Kinship Response to Statement on Transgenderism:
Focus on Loving God’s Children
On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, the Executive Committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted a “Statement on Transgenderism” at its regular Spring Meetings. Kinship has reviewed this statement thoroughly and finds that, at a surface-level reading, this document professes love and acceptance for transgender people and includes a call to treat them with “dignity and respect.”
Nonetheless, that does not diminish the genuine harm of this clear declaration: “As long as transgender people are committed to ordering their lives according to the biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage they can be members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” By this, the church has permitted and even encouraged the refusal of membership on the basis of gender identity and sexuality for those who cannot conform.
Ten “biblical principles relating to sexuality and the transgender phenomenon” are listed. No hard data is offered—indeed, none exists biblically—and the statement’s author added his own opinions, guided by religious and cultural norms, to the interpretation of the Scriptures and presented them as fact. The author again and again oversimplifies and misuses the biblical texts as grounds for a limited understanding of gender and sexuality. Kinship rejects the underlying message that transgender individuals are more inclined to “biblically inappropriate lifestyle choices” because of their gender identity.
Yeshara Acosta, who identifies as gender non-binary and Adventist, found that the statement shows a tragically deep “lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender and a person of faith, and how the Spirit works.”
Randi Robertson, a transgender Christian who was raised in the Adventist Church, expressed her dismay, saying, “The statement is an affront to my journey of faith and my existence as a child of God.” She recently spoke with senior leadership of the Adventist Church in North America, sharing her experience. This, she says, “feels like a knife to my heart.”
Peta Hay, also a member of the transgender community and Adventist, was equally heartbroken by the statement and wondered, “Why do they not listen to our stories; why do they view us as broken? Isn’t everyone?”
The statement has little or no bearing on the lives of the vast majority of Adventists. Life will go on as normal for them. Yet, Randi shares that “the underlying premise dismisses the reality of my life and that of other transgender people” and “will foster hostility, shaming, and attempts at ‘conversion/reparative therapy.’” She is concerned that it will increase the risks of suicide for young transgender Adventists rejected by their families and their church.
The Bible teaches us not to destroy those for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15). The “Statement on Transgenderism” was written with an us vs. them perspective—negating the very real presence of transgender Adventists in the church today. Kinship President Yolanda Elliott strongly believes that transgender Adventists need church leaders to engage, listen to, and learn from them “so that we can stop the harm.”
Debbie and Kris Widmer, Adventist church members and parents of a transgender daughter, find solace in their belief that in the kingdom of grace, a person is “more important than a policy, a proposition, or even a principle.” Kinship affirms that.
We encourage everyone in the LGBTIQ community—especially our transgender family—to remember this: no statement, vote, position, or proposition can take away from you the depth of your experience, your journey, your truth, and the fact that God loves you just the way you are.
The statement’s author adds, “The Bible commands followers of Christ to love everyone.... Acts of ridicule, abuse, or bullying towards transgender people are incompatible with the biblical commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” On that, we can all agree. We also believe that the church is stronger when it stands with, not against, the “least of these” (Matthew 25). This includes members of the transgender community—as well as the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex community—and the church is made weaker by not accepting all as children of God, as Christ did.
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Inc. has provided a safe spiritual and social community to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex current and former Seventh-day Adventists around the world, their families, and those who support them since 1976.
Kinship welcomes the opportunity to share our perspective on issues affecting the LGBTIQ community, specifically related to the intersectionality between it and the Seventh-day Adventist community.
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International
PO Box 244, Orinda, CA 94563-0244