October 15, 2015: A new position paper on homosexuality was voted last week by the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. It combines both Bible study that supports the established position of the denomination on this topic and a new, pastoral approach that emphasizes compassion and respect for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
At a meeting on October 9 the seminary faculty voted unanimously to approve a 21-page document entitled, “An Understanding of the Biblical View on Homosexual Practice and Pastoral Care.” For at least six months the document has undergone widespread study by Bible scholars, theologians and pastoral experts. There has also been input from denominational leaders at the Lake Union Conference, the North American Division and the Biblical Research Institute.
The paper supports the teachings of the Adventist denomination with careful Bible study from a number of passages in the Old and New Testaments. These include Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22, 20:14; Judges 19:23-24, 21:11-12; Ezekiel 16 and 18; Matthew 5:32, 15:19, 19:9; Mark 7:2; Acts 15:29; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 2:4, 6-8; and Jude 6-7.
“While being faithful to biblical teaching about homosexuality, we must also seek earnestly to understand and empathize with the struggles and challenges that face those who struggle with sexual immorality,” the document states. “In order to understand them, we must seek them out and listen carefully to their stories. Many have been deeply hurt emotionally by their heterosexual brothers and sisters. We must also be sensitive to the reality of high rates of homelessness and suicide among gay youth. Jesus mingled with and ministered to all who were outcasts (Matt 9:11; Luke 5:30; 15:2). As Christians who are called to love as Jesus loved, we too must be concerned with the real needs of gay youth. Many homosexuals have been bullied, beaten, or even killed in various parts of the world. Gay persons have not felt welcome in some churches and have often been the victims of gossip and crude jokes. Some have been expelled from our Christian schools when they revealed their attraction to the same sex. Most, if not all, have heard sermons that condemn homosexuals as persons, failing to distinguish between homosexual attraction or orientation and the practice of homosexuality. All persons, including practicing homosexuals, should be made to feel welcome to attend our churches while non-practicing gay persons should be welcomed into membership and church office. All should receive spiritual care from the Church (Gal 6:1). [Page 16]
“We stand against any antipathy toward homosexuals as well as any cultural biases that fuel a lack of Christ-like love toward them. These kinds of attitudes need to be repented of and the Church needs to provide more intentional ministries directed toward gay and lesbian persons (Matt 9:13; John 3:17). We should be aware of how easily we might fall into self-righteous judgmentalism. [Page 17]
“Love demands that we continue to learn about homosexuality and that we compassionately reflect God’s love for gay persons. Love also demands that we support them when we see them being treated unfairly.” [Page 18]
“I am very pleased with this document,” says Dr. Jiri Moskala, the seminary dean. “Unlike most documents of this nature, this unique statement combines both biblical study and a pastoral approach. … It’s a very well-documented, balanced study that is God-centered, Bible-founded and grace-oriented.”
The entire statement can be read on the seminary Web site at www.andrews.edu/sem.