Happy month of May!
There has been so much happening in the past few weeks. If you haven't joined in with the presentations, I hope you will check out our YouTube channel and catch up with the recordings there. Both the Washington Adventist University summit and the Adventist Peace Fellowship summit were inspiring, enriching, and filled with wonderful presentations and sermons. I highly recommend spending some time soaking in the presentation. Adventist Today had Kinship's own Ron Lawson for their Sabbath Seminar present on Colin Cook's Quest ministry—one that supposedly could change attendees from gay to straight. Of course, that was false advertising. It was quite an eye-opening presentation. These and many more can be found on our YouTube channel: //www.youtube.com/@SDAkinship" data-cke-saved-href="https://www.youtube.com/@SDAkinship">https://www.youtube.com/@SDAkinship.
Helping Our Faith to Understand and Love
As we watch our top faith leaders react and respond to genuine modern human situations, we see exposed many weaknesses, misunderstandings, and argumentative behaviors. Strong words; but we feel many of the top leaders understand and desire supporting modern loving decisions but are too “weak” to oppose narrow old-fashioned beliefs, which clearly reflect “misunderstandings” in the education and interpretations of biblical translations. “Argumentative” behaviors occur when one or more high-level leaders independently create one-sided committees with targeted purposes without listening and considering valuable and accurate modern information.
Over the past decades, these activities have occurred with many subjects and situations. For us, SDA Kinship, many decisions have been issued and committees have been formed to reject our family “rainbow” members and their families, too. Fortunately, our local church and our friends accepted our gay son, and we never encountered some of the mean and hurtful behaviors that are occurring today.
Toymaker Mattel recently made history with its release of a Barbie doll with Down Syndrome. "This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation," said Kandi Pickard, president and CEO of National Down Syndrome Society.
Recently, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in the Hanseatic Conference in Germany, Saša Gunjević, publicly identified as bisexual. In an act of bravery, the conference, on March 19, 2023, voted to retain his ministerial credentials
Many of our SDA Kinship members are familiar with Carrol Grady, and those who have attended Kampmeeting may have had the opportunity of meeting her in person. Carrol was a pioneer in the Adventist community, advocating for women’s rights and for bringing about a better understanding of what it means for a parent to have an LGBTQIA+ child or loved one. Her book, My Son, Beloved Stranger, was groundbreaking and has been translated into several languages.
It was the first time a conservative Adventist mom and wife of an Adventist pastor and church leader, openly talked about and wrote about her journey of understanding and supporting her gay son. She dearly loved her Kinship family and was like a mother to so many of us. Her quiet and kind demeanor made it easy to talk with her. Personally, I got to know Carrol well because we worked a booth at many Adventist conferences, including the General Conference session in Toronto, before being banned. I well remember her sharing God’s love for His LGBTQIA+ children with anyone who walked past our booth and would listen to her. She was a force to be reckoned with. Carrol was woven into the fabric of Kinship and taught us how important our parents and allies are for Kinship’s ministry.
After a recent fall, Carrol experienced a decline in health and passed away on March 24 in her home surrounded by her loved ones. Although her earthly life has ended, her light and the ministry she started will live on and on in each of our hearts. If you haven’t yet read her book, you can read it online at https://www.sdakinship.org/en/stories or download the PDF. I highly recommend that you pass it on to your parents or family. I’m sure it will resonate with them like it has for so many others.
There will be a memorial service for Carrol at the Bellevue, Washington, Adventist church on May 6 at 4 p.m. Pacific Time (US).
Carrol, may you rest in peace until Jesus calls you from the grave and we will join you in a huge Kinship Kampmeeting under the Tree of Life. We will continue your work and ministry and never let your voice be silenced. Carrol, we love you. Let’s all join and spread the news that God’s love is unconditional for everyone. Carrol often said, “There is a special place in heaven for LGBTQIA+ folks who have endured the rejection and marginalization from the Seventh-day Adventist church.”
As Spring has arrived and we celebrate the resurrection and renewed birth, I hope we can also feel renewed as we bloom and blossom celebrating our genuine selves.
