RECURSOS

A maior parte da angústia imposta aos filhos de Deus que crescem sendo LGBTIQ, é devido a uma interpretação errada do que a Bíblia diz.

Muitos de nós crescemos ouvindo nossos pais e professores dizerem o quão únicos e diferentes são os Adventistas. Mas, crescendo, você não teve a sensação de que você poderia ser diferente de uma maneira que a igreja não aceitaria? Você cresceu sentindo ou percebendo gradualmente que você sentia atração por pessoas do mesmo sexo ou que seu gênero não correspondia ao seu sexo atribuído? A boa notícia é que você não está sozinho!

Se você é lésbica, gay, bisexual, transgênero, intersexual ou travesti (LGBTIQ), ou não tem certeza se você é, o Kinship Adventista do Sétimo Dia ("Kinship”) existe para ajudar. Estamos aqui para compartilhar soluções que outros encontraram, para aliviar a dor e salvar vidas. Não é necessário que alguém lute sozinho.

Sempre nos ensinaram que o cristianismo e qualquer outra coisa que não a heterossexualidade tradicional não podem coexistir. Esse dilema pode ser devastador para quem atravessa o tormento de conciliar sua orientação sexual ou identidade de gênero com sua identidade religiosa.

A mensagem do Kinship é diferente da visão tradicional da igreja. Juntamente com um número crescente de pastores adventistas, estudiosos, professores e membros da igreja, acreditamos que os indivíduos LGBTIQ são totalmente amados e aceitos como são pelo nosso Criador. Esta não é uma mensagem de mera conveniência; é uma mensagem bem estudada e consistente com as escrituras. (Veja abaixo."O que diz a Bíblia?")

Somos principalmente uma comunidade de pessoas adventistas do sétimo dia ou ou não, gays, bissexuais, transsexuais e intersexas. Muitos de nós foram convidados a deixar a igreja ou a deixamos porque nos sentimos condenados e indesejáveis. Nossa associação também inclui adventistas heterossexuais, pais de pessoas LGBTIQ e outros que simpatizam com nossas lutas. Ninguém será excluido do Kinship se estiver à favor de nossa missão. Somos naturalmente um grupo diversificado com uma ampla gama de experiências espirituais e etapas de auto-aceitação, reconciliação e expressão.

PERGUNTAS FREQUENTES
O QUE DIZ A BIBLIA?

A maior parte da angústia imposta aos filhos de Deus que crescem LGBTIQ está enraizada em um mal entendido do que a Bíblia diz. Uma vez que os adventistas afirmam que são tradicionalmente conhecedores da Bíblia, não deveriam estar entre os primeiros a esclarecer esta questão para o mundo?

Muitos cristãos Adventistas do Sétimo Dia, de leigos a professores de seminário, estudaram os textos bíblicos relacionados aos atos homossexuais e concluíram que o que a Bíblia não diz é tão importante quanto o que ela diz. A Bíblia claramente fala contra a luxúria de qualquer forma. Mas acima de tudo, não condena, nem mesmo menciona, a homossexualidade como orientação sexual, nem aborda a identidade transgênero.

Para a maioria dos heterossexuais, o ensino de que a homossexualidade é um pecado não apresenta nenhum problema, então muitas vezes eles vêem poucas razões para pensar o assunto. Muitos deles, devido à ignorância generalizada sobre o assunto, acreditam que a homossexualidade é apenas um hábito ou tentação difícil de serem superados. Eles não conseguem compreender as conseqüências extremas e as implicações que esse ensinamento tem para as vidas dos cristãos que descobrem que são LGBTIQ.

Para a pessoa LGBTIQ, há uma razão convincente para dar ao assunto uma grande quantidade de estudo. A condenação eterna é uma consequência muito séria para simplesmente confiar em "o que sempre nos ensinaram". Pode-se considerar que ser homossexual não é pecado enquanto "atos homossexuais" não são realizados. Mas o resultado - uma vida de celibato - também é algo muito sério simplesmente para confiar no que sempre ouvimos.

Abaixo estão algunas referências que podem ser úteis.

Livros:
Cristianismo e Homossexualidade: algumas perspectivas Adventistas do Sétimo Dia, editado por David Ferguson, Fritz Guy e David Larson
As Crianças são Livres,
pelo Rev. Jeff Miner e John Tyler Connoley

Ensaios:
Presentes do Éden de Catherine Taylor
O que a Bíblia diz sobre homossexualidade
por Eloise May
Homossexualidade e a Bíblia 
por Walter Wink
O que a Bíblia diz - e não diz - sobre a homossexualidade
por Mel White
A Bíblia, o Cristianismo e a Homossexualidade
de Justin Cannon

Filmes:
Peixe Fora D’água dirigido por Ky Dickens
Porque a Bíblia Assim Me Diz,
produzido por Daniel Karslake
Adventistas do Sétimo-Gay,
produzido e dirigido por Daneen Akers e Stephen Eyer
Espaço Suficiente na Mesa,
produzido e dirigido por Daneen Akers e Stephen Eyer

O QUE DIZ A FUNDADORA DA IGREJA ELLEN WHITE?

A maioria das pessoas não sabe que Jesus nunca disse nada sobre homossexualidade, mas muitos adventistas assumem erroneamente que Ellen White fez. Usando o Índice Abrangente dos Escritos de Ellen G. White, estudamos cuidadosamente todas as referências publicadas que ela faz para cada um dos textos bíblicos que muitas vezes usam para condenar a homossexualidade. Em nenhum lugar ela relaciona qualquer texto com a homossexualidade 

O lugar mais óbvio para a Sra. White ter condenado a homossexualidade teria sido em seu capítulo, "A Destruição de Sodoma", em Patriarcas e Profetas. Mesmo assim, ela permanece em silêncio sobre o assunto.  Embora ainda seja comum hoje em dia afirmarem que Deus destruiu Sodoma e Gomorra por causa da homossexualidade, não há base bíblica para isso, e os escritos de Ellen White não o apoiam. Sua menção às vãs paixões do povo infame na história não recebe ênfase superlativa sobre os inúmeros outros pecados que ela especificamente denomina.

COMO O KINSHIP PODE TE AJUDAR?

Se você se sente solitário, deprimido, com intensões suicídas, ou se você precisa de um conselheiro profissional que apoie os LGBTIQ, é provável que conheçamos alguém em sua área que possa ajudar. Tenha certeza de que somos sensíveis à sua necessidade de confidencialidade. Se desejar, nossos conselheiros recomendados também podem encaminhá-lo para pastores Adventistas do Sétimo Dia, professores ou outros profissionais confiáveis, que conhecemos que são sensíveis e entendem as preocupações do LGBTIQ.

Acima de tudo, saiba que nos importa que você precise pensar sobre o significado de sua sexualidade, o que fazer sobre isso, o que tudo isso pode significar para seus entes queridos, seja para tentar mudar o que for possível ser LGBTIQ e ao mesmo tempo um Adventista do Sétimo Dia. Não tentaremos determinar suas conclusões se você vier até nós. Nós nos esforçaremos para sermos compreensivos e úteis enquanto você toma as importantes decisões de quem você é e qual é o plano de Deus para sua vida.

Se você ligar ou escrever,  poderá nos dizer qual o tipo de pessoa com quem você gostaria de entrar em contato. Por exemplo, diga-nos se você pode conversar mais facilmente com uma mulher ou com um homem, ou se você quer o ponto de vista de alguém que foi, ou talvez ainda esteja, casado. Somos pessoas de diversas idades e origens.

Se você é pastor, professor ou conselheiro, saiba que recebemos todas as perguntas e respeitaremos qualquer necessidade de confidencialidade que você possa ter. Além de nossas publicações, oferecemos oradores e oferecemos nossa colcha memorial de AIDS para exibir nas igrejas para aumentar a conscientização.

