FINDING MY SPIRITUAL HOME WITH KINSHIP
By James Appel
I've been trying to figure out why a straight, cis-gender male like me is finding my spiritual home with SDA Kinship, a Seventh-day Adventist LGBT+ community. Here's what I've figured out so far after having just come back from the European Kinship Meeting at Othona Retreat Center in the southern UK:
- First, because it's a community, something I haven't really found in any other Adventist organization. I've found meetings, services, camp meetings, outings, get-togethers, events, potlucks, reunions, campaigns, camp-outs, etc., which are all fine, but I've never found community. By community, I mean a group of diverse people, with faults/habits/tics/etc. who somehow manage to get along being open and honest and yet still loving and accepting each other, not in spite of the quirks and differences, but because of them. In other words, the community is the body of Christ celebrating the fact that each different part is important and has something unique to contribute to the overall well-being of the whole. I've found that in Kinship—especially in the wonderful group that met this last weekend on the southern coast of England.
- Second, as a Seventh-day Adventist with some non-traditional beliefs that might get me ex-communicated if I were ever sat down in a dark room with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling and grilled by a member of the General Conference about how I feel about the 28 fundamental (great word) beliefs. So, in a sense I'm hiding what I truly think about many things out of fear of what many Adventists might say or think about me. At Kinship, with a group that understands way better than I ever will what it means to be oppressed and on the margins, I can truly be myself and not worry about what anyone will think.
- Third, as a white, straight, cis-gender, American Christian male, I've always been at the top of the pyramid (through no thought or choice of my own). What that means is that my role models have typically been macho, power-hungry, ladder-climbing, feelings-suppressing, over-compensating, lonely, isolated men. I need some new mentors. And one thing that has struck me about Kinship is that most men I've interacted with are sensitive, vulnerable, in touch with their feelings, accepting, affectionate, loving, kind, self-deprecating males. In other words, men modeling themselves after Christ instead of Rambo. It's refreshing and inspiring.
There's a general feeling of freedom, fun and laughter. When you combine all of the above, it creates a safe place to enjoy life. Plus, when you've been oppressed and had to fight just for basic human rights while struggling deeply with your sense of self and your beliefs and spirituality, if you come out unscathed on the other end (unfortunately, many don't—suicide rates among LGBT+ people are way higher than other groups)—you tend to not take yourself so seriously and be willing to laugh and joke about yourself and with others.
So, once again, thank you Kinship for helping me to continue trying to be a better person by introducing me to real community and inspiring me to have fun in the process.
This is part of the reason why not only does Kinship need the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but the Seventh-day Adventist Church needs Kinship; otherwise, both are handicapped and incomplete.