Baptism of Married Lesbian at Chico Adventist Church Prompts Statement from North American Division
February 13, 2016: The North American Division (NAD) of the Adventist Church issued a statement today about a baptism which took place at Northern California’s Chico Adventist Church.
The recent baptism at the church of Alice Machado, a lesbian married to baptized Adventist Amber Machado, caught the attention of right-wing Adventist websites.
The publishers of the ultra conservative sites lambasted the baptism. They also stressed the fact that the officiating minister was Ginger Harwood, a retired minister commissioned into ministry by the Pacific Union Conference.
The fact that a credentialed female minister carried out the baptism was cited as evidence of what some Adventists see as the slippery slope from ordaining women to baptizing openly gay converts.
The NAD statement posted on its website said:
“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, KJV).
The North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church believes that all people, no matter their sex, race, or gender identity or orientation are called into a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ. As imitators of Jesus we welcome all people, inviting them into our faith communities and sacrificially serving them. Followers of Jesus, regardless of their views on human sexuality, treat people with dignity and respect, and extend hospitality and grace to all.
The North American Division affirms the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Manual, which explains the criteria for becoming a member. “Individuals desiring membership are expected to affirm and commit to the Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs and the responsibilities and practices of membership. This includes holding to a biblical view on human sexuality. Principles and criteria relative to membership are to be applied with fairness, consistency, and an attitude of love.”
In the summer of 2016, a baptism was performed by a retired denominational employee, and the baptized person was voted into membership at the Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church. This person was part of a same-sex couple that had been married in a ceremony elsewhere two years earlier. Northern California Conference administrators did not learn of the baptism until afterward, and the conference administration has met with the pastor to work through the situation. The North American Division has full confidence in the leadership of the Northern California Conference in addressing this issue.
While defining the requirements for church membership, the North American Division Statement on Human Sexuality also affirms the role that the church must play in reaching out to today’s rapidly changing society: “In today’s world where there are divergent perspectives regarding human sexuality, God uses His church to work out His divine purpose of bringing salvation to all people. Therefore, the church must provide freedom and protection from social marginalization (Gal. 6:1) and must point people to Christ (Matt. 22:36-40) for forgiveness, redemption, and a new life (Rom. 8:4-14; Eph. 4:13).”