Following a decision by South Africa’s parliament last week legalizing same-sex unions in South Africa, the Seventh-day Adventist church in that country issued a statement upholding marriage as an exclusively monogamous and heterosexual institution.
The statement, which was passed unanimously during a year-end executive committee of the church’s Southern Africa Union, recognizes South Africa’s constitution, which now prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“On the other hand,” said Francois Louw, president of the church in South Africa, “the [statement] maintains that the only Biblically recognized marriage is between a man and a woman. The church does not recognize any Christian or Biblical sanctions for same-sex marriages.”
In response, Louw said the church in South Africa submitted a formal application to the government requesting that all Adventist ministers and marriage officers be exempted from performing homosexual weddings because they deviate from the Biblical model. Church officials report that all pastors in the country have applied for individual exemptions on the basis of “good conscience and Biblical models.”
The South African church’s official statement reiterates what the world church has long articulated in maintaining that marriage, family, and human sexuality are central to many crucial issues society currently faces. It also states that basic Christian morality in the context of marriage is increasingly questioned, not only in secular society, but also within the church.
In an official statement, the world church maintains that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are “children of God.” However, it does not condone homosexuality as a lifestyle, which it calls “a manifestation of the disorder and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by sin.”
Quoting a previous official statement affirming family, the statement from South Africa says, “marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship” even though “sin has perverted God’s ideals for marriage and family.”
The South African statement is the first such release at the church’s union administrative level. South Africa made headlines for legalizing same-sex unions in a continent where homosexuality remains largely taboo.