If I had a magic wand, I would have the Annual Council vote something like this:
God's ideal for humans as portrayed in the first two chapters of Genesis is that every man and every woman find a happy, life-long home in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage that produces good children who will in turn have grandchildren. The church is committed to doing everything we can to support people in pursuit of this ideal.
We recognize that not every person can live this ideal. There are childless couples, people who are single for decades in spite of their preference, divorced people, homosexuals, people who have been married several times. These people are members of our churches. They respond to our evangelism. How should we respond to these non-ideal lives?
Here is what I would require, if I were writing the rules:
- Any clergy serving in leadership above the local congregation must be married only once and not divorced. They must be parents and if the majority of their children have rejected the church, this should be seen as a major impediment to continued service in any position above that of a local congregation.
- Single persons would not be qualified to serve in leadership at administrative levels above the local congregation.
- The church would not ordain homosexuals to the clergy.
- Adventist clergy would be prohibited from solemnizing homosexual marriages, just as Adventist clergy already are forbidden to perform marriages in which only one of the persons is Adventist. (And just as there are pastors who quietly disregard the rules regarding “mixed marriages” there would be pastors who would quietly disregard the rules regarding homosexual unions.)
- The denomination would forbid use of its churches for forbidden marriages.
- The denomination would refrain from promulgating rules for how congregations manage their response to homosexuals and to people who divorce and remarry. Congregations would be allowed to respond on a case-by-case basis to these situations.
My rationale for the above set of policies.
There is already precedent for allowing exceptions to full agreement with the doctrines of the church.
There is a loud clamor in official church circles these days declaring that belief in 6 days/6000 years is an absolute requirement for being Adventist. Ted Wilson declaims, “If you don't believe in a short chronology you are not Adventist.” But I have personally heard Fernando Canale say that if a scientist believes all the rest of our doctrines and keeps Sabbath and pays tithe, he would baptize such a person into the Adventist Church. Michael Hasel was present and did not demur.
If this doctrine can be set aside in exceptional cases, why can we not, in exceptional cases, set aside our doctrine about the absolute necessity of heterosexual marriage?
This approach requires from homosexuals an acknowledgment of the church's ideal of marriage—which is heterosexual, life-long marriage. Homosexual unions are other than this ideal. This approach requires from traditional members a recognition of the fact that the ideal is not possible for all people and that non-traditional relationships are righteous even if not ideal.
The inhumanity of enforced celibacy.
We rightly lament the damage to persons that flows from the Catholic requirement of celibacy for participation in the ordained ministry. Yet we require life-long celibacy by homosexuals as a requirement for participation in church life. This is inhumane. The inhumanity of this requirement is highlighted by the fact that church officials who vote on the doctrines and policies intended to impose this obedience on homosexuals have themselves typically been active sexually for at least twenty years. Even the homosexuals we promote as advocates of celibacy have had decades of sexual engagement.
But something further needs to be said. The requirement of celibacy is not merely a restriction on genital activity. It requires sexual beings to carefully avoid deep friendships and real intimacy because of the “threat” these kinds of close relationships inevitably create. The Bible declares it is not good for man to be alone. Yet we say to a whole class of men: you must remain alone for your entire life.
If God calls an individual to such a solitary life, let's us support them in that strenuous calling. But it is evil for us to impose this when we know that we ourselves could never bear it.
Jesus said something to the Pharisees about laying burdens on others. It was not a compliment. It is the height of spiritual arrogance to teach others there is an onerous requirement for salvation that they must meet—a requirement which we ourselves have never even contemplated attempting.
Even-handed church law
If we are going to bar practicing homosexuals from our congregations we ought to bar divorced and remarried people from our congregations. Then we ought to bar from being elders and pastors all who come short of Paul's requirement: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him.”
What I have written is not some final destination. It is a description of a place where we might be able to live together for awhile. I expect that over time the church will follow society in learning to place homosexual relationships within a moral framework analogous to the moral framework for heterosexual relationships. Attentiveness and loyalty will be affirmed. Promiscuity and unfaithfulness will be condemned.
We will come to see the picture in Genesis—a man and woman together in a life-long, happy monogamous marriage that produces children—as an ideal, not a standard. Our rules will be informed by this ideal and by the actual reality of available life.
My sermon on Matthew 19 can be found here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHMtZ6DcQtc
An article I wrote for my church newsletter that explains the foundation for my theology can be found here: http://greenlakesda.org/ideas-discussion/