Volume 14, Number 1
Homosexuality in the Church: Should This "Born-a-Gay" Lifestyle Be Baptized?
What then should we say in response to homosexuals who are coming to church "not only for forgiveness and mercy but to say to the church, as they have to the world, `Homosexuality is not sinful; it is natural to me. God made me this way. He accepts me and my homosexuality as good. Therefore the time has come for the church to accept me as I am and join me in saying that gayness is good'"? Should the "born-a-gay" lifestyle be baptized?
In the light of our discussion in the preceding pages, we cannot but borrow the following words to respond to attempts at domesticating homosexuality and lesbianism in the Seventh-day Adventist church:
"The church cannot condone homosexual activity without betraying its biblical, historical, and spiritual heritage. Its conscious acceptance of the authority and inspiration of Scripture would need to undergo such a radical, liberalizing change that the fundamental teachings of the church would be left without foundation.
"The consequences of such change with its ramifications for theological, ethical, and moral teaching might be labeled by some as progressive, calculated to enlighten the church and produce a more compassionate laity accommodated to the modern society in which it lives. But in reality such a move would be a giant step toward repaganization of the church. The resulting religion would not be a Bible religion or that of the prophets, the Lord, or the apostles, not Christianity except in name."24
In today's climate of "enlightened" ethical sensitivity, the above words and the theological position adopted in this article may seem "judgmental" or "uncompassionate" to some. If so, we must make it absolutely clear that God's grace covers every kind of sin for any believer in Jesus who contritely turns toward God and makes a decisive commitment to turn away from sin. "God can forgive homosexual sin as well as heterosexual sin, sin which is socially acceptable as sin and sin which is not. But the first step in receiving forgiveness is to recognize our wrongdoing as sin."25 This starting point should be the non-negotiable theological foundation for any "ministry" or Christian "support group" that seeks to reach out redemptively to gays and lesbians.
1. Raoul Dederen, "Homosexuality: A Biblical Perspective," Ministry, September 1981, p. 14.
2. In this article, the term "homosexual" or "gay" will be applied to any person (male or female) who, for whatever reasons (genetic, hormonal, environmental, situational, etc.), has an erotic attraction to, or sexual preference or desire for, members of the same sex; "lesbian" refers to a female homosexual. While a "bisexual" is one who has an erotic attraction to members of both sexes, a "heterosexual" is a person who has an erotic attraction to members of the opposite sex. Gay theology or the "born a gay" gospel refers to the attempt to make homosexuality compatible with biblical Christianity.
3. Space limitations will not permit me here to document Adventism's changing attitude to homosexuality. I have done so, however, in my forthcoming book, Must We Be Silent? Among other things, this eye-opening work explains the factors leading to the favorable attitude within our ranks toward homosexuality, women's ordination, and liberal methodology. The book also offers a probing critique of the major arguments often advanced in support of these secular ideologies. This article is a summary and adaptation of my previous work titled "Born a Gay and Born Again: Adventism's Changing Attitude on Homosexuality" (1999), to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society.
4. Kate McLaughlin, "Are Homosexuals God's Children?" Adventist Review, April 3, 1997, pp. 26-29. Cf. Suzanne Ryan, "When Love Wasn't Enough," Insight, December 5, 1992, pp. 2-3; Christopher Blake, "Redeeming Our Sad Gay Situation: A Christian Response to the Question of Homosexuality," Insight, December 5, 1992, pp. 4-5, 6.
5. Choon-Leong Seow, "A Heterotextual Perspective," in Homosexuality and Christian Community, ed. Choon-Leong Seow (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), p. 25.
6. The studies often cited as evidence that homosexuality is inborn include: (1) the 1991 study by neuroscientist Dr. Simon LeVay (whose gay lover's death sparked his research on the brain structures of 41 cadavers); (2) the 1991 research by Northwestern University psychologist Michael Bailey (a gay rights advocate) and Boston University School of Medicine psychiatrist Richard Pillard (who is openly homosexual) on homosexual twins; and (3) the 1993 study by Dr. Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute on the genetic markers on 40 non-identical gay brothers. But these oft-quoted "research findings" have been shown to be misleading and exaggerated, or inconclusive at best. For a succinct review and evaluation of the findings of the above cited researchers and supporting references, see Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow?: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1995), pp. 137-142; Joe Dallas, A Strong Delusion: Confronting the "Gay Christian" Movement (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1996), pp. 107-131.