— Floyd Poenitz, President
@KinshipPrez (on Twitter)
Sleep well, looking forward to meeting again
Recently, our Adventist faith and SDA Kinship community lost a brave and loving member. Carrol Grady and her husband were lifelong missionaries and worldwide leaders and supporters of the Adventist faith. Carrol often shared about her firm beliefs in the basic teachings of our faith. Then, many years ago, their youngest son came out of the closet and Carrol and her husband went into their own faith closet—a common journey for all “rainbow” families.
But Carrol’s love for her son would not be quenched by their personal beliefs. She started researching and exploring all available articles, books, and biological studies regarding sexuality and sexual attractions. Her strong maternal love for her family helped her shift from earlier learned black-and-white decisions to slowly accepting broader and real information. Yes, it was a challenging journey since her husband was employed at the General Conference level of Seventh-day Adventists. She respected their situation, but her intense motherly love for her family continued to grow and explore.
Carolyn and I like the term “tenacious: holding firmly, persistent, stubborn”—that was Carrol! A few years after going into their closet, she wrote and published their family journey, My Son, Beloved Stranger. For protection and safety, the first edition used pseudonyms for everyone. But as folks started reading and connecting with their family journey, she started supporting LGBTQ+ issues at public events; and, in 2005, she republished their story under her name. It is a powerful, very well-written family life story.
Carrol joined SDA Kinship many years ago and started the “Family and Friends” ministry. She realized families and friends need to connect for support and understanding of their family “rainbow” member. She was often seen at major Adventist conferences in booths discussing and supporting “rainbow” families and situations. She was tenacious; her strong motherly instincts rallied many other mothers and families.
In closing, we want to share her final epilogue statement from My Son, Beloved Stranger.
“One of my greatest sorrows is realizing how many Christians have failed to show Jesus’ love and have driven our sons and daughters out of the church and away from God. I am thankful for the ministry of Kinship, which has provided what my church has not: a place of compassion and support for those who have been rejected. I believe that someday in the future many of us will look back in shame at our lack of love. I’m just thankful that God knows the hearts of our children and will judge them with mercy and true justice.”
Thank you, loving, tenacious Carrol. It was an honor and joy to know you and work with you. Rest in peace from your final painful days. Soon all of our “rainbow” families will gather—what a potluck that will be!
— John and Carolyn Wilt, Families and Friends Directors
Most Adventists grew up listening to sinister prophecies about people coming to take our Bibles. Hence the need to learn our memory verses, so we could defend our faith despite the absence of Bibles. We also heard rumors about Roman Catholics and apostate Protestants who would beat, imprison, and even kill those who insisted on worshiping on the seventh day of the week, God's true Sabbath.
My, how things have changed! Now it's not Bibles that are being banned; it's any book that fundamentalist Christians find objectionable, typically books about racial, gender, and ethnic diversity. State legislators in a frightening number of states are intentionally pushing legislation that would punish school teachers for teaching tolerance about gender orientation with fines and termination of employment.
Things in Africa are even more alarming. Several governments—with the support of Christian leaders (even Adventists)—support laws that seek to prohibit homosexual behavior with imprisonment, corporal punishment, and even death. A time of trouble indeed.
We have to be active and proactive. If we thought we lived in a tolerant, live-and-let-live society, we can think it no longer. People in power are seeking to marginalize those without power. We can't allow them to get away with it.
After World War II German pastor Martin Niemoeller reflected on the complacency that took place during the rise of Nazism: "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
Jesus spoke about protecting "the least of these" (Matt. 25:40). Everyone should have a voice; and we should use ours to make sure they do.
There is a saying about "best laid plans." Sometimes life throws a wrench into the plans when you least expect it. The Kinship Board has been meeting pretty much via Zoom for the past couple of years. There are some discussions that just are best when they are in person. So we were looking forward to gathering together at a site on the East Coast where one of our allies has a large beach house they offered to us for free. A golden opportunity, until it wasn't. At the last minute, more than half the board could not travel on the planned weekend. So we agreed to go back to connecting via Zoom. At least for now. The key to life is being flexible and open to a scenario different from what we planned. So the in-person discussions will have to wait until another day when we can find a doable solution.
