Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Seventh-day Adventist Church
Officially established in 1863, Seventh-day Adventist Church emerged from an apocalyptic movement that had expected Christ’s second coming on October 22, 1844. In accepting the notion that a change in heaven had occurred—rather than on earth—early founders built a church focused on the “advent” of Christ’s new kingdom.
Today the church is anchored in 28 fundamental beliefs, which include the infallibility of the Bible and a focus on honoring God’s creation, including personal abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and other substances harmful to the body. The church is organized across 13 world divisions with the North American division containing 1.1 million members and operating a network of 850 schools and 13 colleges and universities. General Conference Sessions, attended by approximately 70,000 members, are held every five years to address the issues of the global church.
Guidelines adopted by church leadership in 2014 state, “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.”
According to church policy, “Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disturbance and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by the entrance of sin into the world.” However, President Ted Wilson made a recent call for compassion, saying “[Christ] was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul.” The church has also determined that, “We do not condone singling out any group for scorn and derision, let alone abuse. Still, God's Word that transcends time and culture does not permit a homosexual lifestyle.”
The church’s Biblical Research Institute released a statement in 2014 stating that “Those born with ambiguous genitalia may well benefit from corrective surgical treatment.” However, the committee reached a different conclusion for those “whose anatomical gender identity is clearly male or female but who identify with the opposite gender of their biological sex.” The committee noted that “in Scripture, our gender identity is, to a significant extent, determined by our birth sex with God being the author of gender identity,” and added their belief that sex-change surgery is sometimes, “motivated by a sophisticated desire for homosexual activity.” In conclusion, the committee stated that “Should individuals seek to use sex-change surgery as a way of circumventing biblical principles addressing human sexuality and the proper way to satisfy such desires, they would be acting against God’s revealed will.”
On Marriage Equality
Guidelines adopted by church leadership in 2104 state that, "We reaffirm, without hesitation, our long-standing position as expressed in the Church's Fundamental Beliefs: ‘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 celebration of same-sex marriages is forbidden by the church.
The church does not ordain openly LGBT persons nor offer them membership. Women have been denied ordination since the church’s founding, though a vote on that issue will be held at the General Conference in July 2015.
Guidelines approved by church leadership in 2014 state that the church “asserts and reserves the right for its entities to employ individuals according to Church teaching about sexual behaviors . . . Wherever possible and feasible, the Church will continue to advocate, both legislatively and in courts of law, for faith-based preferential hiring and enrollment practices for itself and its ministries.”
LGBT members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church speak of living in a state of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Church leaders have expressed their intention to be compassionate and caring but the insistence that LGBT relationships are sinful and “broken” seems unlikely to change. For more information on finding your place as an LGBT congregant, or on finding your voice as a straight ally committed to creating an inclusive church community, download the HRC resource Coming Home: To Faith, To Spirit, to Self.
Resources for LGBT Seventh-day Adventists
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, am organization providing a safe spiritual and social community to LGBTI current and former Seventh-day Adventists.
Someone to Talk To, 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.
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904