Will Faith Leaders Push LGBT Solidarity Now that Adrenaline Has Stopped?

The shelling moved further up the line. We went to work on the trench and in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and muggy and cheerful and quiet. The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody.”

My takeaway: All too rarely do we follow through on our resolve when it’s engendered in a context of crisis, fear and pain.

The good news: The Wednesday after the Pulse Club Shooting, I stood shoulder to shoulder with many of Orlando’s prominent faith leaders during a press conference convened by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

It was a memorable experience as I watched major players in Central Florida’s faith community emphatically declaring their love for those in the LGBTQ community and calling for them to be treated with the respect and dignity that all God’s children deserve.

My heart was stirred as speakers reassured the onlooking world of the Orlando faith community’s solidarity with a group that had just lost 49 members to a hate crime too terrible to even contemplate—in addition to 53 others having sustained an array of injuries.

Christian clergy made clear that the essence of Christianity is to reflect the love and compassion of Jesus.

The bad news: Also at that press conference were LGBTQ representatives. Their sorrow was palpable. Tears at times flowed and voices cracked as they expressed gratitude for the outpouring of compassion.

But it didn’t stop there. All the kind words of faith leaders didn’t change the fact, they pointed out, that Florida (and many other states) offers only spotty civil-rights protection on the basis of sexual orientation.

The fact is, many will return to their jobs knowing they can be fired if their orientation becomes known. Indeed, a multitude of discriminatory practices are still legal — and often stridently defended by members of the faith community.

The challenge: The golden rule — a standard advocated by all faith traditions — calls for us to treat others as we’d want to be treated if the tables were turned.

The LGBTQ community has faced insult and ostracism, discrimination and persecution. Yet on Wednesday, we as faith leaders openly and emphatically declared that they deserve dignity, respect and fair treatment — because they are as much children of God as we are.

Thus, despite whatever theological differences we may have with these brothers and sisters, we’ve acknowledged the magnitude of their pain, we’ve affirmed their value, and we’ve declared our solidarity.

If our actions are to match our declarations, we have no choice but to put Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., on notice that the Central Florida faith community — not in spite of, but because of, our deepest theological understandings — will not rest until we’ve secured justice and equality, even for those with whom we might disagree.

The real question: Are we committed to doing the right thing every day and not just in the heat of crisis?

When the media have moved on, when the really sensational stories are happening elsewhere, when the Florida sun is hot and the air is muggy and cheerful and quiet once again, and when we’ve slipped back into the routine of preparing sermons and baptizing and visiting the sick, will we as faith leaders remind our respective flocks of the resolve we declared so boldly in the adrenaline rush of crisis?

Or will we become as tongue-tied as a battle-weary soldier upstairs at the Villa Rossa?

James Coffin, a member of the Christian clergy, is executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. This article first appeared as a guest op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, and is reprinted here by permission.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7524
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Thank you very much for this! It’s very encouraging. You are absolutely right that we should be known for our tireless advocacy for all people to be treated fairly and justly under the law, even if–maybe especially if–there is disagreement. (Of course not all Adventists agree on a theology around the faith and sexuality intersection as it’s a topic undergoing much examination that now, but the official policies and practices are quite unwelcoming.) I’d love for this love and solidarity that’s been evidenced sfte this tragedy to extend to congregational life too, but at a minimum advocating for LGBT people to have access to housing and job security among other basic rights is a start. Thank you for your work and witness here.


Are we committed to doing the right thing every day and not just in the heat of crisis?
OR, will we become as tongue-tied as a battle-weary soldier upstairs at the Villa Rossa?

These are The GREAT QUESTIONS we need answers for from the Administration of the North American Union after they made such a huge splash about caring for non-SDA Homosexuals.
And spent tithe money for air fare, hotel, and food, and transportation around Orlando.
Do the persons working in the Administration of the North American Union include SDA Homosexuals in their caring, or was it just the “heat of crisis” that they believed they had to say something because everyone else was?
WHAT is their position for FULL INCLUSION of Seventh day Adventist homosexuals in every local church in North America???

For all of us, life is a journey.
Our walk with God is a life long journey of learning, experiencing, understanding, and knowing God’s will for us.
Each of the 4 Billion persons on this planet have to take their OWN journey. One person cant tell another person how to live their journey, or to take the place of the Holy Spirit on their journey.
The Community of Church is a group of individual persons on their own personal journey with God to collectively enjoy their fellowship with God and to manifest this in many different and fun ways together.
BUT, each person has to be allowed to perfect their spiritual formation individually.
It is OUR Duty to invite people as they are into our Community. And I think THIS is the difficulty we as SDAs have is that we have this Doctrine Of Perfection.
Matthew says Be Ye Perfect. Luke says, quoting Jesus at the same event, Matthew’s Perfection is “being Merciful”, or other translation says, “being Compassionate”. When I am Compassionate, Merciful like God, then I am being “PERFECT”.
SDAs have been taught NOT to be Compassionate. And that is why we are not able to welcome in to our Community “sinners”, or at least persons we consider having THE WRONG SINNING.
This being Non-Compassionate attitude is in our Denominational DNA. And THIS is WHY we cannot love the Sinner WHILE they are sinning. It is a God-like attribute to love the Sinner while the Sinner is sinning.
And THIS is WHY certain Sinners who love God, will never be allowed to worship God in SDA fellowships.
They will have to find other Non-SDA fellowship Communities to worship God in Community.
To complete their Journey To God with God in Non-SDA fellowships and be part of the 144,000 that way.


