Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Seventh-day Adventist Church
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The Seventh-day Adventist Church, a conservative Christian denomination with just under 1 million members in the United States, condemns same-sex “practices and relationships.” It has also been very public about its opposition to marriage equality. Its governing body has stated, however, that Seventh-day Adventists believe all people, presumably including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, are worthy in God’s eyes.
The denomination has, to date, been silent on transgender issues, except for incidental mention of "gender identity" in a statement released by the Annual Council of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on October 15, 2007 in Silver Spring, Maryland. That document states, "Legislation concerning employment practices represents one area in which Seventh-day Adventist values and beliefs may be subject to challenge. For example, societies may establish laws providing new definitions for marriage or protecting a range of expressions and behavior associated with gender identity. Seventh-day Adventists believe that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman in a loving companionship, and that the Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or lifestyle. The Church does not accept the idea of same-sex marriages nor does it condone homosexual practices or advocacy."
Same-Sex Relationships Forbidden
In 1999 the General Conference Executive Committee adopted the “Seventh-day Adventist Position Statement on Homosexuality”, which gives an overview of the denomination’s stance on GLBT issues. The statement reinforces the innate worth of all people, but goes on to declare same-sex relationships “sinful” and “forbidden”:
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that every human being is valuable in the sight of God, and we seek to minister to all men and women in the spirit of Jesus. … Seventh-day Adventists believe that sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. … Throughout Scripture this heterosexual pattern is affirmed. The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships. Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden. … Jesus Christ reaffirmed the divine creation intent. … For these reasons Adventists are opposed to homosexual practices and relationships. … [Jesus] affirmed the dignity of all human beings and reached out compassionately to persons and families suffering the consequences of sin. He offered caring ministry and words of solace to struggling people, while differentiating his love for sinners from his clear teaching about sinful practices.”
A 2004 statement, “Seventh-day Adventist Response to Same-Sex Unions — A Reaffirmation of Christian Marriage,” explained that the denomination’s view about the causes of gay and lesbian orientations:
“Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disorder and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by sin coming into the world.”
In addition, the denomination’s 1987 “Statement of Concern on Sexual Behavior” lists same-sex sexual activity, between both men and women, as one of many sexual sins, alongside sexual assault and bestiality:
“Sexual practices which are contrary to God's expressed will are adultery and premarital sex, as well as obsessive sexual behavior. Sexual abuse of spouses, sexual abuse of children, incest, homosexual practices (gay and lesbian) and bestiality are among the obvious perversions of God's original plan.”
Opposition to Marriage Equality
The denomination has long been public about its opposition to the recognition of same-sex marriages.
In March 2004, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Administrative Committee issued the “Seventh-day Adventist Response to Same-Sex Unions — A Reaffirmation of Christian Marriage,” which unequivocally condemned same-sex marriage:
“The institutions of family and marriage are under attack and facing growing centrifugal forces that are tearing them apart. An increasing number of nations are now debating the topic of ‘same-sex unions,’ thus making it a world issue. … We reaffirm, without hesitation, our long-standing position. … Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disorder and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by sin coming into the world. … It is very clear that God's Word does not countenance a homosexual lifestyle; neither has the Christian church throughout her 2000 year history. Seventh-day Adventists believe that the biblical teaching is still valid today, because it is anchored in the very nature of humanity and God's plan at creation for marriage.”
This statement was merely a reaffirmation of beliefs the denomination had already articulated. Earlier, during the national controversy over same-sex marriage in 1996, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Administrative Committee issued “An Affirmation of Marriage” which made it clear that they believed marriage rights should be restricted to opposite-sex couples:
"Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus Christ to be both monogamous and heterosexual, a lifelong union of loving companionship between a man and a woman. In the culmination of his creative activity, God fashioned humankind as male and female in his own image; and he instituted marriage, a covenant-based union of the two genders physically, emotionally and spiritually, spoken of in Scripture as ‘one flesh.’ … Throughout Scripture, the heterosexual union in marriage is elevated as a symbol of the bond between Deity and humanity. … Further, the Creator intended married sexuality not only to serve a unitive purpose, but to provide for the propagation and perpetuation of the human family. … The monogamous union in marriage of a man and a woman is affirmed as the divinely ordained foundation of the family and social life and the only morally appropriate locus of genital or related intimate sexual expression.”
To that end, the denomination has actively opposed the movement for civil marriage equality. A Canadian branch, for example, lobbied that country’s Supreme Court in opposition to marriage equality in October 2004.
Seventh-day Adventists have also been active in opposing marriage equality on the state level. In April 2004, the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists announced their opposition to a bill in the California Legislature that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. In a letter to Assemblyman Mark Leno, chair of the state Assembly Judiciary Committee, Thomas Mostert, the conference’s president, wrote:
“As a church, we have refrained from culture war conflicts over these issues, professing no expertise on how public policy should address these needs. However, the current effort to modify the designation of marriage to include same-sex relationship goes beyond the legitimate protection of the rights of homosexual citizens. The redefinition of marriage will have profound negative consequences for parents and children, and will impact social, emotional, physical ad sexual health. Such consequences may be clearly perceived by all, regardless of whether one holds a religious perspective. Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disorder and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by sin coming into the world. … It is very clear that God’s word does not countenance a homosexual lifestyle.”
In 2000, regional Seventh-day Adventist leaders also opposed the passing of legislation establishing civil unions for same-sex couples in Vermont. “As religious freedom activists, we certainly don't wish to deny any human their rights,” said Pastor Don King, communication director for the Adventist Church in the northeastern United States, in a May 2000 interview, “but we also cannot sanction human wrongs.”
Resources for LGBT Seventh-day Adventists
- Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International is a nonprofit, volunteer-based support organization not affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Kinship's mission is to provide "a safe spiritual and social community to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex current and former Seventh-day Adventists." For more information about Kinship's work, send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Someone to Talk To is a ministry for Adventist families and friends of gays and lesbians to provide information and resources and to offer a listening ear for parents who need a "safe" person to talk to.
- Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives is a book recently published by members of the Kinship Advisory, a group of straight allies, to encourage dialogue on this topic in evangelical churches. It was published by The Adventist Forum, whose mission is to "create community conversation...with circle of friends who embrace the adventures of truth."
If you would like to communicate with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, here is their mailing address:
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904