CÓMO CONTACTAR O SDA KINSHIP

Você pode nos enviar um e-mail aqui.

Você também pode contatar-nos pelo correio:

Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Inc.
PO Box 244
Orinda, CA 94563
U.S.A.

Se você receber uma correspodência do Kinship, todos são enviados em envelopes simples que constam apenas o endereço da nossa caixa postal. Sua confidencialidade é muito importante para nós e nunca compartilharemos suas informações com mais ninguém.

 


MAIS RECURSOS
RECURSOS GERAIS

The goal of QueerBio.com is to be the definitive online biographical reference source for the international LGBTQ community. Its database lists over 9,000 contemporary and historical figures who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, and includes artists, sports figures, politicians, entertainers, business leaders, academics, activists, and more. The database is widely international in scope and is an ideal source for research and analysis with full search and sort functionality.

Level Ground uses art to create safe space for dialogue about faith, gender, and sexuality, Level Ground hopes to cultivate a better way of speaking with one another across our differences and disagreements.

A La Familia is a bilingual project that promotes inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people within communidades Latinas.

Queer Youth Advice for Educators: How to Respect and Protect Your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students

Understanding Bullying and Cyberbullying

RECURSOS INTERNACIONAIS

The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office promotes the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all, as reflected in the United Nations Charter. Through targeted education, advocacy, and outreach, we engage Unitarian Universalists in support of international cooperation and the work of the United Nations.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading international organization dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The GLOBAL INTERFAITH NETWORK on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity builds solidarity amongst individuals of faith regardless of SOGI, promote dialogue, respect and affirm diversity within various contexts and achieve common goals of equality, spirituality, and justice.

BIBLICAL ARTICLES AND PAPERS
Another Adventist Point of View by L Ben Kemena, MD

Basic LGBT+ Theology by Reinder Bruinsma

110104 bruinsmaReinder Bruinsma has been a Seventh-day Adventist conference president for the Netherlands and for Belgium, General Conference administrator, pastor, and author - among several other things. In what he loosely calls his "retirement" he continues to write, speak to Adventist leadership and laity conferences and, attend other meetings around the world. 

Reinder met Kinship as a group when he was a speaker at a European Kinship Meeting (EKM) in the Netherlands. He says the stories he heard from us at that meeting began to change his thinking about Adventists whose gender and sexuality included much diversity. After attending several Building Safe Places—for Everyone meetings in Germany, he decided to write a more inclusive Seventh-day Adventist Theology. It shares his personal and theological journey.

Reinder, Frieder and Ingrid Schmid, Per Bolling, and Valerie Ballieux have spent hours translating the text from English into the five languages we are sharing with you here. The Spanish translation is in process. Ruud Kieboom did his usual beautiful layout work. Several Kinship and Building Safe Places members have been sending paper copies to pastors and administrators in their areas.

We would be delighted if you pass along this electronic version. If you would like paper copies or if you have questions/comments, please feel welcome to write to us— Catherine Taylor

Biblical Texts and Homosexual Practices by Ivan T. Blazen

Living Edens Gifts by Catherine Taylor

Homosexuality: Can we talk about it? 
To view the PDF version, open the e-magazine and click on the download icon.

BOOKS AND BOOK REVIEWS

Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives
Edited by David Ferguson, Fritz Guy and David Larson

BOOK REVIEW - Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives

Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives 
David Ferguson, Fritz Guy and David Larson, editors, Adventist Forums, Roseville, CA (USA): 2008--370 pages; price $ 19.95

Review by Reinder Bruinsma, Netherlands

Homosexuality is one of the most difficult problems the SDA church struggles with today. It's a subject that has many aspects. First the theological aspect: what does the bible say about it? How can one explain the parts in the bible that deal with homosexuality. But besides these questions there are many other aspects. How does the church deal with its members who are homosexual. Can the church offer them employment/keep them in employment. Public opinion also plays a constant role. What does the outside world think of a church who apparently has great difficulties with homosexuals among it's membership. It is a fact that there are many homosexual Seventh-day Adventists and it is also a fact that they face much misunderstanding and even hostility, also (even) within the church.

The official point of view of the church is to be found in four declarations that have been published in the last couple of years. In short they say that it is clear that the church welcomes all those who have a different orientation from the majority, but at the same time it declares that they are not allowed to practice that other orientation. Sexuality, so it states, should be within a formalized, monogamous, permanent relationship of one man and one woman, and those who do not live in a matrimonial relationship can only live in celibacy.

Recently the independent Adventist organisation Adventist Forum (who also publishes Spectrum magazine) released a number of essays about many important aspects of homosexuality within the Adventist Church. Several people who are Adventist and homosexual or are related to them, have contributed. Next to a biographical section there is a section that deals with a number of bio-medical perspectives. In the next part of the book the contribution of Professor Ronald Lawson, an American lecturer of sociology, who is homosexual and Adventist, is of special importance. He offers ab outstanding documented summary about how the Adventist Church has dealt with homosexuality through the years.

Of course many readers will be especially interested in studying the fourth part of the book. In this part four adventist theologians speak. Their vision on what the bible says about homosexuality vary very much from each other. On the one hand two of them put forward that the bible itself doesn't know of the existence of variation in sexual orientation, but just speaks about homosexual behavior of straight people. One of the other theologians is very clear in his judgement that the bible doesn't give any space for homosexual conduct. The decision seems to be how one interprets the bible texts that deal with homosexuality. In the fifth and last part of the book some social and practical aspects come up.

This book can serve those greatly who want to come to a clearer understanding about what homosexuality is all about and how a Christian should deal with it. In this aspect another book that recently was published may also be of help: Richard M. Davidson's "Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament" (Peabody MS (USA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 844 pages; price $ 29.95. This book can be ordered on http://www.amazon.com/. More information about Adventists and homosexuality is to be obtained from the website of the Kinship organisation, an international organisation of Adventist homosexuals that has more than 1000 members. See http://www.sdakinship.org/. The official documents of the Adventist Church are to be found on the website of the General Conference http://www.adventist.org/ (click on Adventist Beliefs).

Translation: Ruud Kieboom
Reinder Bruinsma was president of the Dutch SDA-Union Conference. He retired in 2007.

David Ferguson, Fritz Guy and David Larson, editors, Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives. Roseville, CA (USA): Adventist Forums, 2008--370 pages; price $ 19.95

Review by David Potter, Australia

Are same-sex relationships natural? Do homosexuals and heterosexuals deserve equal treatment in the church? Is sexual preference chosen, or is it biologically determined? Are the Leviticus 18 and 20 edicts timeless moral laws that apply equally to Christians as to Israel? Do Paul’s comments on “unnatural” relations (Romans 1) cover all same-sex relations, or only the perverse practices of the godless Gentiles? These questions and many more are addressed in this book.

Most of the 18 papers in the book were presented at a 2006 conference organised by Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, an organisation set up in the 1970s to nurture gay and lesbian Adventists. Eight were written by current church academics. Most question aspects of the traditional church position on same-sex relations. The reader faces two challenges: firstly, to properly assess the growing body of literature that suggests homosexuality is a predisposition, not a choice; and secondly, to re-examine what Paul is really saying in Romans 1.

Part one is biographical, presenting the stories of Sherri Babcock, the great-great-granddaughter of one of the founders of Atlantic Union College; Leif Lind, former SDA pastor and missionary; and Paul Grady, son of a church pastor, missionary and administrator. All three are gay. According to Lind, coming out of the closet was “the hardest thing I have ever done.” Lind lost his marriage, his career, and his respect and acceptance in the church – a terrible price. But he had to be honest about who he was. “Who would choose to pit themselves against all odds and make life as difficult as possible if it were really a matter of choice or sexual ‘preference’? Not too many people I know,” writes Lind.

