Gays in the Family was a weekend seminar held in Gladstone, Ore., seeking to reaffirm the Adventist Church position on homosexuality while emphasizing the need of a loving attitude toward gay individuals.
Gays in the Family was a weekend seminar held held April 5 & 6, 2013, in Gladstone, Ore., for Seventh-day Adventist church members within the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC). Its purpose was to clarify the important relationship between the Adventist position on homosexuality and the biblical mandate to love all God’s children—including those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered (GLBT) .
While the Adventist Church believes the Bible teaches that sexual intimacy is only appropriate when experienced between a married couple of opposite genders, it is also attempting to understand the reality of same-sex attraction and of those who identify as GLBT.
Indeed there are some who feel this event did not go far enough in examining all the issues that surround this important topic. But the intent of this initial Gays in the Family event was to approach the Adventist position from the framework of God’s big-picture command to love all His children. Many members feel caught between traditional biblical teachings and rapidly changing societal attitudes. This was the first public attempt by the NPUC to compare fact and fiction and biblical principles with cultural norms. It was an opportunity to help parents understand their GLBT sons and daughters are worthy of love, not rejection.
Many questions still remain. Will Adventist churches become a safe place where GLBT people can feel loved and welcomed? Will current and future Adventist members learn to love as Jesus does? Will popular culture trump biblical counsel? Will state and federal legislation on same-sex marriage or civil unions impact the church’s current stance?
This site offers no immediate solutions to those questions. But in the following pages you’ll have an opportunity to explore the content of the Gays in the Family event and contemplate God’s counsel for yourself.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
We extend our deep appreciation to our speakers for their willingness to share their hearts and expertise this weekend. Our desire was to bring together a group of speakers who, while being in harmony with the church’s position, can speak to the issues from a variety of viewpoints. We won’t be able to say everything this weekend -- There will be more to be said! But we hope this event can help us, as individuals and as a church, become both more knowledgeable and more effective in loving one another.
The issues surrounding same-sex attraction have torn up churches and families. They have been the source of deep and unrelenting guilt and shame; they have driven countless gays into suicide. Can we have a safe and open conversation? Can we sort fact from fiction? Can we heal the hurts? With God as our guide, we can -- and we must!
Scott LeMert is currently the Senior Pastor at the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland. Prior to that, he was Assistant to the President of the Oregon Conference. With graduate degrees in religion and human behavior, Scott has a burning desire to bring understanding and healing to all of God's family and to create emotionally and spiritually safe churches for everyone.
Wayne’s mother wanted a baby girl, and she was profoundly disappointed when he was born. Because of her disapproval, Wayne wanted very much to be a girl; but because of her abuse, he certainly couldn’t imagine being in the arms of one. These feelings were fueled by early sexual experiences with other boys and the taunting from others because he was different. His childhood confusion only increased as he grew older until finally, emotionally weakened and drained, Wayne was more than ready to respond to the seemingly open and loving arms of the gay community. But was it the pure love he thirsted for or an imitation?
Having left the church at eighteen, Wayne lived openly gay for nearly forty years. His (adoptive) parents didn’t condemn him – they loved him with the love of Jesus and prayed faithfully for him. How did God reach him? and what was the lightening bolt experience that led him to surrender his homosexual behavior in exchange for an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ?
Today God has given him a ministry, Know His Love, sharing that "all things are possible through Jesus Christ." He and his ministry colleagues share their stories of freedom and "redemption" around the world.
One of the first steps in bringing peace to a family in conflict surrounding homosexuality is to help them understand a little better the research on the subject and to learn a little more about viewing all people through Gospel glasses. We must clear up some of the common misconceptions surrounding homosexuality. For example: Does a kid become gay because of how the mother raised him or her? Will it “spread” to other family members? Is it possible, once a family member has “come out”, to ever have a happy Thanksgiving Dinner together again?
In Lucy's many years of being a therapist in private practice (currently in Ashland, OR), and in teaching at Loma Linda University, she has counseled with numerous gay individuals and couples, and with their parents and families. She understands the turmoil of the family members, as well as what it does to a gay individual when he or she is rejected by either the family or the church. She also understands the power of healthy boundaries, mutual respect, and – most importantly – the power of love in spite of differences.
