Although there are a large number of resources available for gay Christians, from accepting mainline denominations to specific congregations of gay believers with more conservative theology, being gay in the Seventh-day Adventist church provides unique challenges. While Adventists are part of the family of Protestant Christians, they have specific worship practices, dietary expectations, and theological beliefs about eternity that set them apart from other Christians and often leave gay Adventists feeling as outsiders even within pro-gay Christian settings.
To begin a conversation in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, straight allies Daneen Akers and her husband Stephen Eyer have been working on a film project, producing a small documentary film, “Seventh-Gay Adventists: A film about love, sex, and eternal life”.
However, the church authorities are making things hard for them, with a law suit aiming to prevent the use of their proposed title. Read the story at Box Turtle Bulletin.
What strikes me about this particularly about this story is not the obstructionist stance of the Church, but the simple fact that the project is being undertaken at all. I have some personal connections with the SDA church: this was my mother’s denomination before she converted to Catholicism to marry my father. Her parents, my grandfather especially, were lifelong devoted members of the SDA. , I lived with my grandparents for two years (to complete my schooling, after my family moved to the other end of the country on business transfer) and got to know their faith, and many of their church community, at close quarters.
Here’s a personal story from that time.
At the end of my two years living with grandparents, after concluding final high school exams and immediately before flying to Cape Town to rejoin my family, the grandparents and I were invited for a celebration dinner with an uncle (a man of fiercely independent mind, who had long since abandoned any pretence of religious observance). Aubrey liked to live well, and always had a drink before meals, and wine with the meal. He knew full well his parents strong religious objections to alcohol, but went ahead anyway. More, as it was a celebration meal to mark the end of my schooling, he included me, with one beer before the meal, and one glass of wine over dinner. My grandparents said nothing at all at the table, where they were guests, but as soon as we got home, grandad led me into the dining room and began an hour long sermon on the evils of the demon alcohol.
The fun part was this: also living in the house with us was a cousin who was a few older than I was. In the southern hemisphere, the end of the school year coincides with the build up to Christmas, and with it a long round of Christmas parties. Kenneth, the cousin, had been invited to join us for the family dinner, but had been unable to accept, as it clashed with the annual staff party at his place of work. While I had my single beer and one glass of wine with my dinner, Kenneth had been getting mightily plastered. While I paid the price for my transgression with a lengthy sermon behind a closed dining room door, Kenneth was pouring himself unsteadily into the house. Granny, horrified, was concerned only to ensure that Granddad should not see the state he was in. So while I continued to endure the sermon, on the other side of the door, the real drunk was being quietly shooed to the bedroom we shared at the back of the house.
This story is about the person of my grandfather, not about the SDA church- but it is impossible to separate him and his beliefs and values from the church which formed them. If he was so appalled at the iniquity of two drinks over dinner, I cannot even imagine how he might have dealt with the “abomination” of homosexuality. So, I am mightily impressed by the news that even in the SDA Church, we are finding straight allies. Impressed, but not surprised. In every major denomination, there are growing groups of activists working towards inclusion in church, whether as queer worshippers themselves, or as straight supporters.
These groups are most prominent, and have achieved the most visible progress so far, in the mainline Protestant denominations – but they exist also in many other groups, including Southern Baptists, Mormons and (as here) Seventh Day Adventists as well. The great thing bout these is, that they take seriously the need to engage in personal study of the materials, rather than simply depending on authority from above. Frequently, the outcome is simply to reinforce pre-conceptions, but quite often it goes the other way. Some people, engaging with scripture with an open mind and listening with empathy to gay and lesbian church members, instead come to see and embrace the justice of the case for LGBT inclusion. When they do, they can become really valuable and persuasive advocates for our cause.
(UPDATE: From the comments thread:
This is a pretty good gay-friendly adventist site as well:
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- Texas Baptist Church Takes a Stand FOR Gay Members. (queering-the-church.com)