Part two examines biomedical perspectives. Research continues to suggest that homosexuality has a genetic predisposition and is biologically determined, a conclusion that was widely resisted. One of the last impediments was removed in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association unexpectedly declared that homosexuality was not an illness. As Fulton asks, if homosexuality is neither a choice nor an illness, how is the church going to deal with its anti-gay bias?

Part three presents insights from behavioural science. Change ministries have failed repeatedly. The church that has called itself “the caring church” and a “welcoming church” has not given evidence of these claims in its treatment of gay members and workers, most of whom have been forced to live deeply closeted, lonely lives. To come out risks ostracism and dismissal. To express sympathy is to be treated with hostility.

The church attempted to distance itself from Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International when in 1987 the General Conference filed suit for “breach of trademark.” The church lost. Later, in 1994, the GC administration committee voted that GC personnel were not to speak to gatherings of homosexuals. As Lawson notes, the official church position was becoming more polarising at a time when law courts were recognising the equality of homosexual and heterosexual persons.

Part four examines scriptural and theological perspectives. Jones writes, “Romans 1:24-27 contains the Bible’s only substantive consideration of homosexual conduct.” But it is not a complete discussion. It is a preliminary comment that serves to introduce Paul’s thesis that Jews and Gentiles are equally lost in sin and in need of salvation. Those that read Leviticus 18 and 20 literally, bring a preformed perspective that distorts Paul’s message. Homosexuality is not the central issue in Romans 1. Furthermore, in discussing homosexuality, it is not clear that Paul’s conceptual horizon and ours coincide. Indeed, there has been a serious confusion of categories.

For Guy, “It is Scripture as a whole that is properly the ‘rule of faith and practice.’” Applying this principle leads him to conclude that “Scripture does not condemn all same-sex love.” Gane’s literal interpretation of Leviticus does not let him entertain pro-gay views. Nevertheless, he concludes that the church has some work to do to restore itself as “the trusted friend rather than the enemy of sinners.” Rice notes with approval that in recent years the church has “become more open to the complexity of human sexuality and willing to consider more helpful responses.”

Part five contains four papers on Christian social perspectives, in which the writers press the church towards greater fairness and compassion, towards becoming the “just, open, caring” community it should be. “God puts a tremendous value on human freedom.” We must do no less.

We all have our responses. Perhaps these are well-informed; on the other hand, they could be tainted by prejudice or by misuse of Scripture. Whatever your current view, this book will inform and challenge your understanding.

Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives is a collection of essays dealing with the increasingly significant issues related to people who have a homosexual orientation and the way Christian churches relate to them.

The book is edited by David Ferguson, Fritz Guy, and David Larson and is the product of a collaboration between SDA Kinship, International (a support organisation for gay Adventists) and the Kinship Advisory Board [Kinship Advisory Council] (a group straight Adventist leaders formed to advise and lead SDA Kinship).

The subtitle of the book is important. The writers all come from a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) perspective. That does not mean they write from any official SDA position. In fact, much of the book may make the officials of SDAism somewhat uncomfortable. It is published by Adventist Forum -- an independent SDA organisation which fosters open communication and thinking amongst its members. 

Review by Steve Parker, South Australia

Christianity and Homosexuality has an interesting structure (see the diagram).I’d like to make a couple of comments about this structure because I think it is highly significant. Notice the location of the scriptural and theological perspectives. Most conservative Christians would want to place the Bible and theology at the beginning of the book and filter all other perspectives through its lense. However, the editors of this book perhaps recognise that placing the Bible at the beginning of the discussion would destroy any chance of an open inquiry into the subject of homosexuality.

I don’t think there is any doubt that the majority of Christians would make the assumption that the Bible condemns homosexuality outright. Beginning from this premise, a great deal of what this book discusses would be dismissed from the outset. However, by taking the approach they have, the editors lead us to the text after considering a whole range of extra-biblical material that makes us realise that the text needs, perhaps, to be read afresh and our traditional understandings rigorously critiqued. Let me lay out the journey the editors take us on -- at least as I read it.

1. Autobiographical perspective. At the very beginning of the book, we are introduced to real people who have had direct experience living with a homosexual orientation or who are related to someone who has. This first section of the book brings home the degree of pain and suffering experienced by an individual with a homosexual orientation. Whatever one may think about homosexuality, the reality is that the issue is not some abstract theological one that doesn’t affect real  people. The person living with a homosexual orientation either has to keep their experience to themselves, struggling to come to terms with what the church generally labels as sin while suffering intense guilt for being different or not being able to "overcome" their "sin".l

2. Alternatively the person with a homosexual orientation may "come out" and share their struggle with others. Often this results in isolation, exclusion, emotional (and often physical) abuse, or unsuccessful "reprogramming" by those who claim it can be cured. The person’s friends and family are also affected in various painful ways as they struggle to come to terms with what they often see as an abnormality, perversion, or sinful behaviour. 

3. By situating the entire discussion within the context of personal experience, the reader is forced to personalise the issue. Theological debate is, in this case, about real people. Whatever we may believe about homosexuality, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Jesus commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. 

4. We are then led on to the biomedical perspective. For those who are well informed, there are no surprises here. There is mounting evidence that there is a biological predisposition toward a homosexual orientation that has nothing to do with choice. Many Christians want to avoid this fact but it cannot be avoided.

5. Many people make a lot of the fact that homosexuality was removed from the DSM (the psychiatric diagnostic manual) in response to political action. What they don’t realise is that homosexuality was originally included in the DSM without any scientific basis in the first place. There is a chapter in this section that tells this story and is a very interesting read. 

6. Part Three of the book surveys behavioural science perspectives. The chapters that make up this section discuss the psychological and social experiences of gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists as well as asking whether the SDA denomination lives up to the ideals it holds as a caring, welcoming church. The assessment is not good, to say the least.

7. Only after dealing with the realities of experience and science does the book turn to scripture and theology. By now it is difficult not to be convinced that much of what we thought we knew about the homosexual experience has to go. But what does the Bible have to say on the subject and how should it be read? This section, in my view, is the most controversial of the book and is likely to provoke the most scrutiny. 

8. The most significant alternative understanding of the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality offered in this section is that the biblical writers knew nothing of what we know, in our time, about sexual orientation. Every reference to homosexual behaviour in Scripture occurs in a context where immoral actions are performed and the relationships are distorted. (One author rather unconvincingly suggests that there are actually positive examples of homosexual relationships in the Bible. This author himself admits that his view is highly conjectural.)

9. The argument is that homosexual acts in mutually beneficial, monogamous, long-term committed relationships are just not addressed in the Bible. Instead, we need to follow similar trajectories of interpretation as has occurred with slavery and the treatment of women. We need to accept that for a percentage of the population, homosexual orientation is normal. Rather than trying to "cure" them of that orientation, we need to accept it and focus on developing the moral foundations and parameters on which healthy partnerships can be formed between same-sex partners.

10. Of all the responses at the end of each section, Richard Rice’s response in this section is probably the most critical. It is as if the other sections of the book present ideas that are basically indisputable - it is hard to argue with personal experience or science. But it is obvious that, when it comes to Scripture an enormous amount of work needs to be done to develop better, deeper, and broader understandings of the text than we have so far. 

11. The final section of the book turns to Christian social perspectives. Coming from the SDA perspective that underlies the whole book, this section asks how SDAs should relate to the development of public policy in relation to homosexuality. What does it mean to pastor a gay person in the church? How do we evaluate public policy? What does a biblical sexuality look like? How does the biblical teaching on love imply what=2 0a same-sex marriage might look like? These are just a few of the tough questions dealt with in this part of the book.

Reading through Christianity and Homosexuality is an enlightening, provocative journey. I learned a great deal by reading this book. And the responses at the end of each chapter provided sensitive counterpoints to the material in the previous chapters.

This book probably raises more questions than it answers. But it is urgent that the questions be asked and discussed. So many Christian gay men and women are hurting deeply as a result of misunderstanding, prejudice, and demoralising treatment.

