Back in May 2019, the Swedish Union executive committee issued a position paper entitled, “Room for Everyone: The Values of the Swedish Union . . . of Seventh-day Adventists in Relation to LGBTQ.” The paper is available in both Swedish and English on the union’s website. Fulcrum7 published a News & Commentary item on this paper in late May, 2019.
You will notice similar language between the title and content of this Swedish Executive Committee paper and other books/articles that have been written by Seventh-day Adventist advocates of female headship/ordination in the past (The Welcome Table and A Place at The Table). Coincidence? Not likely.
Claiming to clarify the Swedish position on homosexuality, Room for Everyone is a vague-ventist paper that leaves the reader with far more questions than answers.
Bengt Mellin, leader for the Adventist correspondence school in Sweden, has written a letter in response to the paper written by the Swedish Union about LGBTQ. We thought it was one of the best responses to the LGBTQ+ sin problem that we have seen. We are publishing his letter with the author’s permission:
Comments on the letter "Room for Everyone"
“The letter "Room for Everyone" has been developed to support the Adventist church congregations in Sweden on LGBTQ issues. I have read the document and have some questions and comments that I want to share.
The document talks a lot about love and loving treatment of different types of people and that is of course important. But treating others in a loving way applies to all people, not just those included in LGBTQ. LGBTQ has been raised a lot in the media and has been given a disproportionate amount of space and it is almost only LGBTQ advocates who are being heard.
I hope we agree that the Bible condemns what LGBTQ stands for, and I had hoped that the document would have been more clearly based on Scripture and provided guidelines on how we can be a counterbalance to the one-sided LGBTQ propaganda, and how we can help LGBTQ people live in harmony with God's will. In general, I think the document gives the impression that it is perfectly okay to be LGBTQ, while at the same time suggesting that we support the church's theological view on sex and marriage. This is inconsistent.
It is alleged that SDA in Sweden has failed in its treatment of LGBTQ persons. I would like to know in what way they think SDA has failed. Is it because we have been silent on the issue of fear of addressing a sensitive topic? Or is it that we have said too much and people have felt offended?
Under the heading "What do we want to achieve?" It says that "we want to overcome as many obstacles as possible to make the congregation a safe place for everyone". This sounds very good at first glance. But what is meant by overcoming every obstacle?
Is it a goal in itself for all people to feel comfortable coming to the church and its meetings? In that case, we cannot fully preach the Word of God, because it always makes some people uncomfortable, not least LGBTQ people. Many felt uncomfortable with the message of John the Baptist, not least Herod and Herodias. But many who felt uncomfortable and perhaps offended (the religious Jewish leaders felt definitely offended by both Jesus and John's straight teaching), repented and were saved.
The points in the letter under the heading "We want to confirm ..."
The first point says "We want to affirm that all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity are loved by God."
It is important to know what you mean by "sexual orientation", as it has a great impact on our view of the Bible and ultimately our view of God. If we really believe that people are born with a sexual orientation as advocated by LGBTQ advocates, e.g. that some people are born gay because of their genes, then we get big problems with our God-view and the Bible's clear message on these issues. If we assume that homosexuality is genetic, it means that God condemns homosexuality very strongly and requires that homosexuals throughout their lives, daily, fight against their desires if they are to join the kingdom of God. How does it go with a loving God?
If the document had written "perceived sexual orientation" there would have been no problems. Homosexuality is a consequence of the fall of sin, but with the Bible as the starting point and the assurance that God is perfectly just and fully loving, homosexuality cannot possibly be genetically conditioned, because then God is neither fair nor loving.
I know, however, that homosexuals often claim that they are born homosexuals, and that Christian homosexuals use this to live out their homosexuality. But perceived homosexuality is a consequence of a confused society in rebellion against God's standards and rules. Because of our diseased society, many people can perceive being gay without actually being it biologically. If God really means what He says in His Word, people who experience being gay can get help from God to get rid of their desires, just as we can get help with all other desires.
