Bonus episode discussing an upcoming "Human Sexuality Taskforce" announced by Ted Wilson, President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Why talk about this? Because I care about the current and former Adventists who will be affected by this. Apparently the GC's homophobia is not clear enough, so they will be producing media to double down on this.
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[00:00:00] Santiago: Human Sexuality Task Force. Is it just me, or does that sound dystopian? Hey everyone, welcome back to Haystacks and Hell. I'm Santiago, and this is going to be a quick informal bonus episode. We need to talk about a new "Human Sexuality Task Force" that was just announced by Ted Wilson, the General Conference President of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
[00:00:30] First of all, why talk about this? Why bother with the nonsense the GC is putting out? It's because I care about the people who are in the SDA system. And I care about the people that are still affected by it, even if they've left, because of family or friends or other people in their lives that are still in it.
[00:00:54] And if we're being honest, this theology can and does kill. I've talked before about how the adult son of the head pastor at my old church once told me that it is morally justifiable to kill gay people. I'm going to talk about that a little bit more at the end of this episode, but just keep that in mind. That is where this theology can lead.
[00:01:21] For context, the Adventist church in North America and Europe is slowly, ever so slowly becoming LGBTQ affirming. In January 2023, a Seventh-day Adventist German pastor publicly came out as bisexual. He preached a sermon and the title, when you translate it to English, says "You are a God Who Sees Me." And he talks about being aware of his sexuality since he was 14 years old. And he said, again, translated into English, he said:
[00:02:03] Santiago (Narrating): "I am thankful that after many years of struggle, I have understood that my being is not a sin. Because we cannot choose our sexual orientation and identity."
[00:02:15] Santiago: His local church affirmed him and the conference he's a part of actually voted to retain his credentials. And this is historic. As far as I know, it's the first time a pastor in the Adventist church has come out and managed to retain their credentials. And then in March, Washington Adventist University in Washington, DC in the United States, held a summit unapologetically featuring LGBTQ affirming theology.
[00:02:45] And of course the general conference and Ted Wilson cannot let this slide. They released a statement on April 4, concluding that this German pastor is disqualified from pastoral ministry. And now they've announced a new "task force." Because apparently, their homophobia and desire to control everyone's sexual behavior is not clear enough.
[00:03:13] To me, one of the worst parts about this is the fact that the SDA church in Uganda publicly backed legislation that criminalizes even identifying as gay. Simply identifying as anything other than heterosexual is supposed to be a crime according to this proposed legislation in Uganda. And as far as I know, the general conference has not said a single word about the Adventist church in Uganda supporting this legislation.
[00:03:48] Remember, sexual control is number three on the BITE Model of Authoritarian Control. If you go back to episode four and episode five, if you haven't already heard those episodes on sex and sex education within the Adventist church and culture, you definitely need to listen to those. If you aren't already aware about the crazy things John Harvey Kellogg and Ellen White said about masturbation, and if you're not aware about the history of female genital mutilation within the Adventist church, go back and listen to episode four, especially.
[00:04:26] There is also a documentary featured by PBS, that's the Public Broadcasting Service in the US, a nonprofit broadcaster. They featured a documentary about female genital mutilation and how the Adventist church really helped perpetuate this in the United States. All of this is going to be linked in the show notes. So please check out the show notes, make sure to listen to these resources, if you're interested and aren't aware.
[00:04:56] So now I'm going to play some clips from the general conference announcement, and I'm going to link to the full video in the show notes as well. And if you don't want to hear Ted Wilson talk at length about this, you can skip the rest of this episode, but please check the show notes for links to social media posts I made about this, and a video responding directly to the announcements.
[00:05:21] And if you are able and comfortable with sharing them, please do. We need to let people know that the SDA church will not control us in this aspect, nor any aspect, anymore.
[00:05:36] Ted Wilson: Uh, we're going to talk to you about a very serious item for a few moments. I'm not going to spend a lot of time and we're not even going to open it for discussion. Uh, but we want to inform you about what's happening.