Although Christianity and Homosexuality is clearly written from an SDA perspective there is much of enormous value for any Christian considering this important issue. The best books bring greater understanding by challenging our thinking, pushing us beyond our present limited perspectives, generate discussion, and remind us that the freedom and grace of the gospel are the central tenets of our faith that should inform all that we do. If these are the criteria for a good book then Christianity and Homosexuality is a good book. But it is not just a good book - it is an urgent call to leave the pages and look out to our brothers and sisters who struggle to work out how to live out their faith while experiencing a sexual orientation they did not choose but defines much of who they are. It is up to all of us to love our gay brothers and sisters as Christ has l oved us.

Steve Parker, Morphett Vale Church, Adelaide, South Australia
Check out -Thinking Christian Blog-

BOOK REVIEW - Youth in Crisis: What Everyone Should Know About Growing Up Gay

Youth in Crisis: What Everyone Should Know About Growing Up Gay, edited by Mitchell Gold with Mindy Drucker Gold. New York, Magnus Books, paperback edition, 2008. 369 pages. Reviewed by Dave Ferguson.

I found it fascinating to learn the background stories of friends, acquaintances, well-known personalities, and others I had never heard about. I wanted to find a favorite story to highlight, but it was impossible; they were all so special in their own way. I have known for years that it is stories that change hearts and minds; so it was not surprising to find myself moved sometimes to laughter, sometimes to tears, and often to be deeply moved by the lives of the forty individuals who were willing to share their personal lives and struggles based on their sexual orientation. The personal introduction of each story by Mitchell Gold shows his intense involvement not only with the struggle faced by those growing up gay in our society, but also the depth of his involvement in the project of writing the book by actually spending time with each author and their story. It is difficult for me to imagine anyone being able to read all of these stories and still be able to say these people all “chose” to experience this pain, but some religious folks still cling to the belief that sexual orientation is a choice despite the evidence from so many sources that says it is not.

The book is a must read for every teenager in America whether they are coming to terms with their own sexual orientation or that of a family member, friend, classmate, or fellow congregant. I’m encouraging those in gay-straight alliances to include it in discussions. After reading it themselves, teens should share with their parents, so they can understand both the struggles of teens and learn from the stories of other parents how to first deal with having a gay child (I’m including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) and then what it means to love and support them. The book’s sections can be read sequentially or in any order that meets a teen’s current circumstances. The various sections reflect the areas of greatest challenge: Religious Discrimination; Family and Community Rejection; School and Social Discrimination; In the Workplace; What I Know Now: On Losing A Child; The Sin Question; and an Exposé on the Silent Epidemic of Depression, Isolation, and Fear. Of all of these categories, it is still hardest to grasp that people who claim a religious faith and experience can, at the same time, inflict so much pain on the lives of others through their words, their actions, and their inaction.

The book is a gold mine of resources. It moves from understanding texts in the Bible to sources for school statistics, to organizations that can provide support to those to be avoided, and the myth of reparative therapy. The Expose’ provides rich resources and ideas for teachers, principals, school administrators, parents, politicians, the media, pastors, rabbis, priests, and imams.

This book makes a wonderful gift to youth in crisis. It provides the answers for moving from crisis to a life that is filled with joy and fulfillment. Hopefully, as a society we will make the constitutional guarantees of equality for all a reality for these teens who are currently bullied in school and denied housing, workplace security, and a partner because of their orientation.

COMING OUT RESOURCES

Am I Gay? A Guide for People Who Question Their Sexual Orientation

Coming Out to Your Parents

Letters to a Young Gay Christian
While this book has a focused mission to provide support and encouragement for young gay Christians, I hope that everyone, including straight cisgender people of all religions, can find in its pages wisdom, truth, and the warmth of a fellow human being trying to write a little love into the world. At the end of the day, I want all of us to live in peaceful community with the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts. — Aaron Walsh

 

FAITH COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Renewed Heart Ministries is a not-for-profit, teaching ministry, passionate about putting on display the enemy-embracing, radically-forgiving, self-giving, others-focused, co-suffering, nonviolent love of God as seen in Jesus of Nazareth, as the way to renew and heal this world, till the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

Out In Scripture is a collection of over 175 conversations about the Bible. With the skilled help of 100 diverse scholars and pastors, from over 11 different denominations, you will discover a fresh approach to Scripture. Here you can be honest, question and go deeper.

The Marin Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that works to build bridges between the LGBTQ community and the Church through scientific research, biblical and social education, and diverse community gatherings.

Believe Out Loud is an online network that empowers Christians to work for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. Reaching nearly one million individuals a week, we elevate the people and places where Christianity and LGBT justice intersect. 

The National LGBTQ Task Force organizes, convenes and staffs the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), a network of leaders from pro-LGBT faith, spiritual and religious organizations, and runs the Institute for Welcoming Resources (IWR), which works with the welcoming church movement in eight mainline Protestant denominations.

The Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program’smission is to change the conversation about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and faith.

Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities:  A Congregational Guide for Transgender Advocacy

GLAAD's Religion, Faith & Values program works to amplify the voices of LGBT-affirming communities of faith and LGBT people of faith.

Q Christian Fellowship (QCF) We are a diverse community with varied backgrounds, cultures, theologies, and denominations, drawn together through our love of Christ and our belief that every person is a beloved child of God.

FILMS & VIDEOS

Our hope and prayer making Seventh-Gay Adventists: A Film About Faith on the Margins has always been to spark authentic dialogue with (and not just “at” or “about”) LGBTI members of the Adventist church (and beyond). The listening spaces that have opened up at screenings and home viewings have been profound. People have realized that it’s not about a theological debate; it’s about listening, really listening, to the stories and perspectives of those most marginalized and least allowed to share their experiences in our pulpits and publications. Because of the importance of these conversations, we are offering the film for free to any Adventist pastor or teacher who requests a copy. The digital copy is entirely free, and the DVD version will only cost the shipping fees while supplies last. If you’d like to watch this film for yourself or share it with a Sabbath school class, home discussion group or class, please contact Daneen Akers at daneen@daneenakers.com.

The digital and DVD versions include English closed captioning and subtitles in English, French, and Portuguese, as well a great deal of special features (such as an intro and Q&A and over 30 minutes of additional footage). www.sgamovie.com

Here are a few of the endorsements the film has garnered:

“The movie, which simply tells stories rather than taking an advocacy stance, is powerful. It can, I believe, do much to make Adventists more compassionate.” —Dr. William Johnsson, retired editor, The Adventist Review

“Whatever one’s position regarding homosexuals and the church may be, this film is worth seeing because it candidly probes issues with real human faces and stories.” —Dr. Roy Gane, author and Andrews seminary professor

“No matter one’s views going into the film, one comes out better understanding the human responsibility, let alone the church’s responsibility, in dealing with its LGBT children and members. I defy anyone to see this film dry-eyed. It will change you. You’ll leave with Christ’s words ringing in your ears, ‘I tell you the truth, whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.’” —Dr. Lawrence T. Geraty, president emeritus, La Sierra University

“This film is—hands down—the best bridge-building film in this genre that I’ve seen.” —Andrew Marin, author of Love Is an Orientation

“A must-see documentary film about the crossroads between faith and sexual identity. Thank you for being gracious and generous and for putting a spotlight on grace.” —Pastor Ray Dabrowski, communication director for the General Conference from 1994 to 2010

“The film is superb, a poignant and profound experience beyond any I've seen on the subject.” —Chris Blake, author and professor of English at Union College

“If you are processing how a ‘follower of Jesus’ should respond to someone whom society has labelled as LGBT, you owe it to yourself to add this documentary to the list of resources you are considering. I was unexpectedly blown away…. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.” —Herb Montgomery, author of Finding the Father and director of Renewed Heart Ministries

Enough Room At The Table: A Conversation about Faith, Sexuality, and Gender
ENOUGH ROOM AT THE TABLE is a dialogue film set at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality. It’s meant to model the sacred space that opens up when we gather to genuinely listen to each other and participate in each other’s lives. Our differences in beliefs, theological paradigms, and practice don’t disappear; but we stop seeing each other as position statements or labels and instead see each other as fellow beloved children of God. We start looking like the sort of people who are known by their love.  http://www.enoughroomfilm.com/ 

For the Bible Tells Me So
Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families -- including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson -- we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity. Find it online here...