Such a basic view of homosexuality is completely politically incorrect today, but we must follow the Bible and not the world, no matter what it costs in the form of scorn and ridicule. But no matter how we look at whether homosexuality is genetic or has other causes, we must trust and believe that God can help these individuals overcome sexual attraction to the same sex.
"Gender identity" is a commonly used term today and refers to people, trans-gender, who perceive themselves to be a different gender than they are biologically, and often want to live out their identity and require of the everyone in the environment to be treated as the gender they perceive to be. But as Christians and Bible believers, we must also rely here on the Bible and not fall prey to society's prevailing beliefs.
The Bible says very clearly that God created men and women and condemned acts in which men behave like women and vice versa. The fact that transgender experiences having the "wrong" gender can, in general, also be explained by the fact that we live in an unnatural society. Much can probably also be explained by the fact that we—through media etc.—have got a distorted view of what is male and female respectively.
A male man should be tough and hard, not cry or be sensitive, while a female woman is expected to have qualities that are not necessarily true female. This has certainly contributed to the view that boys and men who are not tough and hard and do not want to fight etc. are looked upon as being unmanly. This could in turn lead to that they more easily identify themselves as being of the opposite sex. The same goes for girls and women regarding femininity.
The second point in the letter says that we feel sorrow and ask for forgiveness if some people feel violated or not treated with love. Yes, feeling grief can never be wrong in this case, no matter what causes people to feel offended or ill-treated. But, the fact that people feel offended or ill-treated does not necessarily mean that they have been offended or ill-treated.
In today's extremely egotistical society, many find it difficult to see the difference between insult and constructive criticism. Anything that restricts one's own freedom to live as one wants, is taken as an offense or to have been ill-treated.
To make a negative statement about LGBTQ is often perceived as hurting or treating LGBTQ people badly, but in such cases there is no reason to ask for forgiveness. If the church has generally treated LGBTQ people in an unChristian way, is it naturally appropriate to ask for forgiveness, but has it really happened to such an extent that we as a church must ask for forgiveness for it in a written letter? A fuzzy statement about forgiveness without pointing to anything concrete that requires a "forgive" erases what a true "forgive" means and finally the word "forgive" has no real value.
Third point: The Bible's teaching on marriage between man and woman is portrayed as ideal for sexual relations, but at the same time it is said we affirm all people's need for closeness, meaningful fellowship and loving relationships. I cannot interpret the statement other than that the ideal of sexual relations is within the marriage between a man and woman, but that it is also perfectly okay outside marriage for those who need it. If that is not what they mean, what do they then want to communicate with the statement?
Fourth point: Do they mean that LGBTQ is less wrong due to that non-LGBT people have not achieved perfection? All sin must be judged on the basis of what it is in itself, not in relation to the sins of others. Otherwise all sinful behavior can be defended by pointing out that all people sin, and then we get a religion of deeds in which one's righteousness is judged in relation to the righteousness of other people.
Fifth point: See what I have written under the fourth point.
Sixth point: If one affirms that only Jesus can save and transform mankind, then it should well mean that in Jesus' power, LGBTQ people can live a Christlike life free of LGBTQ,
"You shall give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21)
Seventh point: The LGBTQ movement likes to portray sexuality as more complex than it actually is, at least in the questions of what is right or wrong according to the Bible. It is in human nature to try to explain away sin by making it appear more complex than it is.
Ellen White says that sin is inexplicable, and to excuse it is to defend it (The Great Controversy, p.473). Sin is a violation of the law (1 John 3: 4), and what LGBTQ stands for is a violation of God's law. As Christians, we should not make the Bible's message more difficult than it is.
By the way, in the letter, what do they mean by "sexuality is part of each person's unique personality"? If it is now being said that sexuality affects many parts of life, then it should be even more important for us to help people become free from a destructive LGBT lifestyle.
Eighth point: "We want to affirm that the Adventist community's pastors, Bible workers, leaders, and members wish to support LGBTQ's need for spiritual development and surrender to Christ in a safe community regardless of theological perception of sexual orientation or attitude toward sexual practice."
