By the Adventist Peace Fellowship, June 16, 2016:
We are devastated by the mass killing of members of the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida. We extend our deepest grief and support to the families, partners and friends of the victims, and we stand in solidarity with individuals and organizations working to combat all forms of hatred, bigotry, violence and intolerance. We also call on church leaders in the Adventist tradition to speak forthrightly to the fact that the slain in Orlando were by every indication targeted not only as an act of terror but also as an act of homophobia by an individual whose hatred was stoked by religious intolerance.
Since 2011, the Adventist Peace Fellowship—a broadly inclusive network that has sought to promote principles of nonviolence and a spirit of dialogue across theological differences—has included on our website a statement about both racial and gender justice. We realize it is a very imperfect document reflecting the fact that we are ourselves an imperfect and often sadly fractured community, but we hope that it might challenge all Adventists to a renewed commitment to the work of peace and justice in a broken world.
The Adventist church emerged at the height of slavery in the United States and was led by a group of young people from New England who embraced the most radical social reforms of their day, including: abolitionism, elimination of class distinctions based upon birth rights, and women’s suffrage. The Adventist pioneers were led by a young woman, Ellen White, who was accepted by the fledgling denomination as possessing a unique prophetic ministry and authority. While the movement was in many ways a hotbed of theological exploration, vigorous debate, and radical thinking, on some questions the pioneers refused to allow for any compromise: White declared that individuals who publically defended slavery should be expelled from the Adventist movement. She also urged Adventists to defy a Federal statute, the Fugitive Slave Law.
Despite these radical beginnings, the Adventist church over time became increasingly socially cautious and disengaged from pressing human rights issues. After an early period in which numerous Adventist women held important leadership roles, male officials increasingly came to marginalize women from leadership positions in the church that was originally led by a woman. During the Civil Rights era in the United States, the movement begun by New England abolitionists remained largely silent in the face of racial injustice. Adventists leaders and members were complicit with apartheid in South Africa and active participants in genocide in Rwanda. Today, many gay and lesbian Adventists are unable to find Adventist congregations where they know they will be treated with full dignity and humanity as persons made in the image of God.
You Are All One in Christ
The APF welcomes actions to repair historical wrongs and to put an end to all forms of violence and discrimination rooted in a refusal to accept the Other at the deepest levels of their personhood. We support women in ministry and at all levels of church leadership. We repent of all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination and seek ways of overcoming divisions based upon injustices of the past. Recognizing the complexity of the theological, scriptural, historical, and cultural questions concerning homosexuality in the Christian tradition—a matter that tragically divides Adventists no less than Catholics, Anglicans, and others—the APF, until such time as we receive greater clarity and consensus: (1) Affirms the dignity and fundamental human rights of all persons regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation; (2) Embraces campaigns and actions aimed at ending all forms of violence, intimidation, harassment, and bullying of persons for their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation; (3) Supports public policies that maintain a clear separation of church (mosque, synagogue, or temple) and state, neither attempting to impose essentially religious or theological understandings upon society as a whole nor penalizing forms of religious expression and association that include their own understandings of sexual ethics; (4) Urges all Adventist churches to serve their communities as places of refuge from threatening, bigoted, and uncompassionate actions and speech; and (5) Encourages respectful, inclusive, and ongoing dialogue between persons with different understandings of what sexual faithfulness within the Body of Christ requires of believers today.
The Adventist Peace Fellowship is an open-membership organization of Adventists who seek to address current issues of war, violence and social justice from the perspective of historic Adventist principles and beliefs. More information about the organization is available at www.adventistpeace.org.