This paper was originally conceived in 1997 as a personal challenge from my mentors at Loma Linda University. It does not necessarily convey the views of the Seventh-day Adventist church, affiliates, any particular Seventh-day Adventist congregation or employee. Gratitude on its preparation is extended to Kevin, Vickie, David, Brent, Paul, Carrol, Ron, Myrna, Jamie, Doug, Larry, Ritch, Anna, Bev, Floyd, Jennifer, Phyllis, Harv, Bob, Will, Russ, Catherine and Shawn. I cannot identify you further, but you know who you are! And a special portion of gratitude is extended to my spouse, Michael. Thank you for living the creed that Christianity is about "falling in love" with the love and loving of Jesus.
This paper is dedicated to Seventh-day Adventist pastors, educators, health care professionals, and informed laity that continue to risk their careers, reputations, and livelihood on behalf of gay and lesbian Adventists throughout the world. Even when we are forced to worship and fellowship together clandestinely, I know our prayers are heard. You have my heartfelt appreciation, thanksgiving and respect.
L Ben Kemena, MD
Denver, Colorado USA
Table of Contents
Homosexuality: Another Adventist Point of View ?
Ben Kemena - January 2006
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." Jeremiah 1:5
IntroductionThe Adventist Review recently published an article by Don Schneider, President of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. In it, Schneider asks Adventists to consider the following:
It’s not possible to truly worship and yet stand apart from one another. Pause a moment. Is there any tribe, race of nationality whom you cannot embrace? Are you estranged from any person or family? Do you hold a grudge against your spouse or parent or child? Can you accept Jesus’ forgiveness without offering forgiveness, and even love, to your fellow beings? Can you praise God, from who all blessing flow, without blessing your neighbor?1
Gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) read these kind words, but know that they remain outside the worship and fellowship of the church — these words are meant for others.
To many "mainstream" heterosexual Adventists and the institutional Adventist church, homosexual Adventists represent an oxymoron (see Appendix A). As a gay Adventist struggling to maintain some connection to the institutional church, I am usually not welcome in Adventist faith communities after I candidly identify myself. I have been shunned from Adventist churches. I have been dismissed from Adventist institutions. I have endured derisive "gay jokes" from Adventist clergy. I have watched with an unspeakable empathy as the lives of my gay/lesbian Adventist peers have been threatened or destroyed by the institutional church. As I know the Savior and the Savior knows me, I have tried to understand. I have tried to understand why my church (and I am a third generation Adventist) continues to subject homosexuals to cruelty and banishment. I have tried to understand why my church insists that gays/lesbians "be moral” rather than calling them to live by a higher moral standard. I am still trying to understand.
My goal is to share reasonable and scholarly viewpoints, but I also want readers to know me as a person--and gay man. As a gay man, I laugh, cry, and bleed as other human beings. As a committed Christian, I pray, study, and struggle as other Christians--as other Adventists. Please do not forget my name as I dream of sharing an Adventist church pew or classroom. Please consider the possibility that I am trying to live by Christian moral standards. Know that I struggle in my Christian journey as I plead with the institutional church: if the church cannot consider helping me more, would the church consider hurting me less?
The primary intent of this report is to review the topic of homosexuality in an Adventist context, with particular regard to theological concerns and a survey of some of the scientific literature. It is my hope that this paper will continue to propel a dialogue on this topic within Adventism. And, I hope some readers will be willing to explore the cited references, resources and bibliography (see Appendix C).
An American Adventist Perspective
Recent surveys of Americans reveals that a majority of those interviewed will openly admit being acquainted with a homosexual person to a pollster.2,3 This is a remarkable admission when many Americans still believe that homosexuality is immoral.4 In recent decades, homosexual awareness has translated into "gay (and lesbian) liberation" within American society. Given the publicity of gay/lesbian issues, pronouncements have varied regarding the social significance of homosexuality – from predictions of abject catastrophe to euphoric egalitarianism. Even within somewhat insular Adventist communities, gay/lesbian awareness is being addressed. Indeed, a recent Adventist Review article reports that homosexuality is one of the fifteen most frequently discussed issues on Adventist electronic (e-mail) forums.5 Furthermore, an Adventist commission on sexuality has formed to discuss, among many diverse topics, homosexuality.6
The challenge that homosexuality presents to Adventism is not unlike that of American society in general. It remains crucial to move beyond ignorance to more sophisticated understandings. Most Christian spiritual communities have not been leaders in this area--but could be. However, that dialogue exists on this issue within Adventist community is positive and encouraging.
Homosexuality is a part of Adventism. The landmark Alfred Kinsey sexuality reports of fifty years ago suggested that about ten percent of the United States population is homosexual (either predominantly or exclusively).7,8 While these numbers have been disputed, the Kinsey report remains valid because it was produced with relative impartiality during an era that was not as polarized as today's psycho-political climate. In the United States, if five to ten percent of Adventists are homosexual, this would suggest 50,000 to 100,000 Adventist church members are gay/lesbian.9 This is not an insignificant number of souls. Every soul is precious to the Savior.
Homosexual orientation and Adventism are not necessarily mutually exclusive. To reach such a conclusion requires a clarification of terms, a thoughtful review of biblical scripture, and a discerning survey of available scientific information regarding homosexuality. The biblical, scientific, and semantic must be considered simultaneously by Adventists if homosexuality is to be more reasonably understood. Should enough Christian charity exist to allow review of dogma, should enough Christian civility exist to engage in dialogue, and should enough Christian inclusivity exist to consider an embrace, reconciling institutional church policies to gay/lesbian Adventist constituents may be possible and plausible.
Homosexuality as a term was first used in the United States in 1892, but originated in European medical literature much earlier.10 Originally known as one of a number of "sexual inversions," homosexuality was a descriptive term to denote a sexual illness (typically as an addiction). Initially using an "illness model" approach, homosexuality has been much debated over the past 100 years in medical and social circles. Homosexuality has been a part of the human experience for centuries. In some Native American cultures, homosexuals were recognized for their special talents and occupied special roles (known as berdache) in society.11 In Christian societies, homosexuals have had varying degrees of acceptance. While maligning bigoted stereotypes of gays and lesbians persist, the homosexual minority community has a rich, proud, and creative legacy. As gay men and lesbian women are able to reclaim some of their own heritage and birthright, individuals such as Katherine Bates (she wrote "America the Beautiful"), Leonard Bernstein, Willa Cather, Benjamin Britten, John Williams (his music compositions include the movie soundtrack of "Schindler's List"), Marsha Stevens (her Christian music compositions include “For Those Tears I Died”) and Aaron Copland, among many others, are/were recognizably gay/lesbian.11 Within Adventist church circles, there are gay/lesbian members of many well-known American Adventist families.12
The Bible has been used to justify a number of Christian beliefs through the centuries. It has been used to support slavery, racism, and the degradation of women. Over time, some of these literal translations of scripture were replaced by interpreted views of the Bible. Such revisions were morally justifiable as a commitment to living by the spirit of the Savior rather than the strictly confined letter of Old Testament law. These changes have represented a subtle evolving denominational shift in the understanding of scripture.
There are two general approaches to understanding the Bible which merit review. Institutional Adventism has traditionally employed the "historical-grammatical method" characterized by a literal translation of scripture.13 Some Adventists believe that because the writing of biblical authors was divinely inspired, the written words are absolutely accurate to history, fact and description. There is some difficulty with this method relating millennia-old metaphorical descriptions relevantly to current times. While some Adventists take great pride in being known as a "Bible-believing Adventist," at some level, most employ some degree of interpretation. If Adventist Christians were to live by the absolute literal translation of all scripture, their world might be a very brutal place to this day replete with public stonings and floggings.
Given the limitations of strict literalism, some Adventist scholars are coming to consider the merit of other approaches to understanding scriptures. These methods include a "historical-critical" of Biblical interpretation--also known as "form criticism" or "higher criticism."14 In this method, context, tandem historical events, language translation, and the review of metaphorical idiom become part of a dynamic of understanding the Bible. This method recognizes both the limitations and necessity of words--accepting that the spirit of the message must start with language, but that the message only begins there.
This evolving shift from a dogmatic literal translation of scripture to an interpretive evaluation of scripture is fundamentally important to the continued relevancy of the Bible in twentieth century contexts. Furthermore, as a shift in the Adventist theological paradigm, it is compatible with traditional Adventist commitments to education and higher learning. This change has fundamental import to the issue of homosexuality, for it is the possibility of an interpretive view that allows the potential of Christian acceptance for gay men and lesbian women. Admittedly, there is a "middle ground" between these two scriptural positions that many Adventist church members and clergy find to be a compromise. Some Adventists are able to entertain the possibility (to varying degrees) of interpreting scripture rather than solely relying on a literal translation.
The Bible and Homosexual Behavior
In many Christian traditions, homosexual love has been declared immoral based upon "biblical teaching." To this day, most American Christians consider homosexuality to be immoral and believe that homosexual relationships between consenting adults should remain illegal.15 The basis for these Christian beliefs is derived from scriptural texts. However, it should be noted that because the words "homosexual" or "homosexuality" were coined in the nineteenth century, they do not appear in the Bible (the words are absent from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts). Jesus did not address the topic in the New Testament.
It is not a simple matter to briefly summarize the body of research on homosexuality in the Bible. But, a short review is important to demonstrate the possibility of a biblical view towards homosexuality different from the one many Christians uncritically assume. Every gay/lesbian Adventist church member eventually learns all of the texts that will be repeatedly used against them as homosexuals. From personal experience, I know these texts, and their rhetoric from Adventist pulpits has often been cruel, insensitive, and life-threatening. Yet, so much of this doctrinal condemnation stems from limited human understandings rather than divine edict.
Some scriptural passages that have been used against homosexuals do not address homosexuality as the primary issue. For instance, the story of Sodom in Genesis 19 is about the offense against the sacred duty of hospitality portrayed by homosexual rape. Ezekiel 16:46-49 and Judges 19-21 interprets Genesis 19 similarly.16 In this illustration, ostensibly heterosexual males are intent on humiliating strangers and "demasculinizing" them. The violence of the attempted male rape heightens the atrocity of the offense. The logic that uses the brutality of male rape to characterize committed long-term gay/lesbian relationships in the twenty-first century is flawed--and offensive to many Christians.
Other texts that have been used to justify the Christian position against homosexuals are rather ambiguous. First Corinthians 6:9-10 and First Timothy 1:8-10 list arsenokoitai (and malakois) among those who will be denied salvation under the reign of God. This obscure term has been translated as "homosexual." However, the exact meaning is unclear and debatable. It certainly does not include lesbian women and probably only relates to a certain type of male sexual offender (or prostitute). This word must be interpreted in light of the abuse and promiscuity associated with male-male sex in the Roman Empire--which is not representative of the twenty-first century gay/lesbian community in the United States.17-19 In short, it is unclear whether the scriptural issue revolves around homosexuality, prostitution, or promiscuity.
Furthermore, some Adventists will argue that God did not create same-sex partnerships in the originally conceived Eden as another point against homosexuality. Genesis 1-3 show Adam and Eve created for companionship and procreation. These accounts use the most standard human relationship to teach a religious lesson. The crux of the example regards the love and wisdom of God, who made all good things and wills no evil upon human beings. Nothing suggests that biblical authors intended the story of creation to be a lesson on sexual orientation.20
Questioning these texts due to irrelevance or ambiguity regarding homosexuality, there remain three scriptural references that remain at the heart of Adventist positions against it. However, it should be duly noted that these texts are often cited out of context to the times or the primary lessons being conveyed. Furthermore, these texts do not describe a dynamic of voluntary consensual loving adult relationships between members of the same gender.
