A Brief History of Kinship
In the early 1970s, several gay Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) began to look for other SDAs with whom they could discuss their feelings. One placed a single, small notice in the classified section of The Advocate, a national gay news-magazine. It resulted in 37 responses from gay former SDAs from all areas of the United States and Canada.
In 1976, two men who knew no other gay Adventists did something more. Together they placed another advertisement to help locate gay SDAs, which resulted in one of the first Kinship meetings in Palm Desert, Calif. That was the beginning of SDA Kinship International, and within four months it had 75 members, a temporary chairperson and four committees: membership, educational, social and spiritual. The new group met twice a month. Soon it joined forces with someone living in northern California who started a gay Adventist pen pal list throughout the United States.
Around the same time, another SDA group was meeting informally in New York since 1974. It also joined Kinship. The organization was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1981 and now has a board of 15 officers. Our current list of members and friends includes well over a thousand people in 20 countries.
Kinship's first annual membership meeting was held in 1980 in Arizona. At the request of Kinship officers, two Adventist pastors and three seminary professors attended as official delegates of the General Conference. A small group of 35 courageous SDA Kinship members attended this historic meeting, breaking ground for the larger numbers that now attend with far less fear and apprehension.
The two pastors, both familiar with the pain and isolation felt by gay members of their congregations, emphasized the need for the church to make an effort to understand gay and lesbian people before judging the quality of their Christianity. Each had suggestions for relieving the hurt, suspicion and isolation that gay people have come to expect.
The three professors were scholars of the Old Testament, the New Testament and Christian theology. They concluded that a simplistic English reading of the few Scriptural references to homosexual acts do not suffice to determine God's will for people with a homosexual orientation.
It was an emotional meeting. Adventist gay and lesbian people had never before told their story, collectively, to the church. And never before had they heard Adventist pastors and teachers respond with such profound empathy and love.
Later, at denominational headquarters in Washington, D.C., the delegates reported to General Conference executive officers and editors of Adventist periodicals. Their report included nine proposals suggesting, among other things that: 1.) the Biblical Research Institute conduct a special study of the whole issue; 2.) the church publish balanced articles on the subject; 3.) Adventist schools include a discussion of homosexuality in any sex education programs. These and six other proposals were approved.
A detailed description of this meeting is available in the article "Adventists Face Homosexuality" that appeared in Spectrum. (A copy is available for $1 through Kinship.)
Since then, Kinship has mailed thousands of information packets to Adventist pastors, teachers and counselors, and to every Adventist academy and college in North America. About a hundred pastors and teachers have ministered to us at our annual Kinship Kampmeeting. Kinship has been in close contact with the church over the years--from lay members to college adminstrators and General Conference executives. Kinship also operates an outreach to Adventist college students and "under 30's" (called IMRU) to help them with issues relating to being LGBT.
The concerns of Kinship have been covered several times in Spectrum and in campus newspapers. Kinship has been mentioned in the Adventist Review. In addition, coverage of the subject of homosexuality and AIDS in Adventist periodicals has greatly improved Kinship's visibility. Many Adventist college teachers have reacted favorably to student papers that printed positive articles on homosexuality, and one openly gay student was asked by administrators to organize a forum on gay issues "for the continued growth and development of our college family."
Kinship has, at different times, sent information about HIV/AIDS to every Adventist church in the United States. In 1990 we participated in the first church-sponsored HIV/AIDS conference. Kinship's memorial AIDS quilt has been displayed in several Adventist churches.
Oftentimes, working with the Seventh-day Adventist Church has not been easy, but Kinship has not stopped its attempts. In 1987 the Seventh-day Adventist Church filed legal action in a federal district court in California. On October 3, 1991, United States District Judge Mariana R. Pfaeizer ruled that Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Inc. did not infringe on the SDA Church's use of the name and therefore could continue to use the identifying name. We are happy to provide the complete text of the Judge's decision upon request. That decision was not appealed.
In the 1990's, Kinship continued its different outreaches to individuals and groups. Annual Kampmeetings have been held every year in different locations and a Kinship Online Service was developed which provides chat, information and other resources. We also work with separate groups that minister to parents and families of LGBT's and to pastors and counselors.