Regrettably, the state of Florida has NO protection for gays/lesbians, who can be fired without recourse, by their employers merely because of their sexual orientation, even though they may be celibate!

Similarly, in Florida, they have no recourse if landlords refuse them housing, or evict them, based on their sexual orientation…

There are many states, like Florida, with total lack of protection for the LGBT community, in housing and employment matters.

The Republican party in Congress has repeatedly blocked legislation that would ban such discrimination nation wide.

Gays pay their taxes and work hard like their straight counterparts, but lack basic fairness when it comes to such protections. Surely employment and housing are pretty basic needs and one’s access to them should not be denied on the basis of orientation – an attribute that the individual did not choose.

So all the recent hoopla by faith leaders would be better spent in persuading legislators to enact long overdue protections for this marginalized minority.


Ironically, it is the very theological differences we have with the gay community, as Bible-believing Christians, which insist that we affirm the dignity, share the pain, and uphold the civil rights of those who suffered in Orlando.

Millions there are in this world, like those practicing the LGBT lifestyle, who cherish theories and make choices contrary to the teachings of God’s Word. Yet the imperative of compassion is as strong in the Sacred Pages as the imperative of maintaining God’s standards of sexual purity. And the objective, transcendent reality of both imperatives is as much the guarantee of the first as it is of the second.

The same Bible which condemns homosexual practice without qualification also commands that mercy be shown to the afflicted and wounded—and not just to the afflicted and wounded who follow the teachings of Scripture. The same Bible which forbids sexual oneness outside the limits of heterosexual monogamy, also declares that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), and thus prohibits efforts by Christians to coerce the conscience through the carnal weapons of statecraft (II Cor. 10:4-5).

Put simply, if moral absolutes are denied and left captive to cultural nuance and the vagaries of experience, compassion for those different from ourselves is no more imperative when it ceases to be convenient than is the practice of Biblical sexual morality when circumstance and the call of the flesh eclipse the voice of conscience. Neither corporate nor individual piety is sustainable without an absolute standard of right and wrong. Without such a standard, compassion for the victims of violence will indeed dissipate when the spotlight moves on, just as surely as adherence to Biblical norms of sexual integrity loses its resilience as soon as the less-than-consecrated think others aren’t looking.


That’s the problem. The consensus here at Spectrum (and in many other places) seems to be that there are no moral absolutes (except maybe an ambiguous nod to the Golden Rule) and that culture must dictate morality. And so we see the attempt to normalize within the church practices which were understood to be unbiblical even 50 years ago.

Yes we are, but only within the context of Biblical morality; not morality as defined by the current culture, which, while preaching “tolerance” for just about any aberrant behavior, is very intolerant of those who stand for true Biblical principles, and who object to certain practices being tolerated in the church.

Kindness and mercy, yes; affirmation of the lifestyle, no. It should be remembered that it was Jesus who gave the laws in the OT (in the context of a theocracy), and it was the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write what he did.

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The big question is how does one accept without condoning! certain all civil rights would be granted, Christain fellowship also. But does church membership follow, here is the great divide. My church had a minister of music who was gay, he died of complications of AIDS. He was very talented In music and was also senior member of the music faculty of the local state college. My neighbors were a lesbian couple, when one became bed fast with a terminal illness, I mowed their lawn, did minor plumbing repairs, and kept the drive, and decks clear. One was a chair of a department of the university and the other owner of a small hearing aid business. In all cases their sexual orientation did not affect their professional competence.

Tom Z


It seems to me that our church PR leaders are unable to tell the truth about LGBT. It is not consistent with the Eden model and it is anti-family. In my opinion, unless church leaders, can balance the right to life and civil liberty of the LGBT community while maintaining a clear family vision—Adventist youth will give further credence to bi-sexuality with the blurring gender lines. Why not? Aren’t we all children of God.

I feel it is socially, politically and religiously impossible to have an open discussion over LGBT issues. During the height of the Third Reich, it was impossible to express different opinions concerning the Jewish Question. Very similar today to object to LGBT practices. Everyone with a different analysis has to be silent or lose his or her careers. There are no public safe places, even in the SDA church.


For many, this has not been about the Adrenaline of an incident. It is about the persistent fight for social justice and equity for all people. Racial, gender, and sexual orientation. The SDA church organization and politic has been on the wrong side of history in almost every case. We wholly embraced and perpetuate “separate but equal” as an approach to racial justice, we were silent on the holocaust, we structurally ensure that women are oppressed, and we feign fellowship but not inclusion for our LGBT brothers, sisters, and children. The Council of Jerusalem in the book of Acts established the principle that was unequivocal. Not even OT law and Jewish interpretation of the law can be used as a barrier to prohibit entrance into the Kingdom and Fellowship of the Church. That is what we fight for. EQUITY


Jesus, who is our Master, said NOTHING about homosexuality.

