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The Seventh-day Adventist™ Church (SDA)

Part 2: The SDA & homosexuality:
Year 2000 to the present time


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This topic is continued from Part 1


Some developments from the year 2000 to the present time:

  • 2000-MAY: Reaction to Vermont civil unions: SDA members and leaders in Vermont condemned a bill which the Vermont Supreme Court ordered the legislature to pass. The bill eventually became law. It allows gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions in that state.

    Pastor Don King, communication director for the Adventist Church in the Northeastern United States, and Pastor Ben Schoun, president of the Church in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, issued a statement which stated, in part:

"As religious freedom activists, we certainly don't wish to deny any human their rights, but we also cannot sanction human wrongs. The measure taken by the governor brings us just one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriages outright, therefore, our constituents feel they cannot support it.

Schoun added:

"Seventh-day Adventists uphold the plan of God recorded in Holy Scripture that establishes marriage as a unique relationship between one man and one woman. Intimate relationships between those of the same gender are not included in this plan. We, however, disavow hatred, violence, and other mistreatment of those who have a homosexual orientation or lifestyle. Instead, we believe that Christians should minister to these individuals offering the power of the gospel to live within God's plan...The term 'civil union' as being considered by the state of Vermont appears to be simply a cosmetic distinction from that of marriage. The proposed law will contain the same rights, protections, and privileges as does marriage with the only distinction being the name that is applied to the union of those of the same gender." 1

The latter statement is factually incorrect. "Civil unionized" couples only receive about one third of the benefits that opposite-sex couples are given at marriage. Over 1,000 federal rights and protections are denied them and their children.

  • 2004-MAR: Church statement on same-sex marriages and civil unions: The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Administrative Committee (ADCOM) approved a document on same-sex unions. 2 Some of the points raised in the document are:
    • The institutions of family and opposite-sex marriage are under attack.
    • "marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship."
    • "The monogamous union in marriage of a man and a woman is ... the only morally appropriate locus of genital or related intimate sexual expression. ... Any lowering of this high view is to that extent a lowering of the heavenly ideal"
    • Sex, other than that between a man and woman who are married to each other is, by definition, sinful -- regardless of the nature of the relationship.
    • "Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disorder and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by sin coming into the world."
    • A homosexual, with help from God's grace and the encouragement of their faith group, can adopt a life of celibacy and follow a single lifestyle.

  • 2006-DEC: Reaction to marriage equality in South Africa: The SDA in South Africa criticized the government for granting marriage equality to persons of all sexual orientations in the country. The executive committee of the SDA's Southern Africa Union unanimously passed a statement maintaining that the SDA does not recognize any Christian or biblical sanctions for same-sex marriages. The statement said in part that: 
    "Marriage was divinely established in [the Garden of] Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship [even though] sin has perverted God's ideals for marriage and family."
    They asked the government to permit SDA pastors to freely refrain from marrying same-sex couples. 3
  • 2007-MAR: Statement by the president: SDA president Pastor Jan Paulsen discussed a range of matters with a group of Adventist young professionals and students. The Adventist News Network™ reported:
    "When one participant asked about the church's stance on homosexuality, Pastor Paulsen said he found such a lifestyle incongruent with Adventist values. '[That] is the only position I can take with a Bible in my hand.' However, he was quick to qualify his view of the lifestyle by urging the church to reach out to homosexuals. 'I'm failing Christ if I can't ... tell them of Christ's love and care and commitment to them'."

    "The Adventist world church president added that the church doesn't 'grade sins' and that everyone falls short to varying degrees. 'Sin is fundamentally to drift away from Christ ... We meet people on their life's journey at different stages, people who make mistakes and stumble ... Christ cares for all people no matter what stage they're at'."

    "Paulsen then urged the church to '... be an expression of the saving compassion of Christ in the community'." 4

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Excerpts from the SDA Church Manual concerning homosexuality:

Individual members are to be disciplined if they engage in:

"Such violations as fornication, promiscuity, incest, homosexual practice, sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, and other sexual perversions, and the remarriage of a divorced person, except of the spouse." 5

It is important to realize that the SDA does not appear to condemn homosexual orientation by itself, but only homosexual behavior.

Divorce is permissible if one partner engages in:

"...sexual perversions, including incest, child sexual abuse, and homosexual practices....[They] are also recognized as a misuse of sexual powers and a violation of the divine intention in marriage. As such they are just cause for separation or divorce." 6

The reference to homosexual practices was added by the 56th World Congress of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1995-JUL.

In the section of their Church Manual dealing with "Standards of Christian Living," they express concern that:

"Millions have abandoned Christian standards of conduct and are bartering the sweet and sacred experiences of marriage and parenthood for the bitter, remorseful fruits of lust....."

"These evils have become more open and threatening to the ideals and purposes of the Christian home. Adultery, sexual abuse of spouses, incest, sexual abuse of children, homosexual practices, and lesbian practices [sic] are among the obvious perversions of God's original plan. As the intent of clear passages of Scripture (See Ex. 20:14; Lev. 18:22, 29 and 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10; Rom. 1:20-32) is denied and as their warnings are rejected in exchange for human opinions, much uncertainty and confusion prevail. This is what Satan desires. It has always been his plan to cause people to forget that God is their Creator and that when He 'created man in His own image' He created them 'male and female' (Gen. 1:27). The world is witnessing today a resurgence of the perversions of ancient civilizations." 7


Other SDA gay[positive groups:

  • "GLADventist:" This is an Email community that forms part of the inter-denominational group GLOWfriends. They hold a position which is more liberal than that of the SDA church. They still assume that same-sex activity is not "appropriate." Sex must be confined to opposite-gender marriage. At the same time, they believe that "same-gender attractions are real and not just a chosen behavior. they are an integral part of an individual and morally neutral." 8
  • AdventCircle is a web site for Seventh-day Adventists who are friends or family members of gays or lesbians. They provide educational materials for people who want to learn about homosexuality. 9

Conclusions:

The SDA's official position on homosexuality closely parallels those of other conservative Protestant denominations. They are "opposed to homosexual practices and relationships" and expect homosexuals to remain celibate without an intimate relationship for the rest of their life.

No changes are expected in the near future. However, whenever the Adventist News Network reports on a meeting between the world president of the SDA Church and young adults, the question of homosexuality inevitably surfaces.

There will probably be little change in the church's position, perhaps until members who are now teenagers or in their early 20s rise in the organization to positions of major authority -- perhaps in three decades.


References used:

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

  1. "Adventists Speak Out on Vermont 'Civil Union' Recognition," Adventist News Network, 2000-MAY-2, at: http://www.adventist.org/
  2. "Seventh-day Adventist Response to Same-Sex Unions--A Reaffirmation of Christian Marriage," 2004-MAR-09, at: http://www.adventist.org/
  3. Paul Charles, "South Africa: Church Reaffirms Marriage as Biblically Defined Heterosexual Union," Adventist News Network™ 2006-DEC-11, at: http://news.adventist.org/
  4. Elizabeth Lechleitner, "World Church: 'You are the Church," Pastor Paulsen tells young people," Adventist News Network™ 2007-APR-02, at: http://news.adventist.org/
  5. "Church Discipline: Page 175," at: http://www.adventist.org/
  6. "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: Page 191," at: http://www.adventist.org/
  7. "The High Calling of God in Christ Jesus: Page 161," at: http://www.adventist.org/
  8. " 'GLADventist' Email Community," at: http://www.gladventist.org/
  9. "AdventCircle: Adventist Family and Friends of Gays and Lesbians," at: http://www.gladventist.org/

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

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