In God’s Image?
by Andy Hanson
by Andy Hanson, April 30, 2014
I have nothing positive to say about In God’s Image: Scripture, Sexuality and Society, the March 17-20 General Conference Cape Town Summit in South Africa. In fact, reflecting on it has compelled me to question if I want to remain a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The opening address by church president Ted Wilson clearly indicated that the event’s conclusion had already been predetermined. Church policy would not be up for discussion, nor would scientific evidence regarding gender determination or the legitimacy of homosexual love.
In his opening address to the conference, Wilson left no doubt that any change in Church policy would not be considered: “There are many voices today that are unwilling to acknowledge the brokenness of homosexual behavior,” he said. “God intended wholeness for all of us. Homosexual behavior is a departure from God's plan. There are people, of course, who twist the Word of God into saying something it does not say. It is critical that we explain the plain teaching of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy.”
Wilson quoted Ellen White's Desire of Ages, page 258: “History is repeating. With the open Bible before them, and professing to reverence its teachings, many of the religious leaders of our time are destroying faith in it as the word of God. They busy themselves with dissecting the word, and set their own opinions above its plainest statements. In their hands God’s word loses its regenerating power. This is why infidelity runs riot, and iniquity is rife.”1
Although conference speakers often referred to “loving our gay brothers and sisters,” there will be no softening of the words in the Church Manual that refer to “homosexual practice” as a sexual perversion along with “incest” and “sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.”2
Lawrence Geraty, reporting as a Spectrum online observer commented: “This conflict over gay people is very likely a proxy war. The real war is about authority, hermeneutics, belonging, power, ownership, membership, etc. This is merely a convenient battlefield on which some choose to fight the war because they feel very sure of the terrain. . . .
“No specialist was able to present evidence as to the etiology of homosexuality — the closest to it is a combination of genes and environment. So it appears likely that a very few LGBTIs3 have chosen their homosexuality. We have not come to terms with the implications of this.”
I echo his conclusion:
“I believe the Church should not simply allow gay people into its midst but welcome them, and so be obliged to face that which is unwholesome in ourselves. Maybe Jesus said we should ‘love our enemies’ primarily for our own sakes not theirs.”4
Finally, I recommend “The Seventh-day Adventist Church Should Remember the Greatest Commandment,”5 a column posted online by Eliel Criz, as a well-thought-out presentation countering the conference in South Africa that did nothing to soften the church’s hardline approach to the gay community.
2From the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 17th Edition, page 195 (emphasis added):
1. Denial of faith in the fundamentals of the gospel and in the cardinal doctrines of the church or teaching doctrines contrary to the same.
2. Violation of the law of God, such as worship of idols, murder, stealing, profanity, gambling, Sabbathbreaking, and willful and habitual falsehood.
3. Violation of the seventh commandment of the law of God as it relates to the marriage institution, the Christian home, and biblical standards of moral conduct.
4. Such violations as fornication, promiscuity, incest, homosexual practice, sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, and other sexual perversions, and the remarriage of a divorced person, except of the spouse who has remained faithful to the marriage vow in a divorce for adultery or for sexual perversions.
5. Physical violence, including violence within the family.
6. Fraud or willful misrepresentation in business.
7. Disorderly conduct which brings reproach upon the church.
8. Adhering to or taking part in a divisive or disloyal movement or organization. (See p. 190.)
9. Persistent refusal to recognize properly constituted church authority or to submit to the order and discipline of the church.
10. The use, manufacture, or sale of alcoholic beverages.
11. The use, manufacture, or sale of tobacco in any of its forms for human consumption.
12. The misuse of, or trafficking in, narcotics or other drugs.
“The church cannot afford to deal lightly with such sins nor permit personal considerations to affect its actions. It must register its decisive and emphatic disapproval of the sins of fornication, adultery, all acts of moral indiscretion, and other grievous sins.” (Emphasis added by the column writer.)
3Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex
4Report from the Cape Town Summit: Fourth and Final Day, Spectrum online, March 20, 2014 https://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2014/03/20/report-cape-town-summit-fourth-and-final-day