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Why Attitudes Are Changing on Homosexuality--Part 2 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
WHY ATTITUDES ARE CHANGING—Part 2
(Why and How Is Homosexuality Being Pushed On the Church?)
 [This article is excerpted from the author’s book Must We Be Silent?]
By
Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, Ph.D.
Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference


    Introduction

    In part 1, we offered six reasons why are some within our ranks embracing the born a gay gospel as a morally legitimate part of the Christian lifestyle? This present article continues the discussion.

    7. Kinship's Pro-Gay Theology.
    Another major reason for Adventism's changing attitude toward homosexuality is the influence of the work by the pro-homosexual organization known as Kinship. Billing itself as "a support group for gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists," Kinship has been quite successful in converting some Adventists to its belief that "God can bless a committed homosexual relationship." As a result, an increasing number of homosexuals are coming out of the closet and demanding that their homosexuality be accepted as either natural, or a "gift from God.”[1]

    This may explain why in the 1993 Adventist Women's Institute's book referred to earlier, an "Adventist-connected" theologian, Bible instructor/academy teacher-turned-minister, writes that her lesbianism is "an unusual calling" from the Lord and why her lesbian partner also felt that the lesbian relationship was "God's gift for her conversion." [2]

    A year earlier the November 4, 1992 issue of the Andrews University student newspaper (Student Movement) created a sensation on campus when it published a letter from an Andrews University homosexual couple pleading for acceptance. [3] In the center page article of that issue, some anonymous staff members and students discussed their homosexual and lesbian relationships. Among them was "Ann," a 28-year old lesbian who was seeking the transfer of her church membership to the Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University. Speaking about her committed homosexual relationship in which God plays an important role, Ann summed up the basic belief of Kinship: "I am a lesbian because God knows that that's the best thing for me. My homosexuality has actually brought me a lot closer to God than if I was a heterosexual." [4]

    It is this kind of view that was actively promoted at the 2000 Toronto GC session by “Someone To Talk To,” an organization claiming to be for "Adventist Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians” and which has apparently been recognized by the North American Division Family Ministries Department. Even some Adventist Gay/Lesbian “ministries” (such as the one at the San Francisco Central SDA Church) and “outreach” groups like God’s Rainbow and GLOW, while distancing themselves from Kinship, nonetheless argue that homosexuality is not sin, but rather morally neutral.

    As a result of the campaigns by these organizations, groups, and individuals, many Adventists are no longer very sure of the nature and morality of homosexuality.

    8. 1980 Declaration by Some Scholars.
    Within the Seventh-day Adventist church, the most significant event that signaled the changing attitudes towards homosexuality occurred when, in August 1980, the church commissioned six well-known representatives to attend a camp meeting (or "kamp meeting") organized by the pro-homosexual group Kinship. [5]

    Although the church representatives consisted of six influential Bible scholars and pastors, to the surprise of many, the biblical and theological scholars at the Kinship camp meeting concluded that the teaching of Scripture on the subject of homosexuality is not sufficiently clear to settle the question of the morality of homosexual acts or relationships in our world. [6]

    The three scholars, all of whom were then teaching at the church's leading theological seminary at Andrews University, declared: "A simplistic English reading of the few scriptural references to homosexual acts would not suffice to determine the Lord's will for homosexual persons today." [7]

    Given the ensuing civil war between liberals and conservatives over the legitimacy of contemporary higher criticism in biblical interpretation, the declaration by the church's authorized scholars at the Kinship camp meeting has been understood by some as another indication of the flourishing of liberal methodology in the church. [8]

    In any case, declarations such as the one above, and the official opposition to such a position by the church in the volume Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . (1988) [9] and in the GC's Biblical Research Institute's book Homosexuality in History and Scriptures (1988), [10] have made the issue of homosexuality a hot potato item within Adventist scholarship.

    9. Troubling Views in Church Publications.
    Despite the clamor for the church’s acceptance of homosexuality, and despite the fact that the church's Bible scholars have been quietly debating the issue, very few Adventists were aware of the campaign for homosexuality in the Seventh-day Adventist church. But in recent times the homosexual issue has come out of its ideological and academic closets into the mainstream Adventist view. This has taken the form of carefully written yet troubling articles in such church publications as Ministry, Adventist Review, Insight, Women of Spirit, Adventist View, and the Collegiate Quarterly. These articles, sometimes by anonymous authors, have called for new "awareness and understanding on the subject of homosexuality." A careful reading of some of these works reveals a subtle shift from the church's categorical rejection of homosexuality to its qualified acceptance. [11]

    As I will show in the next chapter, there are three contending positions on homosexuality that are competing in Christian churches today: (a) the non-acceptance view, which maintains that homosexuality is not compatible with biblical Christianity; this is the long-standing SDA position (b) the qualified acceptance view, which argues that homosexuality can be compatible with Christianity; this is the new view being promoted in the articles being put out in church publications; (c) the full acceptance view, which asserts that homosexuality is fully compatible with the Christian faith; this is the position held by pro-gay organizations like Kinship.

