all sinners were removed from the church, how many silent and unseen and unknown sinners would there be?

The assumption, made too often, that impressionable young people may be attracted to homosexuality as a “hip” idea. This is preposterous to believe that despite the depression, even suicides of young gays, that anyone could be attracted to become homosexual.
This has absolutely no evidence at all, but someone’s idea without merit.

Christ spoke directly to homosexuals in Matt. 19:12: “For there are eunuchs who were born this way from their mother’s womb.” Who else could he possibly have been referring to? Do Christians refuse to welcome into full fellowship those who were born differently from the other 80-90 percent? To do otherwise, don’t denigrate the name of Christ by claiming this is Christianity. It may be Adventist statements, but not God’s love.
@kristan_yeaton

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Oh, stop it. This is ridiculous. You can no more prove that Jesus was talking about homosexuals than you can prove spontaneous generation.

I continue to be amazed at how deluded the defenders of homosexuality have become.

Here again we have a classic example of folks living in a fantasy world of their own creation. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that even to look upon someone with lust (does porn serve any other purpose other than lust?) is guilty of adultery.

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Before all the finger pointing, consider these two very wise sayings in our journey of life.

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
One of the great classics of prison literature, Letters and Papers from Prison effectively serves as the last will and testament of the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young German pastor who was executed by the Nazis.

There is so much more to learn about others,. The journey of a thousand committees begins…

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Mr. Bird I was totally expecting to find your negative thoughts under this post. You are becoming very predictable but not in a loving way. I am trying to figure out how to see Jesus in your attitude. Any suggestions?

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Thete is nothing wrong with pornography. Many people are naturally attracted to it, and its much better than going out and having an affair. The church shouldn’t condemn those who do.

As a gay person, I feel excluded by this document. But at least we know where the church stands and can exit. What we don’t know is where the church stands on abortion. There’s a big difference between the joy of sex and the killing of an unwanted child.

When it comes to sexuality, why does the church have to get involved at all?

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What is an LGBT Adventist? If the Bible condemns homosexuality, then why do people identify as LGBT Adventists? How about ex-LGBT Adventist? People join the Adventist church from all sorts of other positions. They become ex-Roman Catholic, ex-Atheist etc. By continuing to identify as LGBT they are in effect saying that God cannot give them the victory over their lusts and desires, or that they don’t want that victory. Here’s a quote from James 1:

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.
14 But every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

God didn’t make people LGBT. They are tempted there and it draws them.

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From what we have learned, the effects porn has on marriages, let alone the addiction, should be more than enough for anyone not to want to promote it. But more than that, lets not forget the tens of thousands of women (esp the young) who have been abused in this industry, and the millions of women who are abused by their husbands due to what they see in these films. Some having become so accustomed to it, probably dont even realise that they’re being abused any more.

A common misconception about pornography is that it is just people having sex on camera. However, in mainstream pornography violence is now the norm, with men inflicting violence and abuse against women who are forced to submit to body-punishing and humiliating sex acts. A 2010 study of the fifty most popular pornographic DVD titles found that 88% of scenes included violence. Of these, 95% depicted violence against women by men.

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And why should there be anyone representing those professions part of the group writing definitions on the issue?

Those people are all Pastors, well prepared to master issues in ALL areas of scientific, theological, medical, etc. expertise. They have a holistic view of all knowledge and are well prepared to make accurate, honest, and precise statements about everything we could possibly think of.

Why should professionals in certain area be invited when they have such a narrow vision on their area of expertise if there are those pastors who can see a much broader picture and come up with a better final “document?”
:wink:

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It is worth observing that indicated in several of the comments above is that apart from empirical and social sciences (including the expression of people’s experiences), theology really doesn’t have the right to say anything positively and with moral certainty. Regardless of one’s position on this specific moral question, this is telling and, in my own judgment, problematic as a matter of principle. Generally speaking, as is regularly embodied in the articles and comments on this site, it is the same people who would like to see the church liberalized on sexual ethics that also want to say that Scripture has nothing to say about the world scientifically, and that it should mind its own business and stick with moral issues. The juxtaposition of these positions is most revealing; it exposes the underlying logic, which is that the Bible will be our norm for faith and practice only so long as it accords with what we already think to be the case.

To the current example: it seems that the biblical description of human being is that humanity is categorically male and female, and that human sexuality is the union of bodily differentiated persons. This is not reducible to biblical authority; the problem is more severe than that. If we think that the Bible can say nothing to us about what it means to be human and what it means to morally live out our humanity independently, i.e., that the Bible needs to conform its moral claims to the findings of the sciences, then it isn’t the Bible’s authority that is at stake, but the moral claim that God has on creatures as the Creator.