Two Old Testament references appear to condemn homosexual behavior. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 state that certain male-male sexual behavior is an "abomination." Such acts were considered "abominations" in Old Testament times for several reasons. The pre-scientific understanding was that male semen contained all of the biological essentials for nascent life. With no knowledge of the female ovum and ovulation, it was assumed that women only provided incubating space. Therefore, the "spilling" of semen for any non-procreative purpose was considered sinful--whether it be coitus interruptus, male homosexual acts or male masturbation. One can imagine how a tribe struggling to populate an area in which it was a minority would value procreative potential. In addition, within the patriarchalism of Old Testament Jewish culture, heterosexual male dignity was considered compromised when a man assumed female roles (including sexual activities). Furthermore, because certain ritualized homosexual practices (not a loving adult consensual same-sex relationship) were associated with idolatrous practices (idolatry considered the “abomination”), it was considered "un-Jewish." For some Christian "literalists," these verses are viewed to prescribe execution for all persons committing homosexual acts. Particularly when isolated out of context, Old Testament scriptures can be cruelly misrepresented. Though extreme, some Christian groups continue to advocate death/destruction of all homosexuals.21-23
The third text used to condemn homosexuals is Romans 1:26-27 where Paul describes homosexual behavior as "unnatural" (although these activities are more accurately translated as "atypical" or "unconventional" rather than "unnatural" or "abnormal"--Paul describes God using the very same words para physin in Romans 11:24).16 Paul was not aware of the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, and he also assumed that everyone was naturally and compellingly heterosexual. Paul did not understand that homosexual orientation is "natural" for a minority of human beings. The scientific concept of a "homosexual orientation" was simply not available to Paul's world (that science to be reviewed later in this paper).21 Paul assumed that allof those he condemned were heterosexual--and as such, these heterosexuals were acting contrary to sexual nature as he knew it.17 Most importantly, the activities that Paul describes are about lustful, lewd, and degrading homosexual behaviors (associated with idolatry and power) rather than sexual affections expressed within the context of long-term committed homosexual relationships in the twenty-first century.
However, even if the Bible may be interpreted to take particular stands on certain types of human relationships, this does not solve the problem of how present-day Christians should interpret or understand scriptures with respect to their current relationship conduct. There are many sexual attitudes, practices, and restrictions which are normative in scripture, but which Christians no longer accept as normative. For instance, most Christians do not accept polygamy, levirate marriage (the widow of a childless couple having intercourse with each brother of her deceased husband until a male heir is produced), women as "owned property," endogamy (marriage within the Jewish faith), compulsory celibacy, or slavery.
It is clear that Christians regard certain rules, particularly in the Old Testament, as no longer binding or relevant. Understanding the principlesemployedin the selection process is crucial. For example, most modern Christian readers would agree with the Bible in rejecting incest, rape, adultery, and bestiality. But, we disagree with the Bible on a number of other sexual mores. Despite biblical condemnation, Christians generally allow voluntary celibacy, exogamy, sex during menstruation, masturbation (with some restrictions), birth control, and private nudity (with some restrictions). In addition, the Bible permitted behaviors that Christians usually shun such as polygamy, levirate marriage, concubinage, slavery and the treatment of women as property. Clearly, twenty-first century Christians have made choices regarding a normative Christian sexual ethic, but these decisions have not been made solely, simply or explicitly on scriptural grounds.
Obviously, many of these societal (human) choices call into question formerly accepted biblical interpretations.21,24 For instance, Mormon polygamy was outlawed in the United States despite constitutional protections of religious practice because the sensibilities of the dominant Christian culture were violated. Despite clear scriptural support and no explicit biblical prohibition of polygamy, few Christians currently support the notion of polygamous relationships. As another example, the general tenor of the Bible can be used to support slavery. American abolitionists were extremely hard pressed to justify their opposition to slavery on scriptural grounds, but few twenty-first century Christians believe that slavery is biblically sanctioned. Furthermore, Christian women alienated by traditional biblical interpretations remind us that the love of the Savior is misrepresented by the cultural sexism and patriarchalism which relegates women to a status inferior to men.
While the strict literal arguments of scripture must be considered, an even deeper value is recognized in the loving spirit of the Bible and the Savior. The Bible does not contain a particular sexual behavior ethic, rather, it illustrates a changing variety of sexual norms over the thousand-year span of biblical history. What the Bible does share at a deeper level is the "love ethic" of the Savior (particularly espoused in New Testament covenants) as it is brought to bear on the dominant sexual norms of any country, culture or era. Our moral task is to apply the "love ethic" of the Savior to our current sexual norms. This does not mean that "anything goes"--rather, it means that Christians review human relationships in light of principles revealed by the Savior's love. This "love ethic" is not complex: it does not exploit or dominate, and it is responsible, mutual, caring and nurturing.21 Christianity should challenge both homosexuals and heterosexuals to question their relationship activities in the light of love and the requirements of fidelity, honesty, accountability, responsibility, integrity, and genuine concern for the best interests of the other and the whole of society. It is, in fact, the challenge to live as committed Christians on a higher moral plane.
Three biblical texts may be considered pertinent to the address of certain homosexual behaviors. However, these passages must be considered very thoughtfully. The fact that these texts are construed to condemn present-day homosexual orientation and committed long-term same-gender relationships as immoral, when such concepts were not available to biblical authors, suggests the need for a more detailed review. Furthermore, the biblical discussion of Jonathan and David, Philip and the Eunuch, and Ruth and Naomi should also be brought to thoughtful reflection.
Had one Adventist pastor/teacher/physician/therapist/friend mentioned the possibility that God could still love me as a gay person, the difference in my life would have been profound (particularly as a young adult). Instead, routine Adventist condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality led me to flee all Christian association and the church of my "cradle roll." This was a dangerous exile. I missed the love, counsel and maturity of a Christian community (including family and friends). This absence could have well led to my demise--it does for many.
Adventist Doctrine and Homosexuality
Seventh-day Adventists often ask in a review of this type for a consultation of the voluminous writings of Ellen White, our early church founder. Ellen White never addressed homosexuality in any of her presently catalogued writings. Despite the norms of Victorian times, Ellen White wrote extensively on other sexual concerns including lengthy prose on masturbation. Ellen White lived during a time when homosexuality was openly discussed sympathetically in "parlor circles" as an illness (previously known as one of a variety of "sexual inversions"), but she chose to remain silent on the issue. However, contemporaries like Sigmund Freud did write about homosexuality, as in his now famous letter to the American mother of a gay son in which Freud suggests parental acceptance (far ahead of its time).25
The Bible devotes a few passing references to homosexual behavior in a context which did not consider homosexual orientation and committed long-term homosexual relationships. Jesus does not explicitly mention the issue and neither does Ellen White. With such sparse counsel, it is not surprising that homosexuality continues to elicit controversy and misconceptions among Christians in general--and Adventists in particular. However, if the issue is to be thoughtfully studied by Adventists, there must be a continued commitment to "Christian pioneering" as we honor our heritage of investigation, scholarship, review, and discernment. Such an understanding will be a process rather than proclamation--for there is no exclusive human claim to the ownership of truth or an exclusive right to judgment.
Despite these concerns and caveats, the Seventh-day Adventist church approved a new policy on homosexuality in October 1999 (see Appendix A). This policy was insensitively presented to Adventists on the first anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder (Matthew Shepard was a 21 year-old Episcopal college student at the University of Wyoming brutally murdered in part, because he was gay).26,27 Whether intentional or coincidental, the symbolism of this voting act by the Executive Committee was noted by both gay (homosexual) and straight (heterosexual) Adventists alike.28
The new Adventist policy specifically states that the church will make “no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships.” There is no mention or regard for the term “sexual orientation” — though the concept was specifically debated in committee and deleted.29 Furthermore, there is no explicit exception made for the celibate homosexual—a group that some liberal-minded Adventists had lobbied for church inclusion.30 There was a fear voiced by some pastors—particularly those with an academy or college in their area—that they only wanted “heterosexual relationships” modeled in their churches (specifically, these pastors did not want to model celibate homosexual relationships on the same par as married heterosexuals).29
Former Adventist church policies (previously revised in 1987) had left some room for discussion and interpretation, but the 1999 policy statement phrase “no accommodation” has sent a chilling message to gay/lesbian Seventh-day Adventists. Worse still, an Adventist academician noted that the new “statement may unintentionally promote attacks on homosexuals.”28 This analysis has been rather prophetic. Based on this new policy, the Adventist church has directed church members in California to vote against gay/lesbian civil rights, and has broadly condemned recent gay/lesbian civil rights legislative action in the United States and Europe.31-34 At the same time, emboldened by the new policy, an Adventist church member openly suggested homosexual castration -- “a simple bit of surgery (which) can be done quickly by any surgeon...once all the testosterone is flushed out of the system, there will be no more sexual desire.”35 That this “letter to the editor” was published in an Adventist-affiliated publication in the year 2000 is telling. And regarding homosexuals, the President of Loma Linda University, Lynn Behrens, was recently quoted in a Riverside, California newspaper saying that “if someone makes (another) lifestyle choice, we would invite them to pursue their careers elsewhere.”36
Thus, while Ellen White and Jesus were silent on this issue, the Seventh-day Adventist church has issued a 277-word policy statement that summarily excludes thousands from the body of Christ. It is the daily prayer of gay and lesbian Adventists worldwide that this policy will be reconsidered — soon.
The Science of Homosexuality: What is Known?
Many Christians are content with the nineteenth century "disease model" of homosexuality (usually equating it to an addiction like alcoholism). Following a disease model, homosexuality carries the added burden of immorality (often portrayed as a Christian "crisis of faith"), and this only adds to the fervent efforts by many to find a "cure." What is clear over the course of the last one hundred years of research and review is that gay men and lesbian women keep appearing within society and that a "cure" has not been readily found (nor is one necessary).
The debate within medical and scientific communities became more discerning as it was repeatedly noticed that homosexuals compared to heterosexuals were not necessarily predisposed to mental illness nor could they be accurately identified by researchers through "blind" interviews (an investigator interviewing a subject and unaware of the subject's sexual orientation cannot reliably predict the sexual orientation afterwards).37 This led the health care community to re-examine the nineteenth century "disease model" assumption. For instance, while the pathology, disability, and impairment of cancer is obvious, that of homosexuality is not obvious--except for the social prejudice and bigotry gay men and lesbian women face from society. In the past 25 years, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Medical Association have changed their definition of homosexuality to that of a "normal variant" (like being left handed) rather than as a "disease."38-40 That is to say, for some human beings, a homosexual orientation is their "natural" state of being. Why has this consensus developed among a diverse group of scientists, health care professionals, and some clergy?
Scientific research over the past five decades has given people more information about sexual orientation than any previous generation, but we are still far from an adequate understanding. Those critical of the theory that biological factors direct homosexual orientation (especially those believing that homosexuality is a conscious willful choice) often mention that these biological associations have never been proven or shown to cause homosexuality. By analogy, cigarette smoking is very strongly associated with the development of lung cancer, but it has never been proven or shown to cause lung cancer by strict scientific criteria. A biological role in determining sexual orientation is furthered challenged by an appreciation of the many complex variables which combine to impact human sexuality. However, evidence pointing to a biological basis for homosexuality is reasonable, sound, and should not be ignored.