Trembling Before G-d — https://www.amazon.com/Trembling-Before-G-d-Shlomo-Ashkinazy/dp/B0000BV1YO
A cinematic portrait of various gay Orthodox Jews who struggle to reconcile their faith and their sexual orientation. Built around intimately-told personal stories of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian, the film portrays a group of people who face a profound dilemma - how to reconcile their passionate love of Judaism and the Divine with the drastic Biblical prohibitions that forbids homosexuality.

Before God: We are All Family 
Our new short film, Before God: We Are All Family is a film that explores the experiences of LGBT people of deep faith -- who have been told there is no place for them in their church of origin -- and the experiences of their parents and siblings -- who have been cruelly asked to choose between su familia y su relgión.

Before God, We Are All Family
A La Familia: A Conversation About Our Families, the Bible, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Request a screening of Before God, We Are All Family
Contact Us: Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, Director of Latino and Catholic Initiatives - familia@hrc.org

 

SHORT VIDEOS

Outspoken - A new documentary short film series from the producers of Seventh-Gay Adventists.

Yo soy JhonnyPublished on May 1, 2017 -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgNsHJ2DNto&feature=youtu.be
Como dijera Braulio Peralta al citar a Carlos Monsivais en su libro "El closet de cristal": "de que puede enorgullecerse una persona si no esta orgullosa de su comunidad"; pues bien, me enorgullece representar a ambas comunidades, conflictuadas entre si durante mucho tiempo y quizá sea tiempo de desmitificar las razones por las que no debiéramos pertenecer a una u otra comunidad. A través de los vídeos que estaré subiendo procuraré dar una perspectiva diferente a la diversidad sexual tocando el punto desde el ángulo cristiano.

Dejo los links de algunas comunidades incluyentes en la república mexicana:

Católicos cristianos incluyentes: https://www.facebook.com/CasaApostoli...

Adventistas incluyentes: http://www.sdakinship.org/es/

Mormones incluyentes: http://afirmacion.org/

Evangélicos incluyentes: https://www.facebook.com/icmcasadeluz...

Judíos incluyentes: https://www.facebook.com/Guimelmx/?fr...

Mi blog personal: https://www.facebook.com/yosoyjhonny/..

Here I Am - https://vimeo.com/158130932
"Here I Am" interviews 28 individuals and discusses the importance of telling our stories at the intersection of faith and sexuality. It was produced largely due to the efforts of our friend and Kinship member, Dr. John Wallace.

Matthew Vines at the Together In This event, February 21, 2015 - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj7j5qgIMa9gX-apCl7h1Yg 
Watch Matthew Vines (matthewvines.com) and his session from the Together In This event on February 21st, 2015.

The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality - http://www.matthewvines.com/transcript/
by Matthew Vines

Matthew Vines is an advocate for the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people within Christian communities and in society at large. He lives in Wichita, Kansas. Matthew attended Harvard University from 2008 to 2010. He then took a leave of absence in order to research the Bible and homosexuality and work toward LGBT inclusion in the church.

In March 2012, Matthew delivered a speech at a church in his hometown about the Bible and homosexuality, calling for acceptance of gay Christians and their marriage relationships. Since then, the video of the speech has been seen more than 500,000 times on YouTube, and it was featured in The New York Times and The Christian Post. You can access transcriptions of this speech in Deutsch, Español, Français, Italiano, Portugués, русский, 日本人 , 中国(简体 ) , 中國(傳統), 한국의 ,

Teaching Empathy  - http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/children-full-of-life/

Children Full of Life
Mr. Kanamori, a teacher of a 4th grade class, teaches his students not only how to be students, but how to live. He gives them lessons on teamwork, community, the importance of openness, how to cope, and the harm caused by bullying.

In the award-winning documentary Children Full of Life, a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori.

He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates.

Toshiro is an amazing example of what all teachers across the world should be like. He truly understands what teaching children is all about and certainly made a positive difference in the lives of these 10-year-olds. 

It Gets Better
The It Gets Better Project is an Internet-based project founded in the United States. Its goal is to prevent suicide among LGBTIQ youth by having gay adults convey the message through social media videos that these teens’ lives will improve. The project has grown rapidly: over 200 videos were uploaded in the first week, and the project’s YouTube channel reached the 650-video limit in the next week.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_among_LGBT_youth - cite_note-Savage_sfgate_1010-29 The project is now organized on its own website, the It Gets Better Project (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/) and includes more than 30,000 entries, with more than 40 million views, from people of all sexual orientations, including many celebrities. A book of essays from the project, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, was released in March 2011. The link above is the one made by and for Seventh-day Adventists.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qXQRxr4ZWg

Norman Spack: How I Help Transgender Teens Become Who They Want To Be

TEDxBeaconStreet 2013 · 16:53 · Filmed Nov 2013
Puberty is an awkward time for just about everybody, but for transgender teens it can be a nightmare, as they grow overnight into bodies they aren't comfortable with. In a heartfelt talk, endocrinologist Norman Spack tells a personal story of how he became one of the few doctors in the US to treat minors with hormone replacement therapy. By staving off the effects of puberty, Spack gives trans teens the time they need.   Interactive Transcript

RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES
The purpose of this ministry for Adventist families and friends of gays and lesbians is:
•   to provide a listening ear for parents who desperately need a "safe" person to talk to,
•   to help parents work through their initial emotions of shock, anger, shame, grief, and pain,
•   to enable parents to get past focusing on their own suffering so they can begin to understand their children's situations and the confusion and rejection they have experienced much of their lives,
•   to encourage parents to demonstrate God's unconditional love to their children, and
•   to provide information and resources in the hope that they will help our church to move beyond ignorance and prejudice and to reach out with true compassion and understanding to those who so often have not been treated the way Jesus modeled.
 

Fact Sheet: Overview of Lesbian and Gay Parenting, Adoption and Foster Care

Lori Duron is the author of Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son (Random House, September 2013). The first parenting memoir to chronicle the journey of raising a gender nonconforming child, the book is based on her blog of the same name.

Letters to a Young Gay Christian
While this book has a focused mission to provide support and encouragement for young gay Christians, I hope that everyone, including straight cisgender people of all religions, can find in its pages wisdom, truth, and the warmth of a fellow human being trying to write a little love into the world. At the end of the day, I want all of us to live in peaceful community with the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts. — Aaron Walsh

SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES AND PAPERS

Conversion therapy - Consensus statement

At the request of the Department of Health this public information was prepared by the UK Council for Psychotherapy with the support and assistance of the British Psychoanalytic Council, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the British Psychological Society, The National Counselling Society, Pink Therapy and Stonewall. February 2014. Read the Statement by clicking here.

What Do Health Care Professional Organizations Say About "Reparative Therapy" Efforts to Eliminate Homosexual Desire?

YOUTH & STUDENT RESOURCES

Resources for LGBTQ Students

LGBTQ Students and College Affordability

College Guide for LGBTQ Students

The Intercollegiate Adventist GSA Coalition (IAGC) exists to support Gay and /Straight Alliance (GSA) groups at Adventist colleges across North America.

LifeWorks is the youth development and mentoring program of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. We offer one on one, peer, and group mentoring opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth ages 12-24.

HeartStrong is a nonsectarian organization established to provide outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and other persons adversely affected by the influence of all denominations of religious educational institutions.

