Speaking to nearly 350 church leaders at the Cape Town International Convention Centre yesterday, Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson urged them to recognize that “human brokenness” is ubiquitous, dependent on the healing that comes only through the restorative power of Christ.
All facets of that brokenness, Wilson said, should be approached with the “clarity and tact” and faithfulness to biblical truth that Jesus demonstrated in his ministry on earth.
“Let us make it our personal goal, and the goal of this summit, to speak the truth as Jesus spoke the truth—to remember that every word by his disciples should be a word that helps someone else become a disciple of Christ,” Wilson said. “There is a way to speak the truth that leads to life, so let us talk and share and learn from each other in that way,” he said.
Wilson’s keynote—“The Truth as it is in Jesus”—came during the opening day of the Adventist Church’s summit on sexuality, where Adventist pastors, chaplains, academics, health professionals, legal experts and human resource directors are meeting this week in Cape Town, South Africa.
The world church leader went on to define the parameters of the summit. Its goals, he said, do not include revising the Adventist Church’s perspective or statements on human brokenness to match “the changeable spirit” of current social trends and values. “Nor have we come to describe that brokenness in any greater way than the Word of God defines every human sin,” Wilson said.
Sin is not a hierarchy of human failings, he said—with some shortcomings “less dangerous or damaging” than others—but an expression of living life out of harmony with God.
“We are more accustomed to other sins: we wink at pride, ignore gossip, tolerate hypocrisy and sometimes avoid dealing with lust, adultery and the often-hidden sin of sexual abuse,” Wilson said, adding that “the uncomfortable but undeniable truth [is] that we are all sinners.”
He called it both “inconsistent and morally wrong” for the Adventist Church to isolate practicing members of the LGBT community for discipline “while it ignores those engaged in heterosexual pre-marital sex or adultery. God’s standard for sexual behavior requires that only in the union of one man and one woman in heterosexual marriage can the gift of sexuality appropriately and Biblically be enjoyed. Any departure from that standard must be addressed with similar seriousness and a similar attempt to bring about correction, repentance and restoration.”
“It is the first step toward a new life in Christ when each of us comes to the place where we admit that what God’s Word says is absolutely true about us: We are all sinners; we are all broken,” he said.
A major goal of the summit, Wilson said, is to develop an awareness of how to compassionately steer those living lives out of harmony with God toward “salvation and recovery.”
“We have come here because we are committed as a people to speaking the truth to each other and to the world around us, and because we are committed to learning how to speak that truth as Jesus did,” he said.
Wilson’s keynote relied significantly on Scripture and the writings of church co-founder Ellen G. White to describe Jesus’ approach to sharing truth. “‘[Christ] was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love,’” Wilson said, reading a passage from “Steps to Christ,” White’s classic volume about conversion and spiritual rebirth.
This week’s summit will include testimonies from former members of the LGBT community who have wrestled with brokenness and now describe themselves as “redeemed” from that lifestyle.
“The honest stories that we will hear will undoubtedly report those times when we as members of God’s remnant church have failed to communicate the love and thoughtfulness of Jesus,” Wilson said.
“We must listen as they tell us about their struggle and their pain; and we must not let our pride pretend that their mistakes are any worse in the sight of heaven than the ones we ourselves have made,” he said.