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The Seventh-day Adventist™ Church (SDA)

Part 1: The SDA & homosexuality: 1976 - 1999


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SDA background information:

The SDA church has always taken a special interest in health concerns: diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, etc. They are strong supporters of the principle of separation of church and state. They are also strong promoters of religious liberty.

The Church has about 16 million members worldwide, with a growth rate of about 7% per year. 1 They have over a million members in the U.S. The 2001 Canadian census reported about 63 thousand members in Canada. 2 Theologically, they are very conservative. One obvious difference between the SDA church and a typical Evangelical church is that the SDA's hold religious services on the Sabbath (Saturday).

The church's stand is that the Bible consistently condemns all homosexuality behavior as a sin, regardless of the nature of the relationship. They have stated that gay and lesbian relationships are "obvious perversions of God's original plan." The church expects homosexuals to not enter sexual relationships, but to remain celibate for life. Sexually active gay candidates are not permitted to be ordained as pastors.

The language that they have used to refer to homosexuality has changed over time. Two decades ago they used terms like "depravity" and "perversion." They grouped homosexual behavior together with child rape and human-animal sex. More recently, they have mellowed. They describe homosexuality as simply a "sin;" they have emphasized that marriage and the associated sexual activity is to be restricted to opposite-sex married couples; they discuss how the grace and love of God  helps homosexuals remain celibate.


Some developments from 1976 to 1999:

  • 1976: Gay-positive group formed: Seventh Day Adventist Kinship International was founded. It is "devoted to the spiritual, emotional, social and physical well-being of current and former Seventh-day Adventists who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender." It is completely independent of the SDA church and has over 1000 members, including gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, their parents, friends and supporters.

     They believe that:

    • God loves and accepts gays and lesbians as they are.
    • The Bible does not "condemn, or even mention homosexuality as a sexual orientation."
    • Ellen White's writings do not "parallel any of the Bible Texts which are often used to condemn homosexuals."
    • An adult's sexual orientation is unchangeable.

  • 1980: Dialogue: Kinship's first annual camp meeting was held in Arizona. Two SDA pastors and three seminary professors attended as official delegates of the SDA General Conference. The two pastors concluded that God's will for gays and lesbians cannot be understood from a simplistic reading of English translations of the Bible. The delegates subsequently recommended to General Conference executives and officials from SDA periodicals that:
    • The Biblical Research Institute, a group of biblical scholars located in the SDA headquarters, conduct a special study of homosexuality.
    • The church publish balanced articles on the subject, and that
    • SDA schools include homosexual information in their sex-ed programs.

    These and six other proposals were approved. However, a search of the Institute's website did not reveal a study on homosexuality.

  • 1987:
    • Lawsuit over Kinship's name: The Seventh-day Adventist Church filed legal action in a federal district court in California, in an attempt to stop SDA Kinship International from using  "Seventh-day Adventist" in their name. The church lost their lawsuit, which was never appealed.
    • Statement of concern over perverted sex: The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee approved a statement of concern on sexual behavior on 1987-OCT-12. It states that:
      • It considers homosexual practices as belonging to a group of perverted sexual behaviors that are contrary to God's expressed will. The group includes spousal sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, incest, homosexual practices and bestiality.
      • "In spite of the clear moral standards set forth in God's Word for relationships between man and woman, the world today is witnessing a resurgence of the perversions and depravity that marked ancient civilizations."
      • God's grace will lead the homosexual to healing, and will lead the church to "firm and loving discipline" of the homosexual.
      • They don't define whether "healing" means that the homosexual will transition to a heterosexual orientation, or that the individual will be able to live a celibate life without a supportive partner.

  • 1991: Second lawsuit: The General Conference of the SDA church brought a lawsuit against Kinship over trademark infringement. They tried to prevent Kinship from using the words "Seventh-day Adventist" in their organization's name. The church lost again.

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  • 1999-OCT: SDA statement about homosexuality: The Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee approved a resolution on 1999-OCT-03 about homosexuality. Some of the points raised in the document are:
    • All humans (presumably including homosexuals) are valuable in the sight of God.
    • Sexual intimacy is intended by God to be only between a man and a woman who are married. "Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden."
    • The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships.
    • They cite three biblical passages as proof that sexual activity must be confined to opposite-sex marriages (Leviticus 20:7-21; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
    • Homosexual activity is sinful, regardless of the nature of the relationship.
    • Jesus differentiated "His love for sinners from His clear teaching about sinful practices." The SDA church attempts to follow this example. This appears to mean that one should love the sinner even as they hate the sin. 3

    In common with other conservative Christian denominations, the SDA does not stress the concept of homosexual orientation. They generally refer to homosexuality as a behavior -- perhaps an addiction. It is what homosexuals do. Most religious liberals, therapists, human sexuality researchers, gays and lesbians consider sexual orientation to be a basic of a person's nature; it is part of what a person is.

    At the time that the resolution was passed, some members of the church's Executive Committee commented:

    • Laurie Evans, president of the Church's South Pacific Division in Sydney, Australia, said that the statement.
      "...not only endorses clearly the biblical position in respect to this matter, but also acknowledges our pastoral responsibility to all groups of people. It is so easy to concentrate on the sinfulness of such a practice and forget that there are people who struggle with such temptations, whom God loves dearly, and who need our support and encouragement."
      Laurie may not be aware that there are a range of interpretations on the six or so "clobber" passages in the Bible that have been interpreted by most religious conservatives as condemning homosexual behavior.
       
    • Ardis Stenbakken, director of Women's Ministries at the Church's World Headquarters, said:
      While we strive to follow what the Bible says, we are also to demonstrate our love to others as Jesus teaches. In the words of the Bible, we are 'to act justly and love mercy'."
    • Ted Ramirez, a lay member of the Executive Committee from Kettering, OH, noted that the resolution stresses the duty of believers:
      "... to treat all persons with dignity and respect, regardless of their personal situations...Christ died for all of us, and every one of us has a personal role to play in revealing His love and redemption to all."
    • William G. Johnsson, is the editor of Adventist Review, and helped draft the statement. He said:
      "such a statement was needed for our Church community and society in general. We are being asked where Adventists stand on this issue."
    • Ray Dabrowski, the SDA's communication director said that:
      "The Church should not remain silent on issues prominent in society, especially when they also touch the Adventist faith community. A Christian church is expected to uphold biblical standards. But it is equally important that as Christians we are always full of grace and compassionate towards everyone." 4

This discussion is continued in Part 2


References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "1999 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches," National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA,
  2. Statistics Canada, 1991 census.
  3. Seventh-day Adventist Position Statement on Homosexuality," 1999-OCT-03, at: http://www.adventist.org/
  4. "Adventist Church Statement Affirms Biblical View on Homosexuality," This Week's News, 1999-OCT-5, at: http://www.adventist.org/

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Home > Conflict > Homosexuality Religious groups > Christian > here


Copyright © 1998 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-SEP-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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