Letters to a Young Gay Christian
While this book has a focused mission to provide support and encouragement for young gay Christians, I hope that everyone, including straight cisgender people of all religions, can find in its pages wisdom, truth, and the warmth of a fellow human being trying to write a little love into the world. At the end of the day, I want all of us to live in peaceful community with the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts. — Aaron Walsh

ASEXUAL RESOURCES
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) was founded in 2001 with two distinct goals: creating public acceptance and discussion of asexuality and facilitating the growth of an asexual community. They have grown to host the world’s largest asexual community, serving as an informational resource for people who are asexual and questioning, their friends and families, academic researchers and the press.
BISEXUAL RESOURCES

The Bisexual Resource Center is the oldest national bi organization in the U.S. that advocates for bisexual visibility and raises awareness about bisexuality throughout the LGBT and straight communities.

TRANSGENDER RESOURCES

REFUGE is a web application that seeks to provide safe restroom access for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals.

Terminology within the transgender community varies and has changed over time so we recognize the need to be sensitive to usage within particular communities.

Glossary of Terms - Transgender

Transgender Law Center
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.

Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (CoE)
The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (CoE) combines the unique strengths and resources of a nationally renowned training and capacity-building institution, the Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center (PAETC), and an internationally recognized leader in HIV prevention research, the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS), both of which are housed at the University of California San Francisco.

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Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators

Claude E. Steen, III, Editor

Who Cares? Newsletter — January 2011

Editor's Perspective - "Was Blind, But Now I See” ↓↓
whocares banner2A
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Editor’s Perspective
“…Was Blind, But Now I See”

110103 claudesteenYou’re looking at the first issue of an e-mail newsletter designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents. 

Like me, some of you may not have realized that we have any, because they aren’t wearing labels or demanding our attention. But more and more our eyes are being opened and our hearts are being wrenched by nagging questions about how to act as Jesus would in the face of deep but quiet anguish.

Whose anguish? That of members in our pews and students in our schools who deeply identify as Adventists, but who are sure that their other, equally deep, identity as gay or lesbian can never be welcomed by their church.

Briefly, here's my story. This past June I retired after more than 40 years of pastoral ministry, mostly in the NAD Columbia and Southern Unions, with five years in Ethiopia, where I had grown up as an MK. My wife Donna and I are the proud parents of five adult children, all outstanding achievers with solid careers and great families, giving us 11 grandchildren (to date!).

So why would I want to dedicate a portion of my retirement to editing a newsletter about gays? Because I have come to realize that for most of those wonderful years of marriage and ministry I was blind. Blind to some pressing needs of my parishioners. And blind even to agonizing struggles going on in my own children.

First came the news that one of our daughters-in-law (an Adventist professional from a good Adventist family, a great mother of two of our wonderful grandchildren) was leaving her marriage, having decided she is a lesbian. Then just over a year ago, another son (in medical school, still single at 31, a "son with whom I am well pleased") called to tell his mother and me that he is gay.

Obviously all this has raised many urgent questions in my mind—some deeply personal, others more general and professional. Why couldn't a son struggling for years with his sexual orientation confide in his pastor father or his educator mother? Why in all my years of pastoring Adventist churches was I never aware of even one gay or lesbian member or attendee? The best statistics available suggest that as many as 5% of church family members and potential members are homosexual or struggling to deal with those issues in their personal lives. 

I've come to realize that it wasn't because they weren't there that I didn't see these people, but because I was blind. They didn't make themselves known because my churches, and the attitudes I projected, were not "safe" for such discussions or disclosures. And I now know that my experience is not all that unique.

This is not an easy subject to tackle. Most of us have strong convictions and maybe even stronger feelings. But we must not avoid study and discussion just because it is hard. The love that our Lord demands (and provides) cannot look the other way while significant numbers of our neighbors, our members, our students, and our families feel that we condemn the very beings they know themselves to be.

When Jesus lays out the criteria by which he will judge our faithfulness and effectiveness in ministry, He commends those who ministered tenderly to His brothers and sisters considered outcasts or less valuable, not realizing they were ministering to Jesus Himself. Those who failed the test are those who neglected the most vulnerable of His children (Matthew 25:31-46).

Who Cares? proposes to be a voice calling Adventist leaders to care enough to take another look, to take seriously the divine scolding of Ezekiel 34 directed at shepherds who neglect to care for the weak and the abused of the flock, and to help transform our churches and schools into safe places for all of God’s children. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we invite you to join the conversation searching for them. We point no fingers for we are all guilty. And in the words of Jesus, “…they know not what they do.” But the Chief Shepherd is already at work, and we are invited to repent and join Him. 

Claude E. Steen, III

claudesteenis@gmail.com

Introducing Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Introducing Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International

By Yolanda Elliott

110104 YolandaSeventh-day Adventist Kinship International provides a safe spiritual and social community to current and former Adventists who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI). Current membership is more than 1,500 world-wide.

To help members build and nurture friendships, SDA Kinship holds an annual four-day Kampmeeting in North America as well as mini-kampmeetings around the U.S. and the world. Kampmeetings usually include worship services, group outings, and informational sessions by members or guest speakers.

Kinship also has a thriving online community through our web site, www.sdakinship.org, where members can chat with each other, post on discussion forums, read recent news stories, and share experiences that are important to them. Kinship’s education and advocacy goals are to facilitate and promote understanding and affirmation of LGBTI Adventists among themselves and within the Seventh-day Adventist community worldwide.

Since its founding in 1976, Kinship has been a lifeline to many LGBTI people, their family members, and friends. The organization encourages its members to integrate all aspects of their lives so they can live as whole and healthy LGBTI individuals—children of God awaiting the return of Jesus.

Yolanda Elliott lives in Clarksville, Maryland. She is an alumna of Columbia Union College (now WAU). She’s been a Kinship member since 1995 and is the current president of Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International.
Some Current Initiatives of SDA Kinship International ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Some Current Initiatives of SDA Kinship International

By Dave Ferguson

110104 FergusonDaveWith suicides of gay teens and young adults becoming national news, SDA Kinship is working to prevent others from taking their lives. The Safe Place program has been introduced to the Presidents of the 15 Adventist universities and colleges in North America. 

The program would provide faculty on each campus who are willing to serve as a Safe Place for gay and lesbian students to talk confidentially about their orientation. Faculty would also determine if the student needs professional counseling and if the student is facing bullying or harassment because of their sexual orientation. Other students who are perceived as “different” for cultural, ethnic, or physical reasons would also be able to talk to these faculty members.  Hopefully, the program will be ready for introduction to the campuses for the 2011-2012 school year.  

 A similar program designed for elementary schools and academies is being developed. This anti-bullying, anti-harassment, and tolerance program should be ready for a pilot test in several schools this school year. If you would like to have your school participate in the pilot program, please contact me at churchrelations@sdakinship.org

Your feedback regarding these initiatives is welcomed. We care what you think!

Dave Ferguson, Church Relations Director for Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, is an active member of his local Adventist church. He served as an Adventist pastor for 15 years and tried every available method to change his orientation, but found it to be impossible. Believing that God called him to ministry, he currently ministers to Kinship members, especially others who have served the church as pastors. He also works with other pastors and educators who are seeking to provide answers to gay and lesbian members of their congregation or campus.
Creating a Safe Learning Environment ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Creating a Safe Learning Environment

By John Dolby

Recently I was privileged to have a senior high school student share with me her dream of becoming a first or second grade teacher some day. When asked what interested her about teaching first and second grade she replied, “Because it’s the last time kids were kind to me at school. After that they just kept picking on me and teasing me.”

As we continue to press into the 21st century we believe that we have become much more tolerant and respectful of others than a previous generation. After the kidnapping, beating, and murder of Matthew Shepard we think we’ve learned about inclusion and acceptance. But have we really learned anything?