How can this be confirmed? I am both a member, Bible worker and leader, but have not been asked if I want to support the above. I want to support LGBTQ's need for spiritual development and surrender to Christ, but a true surrender to Christ is exactly what it means; that you submit to the terms of God, not your own terms, as LGBTQ will. You cannot both eat the cake and keep it.
What is meant by "regardless of theological perception of sexual orientation or attitude toward sexual practice "? Is it referred to the theological perception and attitude of the church or the perception and attitude of LGBTQ people?
Ninth point: How do they know that pastors, Bible workers and church leaders need education and deepened understanding of LGBTQ? You do not need it regarding all possible groups of people; alcoholics, gambling addicts, Muslims, Hindus etc? If you spend more time learning more about LGBTQ, you have to take time away from something else, and what would it be? Why is LGBTQ so much more important than other groups / phenomena?
Tenth point: “We want to confirm that sexual orientation and gender identity is not in itself an obstacle to membership and service. The local church has the authority and responsibility to decide in each individual case and under the direction of the Holy Spirit on who becomes a member, serves in, and represents the local church according to the biblical principles we share."
An attraction to homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. should of course never be an obstacle to membership and service, we can all agree on this, so this confirmation does not give us any practical help on how to go handle membership questions and service of LGBTQ persons. But how do you deal with people who are openly gay, but say they don't have sex with same-sex individuals? If they join pride parades and participate in other LGBTQ contexts and thus provide support for LGBTQ? If a woman is married to another woman but claims that they do not have sex with each other? If a woman identifies as a man and dresses as a man? The questions are many but they get no answers.
Eleventh point: “We confirm that the Adventist community needs to continue to work with the challenges and opportunities that the church is facing in relation to LGBTQ. Union leaders, church leaders, and churches need to continue the study of God's Word and develop conversation with and about LGBTQ to make the church a safe and welcoming place for everyone. "
I have nothing to add to what I have already written.
Comments on the text under the paragraph "Forward in love":
Jesus is an example for us in dealing with human weakness. However, according to the quote from Ellen White from the book Gospel Workers, He however pronounced sharp rebuke. Here is another quote by Ellen White that applies to how we handle LGBTQ:
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men,—men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name” (The Way to Maturity, p. 70).
The document's recommendations under the heading "The working group's recommendations to the community board":
It is recommended that the material "Guiding Families of LGBT + Loved Ones", prepared by NAD, will be translated and processed into Swedish. It would be interesting to know how the material relates to LGBTQ. NAD who produced the material is very liberal in itself regarding LGBTQ. How much does it cost to translate the material and distribute it to the persons concerned? What is the total cost of producing study materials, and how much time will be spent by employees and members only on the LGBTQ issue? What other issues gets so much resources at its disposal?
[Fulcrum7 articles on the Guiding Families book:
What literature and which lecturers and organizations should be used to train pastors and church leaders? What will be the cost of this? How much time is expected of pastors and elders to spend on this? The organizations that are most engaged in Sweden regarding LGBTQ are probably RFSL and RFSU. I work as a teacher myself and have been on a study day under the direction of RFSU and seen their material that they use in schools. Not to say too much, their message about sexuality is diametrically opposed to the Bible's message.
This document makes me very worried. What drives us as a global church is the belief in Jesus' near return and that the Message of the Three Angels should reach out to all people in the world before the door of mercy is closed, and that God in grace has entrusted us with the mission to reach out with this message.
We believe that time is very short and we know that very few in our country even have a clue about the big battle issues. Do we really think that we are doing the people of our country a favor through such a huge investment and focus on the LGBTQ issue? Certainly the world will praise us, but we cannot expect any praise from God, which is the only thing we should fear.
As I see it, the spirit of this document is in direct conflict with the position of our global church and the teachings of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. Many non-Adventists ask me how our Church stands on issues that has to do with for example LGBTQ. What should I answer them? How should I handle my role as leader of the Bible Correspondence School, whose mission is to educate people about the Bible and lead them to the decision to receive Bible teaching and become members of our church? The teachings that students receive from this Bible study material does not match the spirit of this document sent out by the Swedish Union.”
Bengt Mellin, leader of the Bible correspondence school for the Seventh-Day Adventist church in Sweden