7. For more on this, see Joe Dallas, "Born Gay?" Christianity Today, June 22, 1992, pp. 20-23.
8. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? p. 133.
9. Dallas, A Strong Delusion, p. 117.
10. This view is articulated in the December 5, 1992, issue of Insight, a publication for Seventh-day Adventist teenagers. This issue of the magazine was devoted entirely to the subject of homosexuality. While the then editor of the magazine maintained that "there is no scriptural support for practicing homosexuality," he nevertheless endorsed the pro-gay theology when he asserted 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." See Christopher Blake, "Redeeming Our Sad Gay Situation: A Christian Response to the Question of Homosexuality," Insight, December 5, 1992, pp. 4-16.
11. Dallas, A Strong Delusion, p. 121.
12. See Andrews University psychology professor John Berecz's "How I Treat Gay and Lesbian Persons," Student Movement, November 11, 1992, p. 7, where he asserts that seeking help in the complex area of homosexuality from "untrained nonprofessionals," such as a local pastor, "is a bit like asking your mailman to remove your gall bladder. If you're seeking sexual re-orientation therapy, a competent professional trained in sex therapy is your best hope."
13. See, for example, D. S. Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London/New York: Longmans, Green, 1955), p. xi.
14. Blake, "Redeeming Our Sad Gay Situation," p. 11, emphasis mine. While condemning homosexuality as a sin, B.B. Beach and John Graz also wrote that "there is a difference between `being gay' and `practicing a homosexual lifestyle'." See B. B. Beach and John Graz, 101 Questions Adventists Ask (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2000), p. 55.
15. Thus, the Andrews University student newspaper carried an article by David Rodgers (pseudonym), a denominational employee who was also Andrews University campus outreach coordinator for the gay group, Kinship. Rodgers stated that his homosexuality "certainly wasn't a choice. . . . God made me this way and it's not something I should change. Or can change" (Yoonah Kim, "The Love that Dares Not Speak Its Name," Student Movement, November 4, 1992, p. 9). The same article referred to "Ann," a 28-year old lesbian who was seeking to transfer her church membership to the Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University. Ann spoke about her committed homosexual relationship in which God plays an important role: "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" (ibid).
16. Stanton L. Jones, "The Loving Opposition," Christianity Today, July 19, 1993, p. 13.
17. Richard Lovelace, The Church and Homosexuality, p. 113.
18. Dallas, Desires in Conflict, p. 276.
19. See my Receiving the Word (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Berean Books, 1996), pp. 241-249, and esp. pp. 279-321. Cf. my unpublished article, "A Bug in Adventist Hermeneutic," 1999, a summary version of which is to be published in a future issue of Ministry under the title, "Questions in the Quest for a Unifying Hermeneutic."
20. Readers will benefit from the following works which challenge the above "accommodation" hypotheses: Ronald A. G. du Preez, Polygamy in the Bible (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventist Theological Society Publications, 1993); Theodore D. Weld, The Bible Against Slavery: Or, An Inquiry into the Genius of the Mosaic System, and the Teachings of the Old Testament on the Subject of Human Rights (Pittsburgh: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1864). These two works offer compelling biblical evidence showing that God at no time tolerated polygamy and slavery as morally legitimate practices for His people. On the issue of the subjugation of women or "patriarchy," see George W. Knight III, The Role Relationship of Men and Women: New Testament Teaching (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1985), and Guenther Haas, "Patriarchy as an Evil that God Tolerated: Analysis and Implications for the Authority of Scripture," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 1995, pp. 321-326. Both authors have challenged the notion that male headship (in the home and church) is an evil practice which God tolerated.
21. Derek Kidner, "Additional Note on the Sin of Sodom," in Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1967), pp. 136, 137.
22. For an argument supporting the permanently binding nature of these passages, see P. Michael Ukleja, "Homosexuality and the Old Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 140/3 (July-September 1983): 259-266, especially pp. 264ff. on "The Relevance of the Law." See also du Preez, Polygamy in the Bible, pp. 70-81.
23. Carl Bridges, Jr. "The Bible Does Have Something to Say About Homosexuality," in Gay Rights Or Wrongs: A Christian's Guide to Homosexual Issues and Ministry, ed. Michael Mazzalongo (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1995), p. 160.
24. Ronald Springett, Homosexuality in History and the Scriptures: Biblical Authority and the Church Today (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Research Institute, 1988), pp. 163, 164.
25. Bridges, Jr., "The Bible Does Have Something to Say About Homosexuality," p. 169.