The morning news tells us we still have a long way to go in treating others with respect. While we like to think that bullying and harassment happens only in “other” schools, the sad reality exists that bullying in its many forms is prevalent in Adventist schools and academies too.  As I spoke with one school administrator his concern about teasing and bullying came through: “I know it exists on my campus but I don’t know how to make it stop.”

I’m reminded of Ezekiel’s stern words that were directed to the spiritual leaders of his day; words that were intended for those charged with the care of others; those who were to be like a shepherd caring for a flock. Ezekiel says, “You have not taken care of the weak ones, healed the ones that are sick, bandaged the ones that are hurt, brought back the ones that wandered off, or looked for the ones that were lost. Instead, you treated them cruelly” Ezekiel 34:4 (TEV).

Can I tell you something honestly? I really don’t like those words. Because their message isn’t just for the religious leaders in Jerusalem—those words are directed to you and me today. Too many times we’ve looked past the weak, the vulnerable, those at risk and those that have been picked on.  We’ve tolerated many subtle forms of teasing and social aggression. Instead of standing up and speaking out on behalf of those who have no voice or those whose voices have been silenced, we have treated them cruelly by allowing the bullying to continue. We have neither tried to protect those who have been bullied nor have we tried to prevent it from continuing.

In her book, Creating Emotionally Safe Classrooms, Dr. Jane Bluestein suggests numerous proactive steps that educators can take to create a safe environment where everyone is treated with mutual respect, where bullying does not happen, we need to create schools where students can experience:

  1. A sense of belonging, of being welcomed and valued; being treated with respect and dignity; acceptance
  2. The freedom to not be good at a particular skill, to make mistakes, forget, or to need additional practice and still be treated respectfully and with acceptance
  3. Encouragement and success; recognition; instruction, guidance and resources according to individual needs
  4. Having one's own unique talents, skills and qualities valued, recognized and acknowledged
  5. Freedom from arbitrary, indiscriminate and unexpected punishment and reactivity
  6. Freedom from harassment, intimidation (including labeling, name-calling, ridicule, teasing, criticism, contempt, or aggression) and threat of physical harm from adults or peers
  7. Freedom from prejudice, judgment and discrimination based on physical characteristics and general appearance; religious, racial or cultural background; sexual orientation
  8. Freedom from prejudice, judgment and discrimination based on academic, athletic, creative or social capabilities; modality or learning-style preferences, or temperament,
  9. Freedom to have and express one's own feelings and opinions without fear of recrimination
Tragic events in recent weeks remind us that there is so much work left to do in order to make schools safe and affirming places for all students. October 5 was National Safe Schools Day—an opportunity to spread awareness of the situation of our schools and work together to change the school environments that fail to protect our youth.

John Dolby
is a pseudonym
Gay Bashing in Adventist Schools: Creating a Safe Environment for Students with a Perceived Homosexual Orientation ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Gay Bashing in Adventist Schools: Creating a Safe Environment for Students with a Perceived Homosexual Orientation

By Carrol Grady

Carrol GradyThe current epithet of choice on the playground and in the classroom is fag or faggot. These words are hurled derisively at any student who is seen as “different,” whether or not the student is actually a homosexual. For the most part, this abuse is perpetrated by boys against other boys and is the result of parental and societal attitudes and pressures to be “manly.” The quiet, bookish boy who is not interested in sports is often seen as a sissy.

The ultimate put-down today is “You’re so gay!” and this is also used, along with “dyke,” to target girls who are assertive, intellectual, or interested in sports and masculine pursuits. Of course, not all students who have non-gender-typical behaviors and interests are destined to be homosexual, but this is considered a strong indicator. Various studies have established that 65-75% of children with non-gender-typical behavior will be gay.(1)

Detrimental Effect on Students

In spite of the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” words do have the power to hurt. A continued pattern of abuse may damage a student’s self-perception or make him/her feel unsafe, so that time and energy which should be devoted to learning is directed instead toward surviving in a hostile environment. If teachers do not to stop abuse, victims will feel abandoned by the very ones who should protect them. They may try to avoid calling attention to themselves by not speaking up in class or participating in class activities.

If they are actually aware of their own homosexual feelings the trauma is increased ten-fold, and often leads to missing classes or even dropping out of school permanently. The recent rash of gay teen suicides has drawn national attention to this problem, with research showing nine out of ten gay teens have experienced harassment and are four times as likely to attempt suicide as their counterparts.2 Cyber-bullying is a new form of aggression that presents a unique challenge today.

Perpetrators are also harmed if allowed to continue their attacks with impunity. Over time they tend to become more aggressive. “Studies have shown that boys identified as bullies in middle school are four times as likely as their peers to have more than one criminal conviction by age twenty-four.”(3)

Adventist Schools Different?

“But surely,” you may be saying, “this doesn’t take place in our Adventist schools!” True, most of our schools have a zero-tolerance policy for derogatory language, but this often does not extend to slurs about sexual orientation. Teachers in Adventist schools are often uncomfortable with this issue or may have strongly held beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality, and are likely to ignore, downplay, or excuse this kind of hurtful behavior.

Yet Christians believe that no one is outside God’s love. And teachers believe that every child is entitled to respect and a safe learning environment. We must recognize that gay-bashing is a separate issue from our beliefs about homosexuality.

Incidents in Adventist Schools

Mark grew up in the mission field, attending a small school that enjoyed nature activities as recreation. He was 12 when his parents came back home and settled in a small Adventist college town. He soon discovered that the other boys in his class cared only about sports. He tried to be friendly but the other students called him “Sissy.” His good grades and musical talent only intensified the ridicule and bullying, and some of the older boys even shoved him around and punched him.

One morning Mark woke up feeling completely overwhelmed with pain, sadness and rejection. He experienced a nervous breakdown and was unable to attend school or church for several weeks. Fortunately, his parents found counseling for him and he was able to finish the school year. The following year he had a teacher who refused to tolerate abusive behavior and he did better. But 45 years later, those memories are still vivid and he has spent many years in counseling, working to overcome the feelings of fear and rejection that still affect his relationships.

Peter went away to boarding academy in 11th grade, where he experienced constant ridicule and abuse from the other boys. One time they pushed him into a shower stall and urinated on him. When his horrified parents finally heard about this, they called the boys’ dean, only to be told that this was Peter’s fault for not standing up for himself, and that if the dean punished the other boys it would only make matters worse. They decided to let Peter stay home and attend high school, where he found acceptance with a number of other gay students. Unfortunately, he drifted into a promiscuous lifestyle and contracted AIDS, dying some years later. Many similar experiences could be told.

Often teachers do not know how to respond in situations like these. They may be concerned about how parents will react, uncertain about what course to follow, or dealing with their own homophobia. Here are some guidelines that may help:

Every school should have a policy that addresses anti-gay harassment, and it should be followed consistently.

Effective intervention includes immediately stopping the behavior with statements like, “Stop that right now!”, “That is not acceptable behavior”, or “Christians should not put other people down.”

This should be followed by education, either on the spot or later in private.  Immediate brief instruction sets the tone for compassion and helps students know that school is a safe place.  Later instruction in private has the advantage of more time for discussion, saving face for the bully, and preventing embarrassment for the victim, who may also fear retaliation after school.