The persecution of gays and lesbians advocated by “Christians” seems to be based entirely on the Old Testament, and on Paul. It must be pointed out that Paul also did not approve of women speaking in church, and in the OT fathers were commanded to stone their rebellious sons.

There seems to be a basic misunderstanding that lies underneath the persecution of gays and lesbians–that homosexuality is a choice.

But I did not have a choice in becoming a heterosexual, so why should I think anyone else has such a choice? I suppose it is a logical possibility that some people might have such a choice, but I rather suspect it is uncommon. The cases I know about personally where homosexuals have tried to become something else have uniformly been unsuccessful.

It seems to me that we “straights” need to have some mercy and simple kindness: imagine what it would be like to wake up some morning as a young man at age 17 and realize that a woman’s body had no sexual appeal for you, but other young men’s bodies did. And then over time take in the fact that to “be myself” I would be incurring the contempt, even the wrath of a lot of other people, including members of my own faith community. Who, in his right mind, would take on such a burden?

I remember once on a Boston subway pulling an old man off a skinny young fellow whom he was trying to throttle with his cane. After the old guy staggered back into the aisle, he pointed at the kid and said “He’s a fag. He’s queer.” I just glared at him. I wasn’t being heroic–I just had to respond to his hatred.

For the love of Jesus, let us have some kindness and mercy to people who seem “weird” to us.


But you had a choice as to whether you were going to act on your heterosexual impulses. And the issue of orientation is not so rigid as you imagine. There is choice, but not as you would think. Most gays have even been sexually aroused by the opposite sex. And lesbians are more fluid in their thinking then gay men. etc, Even heteros do not have to act on their impulses. We call it celibate.

Beisdes, It is not orientation that is the issue in scripture but acting on desire.

Jesus said nothing about homosexuality because there was no conflict with the religious leaders regarding that issue. ALL first century Jews agreed on it, so there was no need to discuss it. The Greco–Roman culture, on the other hand, was very different from the Jewish culture. That is why the OT and Paul had something to say on the matter.

You helped someone who was being beaten up. That is the main thing. If it were a girl or a child or a woman or a weaker individual, it would have been the same act. You were not more righteous by your response. I oppose homosexual behavior, but would have done the same thing.


How many Christian heterosexuals have chosen to be celibate in their youth? In their 20’s, 30’s and beyond? Yet the married heterosexuals who are not celibate are self-righteously telling their homosexual friends (?) that God requires them to be celibate. What Bible verses do you submit as evidence? How many great patriarchs were celibate and monogamous? Be cautious with using the Bible for such messages.

There is an equal, if not more condemnation against heterosexual sins of promiscuity and adultery than same sex relations, yet according to many Christians, marriage is biblically forbidden to the homosexual. Marriage vows promise to be faithful to your partner. Why are so many married heterosexuals unwilling to accept that those same vows they took can be just as honored by homosexuals?


He didnt say anything about PONZI schemes or insider trading either. Why dont you give me your retirement money to invest?


Thank you for standing for your beliefs, Jim! Yet, we must go beyond speech and follow with actions! We must push our local and state governments until they at a minimum protect the rights to jobs and housing of LGBTI people.

How I wish that our great critics here could hear the heart-wrenching stories I have heard by those who have grown up in our church so cruelly misunderstood and discriminated against, simply because our leaders are too closed-minded to try to understand. I am thankful that more and more members who learn that they have an LGBTI family member are learning to become loving and accepting toward them, just as Jesus would have all of us do.


All interesting responses. Of note: yes, Jesus said little about insider trading, child pornography, the likes of Monsanto (GMO) and alas, homosexuality. But what he did say a lot about was love. He simply said to love others. Not necessarily why, but decidedly how. And for the very good reason that it is very good for us (now and way back then).

And the how goes alot like this, “as I have loved you”. Simple. Sweet. Elegant. Raw. Straight to the point. How does he love us? Right where we live. In our hearts, our homes, our bank accounts and our bedrooms. In our desires, our appetites, our judgements and in our chilly, dark and cherished places.

So let us love as we are called to. Every man, every woman in every nation. Every stripe and every wrinkle. Let us live His law of love. Let us give up our compulsion to judge and let his higher power accomplish yet another mystery never intended for us at all.

Yes, I takes more than love. My Sabbath School class reiterates this threadbare mantra. They say it also takes obedience. I’m beginning to see that true love for my gay sisters and brothers hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell unless I obey what Jesus lived and said about love. For what else is obedience to God if it isn’t true love? And what is true love apart from obedience?

Love, it seems, is obedience. Obedience, I think, is worship. God, so surely, is love unending. And then I believe, so must I.