02 August 2023 |
On July 25, 2023, Todd McFarland, deputy general counsel of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, addressed church leaders during the 2023 Inter-American Division’s Segment Leadership Development Conference (SeLD). His presentation covered gender issues within the church, focusing on the welcoming of all individuals regardless of life choices. The annual event offered training on various topics and followed a hybrid in-person and online model this year.
According to the Inter-American Division article, McFarland began by outlining the implications of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official Statement on Transgenderism from 2017. The statement provides general principles concerning gender dysphoria, defining gender identity according to biological sex at birth. It emphasizes that while gender dysphoria itself is not sinful, it may lead to sinful choices. Transgender individuals, however, can be church members if they follow biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage. “As long as transgender people are committed to ordering their lives according to the biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage, they can be members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” according to the statement.
Despite the teachings, McFarland emphasized the importance of compassion and understanding towards all people, including those who may make choices different from church beliefs. He stressed that kindness does not necessarily mean agreement with a person’s life choices. He insisted that transgender people, whether members or not, should feel welcomed and loved within the church community.
Practical concerns were also addressed, including the potential conflicts that might arise from the presence of transgender people in congregations and institutions. These might relate to dress, appearance, use of restrooms, and more. McFarland advised handling these on a case-by-case basis and emphasized the importance of consultation with relevant bodies in the church. He also warned that trans issues might bring reputational risks. “Some people are viewing trans issues as equivalent to race discrimination,” he said. “While I think these topics are different, some people believe they are the same.”
Feedback from various church leaders reflected a sense of urgency and complexity in addressing gender issues. Some expressed regret over past handling of such matters, while others called for more communication and education. The need for supportive responses without transgressing theological principles, the challenge of connecting lovingly with those struggling, and the call for more open discussions were shared sentiments. There was also acknowledgment that navigating gender issues would continue to be a pressing concern, requiring ongoing dialogue and understanding within the church.
Read full report at the Inter-American Division website.