In studies of twin siblings, researchers have noted significant suggestions of a genetic link to homosexuality.41-49 Yet, such genetic linkages are often questioned because they lack absolute predictive value. Why is this? It is because complex human traits are often forged and influenced by a variety of factors including an interplay between so-called matters of "nature and nurture." A review of left-handedness provides a useful illustration of "nature and nurture" dynamics. Many left-handed people (nature) were forced to use their right-hand by well-meaning parents and instructors (nurture). The number of naturally occurring left-handed individuals (as a predictably occurring "natural variant") has been modified by environmental nurturing (parents and teachers preferring right-handedness). Such modification (which thwarts absolute sensitivity or specificity of a genetic linkage to a particular human trait) should not invalidate results, but should serve as a reminder of the complex nature of human beings. Natural variants (such as eye color, hand preference, skin pigmentation) may represent a difference from the majority and may be considered "atypical" or "unconventional," but this difference is morally neutral and should not be maligned as "abnormal," "unnatural," or "perverse."
In 1993, studies of male siblings with maternal gay relatives (studies of females are in progress), identified an X-linked (region Xq28) chromosomal association (concordance) in homosexuals.50 The evidence from this study supports a genetic contribution to homosexuality as an X-linked trait inherited from maternal genes. While this small study has not been replicated outside the National Institutes of Health and should be taken as tentative, the study withstood critical independent scientific peer review prior to publication.51 A recent study by Canadian researchers failed to identify the same chromosomal association, although there were some significant differences in the sampling techniques and methods confounding clear cross-comparisons.52 There will likely be more ambiguity in genetic research studies as time goes on because it is still difficult to classify/define one as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual without simply asking the research subject. And given the varying degrees of social stigma regarding such self-identification, research will remain very challenging.
In addition, anatomical brain studies suggest a physical difference between brain structures in homosexual and heterosexual identified men, particularly in the hypothalamus (although cause versus effect is unclear).53,54 Furthermore, there is evidence suggesting a concomitant role of the prenatal hormone levels (estrogens and androgens) and their concentration ratios as a factor (although not causal) in sexual orientation development.55 Many of these studies are being independently confirmed and future developments are certain to aid in our fledgling scientific understanding.
Homosexuality exists in nearly every species of observed mammals and is in all likelihood irreversibly established in humans at a very early age (probably by age five).56 How genetics and environmental factors work together in forging homosexual orientation is unclear, but a genuine homosexual orientation is nota conscious choice. Furthermore, as a phenomena, homosexual orientation is the natural state of being for a minority of human individuals. There is no evidence to suggest that homosexual orientation is caused by a history of childhood molestation or sexual trauma. Sadly, both homosexual and heterosexual individuals are at equal risk (and rate) for such tragic events.57 In addition, research has not supported the contention that upbringing "creates" a homosexual person. Homosexual and heterosexual (also known as "straight" in common idiom) people come from similar family situations. Research on families has consistently invalidated the once popular notion that "castrating mothers" or "detached and/or hostile fathers" are both necessary and sufficient causes of homosexuality.58 For Adventist Christian parents with gay/lesbian children, the self-blame heaped upon parenting and parenting strategies is unwarranted--nor should gay/lesbian offspring be viewed as a curse.
As theological and scientific understanding of homosexuality grows more sophisticated, it is clear that a distinction and clarity of terms is crucial. These new concepts must be incorporated into current debates. These ideas and words were not available in biblical times, and indeed, are new to the modern world. There are important differences between sexual orientation, sexual behavior and sexual identity which cannot be overemphasized.59 Sexual orientation, like gender, is that which human beings are--indelible some time in very early human development. Sexual behavior is that which human beings do to find sexual pleasure and fulfillment. Sexual identity is that which we tell others about ourselves. The examples below are useful.
Given societal prejudices about homosexuality which are typically more strident in Christian communities, gay men and lesbian women may confidentially admit their sexual orientation to an empathetic researcher--but for the sake of survival, tell everyone else that they are heterosexual. Thus, their sexual orientation is homosexual, but their sexual identity remains heterosexual. This scenario gives one insight into the complexity of homosexual research, the possibility for bias, and the root of recent controversies regarding the "real" percentage of gay men and lesbian women in society at large (challenging earlier estimates). In this example, a person of homosexual orientation portraying a heterosexual identity, is said (by common vernacular) to be living in the "closet." Many gay men and lesbian women find living in the closet to be very stressful and unsustainable in the long-term. In many cases, gays/lesbians will marry and have families in an attempt to comply with societal norms and standards, but they remain homosexual. Particularly in the past thirty years, there has been a movement among gay men and lesbian women to live more honestly and openly. A person of homosexual orientation portraying a homosexual identity is said to be "out"--and the process of honest integration of sexual orientation with sexual identity is known as "coming out (of the closet)."
In another way of considering homosexual orientation, the definition given by Christian author, L.R. Holben, from his book, What Christians Think About Homosexuality, gives a thoughtful reflection:
Referring to gay, lesbian or homosexual persons, I will not have in mind mere erotic itch, what “turns one on” physically and nothing more. Rather, I will be speaking of a person in whom not only the sexual drives but also the deepest emotional and psychological urges for self-revelation, intimacy, connectedness, bonding, closeness and commitment —all that we call romantic/erotic love — find their internal, spontaneous fulfillment not in the opposite sex but in the same sex.60
In 1967, "homophobia" was coined as a term to describe irrationally negative attitudes towards homosexuals.61 In the United States, surveys reveal that homophobia is consistently harbored to a greater extent among Christians than other American groups.15 Most gay men and lesbian women have been harassed or threatened because of an open sexual identity regarding their sexual orientation. A sizeable minority have been assaulted.62,63 Some Christians have justified homophobia on biblical grounds believing the moral superiority of their own religious institutions. These attitudes energize the prejudice and bigotry further as their "Christian views" become entrenched in a moral imperative beyond review, debate or discussion.
Homophobic prejudice against homosexual people is different from other forms of prejudice because it not only isolates a homosexual person from general society, but it also tends to isolate that person from family, close friends and worship communities. Unlike other minority hallmarks, homosexual orientation is neither typically nor openly shared by other family members (although it is common for gay/lesbian siblings to be unaware of each other's sexual orientation due to the fear which motivates "closeting") while the heterosexuality of all family members is simply assumed. It is possible and common for a young gay man or lesbian woman to grow up passing for heterosexual in a setting in which all of his/her friends and family are heterosexual and homophobic! Typically, more than four years pass from the time gay/lesbian individuals recognize their own sexual orientation (usually by high school or college) until they disclose this to another person.64,65 And of course, due a number of complex factors, many gay men and lesbian women simply never reveal their sexual orientation even to family members.
Homophobia is at the root of disenfranchisement of many Adventist homosexuals from their worship community. Many struggle with issues of honesty, knowing that a candid disclosure of their sexual orientation may lead to disfellowship and/or isolation. Many gay/lesbian Adventists continue to face this dilemma on a daily basis as part of their spiritual journey. I recently invited a gay Adventist friend to attend a "liberal" Adventist church service. In the middle of the sermon, a passing reference to gay men in derisive terms surfaced. My friend, who had not attended an Adventist church service in several years, slouched in the pew as hot silent tears streamed down his face. It still hurts. I addressed the Adventist minister later about the matter meeting a response of indifference and puzzlement. This pastor could not "see" the problem even when pointed out to him. For those Adventist clergy, educators and members who can "see" the problem, I applaud such courage with gratitude and respect.
The Christian experience speaks to non-judgmental acceptance and inclusion, but the relationship of gays/lesbians to Adventism is often antithetical to principle. The stories of gay Adventists being removed from membership (disfellowshipped or purged), removed from church office, dismissed from professional appointments or humiliated by scandal or gossip are legion. Yet, many still persevere because they know that they are loved by the Savior even as their church considers them pariahs.
At this moment in American history, no discussion on homophobia would be complete without considering the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21 year-old Episcopal college student at the University of Wyoming. In October of 1998, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, in part, because he was gay. This murder galvanized the nation with respect to the gay-bashing and violence many homosexuals routinely face.26,27 Sadly, since his death, only one new state has passed “hate crimes” legislation protecting the civil rights of gays and lesbians: Missouri.66 Twenty-two states now offer “hate crimes” protection for gays and lesbians.66 The volume of hate crimes directed against gays and lesbians continues to increase—and is grossly under-reported because of social stigma.
The murder of Matthew Shepard placed gay-bashing and anti-gay violence in stark relief. But the tragedy carried more than media attention and symbolic meaning. Matthew Shepard’s murder--with subsequent court trial and sentencing--hopefully marks a change in public opinion and legal mind set. In the former legal climate, those who murdered gays and lesbians, were rarely punished and even fewer went to prison (often for less than 2 years).67 Matthew Shepard’s murder--no more grizzly than other recent hate crimes (whether against gay or straight)--set a new precedent: those who murder gays and lesbians in the future may well consider prison time as a routine consequence for their crimes. It has been a very long time in coming. Furthermore, In 2003, the United State Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence versus Texas finally reversed previous legal decisions and decriminalized private consensual adult homosexual behavior.129
AIDS, HIV, and Promiscuity
While the focus of this paper is about Adventism and homosexuality, one cannot discuss homosexuality without some mention of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). This illness deserves a much longer discussion and review than this paper's intent. However, some attention (albeit brief) is warranted and valuable to the primary topic.
AIDS is a clinical syndrome caused by an infecting virus: HIV. HIV infection and AIDS represent an illness--recognizable and diagnosable. At this point in time, this illness cannot be cured (not unlike some cancers or diabetes), but steady gains are being made in improving long-term survival. Because this infection was first recognized in gay men, it has been associated with homosexuality in American society. However, the majority of HIV infected individuals are heterosexual and dwell outside of the industrialized world.68 Like other diseases, it is spread by contact with human body fluids, namely via blood and semen. It is important to emphasize that neither homosexual orientation nor homosexual behavior are sufficient conditions to cause HIV infection or AIDS. Certain sexual practices (like promiscuous intercourse without condoms) or blood exposures (like illicit intravenous drug abuse) place human beings practicing those behaviors at risk for this infection--gay/lesbian or straight.
HIV and AIDS, as a deadly epidemic, affects all segments of American society. Its direct effect in the gay/lesbian community cannot be overstated. Furthermore, because it was first associated with gay men, AIDS has increased the stigma of all gay/lesbian people in society. Some Christian proclamations regarding AIDS were notable, judgmental and prejudicial against the homosexual community. Some of the rhetoric subsided after 1983 when HIV was isolated and the infection characterized. But to the minds of many Christians, HIV and AIDS will be indelibly linked to homosexual orientation and homosexual identity--when in fact, it is linked to sexual behavior. The formidable Adventist health care community did not take a leading societal role in meeting the challenges of this illness nor did other Christian health care organizations. Instead, leadership came from secular organizations, government, and from within the gay/lesbian community. Fortunately, new drug therapy offers some promise for the future, but the illness and its scourge are far from over.
