Only days after the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended the right to marry to same-sex couples in all fifty states, the Seventh-day Adventist Church will vote on proposed changes to Adventist Fundamental Belief #23, “Marriage and the Family.” While the high court’s ruling put the United States in the company of over twenty countries that grant marriage to same sex couples, delegates to the upcoming General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas will consider language that will intentionally narrow the church’s definition of marriage to exclude same-sex couples.
The current wording of Fundamental Belief #23 defines marriage as "a lifelong union between a man and a woman." The belief also states,
For the Christian a marriage commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between partners who share a common faith.
[. . .]
Although some family relationships may fall short of the ideal, marriage partners who fully commit themselves to each other in Christ may achieve loving unity through the guidance of the Spirit and the nurture of the church.”
The editorial team responsible for proposing revisions to the Fundamental Beliefs has suggested replacing “partners” and “marriage partners” with “a man and a woman.” Marginal notes by the editorial team indicate a deliberate repudiation of same-sex relationships, saying:
The term ‘partners’ and the phrase ‘marriage partners’ could be misused by those promoting homosexuality. The revision removes any ambiguity.”
The proposed changes also include replacing the phrase “Parents are to bring up their children to love and obey the Lord. By their example and their words, they are to teach them that Christ is a loving disciplinarian, ever tender and caring…” with “...they are to teach them that Christ is a loving, tender, and caring guide…” noting the negative connotation “disciplinarian” has in the English language.
The suggested re-writes would also, for the first time, include the notion that the family of God “embraces both single and married persons.”
Delegates will have the chance to discuss all proposed changes before the revisions are put to a vote. The proposed changes are listed in their entirety below, along with editors' notes. Click the magnifying glass icon to enlarge.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.