[00:05:48] Several weeks ago, we organized a new committee. Actually, it's a task force. We organized what is called human sexuality task force to draw on all of the resources, the materials that the church has. From the Bible, from Biblical Research Institute, from voted statements, from other sources...
[00:06:15] Santiago: I just want to remind everyone that the 1987 General Conference Executive Committee statement on sexual behavior makes zero distinction, zero, between beastiality, incest, sexual assault, and sex between consenting adults who just happened to not be heterosexual and in a marriage. And by the way, Ted Wilson's dad was the General Conference President then. So, you know, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
[00:06:51] Ted Wilson: ...to help our church members, and especially our younger church members, to understand what the Bible has to say about human sexuality. We are facing a huge onslaught of aggressive conditioning of people's minds from social media, from culture, regarding LGBT and other aspects.
[00:07:21] Santiago: You know, the lack of self-awareness in this statement blows my mind. Aggressive conditioning of people's minds? That is actually a pretty good description of the brand of Seventh-day Adventist fundamentalist faith that Ted Wilson represents. I would know, 'cause I grew up in part of that. And if you're listening right now, chances are you did, too.
[00:07:45] Ted Wilson: We need to treat all people with respect, with love, with care. But my dear brothers and sisters, you will know that we spent. about an hour together, one week ago today. In a special meeting by common consent, a consensus statement, Regarding the human sexuality aspect and what the Bible teaches.
[00:08:14] Santiago: What Ted Wilson is referring to here is the statement that was put out in response to the German Adventist pastor who came out as bi in January.
[00:08:27] Ted Wilson: What the Bible has to say is the most important. And, uh, recently, as we reviewed this, we recognized we need to be much more proactive in helping our world church and especially young people, who are so influenced by social media, by connection to the internet, to understand what the Bible says. The Seventh-day Adventist church has documented that it uses the historical grammatical, or historical biblical approach to allowing the Bible to interpret itself.
[00:09:02] Santiago: I pointed this out in the video response I made, but what kind of circular reasoning is that? Allowing the Bible to interpret itself? Modern Bible scholars have recognized the flaws in such a method. And it is not the method you use to interpret the Bible, unless if you have a specific dogma you are trying to defend.
[00:09:28] Ted Wilson: The human sexuality task force will be producing materials, and you need to know this so you will not be surprised. They will be producing materials in small 60 second, 90 second sound bites, two minute expositions, two hour, uh, presentations, two day, uh, summits, whatever it takes. In hard copy, in electronic copy, in every format, in every platform...
[00:09:56] Santiago: I don't know what staffers are going to be tasked with creating what sounds like Instagram Reels and TikToks with this toxic content. But I'm going to be keeping an eye on it and I hope that you will, too. Because if and when they start posting this stuff, we need to respond.
[00:10:18] Ted Wilson: ...to help share carefully, lovingly, with respect to all people, what the Bible says. Uh, being involved in this particular area of human sexuality. We're not going to be discussing this, we're not voting on anything, we want you to be informed.
[00:10:35] Santiago: I've spoken briefly before about Floyd Pönitz and SDA Kinship, and how for decades SDA Kinship, which is a nonprofit supporting current and former Adventists who are queer. They've tried having dialogue with Ted Wilson and with the General Conference, and they have been met with silence.
[00:10:56] So yeah, when Ted Wilson says 'We're not going to be discussing this, we're not voting anything, we just want you to be informed,' that is par for the course. And that is what queer Seventh-day Adventists have had to deal with. Even though I'm an ex-Adventist, my beliefs do not line up with people of faith, I personally believe that I, and all of us who have left, should be allies to them. Because the Adventist church as an institution and government institutions around the world, like the government of Uganda, are doing what they can to try to legislate them out of existence.
[00:11:40] Ted Wilson: And let's be praying earnestly as this task force does its work. And let me again, remind you, we are to treat all people with respect, with love, with care, and to point them to Jesus Christ who can make us all new creatures in him.