HIV and AIDS poignantly illustrate the distinctions between sexual orientation, sexual identity and sexual behavior. The gay/lesbian community has been motivated to reassess sexual behavior--and admittedly, has more work to do. But being gay/lesbian is not synonymous with promiscuity, HIV and/or AIDS. Some American Christians have argued vehemently for a return to the "disease model" of homosexuality believing that homosexuality rather than promiscuity caused the AIDS epidemic. Despite sensational rhetoric to the contrary, credible research (which may more honestly represent a true cross-section of gay male society) actually reveals that homosexual men and heterosexual men will typically have about the same number of sexual partners during the course of their lives beyond age 20 (studies of homosexual women compare similarly to heterosexual women).69
The Adventist institutional response to HIV infection and AIDS has been tepid and somewhat awkward. Twenty years after initial reports of HIV, the church appointed its first task force to address HIV/AIDS which met January 2001.70 Accountable written institutional Adventist directives on homosexual orientation are not prescribed by the SDA Church Manual (1995, 15th edition) and homosexual behavior is considered immoral. Many Adventist clergy and health care providers tacitly view HIV and AIDS infection as a justification of the church position against all homosexual behavior. As a gay Adventist physician, trained by and associated with Adventist health care institutions, I have witnessed the "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach as prejudice, bigotry and condescension. In the face of a serious illness or the end of life, this patronizing attitude hurts and stings. I have lost many friends (including Adventists) to AIDS. Sadly, as a patient advocate, I have felt compelled to steer many of these patients to non-Adventist health care facilities because I felt they deserved Christian love and compassion--better delivered elsewhere.
New drug therapies have transformed the treatment of HIV infection--nothing short of a miracle in many cases--but the new drugs offer far less than a cure (and should not fuel complacency). While HIV and AIDS will always be linked to homosexuals in North America, the numbers of heterosexual victims in Africa and Asia is staggering and these groups have little access to anti-retroviral therapy.71 Thus, HIV prevention through “safe sex” education remains the foundation of AIDS care. In the United States, the number of new HIV infections continues to rise among young gay men despite widespread educational programs.72,73 Unfortunately, the global societal message that continues to be sent to gay youth is a negative one. Gay-bashing continues to be a societal norm. When gay young people are banished from their families, schools, churches, and friends, they have little anchoring to the wisdom and maturity of elders--and little but the moment to live for. Rather than an expression of love and commitment, sex becomes an event in the lives of gay youth--youth who know that they may be murdered, beaten, robbed, or heckled at any moment.
Homosexuality: Can It Be Changed?
In the past, the Seventh-day Adventist church has been committed to the disease model of homosexuality and it has funded “treatment programs for homosexuality.74 These programs have been disastrous (to be addressed). Unfortunately, vestiges of this “treatment” mentality remain within some institutional Adventist circles as recent Adventist books and affiliated publications suggest.75,76 A more charitable view is struggling to emerge by membership consensus: homosexual orientation is real, is at best morally neutral, but lifelong celibacy remains required for church community acceptance and any possibility for personal salvation.30,76,77 It is uncertain whether this view will survive or continue to evolve. Therefore, it is understandable that many Adventists (particularly parents of gay and lesbian youth) still labor under the hope (false) that they might “change” the sexual orientation of a loved one.
Some Christian communities have continued to debate the possibility of "treating homosexuality" and some continue to support such "treatment centers" or "treatment support groups." These so-called "change therapies," also known as "reparative therapies" or "ex-gay therapies," have significant ties to Adventism. As late as 1986, institutional Adventism financed the reparative therapy efforts of Colin Cook and Homosexuals Anonymous. When it was discovered that Cook was involved in sexual relationships with many of the young men he was attempting to "help," the Adventist church withdrew its support.78 Similar efforts by Cook a decade later in a different location resulted in similar improprieties.79 Despite a pattern of abuse and unethical conduct, Colin Cook continues to reinvent himself and his so-called ministry. He continues to be active in the Seventh-day Adventist church and has started his ex-gay program, FaithQuest, once again.80 Colin Cook's work frames the issue of the legitimacy of "reparative therapies" and whether or not such efforts are routinely successful in changing a person's sexual orientation.
Even among people who are genuinely motivated to alter their sexual orientation from a standpoint of either personal desire, religious convictions, or concerns of homophobic prejudice, accountable real change is nil.81-88 "Ex-gay" change efforts may be helpful in redirecting a conflicted heterosexual or bisexual person who has experimented with homosexual activity back to heterosexual relationships. Among homosexual oriented people motivated to "change," these "ex-gay" change programs may be successful in changing sexual behavior, but do not succeed in changing sexual orientation.
What does this mean? It means that homosexually-oriented individuals will continue to be erotically stimulated by homosexual ideation, but may not necessarily act on it. It also means that homosexually-oriented individuals will not be erotically stimulated by heterosexual ideation, but will make every effort to pretend otherwise. And, it is this dishonesty which remains at the discredited core of all "change therapies." On the whole, psychotherapy directs clients to live honest and fully integrated lives rather than dishonest and denial-laden fragmented lives. While credible studies are admittedly few, five-year and longer independent follow up reviews of “change therapy” patients reveal that most remain homosexual or bisexually oriented and many return to homosexual behaviors.89-91 Because these studies are still based on research subject self-reporting, bias and dishonesty remain problematic--and the studies need to continue for a longer period of time (many may be able to sustain “change” for a short period of time).
In a recent highly publicized verbal report by Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, there has been a suggestion that some homosexuals can change.92 Spitzer is noteworthy because he helped steer the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as an illness. Spitzer interviewed 200 individuals referred to him by Christian organizations self-described as “changed.” Most of the research subjects had already been in change programs for more than ten years. Spitzer announced that 66% of the men and 44% of the women interviewed had arrived at what he called reasonable “heterosexual functioning.”93
Several issues here are worth noting. First, “heterosexual functioning” is about a behavioral shift and does not necessarily imply a genuine change in sexual orientation or homosexual desire. Second, because this study was based on a single telephone interview, Spitzer reminds his audience that he “has no proof that participants were honest.”93 Third, Spitzer was very concerned about how his research might be misconstrued and “twisted by the Christian right.”94 In a series of follow up interviews, Spitzer said:
Our sample was self-selected from people who already claimed they had made some change. We don’t know how common that kind of change is... I’m not saying that this can be easily done, or that most homosexuals who want to change can make this kind of change. I suspect it’s quite unusual.95 I suspect the vast majority of gay people would be unable to alter by much a firmly established homosexual orientation.96 The kinds of changes my subjects reported are highly unlikely to be available to the vast majority (of gays and lesbians)...(only) a small minority--perhaps three percent--might have a “malleable” sexual orientation.94
Despite highly touted success rates claimed by some “change therapy” centers, it is notable that these centers have not shared, replicated or published a single study in an independent scientific peer reviewed journal forum. Furthermore, even researcher Robert Spitzer, cooperating with Christian “ex-gay” groups, had “great difficulty” finding people who claimed to have changed their sexual orientation--this despite the fact that ex-gay groups claim that “thousands have left homosexuality.”97 It is also noteworthy that change programs can be very expensive (particularly if the “process” takes more than ten years) to say nothing of the harm some of these programs inflict.98 Sensational claims do capture media attention, but scientific information is obtained by more reasonable methods.
Because none of the “change therapy” centers have allowed independent professional peer review of their client outcomes, others have conducted their own studies. In 2002, Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder published a review of 202 gay/lesbian volunteer “consumers of sexual orientation conversion interventions”.130 These were gays and lesbians highly motivated to “change” their sexual orientation (therefore, not a random cross-sectional analysis) and willing to participate in a series of telephone interviews. Many enrolled in Shidlo and Schroeder’s study to “prove the success of their Christian program” and were willing to be followed for many years. While the study intends to follow these individuals for ten years, the five year review was revealing. 176 perceived themselves as having “failed conversion therapy” outright. In other words, despite an average of 118 conversion counseling sessions over an average period of 26 months, 176 out of 202 (87%) individuals were still involved in homosexual activity by their own admission. Of the 26 remaining individuals, 18 admitted that they were attracted to the same gender, but were engaged in less homosexual behavior or attempting celibacy. 8 described themselves having more opposite gender attraction at five years – or about 4% – but were not necessarily involved in an active heterosexual relationship. Shidlo, Schroeder and others have surmised that of these eight individuals, some may be genuinely be bisexual (would Adventists accept bisexuals?) or they may simply be able to sustain lifelong celibacy. It is noteworthy that Shidlo and Schroeder’s percentages correlate well with Spitzer. These percentages are certainly less than the 85-95% “cure rates” often cited by “Christian reparative therapists” or the organizations that support such efforts. Shidlo and Schroedger’s ten year review should be interesting as long term follow-up studies have been lacking.
Perhaps most daunting (and cruel) to the Christian homosexual as it relates to Christian-sponsored "change" or "reparative therapies" is that "success" of the therapy is dependent on the perceived moral commitment of the individual. In other words, those who simply cannot overcome their sexual orientation (essentially all) are simply blamed for a poor, inadequate, or insufficient relationship to God which allows evil to continue invading their lives. Descriptions of these hellish journeys have been published.88 Within gay Adventist communities, the efforts to "change" sexual orientation have been extraordinarily cruel, and I know some of these battered survivors. That some of these Adventist gay men and lesbian women survive at all is a testimony to grace.
It is worth reiterating that since the early 1970's, the "treatment" of homosexuality as a disease (unless conducted in a valid academic research setting) is not supported by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, or the American Medical Association (see Appendix B). Should reparative therapy be advocated by licensed health care professionals outside of an academic research setting, local medical societies and state regulatory agencies should be notified for possible malpractice.
Homosexuality: Can It Be Recruited
There is no evidence that homosexuals successfully prey on "vulnerable" heterosexuals to "convert" them to homosexual orientation by a process commonly referred to as "recruitment." Because sexual orientation is a complex issue, simple persuasion will not change a person's innate sexual orientation. Heterosexual Christian Americans have been particularly concerned that homosexuals seek to recruit new homosexuals by preying on vulnerable and conflicted children and adolescents. But research has continually shown that the overwhelming majority of adult sexual predatory or coercive activities against children are committed by heterosexual individuals.99,100 Certainly, adolescents are frequently conflicted by sexual feelings and often experiment with sexual behavior. But this adolescent experimentation is rarely solicited by adult homosexuals or adult heterosexuals--and is representative of neither orientation as a general rule.
Is Celibacy Viable For Most Homosexuals?
Among a number of Christian denominations in America, including some Adventists, celibacy has been recently argued as the only moral lifestyle for the homosexual.101 As it is for some heterosexuals, celibacy as a sexual behavior is a viable choice for some gays/lesbians--and may be affirmed for those special individuals. However, lifelong celibacy is not a viable behavior modification for the majority of homosexuals (or heterosexuals). The basis for the lifelong celibacy belief system is generally claimed to be biblical, but scriptural investigation reveals that biblical directives to homosexual celibacy are inferred rather than explicit. The early Christian church emphasized and supported sexual activities leading to procreation as a matter of survival. While procreative sexual behaviors remain important for many, sexual behavior has also been linked to other goals including love, intimacy, sharing, pleasure, and respect. In twentieth-century Christian America, sexually expressed intimacy is a celebration that may or may not include procreation as its primary goal, whether among heterosexuals or homosexuals.
