Evidence of liberal drift within the Adventist denomination in Southern California continues to mount. The latest incident involves the showing of a pro-homosexual documentary at a local Adventist Church.
On August 30, the Vallejo Drive Church of Seventh-day Adventists (VDC), a 1,300 member church located across the street from Glendale Adventist Medical Center in Glendale, California, showed a 99 minute documentary titled “For the Bible Tells Me So” at its Friday evening vespers service. VDC senior pastor Mike Kim confirmed he authorized the documentary.
The documentary, made in 2007 by filmmaker Daniel Karslake, argues that homosexuality is genetic, that homosexuals cannot re-orient their attraction, that therapy designed to help same-sex attracted people live a heterosexual lifestyle is essentially abusive, that Christians have misunderstood the Bible when they have read it as condemning homosexual conduct, and that continuing to hold and propound the view that homosexual conduct is sinful is “spiritual violence.”
The film cuts together interviews of parents of homosexual children with interviews of their gay offspring, and snippets of interviews with liberal Christian theologians. Among the families interviewed are the Robinsons—the parents of gay Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson—and the bishop himself, politician and presidential candidate Richard Gephardt and his wife, who have a lesbian daughter, the Reitans, a family of Minnesota Lutherans who have a gay son, and the Poteats, a southern black family who have a lesbian daughter who attended Yale. Most of the parents tell similar stories of how their view of homosexuality was changed by having a gay child.
Among the theologians interviewed are Lawrence Keene of the Disciples of Christ, the late Rev. Peter Gomes of Harvard, Reformed Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer, Rev. Irene Monroe of Harvard (herself a lesbian), Richard Holloway, a former Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and Jimmy Creech of “Faith in America” (a homosexual activist group). The theologians argue that Christians misunderstand Scripture when they read it as condemning homosexual conduct. They conclude that “homophobia” the real sin, not homosexual conduct.
Near the middle of the film there is an animated short that argues that homosexuality is an inborn, genetic condition. It cites evidence that identical twins are often both gay or both straight (but in at least 30% of cases, one is gay and the other is straight, which would seem to rule out simple genetic causation, since identical twins are monozygotic and begin life genetically identical to each other). The animated short also notes that boys with older brothers are more likely to be homosexual, and proposes a theory that during her first pregnancy with a boy, a mother's body develops anti-male antibodies that become more effective in later pregnancies in producing male effeminacy.
Very early in the film, Harvard theologian Peter Gomes (since deceased) states that perhaps the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church was right in not allowing ordinary people to read the Bible because ordinary people usually get it wrong, “and I'm convinced that usually we do.” Lawrence Keene states that there is nothing wrong with a fifth grader's understanding of God as long as you're in the fifth grade, implying that people who believe God condemns homosexual conduct have a fifth-grader's understanding of God.
The theologians take the position that the problem in Sodom was not the sexual act the Sodomites wanted to perform upon the persons of the strangers/angels, but rather the lack of hospitality shown them; hence the Sodom story does not stand against homosexual conduct, only against a failure of hospitality. Likewise, they argue that Paul, in Romans 1 (the only New Testament passage mentioned) is condemning only exploitative same-sex sexuality, not the loving, committed, monogamous gay relationships that are the rule today (but see my article “The Myth of Male Homosexual Monogamy”). Most Scriptural passages bearing on homosexual conduct are not mentioned in the film.
The film is critical of Pastor James Dobson and his Colorado-based ministry “Focus on the Family,” because Dobson does not believe parents of gay children should offer unqualified, unconditional support of their child's choice of a gay lifestyle. Near the end of the film, the Reitans demonstrate on the street in front of the offices of Focus on the Family, willfully trespass on the campus as part of their protest, and are arrested.
The film also seems to be at pains to equate (or confuse) any condemnation of homosexual conduct with “gay bashing,” that is, physical violence against homosexuals. A theologian chimes in with his view that homosexual conduct is not a sin, but homophobia is a sin and a serious one.
The main focus of the film is V. Gene Robinson, the homosexual Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. While doing an internship in Vermont, Robinson began dating Isabella "Boo" McDaniel. Robinson says he explained his same-sex attraction to McDaniel, but she was undeterred, and so they continued dating and were married in 1972. The couple had two children, both girls. In 1986, Robinson divorced Boo McDaniel and, within a few months, formed an attachment to Mark Andrew while vacationing in St. Croix. Robinson moved in with Mark Andrew shortly thereafter and has openly lived with him ever since. The climax of the documentary is Robinson's consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire, and the celebration of the progress toward the normalization of homosexuality that his elevation to bishop represents.
But what the film does not discuss is that Robinson's elevation to bishop has caused an organizational re-alignment—and nearly a schism—within the Episcopal communion. Many Episcopalians believe that, in ordaining non-celibate homosexual clergy, the church in America has departed from the Anglican faith. Many American Episcopal churches have chosen to dis-affiliate from the ECUSA and affiliate with an African or South American Anglican communion. The Episcopal Church was already in decline, but the decision to consecrate an openly homosexual bishop has, by all accounts, only accelerated that decline. Churches that have tried to leave the ECUSA have usually found that they cannot take their buildings with them. In the past few years, there have been scores of lawsuits over church property, and although the denomination usually wins these struggles—in 2012 alone, the ECUSA spent over $18 million suing its own congregations—at the end of the day the buildings lie fallow and empty. The Episcopal Church has found that it can forcibly retain its buildings, but not its people.
The screening of this documentary was part of an ongoing discussion of homosexuality and the Bible. At a previous Friday evening service, Vallejo Drive Church youth and family pastor Tony Parrish had discussed alternative views of the sin of Sodom based upon texts in Isaiah and Ezekiel. For example, Ezekiel 16:49 (NIV) states, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Also, in response to a question, Parrish described the view of some theologians that the Centurion's servant whom Jesus healed (Mat. 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10) was actually the Centurion's homosexual lover.
If the liberal trend in parts of Adventism cannot be arrested, what should Adventists in those conferences do? Where should they place their membership? Where should they pay their tithe? These questions will become more pressing as parts of Adventism go the way of the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and other liberal denominations in promoting the normalization of homosexual conduct.
Updated on Sept. 19, 2013