21 May 2023 |
The Potomac Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has released a video statement (dated 17 May) about LGBTQ people, in response to “some things you may have read on social media.” President Elder Charles A. Tapp delivered the statement, with his team of officers standing with him.
The conference requested that the statement be shown in every church on a Sabbath. A transcript of Elder Tapp’s statement:
As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian organization, we here at the Potomac Conference believe that Scripture is both our foundation and our guide. With this in mind, we must be clear-minded in the reality of the flock that Christ has given us to shepherd.
The LGBTQ+ community is a population that exists within the conference and the world. They are our members, our neighbors, our friends, and our family. They are our loved ones. While we cannot agree with or endorse individual choices or lifestyles, we also cannot promote individual or political agendas. As we have in the past, we will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to ensure that we are demonstrating his love to everyone.
Brothers and sisters: showing Christlike love to everyone doesn’t mean we condone their behavior, and most importantly, it does not mean that we condemn the person either. And if we are truly serious about moving beyond the walls as Christians, we must be willing to take a few moments to stop, to just listen—to everyone. Author Ralph Nichols, an expert in the field of listening, says, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people,” he says, “is to listen to them.”
Acknowledging where we are in the final hours of earth’s history, we are committed to hold strong to our faith, while remaining steadfast not only in what we believe, but most of all, in Whom we believe. May God bless us richly as we strive to do both.
AT asked Floyd Pönitz, president of SDA Kinship International, to respond. Floyd writes,
I thank Elder Tapp and his team for this gracious video. Elder Tapp got to about 80% of the goal. He is correct that the LGBTQ community is all around us and part of the church. I am grateful for him encouraging church members to listen and understand us rather than condemn us.
Yet the missing 20% is very important. I wish Elder Tapp had understood that “lifestyle” is a loaded term: just because someone is LGBTQ doesn’t mean he or she is any more immoral in everyday life than heterosexual people. Yet this term, with its unfortunate implications, comes up whenever people address the presence of LGBTQ people among us. Perhaps Elder Tapp could ask an LGBTQ person why so many of us find “lifestyle” applied to us to be so offensive.
I also wish he’d acquaint himself with some excellent theological studies showing that committed LGBTQ relationships aren’t incompatible with biblical teachings. Until church leaders at least attempt to understand this, their message of acceptance is going to be hard for us to accept.
Still, I hope that his concluding admonition, to listen and to understand us better, is widely practiced. I encourage him to do some personal active listening with LGBTQ Adventists in the Potomac Conference, and that his doing so will be an example for conferences throughout the NAD.
A suggestion for next time? Include some LGBTQ+ people in the video standing behind him, to show that he is following his own advice to listen and to include us.