May 19, 2017

Global Conference Facilitates Dialogue About LGBT and Other Critical Social Issues

Costin Jordache, Director of Communication & News Editor, Adventist Review

On May 10-14, the Seventh-day Adventist church hosted a milestone conference in Budapest, Hungary focused on issues impacting families, women and children. Three General Conference departments—Family, Women’s and Children’s Ministries—came together to discuss and dialogue about some of the most pressing realities for these three distinct, yet interconnected groups. Over 400 delegates from over 60 countries attended the event. The following is an excerpt taken from a longer article published about the Reach the World, global conference. To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Continued Dialogue About LGBT Questions

Throughout the Reach the World conference, each of the three General Conference departments hosted seminars focusing on elements specific to their area of ministry. Among other topics, Family Ministries directors Willie and Elaine Oliver facilitated a dialogue surrounding LGBT issues and questions. Dr. Ekkehardt Mueller, associate director of the Biblical Research Institute (BRI), gave an overview of the subject, highlighting research done by BRI in gathering biblical insights into the matter.

Mueller spent significant time in Romans 1, a biblical reference where homosexuality is specifically mentioned. He made it clear that the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not “condone the sin of homosexual activity.” However, he reminded attendees that “we distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity.”

“As Adventists we respect all people, whether heterosexuals or homosexuals,” Mueller presented. “We acknowledge that all human beings are creatures of the heavenly Father and are extremely valuable in God’s sight. Therefore we are opposed to hating, scorning, or abusing homosexuals.”

Mueller also reminded delegates of the broader reality of sin, even within Romans 1. “Sin is serious business whether sexual sin or other sin, whether heterosexual sin or homosexual sin,” he explained. “Romans 1 begins a longer discussion on the state of all human beings. A painful diagnosis is provided. We are all sold under sin and have to expect death. But this diagnosis is given in order for us to long for and appreciate the power of the gospel of salvation which is available to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)”

A second presentation was delivered by VIrna Santos, a representative of By Beholding His Love, a ministry focused on equipping “individuals, families, churches, and schools with biblical-based training, while teaching the methods of Jesus to understand issues related to sexual identity struggles” and “facilitating healthy, genuine and intentional connection between Church and LGBTQix communities.”

Santos, who shared her own journey as a formerly practicing member of the LGBT community, offered insights into the struggle parents of LGBT children initially go through and the significant struggles that young LGBT individuals go through along their journey. “They’re tormented by fear and rejection from the people they love the most, their parents,” Santos said. Santos also offered insights into how parents can interact with children who are open about their struggle with sexual identity.

“With parenting in general, it’s amazing what you can learn if you just listen,” explained Elaine Oliver, associate director of Family Ministries for the world church. Sometimes we become impatient, forgetting that God is never impatient with us. The same principle applies to the way we should interact with children wrestling with sexual identity questions.”

“We need to be careful not to cherry-pick when it comes to sins,” concluded Willie Oliver at the close of the panel discussion. “We need to be like Jesus. We have to genuinely love others. You’re not going to reach anyone for Jesus, unless you genuinely love them.”

Woman to Woman

Meanwhile, the Women’s Ministries Department hosted seminars centered on women interacting meaningfully and purposefully with women of other faiths. Department director Heather-Dawn Small and associate director Raquel Queiroz de Costa Arrias, invited guest speakers to both teach and inspire women how to reach out into various communities of women.

"You’re not going to reach anyone for Jesus, unless you genuinely love them."

“We’ve got to help our women look beyond themselves and the ones they know to the ones they don’t know,” said Small, “to the ones who don’t look like them; the ones who don’t speak their language and whose culture is different. That was the main focus of our training here.”

For some, this track was the most impacting. “I am from Mongolia and we, too, have women of other faiths among us,” said Oyuntuya Batsukh, Director of Women’s Ministries for the Mongolian Mission. “Unfortunately, many times, we are afraid and stand far off. It’s critical that we learn how to reach women in all communities, creating meaningful relationships with them.”

An Unexpected Need

Across the hall, the Children’s Ministries department, led by Linda Koh, director, and Saustin Mfune, associate director, was exploring a topic—among others—with an unexpected twist. Seminars focused on impacting and ministering to children from affluent homes.

Presenters shared several of the leading causes contributing to the possibility of emotional troubles within affluent environments, including excess pressure to excel exerted by parents attempting to stay ahead of the success curve. Another risk factor includes increased isolation typically experienced by children as parents become more affluent and, in general, busier and less connected as a result. Various principles and ideas were shared for effective ways to minister to children in these circumstances.