Studies of homosexuals do not reveal that celibate homosexuals live fuller, richer and healthier lives than gay men and lesbian women engaged in committed loving sexually intimate relationships.102 And there is evidence to suggest that homosexuals involved in committed long-term relationships live longer and healthier lives than their single peers (which is similar to studies of heterosexuals).103
At the present time, some lay members of the Adventist church advocate lifelong celibacy for the homosexual as a condition for church fellowship.30,76 Current church policy does not explicitly permit the inclusion of celibate homosexuals. As a position of compromise, some deem celibacy the moral position necessary for salvation and required for any involvement in the Adventist church community beyond simply sitting in the church pew as a guest or observer.”104 While this may eventually be a step forward for the Seventh-day Adventist church, current church policy does not acknowledge the concept of sexual orientation nor does it invite celibate homosexuals fully into the church.
Furthermore, an insistence on lifelong celibacy as routine for the homosexual still alienates thousands of souls from Adventism and its basis in scripture invites further debate. There would also be ticklish issues regarding the boundaries of celibacy: would celibacy vows be violated by hugging, kissing, holding hands? That homosexuals loving one another in voluntary committed long-term intimate relationships would constitute a moral threat worthy of eternal damnation and expulsion from active participation in an Adventist church community seems contradictory to many Christian principles.
Coming to intimately love another human being is a powerful example of the Savior's love, and serves to teach humans about the nature of God's steadfast commitment through the metaphor of a loving relationship. Committed long-term intimate gay/lesbian relationships may exemplify the love of Christ and is a spiritual cornerstone for the Christianity of many homosexuals. The spiritual dynamic is not unlike committed long-term heterosexual relationships. That gays/lesbians might be denied an opportunity to intimately love each other thwarts and impedes a deeper relationship with the Savior. Furthermore, given the difficult issues of gay/lesbian persons coming to terms with sexual orientation in homophobic settings, a successful committed long-term gay/lesbian relationship is usually cause for a great celebration among the individuals involved. That so many heterosexual Christians would find a "union" between two consenting gay/lesbian adults to be immoral when many of these couples believe themselves to be blessed by God in simply finding each other usually creates an irreconcilable conflict between gay/lesbian couples and institutional Adventism.
Finally, for Christian denominations advocating lifelong celibacy for every gay/lesbian person, what will these faith communities be willing (or able) to substitute for physical expressions of love in sustaining the Christian experience for gay/lesbian members? How will the institutional church reconfigure to provide mature, effective, and daily support for celibate homosexuals in their lifelong journey of sexual abstinence? How will the institutional church bring "wholeness" to gays and lesbians denied the lessons that would have been derived from committed long-term intimate relationships? That lifelong celibacy might be seen as the answer and solution to any number of moral issues regarding the homosexual Christian experience seems rather simplistic and naive.
Gays/lesbians should not be passively denied the possibility of God-given love and intimacy by Christian denominations--though they might be crippled at times in their efforts to build love without the support of a Christian faith community. Christian communities that continue to denigrate intimate homosexual relationships do little for the mental, spiritual, and physical health of the gay/lesbian community or the Christian community at large. Gay/lesbian love is real and is sacred in its own right. Such commitment, love and responsibility deserves further thoughtful review by institutional Adventism. The higher moral plane might suggest that committed long-term gay/lesbian relationships are preferable to a lifetime without integrated personal intimacy or the desperate clandestine promiscuity that often develops when lifetime celibacy (or “no accommodation”) becomes unsustainable. The higher moral plane might suggest that gay/lesbian relationships be subject to the same criteria applied to heterosexual relationships--both based on Christian principles. The higher moral plane might suggest that loving takes a pre-eminent position to judging.
A sizable minority of gay men and lesbian women are married or once were--and many are parents. Conservative estimates exceed 1 million each for both gay fathers and lesbian mothers.105-108 Indeed, while 37% of heterosexual women have children under 18 in their homes, 31% of homosexual women also have children in their homes.106 At least 6 million children have gay/lesbian parents. The frequency of homosexual offspring among gay/lesbian parents is similar to that of heterosexual parents. No evidence has emerged to suggest that the quality of parenting is undermined by a homosexual orientation nor is the overall well-being of the offspring children compromised.105,106,109-112 Furthermore, there is no evidence that the sexual orientation of the parent--whether the child is biologically related or adopted--is automatically or preferentially conferred upon the child.113 Sexual orientation alone should not be used as the sole basis for psychiatric or legal decisions regarding parenting, child custody, adoption or planned parenting.114 It is not clear whether the Seventh-day Adventist church has taken an explicit position on gay/lesbian parenting. However, by implication, the current Adventist position is probably non-supportive to gay/lesbian Adventists raising children in their own homes as a family.
I am very proud of the many gay/lesbian Adventist parents that I know. These parents struggle to nurture their families in a world full of prejudice. It is not easy, particularly because their church is often a place where candor is least tolerated. But the children of gay/lesbian parents learn something invaluable: the Savior does not expect anyone to be dishonest--not with our selves, our church, or our family. And these same children also learn that Christian love is love--transcending sexual orientation.
An Adventist Response to Homosexuality
The issues surrounding homosexuality remain complex and politically charged. Biblical references to homosexuality are often obliquely associated with passages emphasizing a completely different theme. Jesus made no explicit reference to homosexuality in the New Testament. And certainly, committed long-term homosexual relationships were never the primary topic of any biblical reference. Furthermore, nuances of translation and historical context suggest the possibility (not dogma, but an alternative perspective) of a more accepting view of homosexual orientation and committed long-term homosexual relationships. In addition, primary church references to homosexuality are sparse. Ellen White never wrote on the topic although she examined a number of other sexual issues at length. Given these limitations, Adventists willing to condemn homosexuality as immoral on scriptural or doctrinal grounds might further reflect on such views.
In addition, while scientific advances have allowed twentieth century society a greater biological understanding of homosexuality, significant gaps in knowledge remain. And there is the possibility that a complete and full answer will never be known regarding such a complex issue. The complexities and uncertainties in both theological and scientific arenas remain daunting--but the discerning Adventist Christian must be willing to consider a broad reference base for a holistic response to homosexuality. Enlightenment will not be static, but rather, will remain a process.
In the meantime, gay/lesbian Adventists exist and have been organized for twenty-five years in the United States. Their associations (such as SDA Kinship International, the largest group) are now world-wide and exist to support gay/lesbian Adventists working to remain in some way part of an Adventist community.115 It is not easy for gay men and lesbian women to attend and/or participate in Adventist church services listening to antigay references from the pulpit—but many do while eloquently sharing their example and experience within these churches. Furthermore, Adventist church leadership has worked internally to thwart the association of gay/lesbian Adventists. For instance, in 1994, the General Conference Administrative Committee (chaired by General Conference President Robert Folkenberg) issued a directive to all General Conference personnel to “decline invitations to speak to gatherings of homosexuals.”116 Sadly, it is understandable that thousands of gay/lesbian Adventists have had to look elsewhere for spiritual support and a worship community--and unfortunately, many have fled Christianity altogether.
With respect to human relationships, the differences between homosexual and heterosexual Adventists pale in comparison to their shared common ground. Gay/lesbian Adventists, and their heterosexual brothers and sisters, struggle with similar issues. Both groups grapple with meeting compatible partners, sexual desires before committed relationships are established, extra-relationship issues, relationship separation and dissolution, infidelity, sexual abuse, and disrespect. Both groups meet these challenges through Christian love, a personal journey with the Savior, and the support of Christian community.
The Adventist response to homosexual relationships might thoughtfully reconsider the possibility of moral neutrality when references are ambiguous and uncertain. May we appeal to the Adventist heritage of education and scholarship as we come to a more sophisticated understanding of biblical language, metaphor, translation and context? Biblical text may be used to condemn homosexuality, but as other biblical scholars (gay/lesbian or straight) have pointed out, the potential exists for a far more charitable view.16,18,19,21,24 The Adventist position regarding homosexuality may wish to re-evaluate the value of homosexual persons as human beings desired, known and chosen by God. Perhaps institutional Adventism would even consider reaching beyond the condescension of Christian "tolerance" for the homosexual "sinner." An unwillingness to re-examine Adventist doctrinal beliefs regarding homosexuality must be thoughtfully and sensitively assessed in light of the number of souls involved and the issues at stake. However, if institutional Adventism continues to condemn homosexuals and their committed long-term relationships, a much more solid argument for exclusion than currently exists is required to justify their dismissal from active participation in worship communities and their consignment to ultimate destruction.
Openly gay/lesbian Adventists, whether single, celibate, or in committed long-term relationships would like to feel welcome by institutional Adventism in their own worship communities.104 At the present time, there are some noteworthy "gay/lesbian-friendly" Adventist churches in the United States--but this is a function of personalities rather than a formal change in corporate view. And gay/lesbian Adventists attending such churches live in fear of what a new pastor or board might bring. Whether heterosexual members are aware or not, many gay/lesbian Adventists remain discreetly ("closeted" or just "coming out") active in their church, but live in fear of being "discovered." All too often, honestly confronting one's own sexual orientation or development of a significant gay/lesbian relationship carries the threat of separation from one's Adventist church family.104 This tragedy is unnecessary--and though it hurts, it continues to be a common experience. Recently, an Adventist pastor asserted that too many gay/lesbian Adventists were involved in Adventist church music (organ, piano, choir) and proposed a means of identifying these individuals and purging church sanctuaries of them.117 This clergyman does not embody the spirit of the Savior in this particular regard. This clergyman does not invite Adventist gays/lesbians to live at a higher moral level representing the love of our Savior. It is remarkable that openly gay/lesbian Adventists (even those who might be committed to lifelong celibacy) would continue to find support in an Adventist church community. That it happens at all is usually a function of local Adventist church dynamics--all gay/lesbian Adventists owe a debt of gratitude for the courage of such extraordinary congregations and their clergy.
On a personal note, my spouse and I feel that a worship community is a crucial part of a spiritual journey. As might be imagined, it is rather "counter-cultural" to be gay/lesbian and Christian. However, as gay/lesbian Christians, we are not alone. There is something about the shared worship experience that is vital to our lives--to our spiritual, physical and mental health. Worship is an active experience that we do not take for granted given our backgrounds. My spouse and I are welcome in a local Christian (non-SDA) faith community as a same-gender couple and participate in this community beyond simple attendance. We share our lives, homes, bread and struggles with our church family. We host church members comfortably in our home and are welcome in theirs without the pretense of being "just friends" or "roommates" for the sake of appearances. My spouse and I are a "couple" and that identity is too central in our lives to hide it from our church, family and friends. Spiritual meaning in our Christian experience is fundamentally predicated on honesty. As a gay Adventist, I spent far too many Sabbaths "telling another lie for Jesus" hoping that my sexuality would disappear while fearing the realized outcome of its disclosure.
