LGBTIQ and the Church

This is not a topic I am anxious to address for a number of reasons. It is a hot-button topic, which often infuriates people from multiple perspectives. It has political implications, which isn’t a lot of fun these days. But if you work at a faith-based institution of higher education in California, you can’t avoid the topic. And if you are a church administrator anywhere in North America (or increasingly in much of the world), you can’t avoid the topic either. To compound matters, scientific and biblical knowledge about the topic is increasing exponentially at the same time most people would prefer not to have their pre-conceived opinions on the subject challenged. So in many ways this blog project is a no-win proposition. But decades ago I made a commitment to God to speak the truth as I see it, without fear or favor, so here goes anyway.

Because of extensive conversations on the topic at my home institution, Loma Linda University, I have had to get up to speed on many issues related to LGBTIQ. Recently I have been asked to consult with a number of Seventh-day Adventist Church entities at the conference, union and division level. These consultations have gone surprisingly well, and my contributions have been considered game changers for many. World church leadership is also seeking to make its way forward on this issue, maintaining faithfulness to the testimony of the Bible regarding sexuality, on the one hand, but also faithfulness to the Bible’s call to exercise compassion for every human being as a “soul for whom Christ died” (see Romans 14:15 and 1 Corinthians 8:11). I have been asked, therefore, to offer my contribution to the discussion in this format and to be one of many voices helping the church find its way on this issue. I will express important principles that I have learned from attention to the Bible, science and experience. In doing so, I speak as an individual, I do not represent the position of Loma Linda University or any other organization. But I do speak as a committed Christian and a committed member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I supports its teaching on marriage and sexuality as the ideal that all should strive for within their capabilities.

There is a personal element in this topic for me. Back in the 1950s, when I was still in the single digits, an aunt moved into our home from another country, which had suffered greatly during World War II. She was “different,” but a lot of fun, except for the smoking, which I didn’t particularly care for. People quietly talked about 1945 and some really bad things that had happened to her then. She didn’t particularly care for men, or for God, for that matter. A while after, my mom said that her “friend” would be coming over and also living with us. I was way too sheltered to suspect anything unusual about the arrangement until I was a lot older. But I loved both women and I was sure that God loved them at least as much as I did. So when the gay and lesbian movement became public knowledge, I was not taken by surprise the way some of my friends were. When I moved to Loma Linda University in 2007, and became aware of the ferment on this issue in the State of California the following year, I was more than willing to learn all I could about the topic and help the University navigate some of these issues.

2 thoughts on “LGBTIQ and the Church

  1. Lyle Bennett

    Thank you for addressing this highly charged issue. It has been hiding in the shadows too long. My question is, How does my SDA Church reach this group of people with God’s love?
    If I condemn, there is no proximity. If there is no proximity, there is no communication. If there is no communication, there is no gospel.
    Do we expect this suppressed people group to find God without (or even in spite of) the church? What then is the mission or purpose of the church?

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      I would see the church going on two tracks. At the global level you need to run a harder line so no one is confused as to what we believe. But at the local church level such a hard line would be very hurtful in most situations. So as long as the central hard line is not enforced from outside at the local level, I don’t mind where the church is on the topic. But in my local church I will treat gays as sincere followers of Jesus who need some shaping up just as much as I do, but maybe of a different kind.


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