UPDATED March 8 10:30am to include comments from the General Conference –Top leaders and administrators of the Adventist church will be congregating in Cape Town, South Africa, in a little over a week for the ‘In God’s Image:’ Scripture, Sexuality, and Society Summit.
“The upcoming Cape Town Summit’s purpose is to have a conversation with key people in the global leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to be more redemptive and at once faithful to the directives of God’s Word,” said Willie Oliver, director of the Department of Family Ministries at the General Conference. “To be sure, reasonable people can disagree, and this is especially so about one of the most controversial issues of our time. Nevertheless, the Adventist Church is duty-bound to be loving, respectful, kind and obedient to the teachings of Scripture.”
The 40 presenters scheduled for the March 17-20 event include General Conference vice presidents and directors, administrators and academics from Adventist universities, theology experts, legal counsel, doctors, and president of the world church Ted Wilson. The list also includes founders of various organizations – some explicitly offering help in “overcoming homosexuality.”
The participants of the Summit are delegates from each of the Church’s 13 divisions and were chosen by their respective administrations based on their responsibilities.
According to its dedicated website:
The principal purpose of the ‘In God’s Image:’ Scripture, Sexuality, and Society Summit is to have a conversation with key people in the global leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to gain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding alternative sexualities, and to counsel together regarding the challenges the church is facing in this area, in order to find a way to be redemptive as well as obedient to the teachings of Scripture in a more consistent manner around the world.
The website also lists six learning objectives:
- Describe the Biblical teaching on alternative sexualities.
- Describe some facets of the developmental and sociological factors that are thought to contribute to alternative sexualities.
- Describe how the church should relate to: a) membership matters and b) ministry to people of alternative sexualities orientation/practices.
- Describe the legal issues related to alternative sexuality practices, including a) employment by denominational employer (eg. Clinic, Conference, Union Conference, Church, Division, General Conference, Hospital, Publishing House, School, University, etc.), b) counseling, c) religious liberty, advocacy, and social justice, d) freedom of speech, “hate speech,” and “giving the trumpet a certain sound, e) better language and communication practices
- Have a greater understanding of alternative sexualities.
- Describe the content and methods to educate church members on some realities about alternative sexualities.
One question people are asking is: Why South Africa? Why such a large number of General Conference people decamping to Cape Town — admittedly one of the world’s most beautiful cities, but a very long way to travel — for a four-day conference?
Oliver at the GC answered this way: “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a world church, so when we have a meeting for the entire family, distance is a matter of perspective and socially constructed.”
Yolanda Elliott, president of Kinship International, calls the summit an “echo chamber.”
“I can’t fathom why my church is spending so much money and effort to transport delegates who agree with the ‘company line’ on sexuality and gender to a continent where several countries are passing brutal anti-LGBTI legislation,” she said, referring to the recently passed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” in Uganda.
Elliott complains that the invitation-only conference has not invited a representative from Kinship International, which has been representing gay Seventh-day Adventists since 1976. She wrote an open letter to General Conference president Ted Wilson and vice president Pardon Mwansa asking to be included.
“No one scheduled to present at this conference is an authority on our lives, but we’ll be their topic of conversation for four long days,” she said.