General Conference Leaders Affirm
Care and Principle on Gay Issues

Church’s statement on gays, lesbians emphasizes “compassion” (Posted November 21, 2012)

BY EDWIN MANUEL GARCIA, Adventist News Network

An October 17, 2012, vote by Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders reaffirmed the church’s stance on homosexual activity and same-sex marriage, while signaling the denomination’s commitment to compassionate concern for individuals of gay or lesbian orientation.

The half-page policy statement on homosexuality was approved overwhelmingly by a show of hands from the more than 200 pastors, laypeople, and other denominational workers attending the final Executive Committee business session of the 2012 Annual Council at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.

SEEKING GUIDANCE: Ian Sweeney, president of the British Union Conference, addresses the chair during the discussion.
Church leaders said the original position statement, drafted in 1999, was clear and based on biblical teachings. They chose to update the document to relay the message that while the Bible doesn’t condone homosexual practice,  we recognize our Christian responsibility to minister with compassion to all people, said Vice President Pardon Mwansa, who chaired the policy committee that recommended the change.

“We felt we needed to close this statement with a phrase that shows that the church is willing to show a Christlike compassionate spirit to those who practice homosexuality,” Mwansa told attendees.

The statement also was reedited to show in a stronger stance than before that the church intends to remain faithful to Scripture.
The final sentence of the three-paragraph document now reads: “As His disciples, Seventh-day Adventists endeavor to follow the Lord’s instruction and example, living a life of Christlike compassion and faithfulness.”

A more controversial agenda item, the revised position statement dealing with same-sex marriage, prompted passionate responses, sometimes focused on the issue itself, and at other times on the grammatical nuances involved in the group-editing of a sensitive document.

Committee leaders said they elected to revise the same-sex union statement to reflect societal trends, such as acknowledging that some governments have given legal standing to same-sex unions.

“The institutions of marriage and family are under attack,” declared Willie Oliver, policy committee member and director of the Family Ministries Department for the global church, quoting from a line that is now part of the new statement.

The statement also deleted the word “disorder”—calling it outdated—and replaced it with “disturbance” to describe homosexuality. That line in the five-paragraph document now reads: “Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disturbance and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by the entrance of sin into the world.”

And like the statement on homosexuality, the statement on same-sex marriage emphasizes the church’s compassionate approach, holding “that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are loved by God.”

MEETING: Adventist Church vice president Ben Schoun, left, chairs the morning business session on October 17, 2012, when Annual Council delegates discussed proposed changes to the church’s statements on homosexuality. G. Alexander Bryant, associate General Conference secretary and North American Division executive secretary, and Tamara Boward, a GC recording secretary, joined him on the platform. {PHOTO: Ansel Oliver]
Responding to replacement of the word “disorder” with “disturbance,”  North American Division lay member Gina Brown said, “Though many of us have family members who are homosexual, we understand the thought process, we still embrace them, we still love them, we still care for them. However, as a church, we must take a stand for what is right.”

Ekkehardt Mueller, deputy director of the Biblical Research Institute, praised the committee for including a phrase in the line that was proposed for amendment that links homosexuality to the “entrance of sin” into the world.

“We feel that this is necessary in this context, especially since homosexuals today would deny any notion of sin and would say ‘this is how we are created, God has created us this way, and therefore we have the right and duty to this lifestyle.’ ”

The president of the British Union Conference asked church leaders for guidance with the issue of individuals, including members, who undergo transgender operations.

“We have received requests from other parts of the world field about situations in their church. The church manual does not have a lot to say—in fact, very little to say—on this subject, so these are subjects that we’re having to address now in the church body,” replied General Conference vice president Ben Schoun, who serves as vice chair of the policy committee.

“Perhaps the committee will bring forth suggestions or guidance,” Schoun said.

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