On June 11, the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church published its latest statement addressing human sexuality, telling members that LGBTQ advocates within the church "undermine the plain instructions from the Word of God."
In the statement on "Locally-Sponsored Activities Promoting or Supporting Non-Biblical Human Sexuality Lifestyles," the GC said it was responding to "some local individuals or sometimes local church organizations" that in recent weeks have "sought to provide support for those living alternative human sexuality lifestyles that are inconsistent with our biblical understanding of this issue and published voted statements of the Seventh-day Adventist Church." The GC did not identify any of the specific examples being referenced.
"The General Conference affirms the voted statements on human sexuality, homosexuality, and transgenderism published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and does not support, endorse, or condone activities that seek to promote human sexuality behaviors not in accordance with God’s Word," the statement says. The GC also gives a call to action for church members, suggesting they "ask for God's direct intervention in situations where there is a departure from His divine instructions."
Advocates for the Adventist LGBTQ community immediately denounced the statement. "The church's most recent statement, which claims to be based on 'a careful study of God's Word found in the Holy Scriptures,' is, in fact, a misinterpretation of the Bible designed to perpetuate decades of religious bigotry and intolerance," SDA Kinship International wrote in a statement shared on social media.
SDA Kinship also criticized the GC for publishing its statement on the eve of the Pulse nightclub shooting anniversary, an attack that killed 49 people at the gay nightclub in Florida on June 12, 2017. It remains one of the deadliest terrorist attacks and hate crimes in modern United States history.
Todd Leonard, lead pastor of the Glendale City Church in California, told Spectrum that he is "saddened but not surprised" by this latest statement. In an email, Leonard said that he expects to see more similar rhetoric in the coming years from current GC leadership. "Unfortunately, they are unwilling to create room for science and theology to dialogue on this matter in order to proactively address how to best serve our LGBTQ loved ones," he said.
While the GC didn't name the specific organizations it accuses of promoting views on sexuality that are outside of voted policy, multiple Adventist pastors and congregations have hosted events related to Pride Month this year. On June 10, the Glendale City Church held a "Pride Sabbath" that featured a sermon from Leonard on allyship and a discussion about the book UnClobber.
This year, as covered by Spectrum, advocates for the LGBTQ Adventist community have also criticized the GC for issuing a statement condemning a bisexual pastor in Germany but not issuing one—and declining Spectrum's requests for comment—on the recent passage of a severe anti-LGBTQ bill in Uganda that has alleged connections to local Adventist leaders.
"I'm angered that the GC has chosen to use its bully pulpit to attack the small handful of congregations trying to show love, rather than using its platform to condemn and correct the Adventist Church’s involvement with the extremist anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda," Leonard said.
Beyond releasing statements, 2023 has also seen the GC give other indications that it is devoting more attention to countering what it sees as incorrect views on gender and sexuality. During the Spring Meeting of the GC Executive Committee, President Ted Wilson announced that a "Human Sexuality Taskforce" had been created to combat "aberrant theology."
Recent statements have also seen the GC repeatedly use "lifestyle" to describe gender identity and sexual orientation, which the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) describes as an "inaccurate term used by anti-LGBTQ activists to denigrate LGBTQ people and inaccurately imply that being LGBTQ is voluntary or a 'choice.' "
While the GC continues to suggest that there will be repercussions for church leaders who promote LGBTQ acceptance, Todd Leonard remains undaunted. "What the global church is unwilling to do, we at the local level are willing to do out of our passion to love all of God’s people," he said.
The full statement from the General Conference appears below:
Statement of the General Conference Regarding Locally-Sponsored Activities Promoting or Supporting Non-Biblical Human Sexuality Lifestyles
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has published clear statements regarding human sexuality, homosexuality, and transgenderism. All these statements were published after a careful study of God’s Word found in the Holy Scriptures, as it provides the authoritative basis to appropriately understand His will on all issues facing humankind including that of human sexuality. From our study of God’s Word, joined with reading the Spirit of Prophecy, we find human sexuality portrayed as a heaven-ordained institution of marriage between one man and one woman. In expressing our understanding of God’s will on human sexuality, we have done so with Christ-like love and compassion knowing that all have sinned and fall short of His glorious standard for living (Romans 3:23). As a church family, we are to be an extension of God's love for all humanity and be intentional in supporting those who struggle with sin in all its forms while nurturing a lifestyle that is in harmony with God’s Word. We believe that all sinful humankind can be new creations in Christ as II Corinthians 5:17 indicates: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
In recent weeks, some local individuals or sometimes local church organizations in their local settings have sought to provide support for those living alternative human sexuality lifestyles that are inconsistent with our biblical understanding of this issue and published voted statements of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For some in their local settings, there have even been deliberate efforts to advance the cause of alternative human sexuality lifestyles without regard for the authority of God’s Word and the counsels provided in Spirit of Prophecy. Although these activities have been locally-sponsored, through social media they have been announced far and wide creating confusion and concern among church members who have been asking for a clear yet kind position on the matter from church leaders at various levels.
The General Conference affirms the voted statements on human sexuality, homosexuality, and transgenderism published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and does not support, endorse, or condone activities that seek to promote human sexuality behaviors not in accordance with God’s Word. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the General Conference and its divisions will continue to work with the various levels of our church structure to resolve the issues emerging from these locally-sponsored activities while maintaining Christ-like love and compassion for all people. The General Conference and other church entities will work diligently, according to the precepts and instructions of the Holy Word of God, to bring clarification and resolution to challenges that are faced. Every member of the church worldwide should stay close to the Word of God in daily living and through earnest prayer ask for God’s direct intervention in situations where there is a departure from His divine instructions in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Undoubtedly, there will be more attempts by various groups to undermine the plain instructions from the Word of God and the voted statements of the world church on these matters. When individuals wish to share concerns, work closely with local church, conference, union, or institutional leaders in Christ-like love and compassion to address locally-sponsored activities that are not in harmony with God’s Word.
Let us hold fast to God’s precious Holy Word, the Bible, accepting Christ’s justifying and sanctifying righteousness as we look forward to His soon second coming.
Alex Aamodt is the managing digital editor and Roy Branson Investigative Reporter for Spectrum. You can contact him here.
Title image credit: Brandon Roberts / AME (CC BY 4.0).
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