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From the President's Desk-February 2014

Yospicture130206 100x135In January, the church funded a debacle of presentations at the Generation of Youth for Christ conference on the topic of homosexuality by people the church deems experts on reparative therapy. Reparative therapy? I call it “despair-ative therapy.”  The Adventist Review’s report says those sessions taught attendees “how the church can both uphold biblical truths about sexuality while reaching out with compassion.

How is it compassion when the LGBTI young men and women who came away from those sessions were assured they are evil, demonic, and going to hell…unless they leave “the homosexual lifestyle”? There is no more a gay lifestyle than there is a straight lifestyle. This so-called “compassion” shown by church people like the groups that spoke last month pushes young vulnerable Christians into self-doubt and toward suicide

Why do we let these people speak to us this way? Why do we allow the church to talk about us and not with us? Why do we allow these people to tell their story and claim that it's ours? Coming Out Ministries' story is not my story, nor anyone’s story that I know. We need to keep telling our stories…all of our stories from all of Kinship’s demographics. 

Someone very dear to me has asked me, What if we said something like the following?

"Actually, LGBTI people are wonderful, and there's nothing wrong with us. There's no evidence that our gender or orientations make us psychopathic or demonic—there are just slurs and projection from people that our church keeps giving mic time and column space to. There's no evidence that our gender or orientations separate us from God—there’s just a church repeatedly pulling away from vulnerable members, calling us lesser, and encouraging narratives that reinforce our demonization.

"This isn't healthy for LGBTI people. It's not helpful for our families or congregations; it's damaging. There are increasing numbers of youth and adults who see what the church is doing and see the church as less and less credible because of it.

"Mike Carducci's latest statement at Generation of Youth for Christ would be outrageous if it weren't so sad. It's sad that our church still—in 2014—thinks it appropriate to teach young Christians that they or their LGBT pew-mates are demon-possessed. It's sad that our Family Life Ministries department still—in 2014—funds the spread of that teaching in the United States and across Africa and Asia where LGBT attacks and repression are increasing. It's sad that in 40 years, from Colin Cook to Coming Out Ministries, our church has learned little about sexuality and gender, and nothing about how to talk about or minister to LGBTI members with respect or care.

"The church's lack of progress is not because we've been silent. Kinship is grateful for the opportunity to work with thousands of LGBTI current and former Adventists and their family, friends, pastors, and teachers each year. We provide members and their friends around the world with space for people to ask questions, research the facts, and build healthy, whole lives.

"We look forward to the time when our church provides that space as well, but not for our own sake. We've learned to thrive regardless. We look forward to that time for the sake of our church, which is missing out on the unconditional presence, gifts, and calling of the LGBTI members it attacks and demonizes, and is undermining its relevance to whole generations.

"Whether you are LGBTI yourself or just care about the lives and dignity of LGBTI people, please join us in sharing the good news that all God's children are awesome. Become a member of SDA Kinship and learn with us."

What if we made a statement like that?

I feel that it is past time we learn to stand tall, living our lives with dignity and grace, and no longer allow the church we grew up in to define us! We should and can define ourselves. For me, that has meant attending a congregation whose pastors love and respect me and my talents, knowing full well that I am a lesbian Seventh-day Adventist. At this congregation, I’ve only been treated as a valued and valuable member of the congregation who is loved just as I am. That’s why I keep going back. If the climate of my church ever changed, it would no longer be my church. Because I respect myself, I expect my church to respect me.

I also don’t think that every outrageous comment that comes from someone in that building on Route 29 in Silver Spring, Maryland is worthy of a response from me, or from Kinship, for that matter. Instead of reacting to what they say, I might instead consider sending them educational information. Or I might consider remaining silent and continuing to live my life, since not every comment from every commentator is worthy of my time and energy. 

I fully realize that some of you wish we were much more of a demonstration and protest type of organization. There are also others of you who feel we shouldn’t “make any waves” for fear the church will never come around to including us and will instead marginalize or completely reject us. 

What I know for sure is that the stories being told about us by other people and the ministries the church is funding and promoting now—those stories are most definitely not my story, and they aren’t your stories either. I’ve been to our story sessions at Kampmeeting and I know what amazing and awesome folks we all are. I know the pain and suffering many of us have experienced in our lives. To have to suffer through hearing stories, no, lies being told about us by someone else is painful, intolerable, and unacceptable. 

It’s time, way past time, that the truth be told about us. We must find ways to make our own stories known.  If the loudest voices heard about our community come from Coming Out Ministries and others like them, then no one will ever know who we are. Injustices happen against our community when lies about us are told and promoted. Just a few months ago, we saw awful laws passed in Uganda and Nigeria prompted by loud and lying voices from Christians in the United States! 

Kinship has contracted a filmographer to produce four (4) videos to help answer many of the lies being told about our community and to also get out true scientific information about LGBTI issues. The Seventh-Gay Adventists movie has also made a start in sharing some of our stories with those who might not otherwise hear them, but there is so much more about our community that must be seen and heard. We cannot let the hatred stand.

In my region, Region 2, we are going to make 1- to 2-minute YouTube videos that tell our stories; we are tired of being spoken about and we’re going to speak for ourselves. What will you do to tell your story? What will your region do? What suggestions do you have of ways to get our voices heard? Share your ideas with your region, and share them with me by emailing me at Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!.

Yolanda Elliott, President
SDA Kinship International
Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!

 

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Journey - Chapter 1