    The vexing questions raised by the troubling articles appearing in our church publications can best be illustrated by calling attention to the December 5, 1992, issue of Insight, a publication for Seventh-day Adventist teenagers. This particular issue of Insight is devoted entirely to the subject of homosexuality. While the then editor of the magazine maintains that "there is no scriptural support for practicing homosexuality," he nevertheless endorses the pro-gay theology when he asserts that: "There's a difference between being a homosexual and practicing homosexuality"; "Nobody chooses to be homosexual"; "Changing one's homosexual orientation is difficult and rare"; "Homosexuals can be genuine, model Christians"; and "Being a homosexual is not a sin." [12]

    Perceptive readers will recognize that the above position was rejected by the 1990 and 1995 Church Manuals when the church officially condemned "homosexual practices and lesbian practices" as examples of "the obvious perversions of God's original plan," and made these practices a basis for church discipline. [13] It is significant that the 1990 and 1995 Church Manuals made the practice of homosexuality a basis for church discipline. For, since the 1985 GC session, pro-gay advocates have subtly sought to modify the language in the Church Manual towards a qualified acceptance view of homosexuality (see the note below for an insightful account of how this happened). [14]

    10. Obliteration of Gender Role Distinctions.

    One overlooked reason for Adventism's changing attitude towards homosexuality is the impact of feminist theology on sexual role distinctions. This fact is evident in the liberal (radical feminist) and conservative (egalitarian or equalitarian) reasoning for ordaining women as elders or pastors. Though employing different sets of arguments, both liberal and conservative proponents of women's ordination are united in their denial of male headship and gender role differentiation at creation. They reject the biblical teaching of sexual role distinctions before the fall of Adam and Eve because of their belief that such a teaching suggests the absence of "full equality" and the existence of superiority/inferiority among the first pair. [15]

    We should not miss the connection between the above arguments and those used to promote homosexuality. Just as feminists seek “full equality" by getting rid of gender or sex roles in marriage and the church, gay theology also seeks to bring about "full equality" between homosexuals and heterosexuals by obliterating sexual identity. Thus, when radical proponents impose their gender-inclusive reconstructions upon the Bible and suggest that Adam was "an androgynous being" (i.e. bisexual), [16]it is only a few steps from seeing homosexuality as a creation ordinance.

    Similarly, when conservative proponents of women's ordination claim that at creation Adam and Eve were "fully equal," enjoying "total egalitarianism in marriage," and when they argue that prior to the fall there was no role differentiation between male and female, whether they are aware of it or not, they also are building a theological nest for advocates of homosexual theology to lay and hatch their gay eggs. [17]

    To speak of "full equality" without seriously coming to terms with the nature and extent of this equality and without stating unambiguously that to act as "equal and joint partners" does not mean to act identically, allows advocates of gay theology to build upon the shaky foundation constructed by liberal and conservative advocates of women's ordination. At a time of increasing homosexual demands for marital rights, the failure by proponents of women's ordination to say unambiguously that men are not equal with women personally or even physically as candidates to be spouses of men has opened a welcome door for those who seek to nullify the biblical case for divinely instituted role differences and a monogamous heterosexual relationship. This fact has not been lost by proponents of gay theology within Adventism. [18]

    For example, speaking at the annual meeting of Seventh-day Adventist college and university Bible teachers in San Francisco, California, in 1992, the "liaison" from the pro-homosexual group Kinship, correctly remarked that the push for women's ordination, when successful, will eventually open the door for the church to embrace homosexuality, since both causes are waging a similar battle of "discrimination" and share the same basic approach to biblical interpretation.