Gay/lesbian Adventists would like to know that their church supports them on basic legal issues fighting discrimination. Civil rights (including the right to life) are not special rights. It is still legal to dismiss/fire an employee for sexual orientation alone in over 40 states.15,118 Public opinion is changing as an increasing number of Americans and Christians (though fewer Christians than the American population at large) support equal rights for gays/lesbians in the workplace. Gays/lesbians tend to congregate in cities for a number of reasons, not the least of which is legal necessity. In Colorado for instance, it is permissible to dismiss (fire) an employee solely for being gay/lesbian except within the city limits of Denver, Boulder, Aspen and Telluride. Similarly, it is perfectly legal to deny gay/lesbian people property sales or loans--except for those same municipalities–on the sole basis of sexual orientation. To a related point, some heterosexuals argue that gays/lesbians are already "economically privileged" and should not be granted "special rights" (as opposed to equal rights) in the workplace. But studies (in the United States) reveal that most gays/lesbians rent their dwelling places, and a sizeable majority of households earn less than $50,000 per year.119
There has been much concern over the possibility of "gay/lesbian marriage" in United States Christian communities. There was broad condemnation from many Christian groups (including Adventists) when the Vermont state legislature agreed to recognize “gay unions.”33 (Vermont was also the first state to abolish slavery.) In Christian communities, it may be advisable to identify committed long-term gay relationships differently from traditional marriages (and hopefully in that difference arrive at something less than a 50% divorce rate seen among American heterosexual relationships), but formal relationship "recognition" should not be used as a weapon to deny participation in worship communities or basic civil rights. As many Christian denominations simply refuse to acknowledge or recognize gay/lesbian people, their indifference offers little alternative for the spiritual affirmation such same-gender "unions" represent to gay/lesbian Christians. That stable committed gay/lesbian relationships be affirmed as an alternative to loneliness and promiscuity might also be an issue that Adventist churches carefully consider. In addition, sensitive Christian communities might recall that with traditional marriage come 1049 laws and civil statutes that further prevent equality and equal opportunity for gays/lesbians--whether it be in the churches, workplace, or the home.120 Many Christian communities continue to argue against "gay/lesbian marriage" on moral grounds, but the debate merely starts there. The dialogue should also include discussions on how the governmental instrument of civil marriage is currently used as a means to condemn homosexuals--and whether this is truly compatible with Christian love.
Gay/lesbian Adventists would like to see Adventism offer alternatives for a moral life other than a simplistic policy of “no accommodation.” Furthermore, while celibacy works for some people, gay/lesbian or straight, it is not a viable alternative for the vast majority (nor was it ever meant to be). Being gay/lesbian is not so much about what homosexual people do, but rather, it is about who gay/lesbian people are. Many homophobic Americans attempt to reduce gay/lesbian people and their relationships to issues of sexual behavior, when in fact, a committed long-term gay/lesbian relationship includes many facets of personhood including sexual intimacy (in a dynamic similar to heterosexual relationships). Gay/lesbian sexuality is not simply a matter of mechanical actions, but rather, it is a matter of an honest and loving heart. Gay/lesbian people do engage in committed long-term relationships as part of healthy human life and should be identified as such. While affrontive to some, voluntarily expressed love between two mutually respecting gay/lesbian adults may exemplify the active love of Christ. That such love be used to justify the denial of salvation to gays/lesbians is inconsistent with the love of the Savior. Gay/lesbian Adventists would like to have their committed long-term relationships defined by the "love ethic" of Christianity--challenged and supported in a moral call to have these relationships meet a Christian standard or morality, decency, fidelity, intimacy, and respect.
Furthermore, should loving committed long-term homosexual relationships be unacceptable in the eyes of the institutional church, the call to a higher (or different) moral standard for gays/lesbians will require much better explanation, detail, and institutional support than presently exist. Current calls of “no accommodation” (without any exception) of homosexual Adventists are easy to proclaim, but establishing a Christian "support system" (whatever that might be) for gay/lesbian Adventist church members has yet to begin on even a small scale within the Seventh-day Adventist church. Such a support system would need to encompass every aspect of life to meet the challenge of the lifetime absence of personal daily intimacy.
Gay/lesbian Adventists would like to see sexual issues discussed in education curriculums and have these sensitive discussions tied to both clergy and health care professionals. Sexual orientation is an issue pertinent to pastoral care and health care. All too often, health care professionals are only peripherally involved in these exchanges when in fact, a multi-disciplinary approach to the topic is essential for credibility. For instance, despite all of the information to the contrary, 40% of Americans in a recent survey still believe that "genetics has no role" in the development of homosexuality--and 42% still believe that one's family upbringing and family environment are the cause of homosexuality.121 Hopefully, sex issues education would emphasize honesty, respect, intimacy, and love as such pertains to human dignity, and this information would be shared in a manner morally neutral to gender and sexual orientation. That 97% of high school teachers in a mid-west city did not respond to antigay remarks made in their presence (per 1997 survey) reminds us of the work to be done.122 Words that hurt and outright bigotry should not engender indifference towards cruel humor (whether it be home, school, church or business). Sexual education should not encourage the homosexual to remain "closeted," but should create an atmosphere of sensitive dialogue and genuine concern. In some instances, homophobic pressures will induce gays/lesbians to engage in dishonest heterosexual relationships and heterosexual marriages only to face complex conflicts much later in life, and often, with considerable negative consequences for all parties involved. Furthermore, Adventist sexual education should not promote the so-called "reparative" or "change" or "ex-gay therapies" or "ministries." These programs have no basis in medical principle or scripture, often carry devastating moral consequences, and should be reported as professional malpractice (20% of mental health providers in a recent survey still treated homosexual clients inappropriately or unprofessionally).123 In addition, Adventist parents need to consider the possibility of raising a gay/lesbian child without fear of exclusion or reprisal from their church community--either against parent or child. These families need access to assistance, support, literature and advice from a counseling team as necessary.
Finally, gay and lesbian Adventists would like to see more institutional Adventist support offered gay/lesbian Adventist adolescents and young adults. Recognizing the pressures to conform to societal norms, this age group is particularly vulnerable to alienation and insecurity. The Seventh-day Adventist church has never formally condemned antigay violence and its school “non-discrimination policy” excludes gays and lesbians.28,124 Gay/lesbian young people are often victim to merciless taunts, scandal and abuse. A recent Minnesota public school study reveals that gay/lesbian teenagers and young adults are far more likely to commit suicide--and gay/lesbian Adventist youth are not immune.125 In addition, research of runaway children reveal that the motivation behind a majority of children running away from home involve discord over issues of sexual orientation.126 This loss of life or degradation in the quality of life continues to be shocking--and is unnecessary. Adventist young people should be encouraged and affirmed to be honest--reminded that they remain valued members of their church communities regardless of their sexual orientation and always worthy of the Savior's embrace. Adventist educators (teachers, health care professionals, clergy) who choose to maturely broach the topic of homosexuality should not be automatically cast in the light of suspicion, derision, or character assassination. Because of accusations of "recruitment," many gay/lesbian Christians have been very discreet in their support to young people, but fortunately, this is changing and saving lives.
A Final Few Thoughts
Adventism can influence contemporary American gay/lesbian culture and thought. For instance, Bruce Bawer, an openly gay author and spokesman of conservative gay views, has been able to reconcile his Christianity with his sexual orientation. This process came in part through Bawer's meeting a gay Seventh-day Adventist man who had left Adventism upon realizing his homosexuality.127 However, both felt deeply convicted of God's love for each one of them, and they decided to reclaim their spirituality and Christian birthright. Their shared journey led them to an Episcopal Christian tradition as they came to understand what it really means to say "God is love." Worship, loving relationships and the Savior are for gays/lesbians and straights. Bawer and his spouse slowly arrived at an understanding that their committed long-term relationship was a reflection of God's love in their lives. That any church as a human institution might continue to suggest that the very aspect of their lives making their love possible remains profane in the eyes of God is no longer a relevant burden they personally carry. Bawer and his formerly Adventist partner, rediscovered a personal relationship with the Savior. Being a gay or lesbian Adventist should never be an oxymoron from an institutional perspective--for it is not necessarily a moral incompatibility. Fortunately, many gay/lesbian Adventists, whether single, celibate, or in committed long-term intimate relationships, have risen to the very best in their religious heritage: they live by the promise that no human institution, not even their church, will separate them from the Savior's love.
It is my prayer that institutional Adventism will review and reconcile doctrinal policies regarding homosexuality and the Christian experience. Should institutional Adventism be unable to support homosexuals more, I hope that the church will endeavor to hurt homosexuals less.
In the meantime, despite the significant setbacks handed to me in the name of moral purity by my church of origin, I have survived to thrive by grace. I have been blessed by the support of some courageous “traditional” Adventists who are willing to fellowship, break bread, and walk with me. And I live with cautious hope and optimism. It is a hope born in knowing that with respect to homosexuality, the enemy to Christian love and loving is not hate. Rather, the enemy is ignorance.
I yearn to be part of an Adventist church which would rather err on the side of helping hurting people than hurting helpless people (gays/lesbians and straights are "helpless" to change their sexual being). One day, I hope that openly gay men and lesbian women will be routinely welcome in Adventist churches. I hope that committed long-term gay/lesbian relationships will be recognized and held to the same moral standard of heterosexual relationships by Adventist faith communities--rather than despised and denounced. I pray that gay/lesbian Adventists (and their families) will be supported and nurtured in Adventist communities as they grow and mature in their own spiritual journeys. The Savior offers grace to all human beings--whether "Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, gay or straight."128 As Christians who have "fallen in love" with the love and loving of Jesus, may we aspire to the example of our Savior in loving each other and nurturing an inclusive church.
About the Author
Given the sensational polarities often seen within literature surrounding the issue of homosexuality, I believe it is important for an author to explicitly state his/her background to allow the reader to discern potential bias.
I was born and raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church. I am gay and have a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. I subsequently trained as a physician at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. I currently practice and teach medicine in Denver, Colorado. I have been with my spouse in a committed long-term gay relationship for over a decade. My partner recently finished law school as an older student. I am "out" (openly gay) with respect to my family, friends, and employer.
My partner and I attend Dignity-Denver, a worship community for gay/lesbian Roman Catholics, their families and friends. I am also involved in an association of gay/lesbian Seventh-day Adventists through SDA Kinship International.
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Appendix A: Formal Address of Homosexuality by the Seventh-day Adventist Church
Seventh‑day Adventist Position Statement on Homosexuality — 1999
This statement was voted and approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Executive Committee at the Annual Council Session on Sunday, October 3, 1999 in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
The Seventh‑day Adventist Church recognizes that every human being is valuable in the sight of God, and we seek to minister to all men and women in the spirit of Jesus. We also believe that by God's grace and through the encouragement of the community of faith, an individual may live in harmony with the principles of God's Word.
Seventh‑day Adventists believe that sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. The Scriptures declare: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24, NIV). Throughout Scripture this heterosexual pattern is affirmed.
The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships. Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden (Lev. 20:7‑21; Rom. 1:24‑27; 1 Cor. 6:9‑11).
Jesus Christ reaffirmed the divine creation intent: "‘Haven't you read,' he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator "made them male and female," and said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?" So they are no longer two, but one'" (Matt. 19:4‑6, NIV). For these reasons Adventists are opposed to homosexual practices and relationships.
Seventh‑day Adventists endeavor to follow the instruction and example of Jesus. He affirmed the dignity of all human beings and reached out compassionately to persons and families suffering the consequences of sin. He offered caring ministry and words of solace to struggling people, while differentiating His love for sinners from His clear teaching about sinful practices.
A Statement of Concern on Sexual Behavior -- 1987
(An excerpt from this statement voted and approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Executive Committee at the Annual Council Session in Washington, D.C., USA, October 12, 1987)
In His infinite love and wisdom God created mankind, both male and female, and in so doing based human society on the firm foundation of loving homes and families.