In this respect, given this basic trend of liberal Adventism, I (reluctantly) consider Ryan Bell’s final position to be the one with the simulacrum of integrity; at least he could acknowledge that God was totally superfluous to this entire moral project, and proceeded without it. The clamoring for the inclusion of the social sciences and the necessity of having the first-hand perspectives of those who identify as LGBTQ+ is indicative of a much deeper theological problem; namely, the complete obsolescence of theology for informing our moral reasoning. If it is in fact the case that we can morally reason without the Bible, that we have distilled the message of Jesus into an interpretation of unconditional love that involves the suspension of all moral judgment, then let us dispense with God and, if we are to be consistent, let us dispense with the community that claims the Christian God as the occasion of its gathering.

I have no issue with the social sciences, and I certainly think that there is an important place for hearing people’s perspectives, and I think that theologians and pastors alike need to take both seriously, but in principle there really is nothing objectionable about the church putting out an unequivocally theological statement about a moral issue. Anyone who says otherwise contradicts the very presupposition of the church’s existence.

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Very well said, Matt. As I mentioned in my recent article on this website, many of us who identify as Christians have lost the ability to articulate how our faith should hold us accountable. The privatization of faith necessarily means the terms of our public moral conversations, even in churches, are defined by values that are commonly taken to be self-evident, when they are in fact quite contestable from the historical point of view. Take the myth of progress, for instance. It is this myth that underlies our willingness to embrace causes deemed progressive (or conservative) by the dominant culture. These assumed values are then further reinforced by clever catch words and embellished with supposedly value-neutral scientific findings, as if the scientific method is capable of yielding any moral truth. As a result, when we disagree with a theological statement, we no longer feel the need to make a theological counterargument. Rather, we feel more comfortable appealing to secular notions of justice, to a vague sense of moral progress, or to personal experiences–as if personal experiences are not already interpreted and value laden–as Christians. This is the case, I suspect, because we either implicitly assume Christianity merely has instrumental value–that it is tool to be used to support our political/moral causes–or Christianity is just a spiritual technology which exists alongside others to support our personal spiritual needs–in other words, therapy. Either way, we are not far from, as you rightly suggested, atheism, albeit a flaccid version and not the courageous atheism of Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus. This kind of Christianity, as Stanley Hauerwas points out, cannot possibly have anything to say to the world.

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I appreciate all that you have said here. You’re speaking truth. What the younger generation is buying into is that homosexual relationships do as much to honor God as do those between husband and wife. Even our SDA teachers are encouraging same sex attracted students to choose “gay marriage”! Imagine that.

A young person like the author needs to realize that a high percentage of young people go through a period of sexual uncertainty. Hormones can create confusion in a developing mind and body and they very well could be attracted to SS. I cringe to think about how many of these temporarily SSA young people will be encouraged by modern culture to pursue that type of homosexual relationship. After some time goes by, they might very well wake up to the fact that they were deceived and lied to. They were taught to think it was hip to be gay. They can’t help but notice some of their HS and College peers who are legitimately married, who now have children, who have heard the voice of the Lord and are living lives that are a testimony of His wisdom.

After almost 20 years of marriage, a boy and a girl that look like myself, and a boy and a girl that look like my wife, and being a witness of how The Master uses a husband to refine a wife and a wife to refine her husband (it has taken almost 20 years to figure this out!) I am testimony of what God can do with brokenness. I would tell the SSA person that all of God’s children have intense temptation and substantial failure. I would encourage them to put the prospect of their future happiness in the hands of their Maker, to follow His design for companionship, not the world’s design.

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The word “conscience” featured quite prominently in the discussion of this NAD statement. I found this interesting snapshot illustrating the nature of the Adventist conscience from a year-end edition of the Adventist Review of 1986. Perhaps this could be a hopeful sign?

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Wow…what nonsense. Majoring in minors. In reality, jewelry isn’t a minor issue, it’s a non-issue.

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As sure as a turkey will never be asked to sit in on discussions of what’s for Thanksgiving dinner, people whose lives are affected by such proclamations will not given a seat at the table, but will continue to be served for dinner by those with knives and forks and loud swords clashing. As a professional psychologist who understanding of issues at hand, you possess too much professionalsim and common sense to be a participant in with these “Katy bar the door” folks running the show these days.

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