    One Adventist homosexual, a member of the “Adventist Gay/Lesbian” Ministry at San Francisco Central SDA Church, makes an insightful observation regarding the similarities of the pro-gay and pro-women’s ordination arguments. He expresses his amusement that proponents of women’s ordination “use a set of arguments to validate women being ordained, almost exactly the same as us gays used to approve of ‘monogamous gay relationships.’ Junia and Phoebe rank right in there with David and Jonathan, and Ruth and Naomi. In this [Internet Web site] thread, I have even seen the Bible translated by first setting aside references to gender because of some women being just as capable of certain tasks as a man is. Well, let me tell you something honey, except for childbirth I have been just as capable as any woman in all of the tasks normally performed by the woman–so I guess I can also set aside all the biblical statements I don’t like? To my knowledge, ‘Ordination Credentials’ are a man-made set of requirements to fill a biblical role, but they are in no way capable of changing the gender to which the role applies.” [19]

    Despite the objections by some Adventist proponents of women’s ordination, the experience of other Christian denominations confirms the above observations that openness towards homosexuality inescapably follows once we jettison the Bible's teaching on sexual role differentiation for an "egalitarian" model.

    This is why some delegates at the 2000 Toronto GC session objected to the insertion of a theologically fuzzy feminist language in the “divorce and remarriage” document presented to them at the session. The reason is simple: Whether proponents were aware of it or not, by taking away role distinctions at creation, the divorce and remarriage document which was presented to delegates at the Toronto GC session set a theological foundation not just for women's ordination but also for homosexuality. [20]

    Summary. The above ten reasons--(1) campaign by pro-homosexual groups, (2) departure from biblical revelation to empirical research, (3) the impact of the behavioristic philosophy on recent research findings, (4) new sexual paradigms, (5) the climate of “enlightened” ethical sensitivity, (6) the AIDS crisis, (7) the impact of Kinship's pro-gay theology, (8) the 1980 declaration by some scholars, (9) troubling views in church publications, and (10) the obliteration of gender role distinctions--may help explain why attitudes are changing within the Adventist church on the issue of homosexuality.

    As a result of these reasons (and perhaps others), there is uncertainty in the minds of many church members over the nature and morality of homosexuality. Some pro-gay advocates within our ranks are slowly moving the church towards a full- or qualified-acceptance view of homosexuality. Before evaluating the arguments being used to domesticate homosexuality in the Adventist church, it may first be necessary to summarize the three major positions pleading for audience in the Christian church.  [Chapter 3 of the author’s Must We Be Silent offers the summary. It is reproduced on this DrPipim.org website in the article “Three Conflicting Views on Homosexuality.”]

    Endnotes

[1]    According to Elvin Benton, “in early January 1977, a handful who had responded to a newspaper ad placed by a gay Adventist met in Palm Desert, California. It was the beginning of Kinship, and by April there were 75 members, a temporary chairman and four committees: membership, educational, social, and spiritual. . . . The organization was incorporated in March 1981 as Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Incorporated. Its mailing list in 10 countries now approaches 500 and includes a broad spectrum of occupations. The ratio of professional people is disproportionately high. A significant number are denominational employees, most of whom, understandably, use pseudonyms in their relationship to Kinship. Almost all are or have been Seventh-day Adventist church members. Several are friends of Adventists and would become church members except for what they perceive to be the church's negative attitude toward their homosexuality” (Elvin Benton, “Adventists Face Homosexuality,” Spectrum 12/3 [April 1982]: 33). Because the pro-gay stance of Kinship is at variance with the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the SDA church has dissociated itself from Kinship. For a discussion of the relationship between Kinship and the SDA Church, see Michael Pearson, Millennial Dreams and Moral Dilemmas: Seventh-day Adventism and Contemporary Ethics (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 256-265.
[2]    Lin Ennis, "Seeker of Truth, Finder of Reality," in In Our Own Words,227-239, 232.
[3]    The entire issue of the November 4, 1992, Student Movement was devoted to homosexuality. The letter from the homosexual couple is found on page 15 of that issue.
[4]    Yoonah Kim, "The Love that Dares Not Speak Its Name," Student Movement, November 4, 1992, 9
[5]    The idea of having a special camp meeting (or kamp meeting) for homosexual Adventists was born at an early 1980 Kinship board meeting. According to Benton, the August 1980 camp meeting "was a major event in the long story of Adventist homosexuals” (Benton, “Adventists Face Homosexuality,” 32, 33).
[6]    The six scholars and pastors consisted of three biblical and theological scholars (James J. C. Cox, Lawrence Geraty and Fritz Guy), two representing pastoral concerns (James Londis and Josephine Benton) and one, an outspoken opponent of Kinship, who had run a recovery ministry for homosexuals for many years, disagreed with the majority conclusion (Colin Cook). For a summary of the meeting, see Elvin Benton, “Adventists Face Homosexuality,” Spectrum 12/3 (April 1982):32-38.
[7]    Elvin Benton, “Adventists Face Homosexuality,” Spectrum 12/3 (1982):35. At the time of the 1980 Kinship camp meeting, James J. C. Cox was professor of New Testament at the Andrews University Theological Seminary; he has since served as president of Avondale College in Australia. Old Testament scholar Lawrence T. Geraty was professor of archeology and history of antiquity at the Seminary at Andrews University; he has since served as president of Atlantic Union College and currently serves as president of La Sierra University. Fritz Guy was professor of systematic theology at the Seminary; he currently teaches theology and philosophy at La Sierra University, Riverside, California.
[8]    See my Receiving the Word, chapters 4 and 5 (part 1), 75-113.
[9]    Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (Washington, DC: Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1988), 303. Produced by some 194 SDA thought leaders around the world, this "carefully researched" volume is to be received "as representative of . . . [what] Seventh-day Adventists around the globe cherish and proclaim," and as furnishing "reliable information on the beliefs of our [SDA] church" (ibid., vii, iv, v).
[10]    The articulation of the official church position on homosexuality was taken up by the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference. See Ronald Springett, Homosexuality in History and the Scriptures (Washington, DC: Biblical Research Institute, 1988).