It is Satan’s purpose, however, to pervert every good thing; and the perversion of the best inevitably leads to that which is worst. Under the influence of passion unrestrained by moral and religious principle, the association of the sexes has, to a deeply disturbing extent, degenerated into license and abuse which results in bondage. With the aid of many films, television, video, radio programs, and printed materials, the world is being steered on a course to new depths of shame and depravity. Not only is the basic structure of society being greatly damaged but also the breakdown of the family fosters other gross evils. The results in distorted lives of children and youth are distressing and evoke our pity, and the effects are not only disastrous but also cumulative.
These evils have become more open and constitute a serious and growing threat to the ideals and purposes of the Christian home. Sexual practices which are contrary to God’s expressed will are adultery, premarital sex, as well as obsessive sexual behavior. Sexual abuse of spouses, sexual abuse of children, incest, homosexual practices (gay and lesbian), and bestiality are among the obvious perversions of God’s original plan. As the intent of clear passages of Scripture (see Ex 30:14; Lev 18:22,23,29 and 20:13; Matthew 5:27,28; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Rom 1:20-32) is denied and as their warnings are rejected in exchange human opinions, much uncertainty and confusion prevail. This is what Satan desires. He has always attempted to cause people to forget that when God as Creator made Adam, He also created Eve to be Adam’s female companion (“male and female he created them” Gen 1:24 NEB). In spite of clear moral standards set forth in God’s Word for relationships between man and woman, the world today is witnessing a resurgence of the perversions and depravity that marked ancient civilizations.
The degrading results of the obsession of this age with sex and the pursuit of sensual pleasure are clearly described in the Word of God. But Christ came to destroy the works of the devil and reestablish the right relationships with human beings with each other and with their Creator. Thus, though fallen in Adam and captive to sin, those who turn to Christ in repentance receive full pardon and choose the better way, the way to complete restoration. By means of the cross, the power of the Holy Spirit in the “inner man,” and the nurturing ministry of the Church, all may be freed from the grip of perversions and sinful practices.
Sexual Conduct and Relationships
(Excerpts from the 1995 Revised 15th Edition of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, pages 154, 169, 182-3)
Today the ideals that make (these) social relationships safe and happy are breaking down to an alarming degree. Under the influence of passion and unrestrained by moral and religious principle, the association of the sexes has to an alarming extent degenerated into freedom and license. Sexual perversions, incest, and sexual abuse of children prevail to an alarming degree. Millions have abandoned Christian standards of conduct and are bartering the sweet and sacred experiences of marriage and parenthood for the bitter, remorseful fruits of lust. Not only are these evils damaging the familial structure of society, but the breakdown of the family in turn fosters and breeds these and other evils. The results in distorted lives of children and youth are distressing and evoke our pity, while the effects on society are not only disastrous by cumulative.
These evils have become more open and threatening to the ideals and purposes of the Christian home. Adultery, sexual abuse of spouses, incest, sexual abuse of children, homosexual practices, and lesbian practices are among the obvious perversions of God’s original plan. (page 154)
To disfellowship* a member means to expel an individual from membership. To cut off a member from fellowship with the church, the body of Christ, is always a serious matter; it is the ultimate in the discipline that the church can administer; it is the extreme measure that can be meted out by the church....
Among the grievous sins for which members shall be subject to church discipline are the following:
(4) Such violations as fornication, promiscuity, incest, homosexual practice and other gross sexual perversions, and the remarriage of a divorced person, except of the “innocent party” in a divorce for adultery or for gross sexual perversions. (page 169)
Though marriage was first performed by God alone, it is recognized that people now live under civil government on this earth. The first fact, therefore, that should be kept clearly in mind is that marriage has both a divine and civil aspect. The divine aspect is governed by the laws of God, the civil by the laws of the state.
In harmony with these principles, the following statement sets forth the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the subject of divorce and remarriage:
(2) Unfaithfulness to the marriage vow has generally been seen to mean adultery and/or fornication. However, the New Testament word for fornication includes other sexual irregularities. Therefore, sexual perversions, including homosexual practices, are also recognized as a misuse of sexual powers and a violation of the divine intention of marriage. As such, they are just cause for divorce.
(3) In the event that the reconciliation is not effected, the innocent spouse has the biblical right to secure a divorce, and also to remarry.
(4) A spouse found guilty of unfaithfulness to the marriage vow by the church shall be subject to church discipline. Even though he or she may be genuinely repentant, the transgressor shall be placed under censure by the church for a stated period of time as an expression of the church’s abhorrence of such evil. The transgressor who gives not evidence of full and sincere repentance shall be disfellowshiped.* In case the violation has been so flagrant as to bring public reproach on the cause of God, the church, in order to maintain its high standards and good name, shall disfellowship* the individual even though there is evidence of repentance. (page 182-3)
* Delegates to the 57th General Conference Session of Seventh-day Adventists, held July 2000 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, voted to change the term “disfellowshiped” to “removed from membership.” The Church Manual committee intended to make the term “less loaded with negative implications,” said Lowell Cooper, General Conference vice president. The subheading was changed from “Queries Concerning Receiving and Dropping Members” to “Queries Concerning Receiving and Removing Members.” July 2, 2000, Adventist News Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada report by Andy Nash and Heather Osborn
Homosexuality Position Statement
(Excerpts from Bible Information Online (topic: Homosexuality), PO Box 19039, Spokane, WA 99219, an official service of the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1996)
What does the Bible teach about homosexuality? It’s in the Bible, Romans 1:26-27, NIV. “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”
Is homosexuality a sin? It’s in the Bible, Leviticus 18:22, TLB. “Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.”
Can a practicing homosexual go to heaven? It’s in the Bible, I Corinthians 6:9, TLB. “Don’t you know that those doing such things have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who live immoral lives, who are idol worshipers, adulterers or homosexuals--will have no share in his kingdom.”
Like all sinners, homosexuals are called to repent. It’s in the Bible, I Timothy 1:10-11, TLB. “Yes, these laws are made to identify as sinners all who are immoral and impure; homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, and all others who do things that contradict the glorious Good News of our blessed God, whose messenger I am.”
Sinful patterns of all kinds must stop, and need God’s forgiveness. It’s in the Bible, I Corinthians 6:11, NIV. “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of the God.”
If you are homosexual, what should you do? First, acknowledge your sin. It’s in the Bible, Psalm 51:2-4, TLB. “O wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me be pure again. For I admit my shameful deed---it haunts me day and night.”
Second, ask forgiveness for your sin---God says you can start over again. It’s in the Bible, Psalm 51:7-12, TLB. “Sprinkle me with the cleansing blood and I shall be clean again. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. And after you have punished me, give me back my joy again.”
(It’s in the Bible is a trademark of Bible Information Online)
“Reparative Therapy” to Eliminate Homosexual Orientation and Desire (based in part upon information from Just the Facts Coalition, a group including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers and National Education Association)
The term "reparative therapy" refers to psychotherapy aimed at eliminating homosexual desires and is used by people who do not think homosexuality is one variation within human sexual orientation, but rather still believe homosexuality is a mental disorder. The most important fact about "reparative therapy," also sometimes known as "conversion" therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 500,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a "cure."
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association and defining the standard of the field, does not include homosexuality as a mental disorder. All other major health professional organizations have supported the American Psychiatric Association in its declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. Thus, the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or that the emergence of same‑gender sexual desires among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy has no support among health and mental health professional organizations.
Despite the unanimity of the health and mental health professions on the normality of homosexuality, the idea of "reparative therapy" has recently been adopted by conservative organizations and aggressively promoted in the media. Because of this aggressive promotion of "reparative therapy," a number of the health and mental health professional organizations have recently issued public statements about "reparative therapy" as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in its policy statement on Homosexuality and Adolescence states: Confusion about sexual orientation is not unusual during adolescence. Counseling may be helpful for young people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation or for those who are uncertain about how to express their sexuality and might profit from an attempt at clarification through a counseling or psychotherapeutic initiative. Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.
The American Medical Association in its policy statement on Health Care Needs of Gay Men and Lesbians in the United States reads: most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment. For this reason, aversion therapy (a behavioral or medical intervention which pairs unwanted behavior, in this case, homosexual behavior, with unpleasant sensations or aversive consequences) is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians. Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the societal response to it.
In July 2000, the AMA specifically addressed reparative therapy stating: (we) oppose any psychiatric treatment, such as "reparative" or "conversion" therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.
The American Counseling Association has adopted a resolution that states that it: opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation; and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based on ignorance or unfounded beliefs about same‑gender sexual orientation. Further, at its 1999 World Conference, ACA adopted a position opposing the promotion of "reparative therapy" as a "cure" for individuals who are homosexual.
The American Psychiatric Association in its position statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation states: The potential risks of "reparative therapy" are great, including depression, anxiety and self‑destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self‑hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone "reparative therapy" relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.
The American Psychological Association in its Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which is also endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists, states: That the American Psychological Association opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based in ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation.
The National Association of Social Workers in its Policy Statement on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues: endorses policies in both the public and private sectors that ensure nondiscrimination; that are sensitive to the health and mental health needs of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people; and that promote an understanding of lesbian, gay, and bisexual cultures. Social stigmatization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people is widespread and is a primary motivating factor in leading some people to seek sexual orientation changes. Sexual orientation conversion therapies assume that homosexual orientation is both pathological and freely chosen. No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful.
NASW believes social workers have the responsibility to clients to explain the prevailing knowledge concerning sexual orientation and the lack of data reporting positive outcomes with reparative therapy. NASW discourages social workers from providing treatments designed to change sexual orientation or from referring practitioners or programs that claim to do so.
As these statements make clear, health and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation through "reparative therapy" and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm. Many of the professional associations are able to provide helpful information and local contacts to assist school administrators, health and mental health professionals, educators, teachers, and parents in dealing with school controversies in their communities.
( * denotes adult language that may be difficult for some )
Personal Note: This bibliography represents a diverse group of writers and authors. I share it to provide more background for those interested, but I do not necessarily endorse all of the material in these publications.
Homosexuality in Scripture:
1. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. Daniel A Helminiak, Ph.D. San Francisco: Alamo Square Press. 1994. ISBN 0-9624751-9-X.
2. The Church and the Homosexual. John J McNeill. Boston: Beacon Press. 1976. ISBN 0-8070-7931-6
3. Taking a Chance on God. John J McNeill. Boston: Beacon Press. 1988. ISBN 0-8070-7945-6
4. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Letah Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott.
New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1994. ISBN 0-06-067078-9.
5. The Good Book. Peter J Gomes. New York: William Morrow and Company. 1996. ISBN 0-688-13447-5.
6. Pastor, I Am Gay. Howard H Bess. Palmer, Alaska: Palmer Publishing Company. 1995. ISBN 0-9644123-0-6.
7. The New Testament and Homosexuality. Robin Scroggs. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1983. ISBN 0-8006-1854-8.
8. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. John Shelby Spong. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. 1998. ISBN 0‑06‑067532‑2.
9. The Letters of Paul. John Shelby Spong. New York: Riverhead Books. 1998.ISBN 1‑57322‑683‑1.
10. The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology. Mark D Jordan. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1997. ISBN 0‑226‑41040‑4.
11. The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier: Romans. John C Brunt. Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association. 1996. ISBN 0‑8163‑1296‑6.
12. The Children Are Free: Re-examining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships. Jeff Miner and John Connoley. Indianapolis, Indiana: Jesus Metropolitan Community Church. 2002. ISBN 0-9719296-0-2.
Gay Issues and Christian Churches:
1. Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate. Jeffrey S. Siker, editor. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. 1994. ISBN 0‑664‑25545‑0.