When he saw a dramatic change in his sister and her ex-husband, Mike was inspired to attend some evangelistic meetings with them. He’d had a heart for God as a Catholic child and had been baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist at fifteen. He’d been away from the Lord for twenty years and attended the meetings with his sister only sporadically. On the last night, however, he came under conviction, gave his life to Jesus, and... was baptized the very next day. There was one complication: He was still living with his wealthy boyfriend, who was also his partner in a very successful business.
The journey since then has been an amazing one, both as the Lord has led in circumstances and in Mike’s discovery of his lost masculinity. As Jesus addressed the wounds that went back to an age before he was even conscious, He started to "restore the years the locusts had eaten". Joel 2:25 He has provided Mike with healing and with powerful answers for what he thought he was born with, and what he thought was his destiny in homosexuality. The last twelve years have been a profound process of healing, discovery, redemption, and ministry. EXCEED Ministry
When Virna’s family converted to Adventism when she was a teenager, she thought her struggles with homosexuality were finally over. She began dating a man from church, but the pressure he put on her for sex underlined her distrust and fear of men. She attended Loma Linda University and served as a student missionary, but when she wasn’t able to return to college, she dropped away from church. Before too long, she became involved in her first long-term same-sex relationship. Eventually, she and a long-term partner would have a baby together, with Virna being the first lesbian woman in California to file for Second Parent Adoption, an extension of rights afforded to same-sex couples who were registered with the state as Domestic Partners.
At the time Virna “came out”, her mother’s heart was broken, but she just said, “You’re my daughter, and I love you no matter what.” Eventually, the Lord broke through, and Virna dug out her Bible and found an Adventist Church, where she was warmly welcomed and eventually rebaptized. All her life, she thought that God did not want anything to do with her. Now she knows the truth – He had been longing for her to want Him more than anything else. By Beholding His Love
For the most part, it is neither legalism nor hypocrisy but rather the lack of information and understanding that fuel unhealthy attitudes toward homosexuals. We must reexamine certain theological opinions that hinder ministry to gays and interfere with the ideal of a church that is open to and equipped with expertise and love to attract those who long to find healing inside her fold. For one thing, Christians cannot assume that anyone is in the state of unpardonable sin.
“My sincerest desire,” says Dr. Kis, “is that I had known years ago what I know now about the distinction between homosexuality, homosexuals, and homosexual acts. It is clear that more education and information should reach every pew of our churches.” Dr. Kis is Professor of Ethics at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. His perspective on the issues has been informed by both his study and by his relationships with the people to whom he ministers.
Lisa remembers being attracted to the same sex as early as six years old, having crushes on female teachers and classmates throughout elementary school. When she and her family converted to Seventh-day Adventism during her eighth-grade year, her efforts to please God and others intensified – But so did her depression as she struggled with the disparity between what she felt she was inside and the life she was trying to live on the outside. In spite of a renewed Christian experience as she entered an Adventist college, the temptations she encountered in the girls’ dorm pulled her down. When her sister “came out”, her depression became debilitating, but she determined she would not “come out”. She spent days on end in her room doing Bible studies, praying and writing out promises on flash cards which she stuck all over her room. She would occasionally have spiritual highs, but get sucked back into her depression and fantasy life, which eventually included an addiction to lesbian chat rooms. When she encountered serious health problems, she believed God was punishing her.
As her sister, Virna, came back to the Lord, Lisa joined her. Now, as co-founders of By Beholding His Love Ministry, they address the possible cause & affects of emotional addiction, same-sex attraction and homosexuality. It is their urgent desire and fervent commitment to encourage others to turn to the only source for complete healing and restoration – Jesus Christ. By Beholding His Love
Due in part to abuse Ron experienced as a child, he struggled with sexual confusion throughout his growing-up years. Nevertheless, he was sincere as he served as a missionary, trained for the ministry and began his heterosexual marriage. He stunned everyone when he left his marriage and his two young children behind to pursue the gay lifestyle.
Fifteen years later, during his third long-term monogamous relationship, Ron was drawn back to the Lord – and into ministry. Through much prayer, study of God’s Word, and guidance of the Holy Spirit, he was able to find the answers to his “gay questions” and walk away from his gay life and into his new life in Christ. Being remarried now 20 years, he is the husband of one, the father of five, and the grandfather of five. By God’s grace, he is a minister of the gospel and has been the pastor of a local church for 21 years. He’s a radio evangelist, an author, a recording artist, an international concert musician and speaker with “The Narrow Way Ministry” (a Seventh-day Adventist Supporting Ministry).