[11]    See, for example, Kate McLaughlin (pseudonym), “A Homosexual in My Congregation?” Ministry, November 1996, 10-11, 29; idem, “Are Homosexuals God’s Children?” Adventist Review, April 3, 1997, 26-29; Insight, December 5, 1992, 1-16; Phillip Whidden, “Gays, Gabriel, and Dynamo Truth,” in the Collegiate Quarterly (January-March 2000), 97; Jim Miller (as told to Celeste Ryan), "I'm Homosexual, I'm Adventist, and I have AIDS: The Jim Miller Story," Adventist View, Winter 1993, 9, 15; Beth Schaefer, "Homosexual Warfare," View, Special 1999 issue, 18-21; Tessa Willow (pseudonym), “Still Our Son,” Women of Spirit, May-June 2000; Katie Tonn-Oliver, “Virginia Cason: More Than A Daughter,” Women of Spirit, Winter 1996; Kate McLaughlin, “When Your Child Doesn’t Choose Your Lifestyle,” Women of Spirit, Spring 1995. Occasionally, the published works take the form of well-crafted “interviews” with Adventist homosexuals. See, for example, Bruce Moyer’s interview with Ron (pseudonym), “ A Cry from the Valley of Death,” Ministry, November 1996, 23–25, 29; Reni Dupertuis’s interview with Donald J. Freeman, “To Every Nation, Tongue and People (Including Sexual Orientation),” Scanner [a publication of the Glendale City, California,SDA Church], Winter 1999, 9-11. These eye-opening interviews may reveal as much about the views of the interviewees as that of the interviewers.
[12]    Christopher Blake, "Redeeming Our Sad Gay Situation: A Christian Response to the Question of Homosexuality," Insight, December 5, 1992, 4-16. Similar views are presented in articles carried in the July-August 1999 issue of Adventist Today. The cover title of that issue of Adventist Today is “Adventism and Homosexuality Today: What’s in the Closet?” The troubling articles include Kate McLaughlin’s (pseudonym) “Mom, Dad, I’m Gay,” 10-11; Norman Brown’s (pseudonym) “Reluctant Homosexual, Forgiving Marriage,” 13-15; [Anonymous SDA Pastor’s] “Adventist Pastor, Husband, Homosexual,” 16; Jim Miller’s “The Bible on Homosexuality,” 17-19. Though it not an official publication of the church, many of it’s writers hold membership in the Seventh-day Adventist church.
[13]    Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (1995), 154, 169; emphasis mine. The wording in the current (1995) Church Manual is based on the revisions made at the 1990 GC session in Indianapolis (see, 1990 Church Manual, 147, 160, 173). It may be argued that both the 1990 and 1995 Church Manuals do not explicitly condemn "homosexuality and lesbianism" (which would have implied an adherence to the non-acceptance position), but merely condemn "homosexual practices and lesbian practices" (which implies a tacit endorsement of the qualified-acceptance position). Christopher Blake makes this argument (see his "Redeeming Our Sad Gay Situation," 11). However, by making the practice of homosexuality a basis for church discipline, the delegates at the 1990 and 1995 GC sessions made it clear that they still adhered to a "non-acceptance" position on homosexuality.
[14]    Ronald Lawson, the "liaison" between the SDA Kinship organization and the SDA Church, maintains that the attempted subtle shift in the position of the SDA Church is attributed to the role of an SDA Kinship "kampmeeting graduate" who was on the committee drafting changes in the Church Manual. The original drafted document had explicitly condemned "homosexuality and lesbianism." The "kampmeeting graduate," Lawson explains, "feeling that the presence of large numbers of conservative Third World delegates would make it impossible to liberalize the statement once it reached the floor [1985 General Conference Session], he got together with friends, including several other veterans of kampmeetings, to try to modify the draft in advance. As they read the situation, it was impossible at that stage to avert the change totally. Consequently, they focused their efforts on changing language which would have condemned 'homosexuality and lesbianism', a sweeping rejection of their very being, to a somewhat more limited condemnation of 'homosexual and lesbian practices.' They were successful in this. Nevertheless, the new statement, which replaced much vaguer language, for the first time labeled this 'practice' as unacceptable and a basis for discipline." See Ronald Lawson, "The Caring Church?: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and Its Homosexual Members," a paper prepared for the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (Washington, DC, November 1992), 7; the same paper was presented at the meeting of the Andrews Society for Religious Study at San Francisco, November 1992. Some perceptive Adventists have argued that the attempt made at the 1995 GC session to modify the relevant sections on homosexuality was yet another attempt by advocates of pro-gay theology to chip away the church's non-acceptance position.
[15]    In the Seventh-day Adventist Church the two influential books endorsing women's ordination are: Patricia A. Habada and Rebecca Frost Brillhart, eds., The Welcome Table: Setting A Place for Ordained Women (Langley Park, MD: TEAMPress, 1995); and Nancy Vyhmeister, ed., Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1998). While the former often employs the arguments of liberal feminism, the latter adopts the egalitarian arguments of Evangelical feminism. Whereas my response to the former volume is found in Receiving the Word, 119-129, my detailed critique of the latter will appear in the next section of Must We Be Silent?

