Landless Calls for Compassion, Regardless of Cause


The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s top health leader said there
is no clear model to understand why some individuals are homosexual, saying it
is a “complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors.”

In a plenary address yesterday at a denominational
conference on sexuality, Dr. Peter Landless, the Adventist Church’s Health
Ministries director, illustrated with both words and images the complexity of
procreation and the genetic variances and disorders that sometimes occur.

He delivered his remarks at the Cape Town International
Convention Centre in South Africa, where the Adventist world church is holding
the summit, “In God’s Image: Scripture. Sexuality. Society.”

The four-day conference is addressing how the Seventh-day
Adventist Church should respond to the experiences of homosexuality and
alternative sexuality. Presenters have
called attention to possible implications for the Church’s pastoral ministry to
individuals, employment practices, the operation of its many educational
systems, and management of its far-flung health system.

His address was a call for compassion to those in gay and
lesbian relationships, and also a reaffirmation of the church’s biblical stance
on marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Early on he offered a rebuke for a comment he had overheard
in a convention center hallway: “I’ve even heard it said at this conference
that we’re talking about ‘those people,” he said. “We’re talking about fellow
people on the journey of life.”

Landless, who became director of the General Conference
Health Ministries Department in 2013, is a native of South Africa. Internationally known as a nuclear
cardiologist, he previously worked at Johannesburg Hospital and served on the
late President Nelson Mandela’s cardiology team. He is also an ordained minister with
significant pastoral experience.

The physician began his address with a detailed overview of
the procreation process and genetic variances that can occur. He gave an example
of a child who was born intersexed—a condition known as Congenital Adrenal
Hyperplasia—and how the child’s father rejected him.

“If fathers and relatives [would] reject children born with
such rare conditions, how about the church?” Landless asked the audience.
“Should it be different?”

Homosexual men, he said, often have anatomical differences
in their brains. Post mortem studies of homosexuals and heterosexuals have
shown the differences, but it’s unclear whether the variation is causal or
associated, Landless said, because the populations studied have been
small. The differences show that many
homosexual men have a larger superchiasmatic nucleas, which is involved in
determining circadian rhythm, as well as larger anterior commissure, which
communicates between the brain’s left and right hemispheres.

Some researchers, Landless said, are convinced there is a
genetic component to homosexuality, with some searching for a “gay gene,” but
there is no consensus on causes for homosexuality in either the medical
literature or among professional psychologists. “The jury is definitely not
resolved,” he said.

Homosexuals have slightly higher rates of increased
non-communicable diseases, including hypertension and a higher cardiovascular
age compared to their actual age. And lesbian women, Landless said, are 3.2
times more likely to die of breast cancer than heterosexual women.

“There are very significant health needs in the LGBT group,”
Landless said. “We as Adventists are ideally equipped and situated to reach out
to them. We as a church need to look to ourselves and understand, ‘Who is my

Following Landless’ plenary session, several delegates said
they appreciated his medical overview and his calls for both compassion and the
church’s biblical standard to be upheld.

“He contrasted the physiological picture of what healthy
looks like and also the full extent of what brokenness can look like,” said
Audrey Andersson, executive secretary of the denomination’s Trans-European
Division, based in England. “People can choose how they respond to others’

Onaolapo Ajibade, executive secretary of the denomination’s
West-Central Africa Division, based in Cote d’Ivoire, said since there is no
known cause of homosexuality, there is no “cure.”

“In the meantime we have to adopt a Christian approach,”
Ajibade said. “Since we don’t know the cause, we have to be sympathetic.”

Before coming to the summit, Ajibade said he questioned
whether it was worth the effort and cost.

“Originally I thought this summit was not needed, but having
come here and having listened to all the presentations, I’m convinced beyond a
reasonable doubt that it is worth it,” he said. “The church is making a
spiritual step to equip us to be able to help our brothers and sisters who are
in this state.”

Daily news bulletins from the summit provided by
Adventist Review and Adventist News Network (ANN) will be available at and