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Viewpoint: Offensive Dissonance in Cape Town


An open letter to Peter Landless, Director of Health Ministries for the GC.

Dear Doctor Landless,  — a voice from the past.

Your family and my family were active in the Orange Grove, Johannesburg SDA church many decades ago. I have not seen you since you were a teenager.  It has come to my attention that you are back in our motherland. Allow me to make some comments about your mission there.  But first an update about myself.

I graduated from the medical school in Johannesburg, in 1959.  While interning at the 2000-bed Barangwanath Hospital, in Soweto, hundreds of victims of the Sharpeville massacre, Africans, shot by white police, were admitted to my surgical unit.  In a revulsion against Apartheid, I emigrated to the United States. I was fortunate to do my specialty training at the prestigious Ivy League schools, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard.  I served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School before going into private practice. The best choice I ever made was leaving South Africa!

And speaking of choice, I see that you are chairing a discussion on “Sexuality, a Disorder or a Choice” in Cape Town this week. If one’s sexual orientation is a choice, then it has to be one of the most momentous, pivotal, defining, deliberate decisions of a lifetime.   Please ask your attendees to pinpoint the moment, time, place and circumstances when they made the decision to be heterosexual.  I doubt that any will have any memory that they made such a personal deliberate choice.  My lovely lesbian niece has no memory of any such decision about her sexuality.  She had no more input into her sexual orientation, than choosing her blonde hair or blue eyes.

The demographics are brutal and implacable.  When children come up front for the children’s story in Adventist worship services, one in 20/25 will grow up to be gay or lesbian. This is true whether they are in a Ugandan church, a Nigerian church, an Australian Church. a Canadian church, or a church in Outer Mongolia.  My own four grandchildren are too young to discern their sexual identity, but I have a one in six chance that one of them will be gay/lesbian.

Adventist parents might wish that they had a magic potion or talisman that they could paint on the lintel of their doors when the birth angel passes over ( like the Israelites in Egypt of old, trying to escape the angel of death, destroying their first born on Passover).  Regrettably, no such preventative exists, and Adventist parents of gay/lesbian kids have as little choice in the matter as do their offspring.

The church can demonize its gay/lesbian members.  (One of the presenters at the Cape Town conference,recently proclaimed that gays/lesbians were demon possessed).  The church can marginalize and stigmatize them, as it has done with brutal efficiency over many decades, resulting in a mass exodus of these members. The church can advocate to criminalize them and execute them.  Our church leaders in Africa have given tacit and passive approval to these recent human rights violations against gays in Nigeria and Uganda. These pervasive church policies, show a total lack of Christian love and compassion.

But when the church uses pseudo science and outmoded theories to back up its crumbling foundations then it simply appears ridiculous.  There is nothing that makes one lose more respect for an institution than when it appears ridiculous.

Our church has not moved forward one iota on this matter since it got egg on its face with the Colin Cook fiasco decades ago.

I see that our mutual South African friend, Dr Peter Swanson, is chairing a panel on conversion therapy. Even Exodus International, the former leading proponent of this “change” therapy, has disavowed it, and formally apologized to all those who were damaged by the organization.  All the national medical, psychiatric and mental health associations both in North America and Europe, have stated that conversion therapy is not only ineffective, but damaging.  California and New Jersey have banned this therapy for minors in their states. These bans have been upheld by the federal courts.

So why does the brochure for the Cape Town conference even mention this “snake oil cure”?

Let us face the brutal facts: Conversion therapy is so utterly ineffective, that probably the only Adventist ex-gaysare those self-proclaimed ones presenting at the Cape Town conference.  The vast majority of Adventist gays/lesbians are not “ex-gay,” but regrettably, ex-SDA!

Decades after I emigrated from South Africa, our iconic statesman, Nelson Mandela came to power.  In a revulsion and abhorrence of the rampant racism of Apartheid, it was agreed by all, that there would be absolutely no discrimination in the new South Africa.

Hence it came about that enshrined in the South African constitution, there are equal rights for sexual orientation — the only country on the planet with such a guarantee.

I find it offensively dissonant that our church’s hateful, homophobic, and unscientific conference is sullying our lovely land, whose promise is freedom and acceptance for all!

Why did the church not, more suitably, hold the conference in Nigeria or Uganda?

Due to the high crime rate in South Africa, I no longer endanger myself by visiting my homeland. When I want a family reunion, I fly my South African cousins to my home on the French Riviera. Last month I flew my cousins from Cape Town, at considerable personal expense, to my other home in Maui, Hawaii. Knowing the cost of those tickets, I am truly appalled by the extreme wastefulness of the denomination holding this conference at the most extreme tip of Africa.  The church seems to be overly flush with cash. I shall think twice about making further donations to the worldwide church body. My own local church congregation is more deserving.

My hope is that no crime will overtake you.  Be safe.



Editor’s Note: Read the Adventist Review/ANN report on Dr Peter Landless’ Wednesday plenary address here.

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