2. Congregations Talking About Homosexuality: Dialogue on a Difficult Issue. Beth Anne Gaede, editor. Alban Institute Publication. 1998. ISBN 1‑56699‑198‑6.
3. *Reclaiming the Spirit: Gay Men and Lesbians Come to Terms with Religion. David Shallenberger. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. 1998. ISBN 0‑8135‑2488‑1.
4. The Homophobic Healer. Sandra St. John. Denver: Tiderwick Publications. 1994. ISBN 1‑885‑084‑33‑1.
5. Religion Is A Queer Thing. Elizabeth Stuart. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press. 1997. ISBN 0‑8298‑1269‑5.
6. 101 Questions Adventists Ask. B B Beach and John Graz. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association. 2000. ISBN 0-8163-1790-9.
7. What Christians Think About Homosexuality: Six Representative Viewpoints.L R Holben. North Richland Hills, Texas: Bibal Press. 1999. ISBN 0-941037-83-5.
Gay Historical Background:
1. Out in All Directions. Editors: Lynn Witt, Sherry Thomas, Eric Marcus. New York: Warner Books. 1995. ISBN 0-446-51822-0.
2. Homosexuality in History. Colin Spencer. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company. 1995. ISBN 0-15-100223-1
3. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. John Boswell. New York: Villard Books. 1994. ISBN 0-679-43228-0.
4. Being Homosexual. Richard A Isay. New York: Farrar-Straus-Giroux, Inc. 1989. ISBN 0-374-11012-3.
5. Gay Men and Women Who Enriched the World. Thomas Cowan. Boston: Alyson Publications. 1992. ISBN 1-55583-147-8.
6. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. John Boswell. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1980. ISBN 0-226-06711-4.
7. The New Civil War. Diane Silver. New York: Franklin Watts. 1997. ISBN 0‑531‑11290‑X.
8. Homosexuality. Robert Dunbar. Springfield, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, Inc. 1995. ISBN 0‑89490‑665‑8.
9. *A Certain Terror: Heterosexism, Militarism, Violence, & Change. Richard Cleaver and Patricia Myers, editors. Ann Arbor, Michigan: American Friends Service Committee. 1993. ISBN 0‑9635516‑0‑4.
10. *The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America Since
World War Two. Charles Kaiser. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company. 1997. ISBN 0‑15‑600617‑0.
11. Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter To America. Michael Nava and Robert Dawidoff. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1994. ISBN 0‑312‑10443‑X.
12. Strangers To The Law: Gay People on Trial. Lisa Keen and Suzanne Goldberg. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. 2000. ISBN 0-472-08645-6.
Self Acceptance of a Gay Identity: "Coming Out"
1. On Being Gay. Brian McNaught. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1988. ISBN 0-312-02959-4.
2. Coming Out Within: Stages of Spiritual Awakening. Craig O'Neill and Kathleen Ritter. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1992. ISBN 0-06-250706-0.
3. Becoming a Man: Half A Life Story. Paul Monette. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1992. ISBN 0-06-250724-9. (National Book Award)
4. Coming Out: An Act Of Love. Rob Eichberg, Ph.D. New York: Plume/ Penguin Books. 1990. ISBN 0-452-26685-8.
5. *The Male Couple's Guide. Eric Marcus. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1992. ISBN 0-06-096936-9.
6. *Outing Yourself. Michelangelo Signorile. New York: Random House, Inc. 1994. ISBN 0‑679‑43838‑6.
7. *Family Outing. Chastity Bono. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1998. ISBN 0‑316‑10233‑4.
8. Letters from the Closet. Tony Ferrante & Paulette Jacobsen. Sacramento, California: Tzedakah Publications. 1994. ISBN 0‑929999‑03‑7.
9. Coming Out As Sacrament. Chris Glaser. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. 1998. ISBN 0‑664‑25748‑8.
10. Passages of Pride. Kurt Chandler. Los Angeles: Alyson Books. 1995. ISBN 1‑55583‑417‑5.
11. Lesbian and Gay Youth: Care and Counseling. Catitlin Ryan and Donna Futterman. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998. ISBN 0‑231‑11191‑6.
12. *Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human. Robert Minor, Ph.D. St. Louis, Missouri: Humanity Works. 2001. ISBN 0-9709581-0-2.
13. Acts of Faith, Acts of Love. Dugan McGinley. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. 2004. ISBN 0-8264-1545-8.
Books for Parents of Gay Children:
1. Is It A Choice. Eric Marcus. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1993. ISBN 0-06-250664-1.
2. Now That You Know. Betty Fairchild and Nancy Hayward. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company. 1989. ISBN 0-15-667601-X.
3. My Son, Beloved Stranger. Kate McLaughlin. Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association. 1995. ISBN 0-8163-1257.
4. The Family Heart. Robb Forman Dew. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison‑Wesley Publishing Co. 1994. ISBN 0‑201‑62450‑8.
5. Christians and Homosexuality: Dancing Toward the Light. Dee Dee Risher & Douglas Davidson, editors. The Other Side. Special Issue: 1994. (300 West Apsley Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144).
6. From Wounded Heart: Faith Stories of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People and Those Who Love Them. Roberta Showalter Kreider. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Chi Rho Press, Inc. 1998. ISBN 1‑888493‑15‑1.
7. Coming Out As Parents. David K Switzer. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. 1996. ISBN 0‑664‑25636‑8.
8. Beyond Acceptance: Parents of Lesbian and Gays Talk About Their Experiences. Griffin, Wirth and Wirth. New York: St. Martin’s Griffen. 1996. ISBN 0-312-16781-4
Gay Experience with HIV and AIDS:
1. *Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. Paul Monette. New York: Avon Books. 1988. ISBN 0-380-70779-9.
2. *Sometimes My Heart Goes Numb: Love and Caregiving in a Time of AIDS. Charles Garfield. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. 1995.ISBN 0-7879-0105-9.
3. *Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men. Gabriel Rotello. Dutton/ Penguin Books. 1997. ISBN 0-525-94164-9.
4. *Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog. Paul Monette. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1988. ISBN 0‑312‑02602‑1.
5. *Personal Dispatches: Writers Confront AIDS. John Preston, editor. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1988. ISBN 0‑312‑03412‑1.
6. *And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic. Randy Shilts. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1987. ISBN 0‑14011‑369‑X.
Being Gay in the United States:
1. *House and Home. Steve Gunderson and Rob Morris. New York: Dutton/ Penguin Books. 1996. ISBN 0-525-94197-5.
2. *Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men. Editor: Brian Bouldrey. New York: Riverhead Books. 1995. ISBN 1-57322-003-5.
3. *Getting Simon: Two Gay Doctors' Journey to Fatherhood. Kenneth B Morgan. New York: Bramble Books. 1995. ISBN 1-883647-04-5.
4. Gay Issues in the Workplace. Brian McNaught. New York: St Martin's Press. 1993. ISBN 0-312-09808-1.
5. Now That I'm Out, What Do I Do? Brian McNaught. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1997. ISBN 0‑312‑15616‑2.
6. *Coming Out to God. Chris Glaser. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. 1991. ISBN 0‑664‑25176‑5.
7. Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair. John McNeill. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. 1998. ISBN 0‑664‑25808‑5.
8. Rainbow Family Values: Relationship Skills for Lesbian and Gay Couples. Michael Piazza. Dallas: Sources of Hope Publishing. 1995. ISBN 1‑887129‑02‑2.
9. *Ex‑Gays: There Are None! Sylvia Pennington. Hawthorne, California: Lambda Christian Fellowship. 1989. ISBN 0‑9616853‑2‑8.
10. *Gay Men at the Millennium: Sex, Spirit and Community. Michael Lowenthal, editor. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam. 1997. ISBN 0‑87477‑892‑1.
11. *Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together. Joan Nestle and John Preston, editors. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. 1994. ISBN 0‑06‑251055‑X.
12. *Taking Liberties: Gay Men's Essays on Politics, Culture & Sex. Michael Bronski, editor. New York: Masquerade Books. 1996. ISBN 1‑56333‑456‑9.
13. *Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the US Military. Randy Shilts. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1993. ISBN 0‑312‑09261‑X.
14. One Nation, After All. Alan Wolfe. New York: Viking/Penguin Putnam, Inc. 1998. ISBN 0‑670‑8767711‑1.
15. *In Search of Gay America: Women and Men in a Time of Change. Neil Miller. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press. 1989. ISBN 0‑87113‑304‑0.
16. Stranger at the Gate. Mel White. New York: Plume/Penguin Group USA, Inc. 1994. ISBN 0‑452‑27381‑1.
17. Moving On. Dann Hazel. New York: Kensington Books. 1999. ISBN 1‑57566‑378‑3.
18. *Losing Matt Shepard. Beth Loffreda. New York: Columbia University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-231-11859-7.
19. *The Laramie Project. Moises Kaufman. New York: Vintage Books. 2001. ISBN 0-375-72719-1.
20. *Left Out: The Politics of Exclusion. Martin Duberman. New York: Basic Books. 1999. ISBN 0-465-01744-4.
Conservative Gay Contemporary Thought:
1. A Place At the Table. Bruce Bawer. New York: Touchstone/ Simon and Schuster. 1993. ISBN 0-671-89439-0.
2. Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy. Editor: Bruce Bawer. New York: Free Press/ Simon and Schuster. 1996. ISBN 0-684-82766-2.
3. Freedom, Glorious Freedom. John J McNeill. Boston: Beacon Press. 1995. ISBN 0-8070-7936-7.
4. Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. New York: Crown Publishers. 1997. ISBN 0-517-70682-2.
5. *Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival. Andrew Sullivan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1998. ISBN 0‑679‑45119‑6.
Medical Science and Historical Reviews of Homosexuality:
1. Special Article: Homosexuality. Richard Friedman, MD and Jennifer Downey, MD. The New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 331, Number 14; 6 October 1994.
2. Queer Science: The Use & Abuse of Research Into Homosexuality. Simon Levay. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. 1996. ISBN 0‑262‑12199‑9.
3. The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior. Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland. New York: Touchstone Books. 1994. ISBN 0‑684‑80446‑8.
4. A Biological Perspective on Sexual Orientation. Richard Pillard and J. Michael Bailey. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Volume 18, Number 1; March 1995.
5. Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research. Timothy Murphy. New York: Columbia University Press. 1997. ISBN 0‑231‑10848‑6.
6. Responding to Sexual Orientation Issues. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Volume 33, Number 3; (special issue) June 2002.
7. *Gay and Lesbian Almanac. Neil Schlager, editor. Detroit, Michigan: St. James Press. 1998. ISBN 1-55862-358-2.
(not necessarily supported or condoned by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists or their affiliates)
Support Organization for Gay/Lesbian Adventists
SDA Kinship International, Inc. Yolanda Elliott, President.
Address: PO Box 69; Tillamook, OR
Support Organization for Parents of Gay/Lesbian Adventists
Someone to Talk To... Carrol Grady (aka Kate McLaughlin), Coordinator.
Address: 13008 234th Street SE; Snohomish, WA 98296
Christian Organizations which include Gays and Lesbians
Whosoever Ministries. Candace Chellew, Chair
(Monthly electronic magazine)
Address: PO Box 727; Camden, SC 29020
Support Organization for Gays/Lesbians, their Families and Friends
Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG).
(Resource materials, newsletters)
Address: 1726 M Street; Suite 400; Washington, DC 20036