One of the items on the agenda for the Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church this week during its biannual leadership meetings is “proposed guidelines in responding to changing cultural attitudes regarding homosexual and other alternative sexual practices.”
The seven-page, 3,000-word document that accompanied the agenda for the meeting includes a section on “The Moral and Religious Freedoms of the Church” that states:
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church will encourage all its congregations, employees, ministry leaders, organizations, and entities to uphold church teachings and faith-based practices in Church membership, employment, education, and marriage ceremonies, including officiating at weddings. These teachings and faith-based practices, built upon the Bible’s instructions about human sexuality, are equally applicable to heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It is inconsistent with the Church’s understanding of scriptural teaching to admit into or maintain in membership persons practicing sexual behaviors incompatible with biblical teachings. Neither is it acceptable for Adventist pastors or churches to provide wedding services or facilities for same-sex couples.”
Within the Adventist denomination, decisions about church membership are made by the local congregation. Thus, the document being considered contains “guidelines,” and describes its purpose as offering counsel to individuals, leaders, and church institutions given “the growing divide between enactments of some civil governments and the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church about acceptable sexual behaviors.” Interestingly, unlike other documents on the agenda, the guidelines document has no history of committee review.
In March, the church held a leadership conference in South Africa where 350 church representatives spent four days listening to presentations and discussing the implications for the church and its institutions to alternative sexual practices. No statement or guidelines were presented to the entire group at that time.
“Version Date: April 4, 2014” is specified under the title of the guidelines document given to the Executive Committee. Discussion by the Executive Committee could change or require revisions in the completed guidelines. The Executive Committee meets on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Currently, the guidelines are the last item on the agenda; however, the agenda is frequently revised.