Board meeting is a time when we can look forward to and share what we want Kinship to look like and be doing in five years. My simple answer is much, much more exposure and awareness of SDA Kinship by Adventists around the world. The tricky part is how to accomplish this. If you have suggestions, please send them to me. What would you like to see the goals to be for SDA Kinship? Please drop me a note and share that with me.
Social media is some of the most effective advertising we can do. If you haven't checked out (follow, like, subscribe, forward, retweet, etc.) what Kinship is posting, please do so. We are @sdakinship on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; and on YouTube we are @sdakinshipint. Check out the Kinship Connects podcasts on your favorite podcast player. Alicia Johnston is producing a weekend YouTube video. Check it out. Also, Kendra has started Season 2 of IMAGEO GEI and she is sharing her relationship with Roxan! A must-hear!
I really want to hear what you feel we need to be doing more of, or differently. Please let me know.
Have a great March! And remember that when plans change, go with the flow and be flexible. Things will probably work out and possibly even better than you had planned for!
— Floyd Poenitz, President
@KinshipPrez (on Twitter)
I hope you are dry, safe, connected to friends, and have things in your life that give you hope.
I don’t usually do this but, this month, I am going to tell you a quick story from my life that I hope will give you a sense that it’s possible to have good things come out of difficult ones.
When I got outed two decades ago, I lost all the work I had been doing as a consultant for several conferences and camp meetings: family trainings, teaching individuals and systems how to deal with sexual abuse in the church, supporting pastors and their families, preaching, teaching Sabbath School, etc. Thanks to Floyd and the Glendale City Church, I had a congregation that is still sanctuary to me. From there, my life began to build again.
I won’t bore you with the entire journey, but I believe God used and is using Kinship to make what had been a time of loss, a blessing, and an adventure.
If I had safely stayed with my little New England congregation and camp meetings, I never would have:
Thank God for technology! When it works, it's definitely a blessing from heaven. When it doesn't work, well, it's not hard to imagine it coming from that other place.
When COVID closed churches and schools and prevented us from associating with friends and family members, Zoom and FaceTime gave us the means of connecting with others. Even though screen time was not as good as connecting in person, it was better than nothing.
The upside of digital communication is that distance is irrelevant. People on the east coast of the United States can attend Sabbath School and worship services on the west coast. Despite differences in time zones, webinars on dozens of topics are no further away than a computer keyboard. No airline ticket? No problem.
But an on-screen presence will never match in-person communication. The words, "Let us consider how we may spur one another to love and good works, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another" (Heb. 10:24, 25), were written long before COVID or Zoom were imagined. But they reveal an unalterable truth: we need each other.
Kinship is trying to identify congregations throughout the United States and the world that welcome and affirm members and friends of the LBGTQ+ community. Can you help us identify congregations where you feel welcomed and affirmed? Drop me a line and tell me about it. Of course, that will mean getting dressed and driving to a nearby church, but it will help us identify those who are truly welcoming and who just talk about it. You can reach me at
Join me in being one of those who "spur one another on to love and good works."
The Eleventh Commandment: Be Kind!
Recently we discovered this new publication, The Eleventh Commandment: Why Kindness Matters, written by Rich DuBose, Michael Temple, and Karen Spruill, with added support from her husband Timothy. The book is available from AdventSource. This authorship team is an amazing tapestry of Adventist pastoring, writing and sharing personal songs, publishing books, magazine editor, video film director and editor, legal advocate, and licensed psychologist with many years focused on suicidal situations.
Greetings Kinship Family!
I hope you are settling into the new year 2023, and things are going well. Your Kinship leaders have been busy so far this year already. You probably have read in my posts that Kinship’s Communications Team had a rocky ending to 2022 and an equally rocky beginning to 2023. It has been a challenge to get the website, mailings, and everything back in order.