[00:11:56] Santiago: This might be nothing, but in this specific context, "new creatures in him" sounds like a dog whistle for gay conversion therapy. In other words, Ted Wilson to me sounds like he's saying that you can pray the gay away. Which, if you weren't already aware, not possible. It is not scientific. That is not how it works. In fact, the biggest organization that was promoting this, called Exodus International, closed in 2013 and their former president called their approach "fatally flawed."
[00:12:33] The Adventist church is actually partially responsible for pioneering conversion therapy because in the eighties, they funded a corrupt Adventist pastor who came from the UK to the United States. His name was Colin Cook. They funded him in the eighties to run quote unquote "ex-gay ministries." And it turns out that this guy was actually sexually assaulting young queer people who were being quote unquote "counseled" by him. And to this day, as far as I know, the Adventist church has never formally apologized for this.
[00:13:07] So yeah, I might sound upset. I might sound cynical. And that's because I am, rightly so. Part of my anger also comes from the fact that I grew up being homophobic. Because I grew up within a fundamentalist, conservative, Adventist church and family and culture.
[00:13:30] And I've mentioned before in comments that the adult child of the former pastor at my old church once told me, point blank, that it is moral to kill gay people, even if it isn't legal. I remember being shocked when I heard that. And I didn't really say much. And I never told anybody else. I just kept that in the back of my head, and I forgot about it until years later when I was deconstructing. This theology kills. This theology creates hate and he creates hateful people.
[00:14:15] Not everybody takes it that way, but some people do. And some people take it to an extreme. You may not be queer, you may not even have family or friends who are queer, but I guarantee you there are people in your social circles that are affected by this.
[00:14:33] I personally feel a greater level of responsibility than I did before because as I've shared, my partner is bi. But even if I did not have a queer partner, I would still be speaking about this. Part of it, if I'm being honest, is making up for the homophobic views I used to have. Part of it is simply that I have empathy for people, even if they are not like me.
[00:15:00] For the record, if you're a first time listener, I've shared this before, I am a straight cis guy. I'm not speaking about this because I personally am queer and feel personally attacked by this. However, I do feel attacked by this personally because people that I love, and people that I don't even know, but have empathy for as a fellow human being, are being harmed by theology like this.
[00:15:28] So, whatever your background is, whatever you may have grown up believing, I hope that if you haven't really thought about this, or that if you've been on the fence about issues like this, that you will choose to take a side. And that you will be on the right side of history. And to be clear, this unequivocally includes transgender people.
[00:15:55] There seems to be a growing number of people who are confused, and agitated, and angry at the existence and acceptance of trans people. And on one hand, I can understand it because I used to think that way at one point. And if you have family or friends who do, or if you yourself struggle with this, I have empathy for you because I was there. That was me.
[00:16:25] But we need to understand that even if we don't fully comprehend something, that doesn't mean that it's our place to say that it is evil, or demonic, or vile, as I've heard so many Christians say. In this moment, I am reminded of the poem First they came. It's a 1946 post-war poem by a German Lutheran pastor. And it says,
[00:16:53] Santiago (Narrating): "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. And then they came for me — And there was no one left to speak for me."
[00:17:20] Santiago: I don't believe in the Sunday Law anymore. I don't believe in the eschatology of the Seventh-day Adventist church. But I am able to see and I'm able to hear the rhetoric that is coming out of the Adventist church, and that is coming from so many people. Some folks would say it's a small, loud, angry minority. And I think to some degree, that is true. But still, they are loud enough to the point where everyday folks who listen to them, may take what they say to heart.
[00:17:54] As ex-Adventists, as most of the listeners of this podcast are, we have experienced othering. To not be able to be your true self with your family and with your loved ones. If you have not taken a side, if you have not thought about it, if you've tried putting it aside, I am asking you, please pay attention. Please be on the right side of history.