New NAD Booklet on Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones
On the weekend of April 20, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division (NAD) hosted a workshop that included a select group of church leaders and lay members. The purpose of the workshop was to “participate and preview a new resource (booklet) titled Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones: Adventist Edition.”
The new 71-page booklet from the NAD provides the most compassionate response to LGBT+ Adventists ever published by the denomination, while still maintaining the church’s position.
The booklet is the Adventist Edition of material prepared by Bill Henson (http://leadthemhome.org), along with Adventist contributors and the NAD Commission on Human Sexuality. The booklet identifies several groups that are the intended audience: Parents, Families, Friends, Pastors, and Teachers.
It identifies the posture-- the way we communicate the Good News in our lives as making all the difference. “To love others is to live out God’s truth. When we fail to love, we misrepresent God (Who is love) to those He desires to reach.” The introduction shares eight important signposts along the pathway based on findings from the Adventist study produced in 2017 (VanderWall, Sedlacek, and Lane) and proposes that the Church shift our focus from causation to compassion. An extensive glossary of terms provides a basis for the material that follows.
While many may assume that the church and its leaders expect them to reject or respond harshly to a person who “comes out” as LGBT+, it is stated that “to the contrary pastors, teachers, and the NAD are calling members to walk lovingly and patiently with LGBT+ young people. A Q&A based on the Adventist study provides insights on both the negative and positive ways to deal with Adventist LGBT+ members.
The importance of expressing acceptance while maintaining one’s own beliefs is highlighted with statistics of the results of rejection by church and family. Instead, it is important to create a sustainable support system. Even loving parents may make common mistakes that can hinder the relationship with their child. These are listed with suggestions for more positive ways to respond showing the importance of the words used to communicate and suggestions for “navigating relational gaps.”
Common questions and appropriate responses are shared along with principles for a healthy faith and sexuality conversation. Probably the most surprising part of the booklet for me was the section regarding dealing with a loved one’s partner and the impact it can have long-term on family relationships. A very informative section on transgender and other identities will probably be very educational for most of those who read this booklet. Parents are encouraged to find trusted supporters who are committed to walk with them on this journey following the self-disclosure of a transgender child.
A couple of pages specifically speak to members of the LGBT+ community. The booklet provides 32 tips for relational effectiveness and four guidelines for Pastors and Teachers: Include, Listen, Protect, and Invest. The booklet concludes with the question, “Why Love and Accept?” and suggests five reasons: “Love expresses the truth about God; Love is commanded by Jesus; Love protects; Love makes us available; and Love is patient and kind.”
It is my hope and prayer that new conversations will result from the study and implementation of these concepts in the church.
Dave Ferguson is the Director of Church Relations at SDA Kinship.