[16]    Jeane Haerich, "Genesis Revisited," in The Welcome Table, 101, 100. The obliteration of gender differentiation in Genesis 2 is only a few steps away from positing homosexuality or bisexuality in the first created pair. And since human beings were created in God's image, if Adam was "an androgynous being" does it not mean that God also is androgynous? One wonders what is really behind the gender-inclusive reconstructions of the Bible: "Son of God" becomes "Child of God"; "Son of Man" becomes "Human one"; "our heavenly Father" becomes "our heavenly Parent." Is this also the reason an Adventist author promotes the Holy Spirit as the female member of the Godhead and repeatedly refers to the Creator as "He/She"? See Steve Daily, Adventism for a New Generation (Portland/Clackamas, Ore.: Better Living Publishers, 1993), 88, 105, 113.
[17]    This basic argument underlies Women in Ministry, the pro-ordination book by some faculty of Andrews University. The clearest articulation of this view in the book is Richard M. Davidson's article "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," 259-295. Denying that God made man the head of the home at creation, the article argues that God's original plan for the home was "total equality in marriage" ( 267), or "total egalitarianism in the marriage relationship" ( 269), or "headship among equals" ( 270), expressions understood to mean the absence of role differentiation before the Fall ( 264, 267, 269). For him the biblical teaching of male headship and female submission implies "functional superiority/inferiority" ( 260). Though he believes that "headship" was instituted after the Fall, it is his view that God's original plan of "total egalitarianism in the marriage relationship" is still the same in the post-fall situation "as it was for Adam and Eve in the beginning" ( 269). In other words, today, as at the beginning, there should be no "ontological or functional" role distinctions. Rather, Christians should aspire for the "ideal" of "full equality" in their homes ( 284). Cf. Peter M. Van Bemmelen, "Equality, Headship, and Submission in the Writings of Ellen G. White," in Women in Ministry, 297-311.
[18]    For a response to the "full equality" argument, see my unpublished article "Ideology or Theology: An Analysis and Evaluation of Women in Ministry" (1999).
[19]    Howard ‘duke’ Holtz, “Re: Women’s Ordination,” October 29, 2000. http://www.sdanet.org/archive/2000/Oct32000/0313.html. As I will show in the next section of this book, indeed, the so-called biblical arguments for women’s ordination are as flimsy as those being used to support homosexuality.
[20]    I raised that point on the GC session floor in Toronto, but I'm not sure how many people fully understood the theological implications of my point. To them, homosexuality and women's ordination issues where unrelated to the divorce and remarriage discussion on the floor. In fact one associate editor of the Adventist Review expressed "surprise" at my comment. He apparently believed the comment by one delegate that those of us questioning the theological fuzziness of the divorce and remarriage proposal were appealing to those with "a scare mentality." See Roy Adams, “Fireworks in the Dome ,” Adventist Review, July 5, 2000, 2-3.