How should the church respond to same-sex attracted individuals? Should we welcome any and all who come to worship with us? Can we be welcoming without condoning behaviors we recognize to be unbiblical? What would a welcoming and redeeming church look like? How can we learn to love like Jesus loves?
George Gainer pastors the Pleasant Valley Church in Happy Valley, Oregon. In his years as a youth pastor, teacher, academy and college campus chaplain, George has counseled and walked alongside a number of individuals dealing with same-sex attraction. His purpose and privilege is to pastor a welcoming and redeeming church.
Really? One of the presentations is a DVD? Yes. We had hoped Dr. Nelson would be able to be here in person, and while a DVD is obviously not as ideal as having him live, we are moving ahead with it because the presentation is so powerful and so “on point” to what we’re doing this weekend. This is the sermon Dr. Nelson gave on the Sabbath following the conference held at Andrews called “Marriage, Homosexuality and the Church”. One of the things we appreciate about the presentation is that he calls all of us – not just homosexuals, but heterosexuals as well – to a life of sexual purity.
Dwight Nelson pastors the Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
It is our prayer that hearing these stories will give all of us a better understanding of the tremendous struggles and challenges those who are same-sex attracted face; the ways Christians can make it more difficult or easier for them to fellowship in the church and, most importantly, embrace Christ; and to give us renewed hope in the power and grace of God to redeem us and those we love.
Homosexuality has long been a divisive issue that has generated strong emotional responses. Be it through unhealthy discourse, prejudice, or even silence there has been much pain as a result. The church is no exception to this. This hurt and confusion regarding homosexuality compels us not to respond in silence but to address the issues with love.
This resource page was created as a way to assist and equip believers in their relationship to this topic. Whether you find yourself here because of your own orientation, that of a relative or close friend, or simply to better understand a biblical perspective, we welcome you.
On a topic like this one, it may be that the only book or website a person might completely agree with would be the one he or she would write themselves. The resources here, from a variety of Christian sources, are ones that many have found useful in navigating this terrain. We hope they are a blessing to you.
For a list of all official church statements on family issues.
“Issues related to marriage can be seen in their true light only as they are viewed against the background of the divine ideal marriage. Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus Christ to be both monogamous and heterosexual, a lifelong union of loving companionship between a man and a woman. In the culmination of His creative...” Read the full statement.
“The family tie is the closest, the most tender and sacred of any human relationship on earth. God instituted the family as the primary provider of the warm and caring relationships for which the human heart yearns...” Read the full statement.
“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...” Read the full statement.
“Over the past several decades the Seventh-day Adventist Church has felt it necessary to clearly state in various ways its position in regards to marriage, the family, and human sexuality. These subjects are at the heart of many pressing issues facing society. That which for centuries has been considered to be basic Christian morality in the marriage setting is now...” Read the full statement.
Who sponsored "Gays in the Family"?
North Pacific Union Conference Family Ministries planned and organized this special event, held April 5-6, 2013, at the Holden Convention Center in Gladstone, Ore. The North Pacific Union Conference is the regional administrative office for the Seventh-day Adventist Church with specific responsibilities to church entities within the Northwestern states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
What was the purpose for the event?
Adventist members throughout the Northwest are struggling with how apply biblical teachings and principles to the reality of what they experience in their families and churches. How does Christ’s example of love affect our own attitudes and actions in real world situations? This event was designed to help many begin to seriously, biblically and compassionately discover how love plays out where the tension between principle and practice exists.
Was the content similar to the Seventh-Gay Adventist film being screened in many U.S. cities?
No, but we agree on the importance of listening and understanding. The content of Gays in the Family was consistent with the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which believes the Bible teaches that sexual intimacy is designed for married partners of the opposite sex. But the Bible also teaches that all seekers of Jesus are worthy of His love and grace. How this relates to our church and family life was the focus of this event.
Are the presentations available here on video?
Yes, all the presentations were recorded and are available on the presentations page of this site. More information is also available here on each main speaker.
Are these presentations the final word on the topic for Adventists in the Northwest and beyond?
This event was the first step of a journey to apply the Adventist position on homosexuality to practical realities Northwest members face within their families and churches. There is much still to learn and unlearn as we seek to love as Jesus does. You will find additional information on the resources page.
Following are some general observations on the topic of how the Seventh-day Adventist Church relates to the GLBT discussion, summarized by Cheri Corder, Oregon Conference family ministries director. These observations come in response to continuing dialog with church leaders, members and families of GLBT individuals.