ENJOY THE KINSHIP “SPIRIT”
We’ve been re-reading an excellent book by Loma Linda theology professor, Richard Rice, Believing, Behaving, Belonging: finding a new love for the church. Early in the second chapter, a section is titled “The Spirit Creates Community...the spirit not only works within us, but it also works among us, or between us. It gives spiritual life to the community and the individual.”
In the book Roughing It, Mark Twain shares an experience in which he and two friends found themselves lost in a blizzard at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. After crossing a swollen creek they wondered in which direction they should set out. One of the men maintained that his instinct was as sensitive as any compass, so they followed his lead.
After a half hour they came upon some fresh horse tracks, so they urged their horses to go faster, hoping to catch up with the travelers just ahead Then they came upon tracks newer and fresher and spurred their horses onward, thinking they were following a company of soldiers from a nearby fort. As they trotted along, and the tracks became fresher and more numerous, they began to think that the platoon of soldiers had become a regiment.
During the month of November we'd love to connect with you at one of these events:
November 5 – 2:00 pm US Eastern/ 8 pm Berlin Time
Gender 101: Your Gender is as Unique as Your Fingerprint
Dear Kinship Friends,
As the focus on Kinship Awareness Month comes to a close, let’s continue to promote and talk about SDA Kinship and look for opportunities to tell others about SDA Kinship every month. If you have any stories to share about how you spread the good news of Kinship with others during the month, I would love to hear about it.
We feel every month is Kinship Awareness Month, but during October we take extra steps to let others know we exist and what we are about. I feel that SDA Kinship truly is Adventism’s best-kept secret. And it is high time we came out of the closet and let everyone know God loves unconditionally and that LGBTQIA+ does not indicate brokenness. The church needs us more than we need the church to demonstrate this unconditional love from God.
The theme of this year’s Kinship Awareness Month is COMMUNITY. And that is what Kinship really is all about. Whether it is creating safe spaces within the social media confines of Kinship, gathering together in local small groups to share and gather strength in our lives, attending Kampmeetings, or reaching out to church leaders to give them resources to better understand us, it all boils down to creating COMMUNITY for us and by us. This applies equally to those of us who are “rainbow” members, those of us who are families of “rainbow” loved ones, and the supportive allies who can’t comprehend anything less than equality for all of us. Sadly, very few of these folks can stand up Sabbath morning in front of their churches and openly proclaim their support without feeling discrimination and ostracism. One voice, or even a dozen voices, will get drowned out in the crowd. If we, within Kinship, unite all of our voices, it is more difficult to drown out our message.
Over the last few years—more than at any other time in human history—society has had to grapple with the complex subject of human sexuality. As individuals and institutions try to create a climate in which individuals have intrinsic value regardless of their sexual orientation, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International has sought to be a voice of inclusion, acceptance, and affirmation, especially for those who don't conform to the rigid proscriptions of the past.
While most medical, psychological, religious, and scientific professionals have rejected so-called "conversion therapies" for LBGTQ people, Coming Out Ministries, with the tacit approval of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, continues to peddle the harmful theory that sexual identity can be changed as a result of spiritual exercise; that God's ideal for human sexuality allows for no deviation for the model established at Creation.
Hi, Kinship Family! In the midst of so many challenges, I hope you are doing well.
I am recently back from our 21st European Kinship Meeting. Switzerland is breathtaking, and the kindness of our hosts filled my heart. I am writing about them for our Building Safe Places newsletter that will be sent out later this month.
Christianity has often centered on togetherness—the privilege of worshipping and fellowshipping with other believers. For LGBTQIA+ Adventists it isn't always easy to be genuine and true to one's self while feeling welcome in Adventist churches. Kinship Kampmeeting has been an annual highlight for SDA Kinship International for 43 years now. This is an event where all attendees can be themselves just as God sees them without feeling the need to pretend to be something they aren't.
Kinship Europe picked up this tradition a couple of decades ago to make this annual fellowship more accessible for all members. So with much anticipation, I looked forward to the 21st annual European Kinship Meeting (EKM) being held this year high above Lake Thun near Bern, Switzerland.