Chico Seventh-day Adventist Church in Northern California recently baptized a married lesbian couple and has accepted them as members in good standing. The baptism was officiated by a woman pastor with the approval of the local church. This ground-breaking news resulted in a response by the North American Division and they issue a statement about baptism and inclusivity.
The official church response was an attempt to please all sides, those who affirm gay marriage and those who oppose it. The position of the North American Division [NAD], and presumably the General Conference, is that they are going to leave it up the the local conference to address this issue on the local level. Instead of the NAD helping the local churches and conferences by showing them the error of these recent baptisms and reminding them to uphold the Biblical standards of marriage and baptism, they have decided to allow the local conference to choose whether to administer discipline or accommodate gay marriage into their churches.
In the past, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has consistently maintained the Biblical position on homosexuality. The problem doesn’t seem to be our position but rather our unwillingness to discipline or enforce this position. What good is it to have a position if members are not required to follow them? It’s like not having a position at all.
“God cannot use men who, in time of peril, when the strength, courage, and influence of all are needed, are afraid to take a firm stand for the right.” (Prophets and Kings, 142).
However, the Bible is unmistakably clear when it comes to the subject of marriage — one man, one woman (Matthew 19:4). Those churches or pastors who are affirming gay marriage are undermining the clear teaching of the Bible and are misrepresenting the faith to its membership.
If they can twist the Bible to make it say it supports homosexuality, then they can twist the Bible to say anything (Sunday sacredness, immortality of the soul, worshipping idols and a host of other errors). When addressing homosexuality, the issue is not over having a difference of opinion with other church members. The issue is not whether we should have love for people or whether we should be an inclusive church. The primary issue on gay marriage is whether or not we are going to stay faithful to the clear teaching of Scripture. Love and fellowship can never be separated from truth.
“But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.” Great Controversy, 595.
There is a gay-affirming movement within the church that wants to see membership opened up to married gays and lesbian couples. When this happens, a loss of Biblical authority will result. Once you give away Biblical authority, pretty much anything else goes. Love without truth always leads to a dilution of doctrine.
Part of the cause for this new mindset that has entered Adventism is directly related to the ecumenical movement. Many in Adventism have been participating in interfaith dialogs with other churches that openly allow gay marriage among members and leadership. So this attitude of embracing gay couples into membership with open arms comes from a feeling of wanting to keep up with the changing times.
Adventist participation with the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches – two ecclesiastical bodies known for their departure from the Scriptures on gay marriage and other Biblical issues – are examples of the dangers in having close ecumenical entanglements. It makes you wonder if we are beginning to embrace the policies and ideology of the other denominations, who openly embrace gay marriage.
So what does this mean for our future? The future of Adventism must be grounded on the understanding of the authority of the Holy Scriptures. Divine revelation needs to always trumps church policy, popular culture and peoples’ feelings. We must always “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15).
“It is not from love for their neighbor that they smooth down the message entrusted to them, but because they are self-indulgent and ease-loving. True love seeks first the honor of God and the salvation of souls. Those who have this love will not evade the truth to save themselves from the unpleasant results of plain speaking. When souls are in peril, God’s ministers will not consider self, but will speak the word given them to speak, refusing to excuse or palliate evil.” (Prophets and Kings, 141).