In light of the recent actions taken by our Church leaders at the General Conference, regarding LGBTI members and disfellowship as well as the bizarre demise of the critically-acclaimed 'The Record Keeper' series, it is hard to find much to be happy about. However, take courage and check out this message from our friend Daneen at Seventh-Gay Adventists. She says, "the real change always happens from the ground up (or pew up)--and that is already happening."
We Are SDAs, Save The Record Keeper, The Huffington Post (Religion), Adventist Today
I started writing this as my resignation-from-being-an-official-Adventist letter. The news this week from the headquarters of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists upset me that deeply.
The Hard News
In case you missed the last newsletter and the online updates, in brief, the corporate church passed a new guideline that says it is "inconsistent" to allow the vast majority of LGBT people to either become or stay members of the church. The new guideline was passed without any committee review, no questions asked, only 19 minutes of presentation by the authors, and right before the adjournment of the meetings when only 80 of the 200 delegates were still present.
While this is largely a symbolic measure because membership has been and remains a local church prerogative (prescient move, founders!), and while I also realize that in the big picture this is a sign of the institution feeling fearful around this topic and trying to mandate uniformity (which actually means the message of stepping into unconditional love even if we don't all entirely agree is actually being felt even in Silver Spring), I still know the message that it sent. My inbox and FB page were deluged with messages of pain, sorrow, anger, and a greater sense of marginalization. And many people asked "Why?" It's not as if there's a question about the church's official position now, so why single out a marginalized group for further marginalization? It felt like the very last thing Jesus meant when He said we were to be known by our love. (Several lawyer friends pointed out that its probably really about legal logistics trying to keep hiring/firing rights as the cultural and legal shifts around marriage equality are happening very quickly...still, it felt very much like policy and politics over people.)
I was very, very close to writing to ask my name to officially be removed from official membership. But I decided not to for three reasons:
1st: To ask my name to be removed over the less-than-above-board process and vote by 80 church administrators gives them too much power. The church is the people. And the people are diverse, and beautiful in that diversity.
2nd: The actual church where my membership currently resides is actually a fantastic church where I know all people are genuinely welcome to be members and participate in the life of the church. It's not my weekly church, as I no longer live nearby, but it's a sanctuary in the best sense of the world. I am glad to have my name on their books. And, ultimately, as I said above, membership is a local issue, and many more churches are taking quite important steps to be sanctuaries and houses of prayer for ALL people. I want to support those who are doing that hard and important work.
3rd: The very fact that the institutional church feels like it has to mandate uniformity around this topic means that the long-held assumptions and attitudes are changing. In the big view, this is a sign of progress. I want to be careful here, because I always want to emphasize that I actually do not believe that everyone in the church has to agree theologically around this topic (just as we don't around many other significant topics). But we can stop obsessing about bedrooms and step into unconditional love and getting back to being the hands and feet of God in the world.
I won't pretend that I didn't lose some love for my family's church of five generations this week. It was a brutal week for those of us who have been in the trenches trying to work for love and listening. But I'm not going to let a symbolic vote in Silver Spring be that powerful. The real change always happens from the ground up (or pew up)--and that is already happening.