Teachers, like most of us, might benefit from additional study of homosexuality in order to understand it better. A good place to start is the recently published Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives.(4) 

Teachers should also be aware of the legal ramifications involved in situations where one student harasses another. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment means that schools have a duty to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students from harassment on an equal basis with other students.(5)  

Christian teachers should encourage students to value each person for his/her unique, God-given personality and talents and help develop a sense of responsible caring for each other. Then they will be ready to take their place in society as representative followers of Christ.
___________________________
(1) Healy, Melissa, “Pieces of the Puzzle” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2001
(2) http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/10/12/gay-teen-suicide-surge/
(3) http://www.mychildsafety.net/effects-of-bullying.html
(4) http://www.sdagayperspectives.com (to purchase online)
(5) Joslin, Courtney, Esq., “Harassment and Discrimination: A Legal Overview.” National Center for Lesbian Rights, Washington, D.C., 2001

Carrol Grady is a retired minister’s wife, having served with her husband in several NAD conferences and unions as well as in Asia and the General Conference. After learning, some 20 years ago, that their youngest son is gay, she wrote a book about their family’s experiences, which led to a ministry for other families of gays and lesbians. She maintains an informational website, www.someone-to-talk-to.net.
Homosexuality and the Church ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Homosexuality and the Church

By Bruce Manners 

100925 BruceManners150

Editor's note:  Here is a link to the video of a sermon preached on September 25, 2010 by the senior pastor of College Church on the Avondale College campus. Prepare for nearly half an hour of mental and spiritual stimulation.  Avondale College Church Service

You might also enjoy some of the other features on this website. http://www.sevvie.tv

Bruce Manners is senior pastor of the campus church at Avondale College, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia. A graduate of Avondale with a PhD in sociology from Monash University, Manners has pastored several churches in Australia; and prior to his appointment to College Church in 2004, he was senior editor for Signs Publishing Company, the Adventist publisher for the South Pacific.
Diversity and the Seventh-day Adventist Church ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Diversity and the Seventh-day Adventist Church

By Reinder Bruinsma

Editor's note:  The unity of the Adventist church seems to be threatened by post-modernism and increasing diversities of thought and culture. This article addresses such relevant questions as, “How should the church deal with diversity?”, “If unity in diversity is to be achieved how do we decide which beliefs are non-negotiable and which allow flexibility?”, and “What are the most pressing issues to be decided by the church in the next five years?”

This is a partial transcript of a sermon presented by Pastor Bruinsma at the European Kinship Meeting this past September in the village of Neer, southeastern Netherlands. It is considerably longer than most we intend to send you, but we believe that the importance and timeliness of these ideas merit the energy it will cost you to digest them.

110104-bruinsmaIn order to understand some of the issues facing our church around concepts of diversity, I believe it is important for us to take a look at the difference between modern and postmodern thinking. The era we term modern rejected medieval myths, renewed an interest in the classics, embraced humanism, developed a new approach to the arts, and promoted trust in reason. The scientific method espoused experiment and exploration.

The role of theology and church weakened as the emphasis on reason grew.  The motto became, “I believe what I can understand.” Charles Darwin (1809-1892) wrote that science rather than religion explains our origins. Gradually secularism gained ground. There was an emphasis on harmony and structure. With the thoughts of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Friedrich Nietzsche there began to be more focus on feeling, interpretation, lack of absolute truth and morality, and emphasis on hermeneutics. We began to think in terms of chance or contingencies instead of absolute truths. Diversity rather than harmony or unity became increasingly important. Believers began to ask questions not posed before: Why Christianity? Why this particular denomination? How much must I accept to belong to a church?

The appeal of non-denominational churches increased. Post-modern thinkers began to have changing views of ecumenism. We began to consider the possibilities that all traditions have value; and our goals began to focus on dialogue, understanding and respect.

Diversity: A Christian Value

There is one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 proclaims, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” Exodus 20 instructs, “Do not worship any other gods besides Me!” Ephesians 4:5 reiterates, “There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” God is unity. And yet, God is also a trinity—One Essence in three “Persons”—community, communication, relationships. The Bible shows us repeatedly that it takes a multiplicity of metaphors to talk about God.

The Biblical view of mortals is holistic: We are unity. We have a body and a spirit that makes us a soul. We have individuality. Yet, we are diversity: male, female, intersex. We exist in a family, community and relationships. We have a variety of occupations: farmer, prophet, teacher and healer.

The Bible is a book of diversity; yet, there is unity in the Scriptures. There is great diversity among the authors and their styles of writing. There is diversity in sources and discrepancies in the reporting of specific events.

In the Old Testament there is both unity and diversity in the origin stories of Genesis 1, 2, and 10. In the stories of Israel and other nations there was no intention that other nations should cease to exist. God's intention was that these different nations should worship the one God. The covenant emphasizes kinship, but there is always a place for the stranger. Jesus' genealogy indicates non-Israelite women.

In the New Testament Jesus associated with men and women of all walks of life. He had compassionate dealings with Jews and non-Jews: Samaritans, the Syrophoenician woman, and Romans, for examples. He dealt with various categories of Jews. His followers interacted with a diverse group of people: Philip and the eunuch from Africa, Peter and the Roman centurion, Paul as apostle to the Gentiles. Christians were from everywhere and made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Some member of the new church thought that everyone should be the same; but the focus of Paul on diversity prevailed: we are one body with One Head, yet we differ from each other and are needed and interdependent. We have different gifts and talents but One Spirit. It is not what we are but in Whom we are.

Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

We have changed from being white and rural to mixed race and cosmopolitan. We began in the United States, expanded to Europe, and became world-wide. In many countries we have gone from mono-cultural to multicultural. We have shifted from being a denomination predominately from lower social classes to one containing a wide spread of social strata. We look at issues such as the role of the church community, the extended family (social control), and the place of church in the totality of life. Different times and parts of the church have had a variety of views on divorce, condoms and other contraceptives, polygamy, sex before marriage, cohabitation and homosexuality.

Schools of thought around these discussions include liberal, progressive, moral influence, evangelical, center conservative, extreme conservative and ultra-extreme conservative (outside regular Adventism).

How do we decide what is more or less important? Do we use some sort of doctrinal triage?  What are the landmarks of our faith? I propose a model of concentric circles. There are Christian fundamentals (what makes you a Christian). Then there would be Adventist core doctrines (which defines an Adventist). Then Adventist secondary doctrines (fair degree of unanimity) and finally Adventist traditions.  The postmodern person will make personal judgments.

Key issues at the present time are: how to read the Bible, hermeneutics, creation, women's ordination and sexual orientation.

As the church struggles with how to address issues of diversity I have many reasons for optimism. We share many basic convictions: a high view of the Bible; basic Christian doctrines such as God, Christ and salvation; a general Protestant orientation; Sabbath; the second coming; a great controversy theme; belief in a heavenly sanctuary; an understanding of the nature of humanity and an emphasis on stewardship, especially health.

How Will We Deal With Polarity and Diversity? Looking Forward

Will we maintain unity through forced uniformity or through unity in diversity? Some positive signs are: the “grand story” still works much of the time; we still utilize Ellen White; we have a strong organizational structure from the local church to the General Conference; there is frequent travel between various parts of the church; we are able to organize large multicultural meetings; we have strong publications such as Adventist World, mission stories, and the Hope Channel; and we have many common goals.

However, we need to look at how modern and postmodern thinkers will communicate and understand each other. We need to address theological polarization, and we need to develop ways to integrate thoughts and cultures among different communities inside the church. Will we accept and welcome diversity or will we fight diversity?

We need to create a general climate of tolerance. We need to figure out ways to engage in a positive dialogue and demonstrate willingness to learn from each other as we discuss our theological issues. We need to improve our ways of addressing the bible and Ellen White. We need to overcome fundamentalist thinking.

There are three main issues facing the church in the next five years: creationism, the ordination of women and homosexuality.  There is a movement within the church to tighten the language of Fundamental Belief #6, which has to do with our understanding of a six-day creation. If we do not take a balanced view, we run the risks of strengthening an anti-science reputation, losing intellectuals in our denomination, creating crises in our colleges and universities around the freedom to develop their curriculum, and placing the Geoscience Research Institute in an impossible situation. As the scientists from that institute have noted, there are geological patterns that can point to slow evolutionary development, and geological patterns that can point to a creation/flood story development. Since no human was there at the beginning, the decision about what to choose is an act of faith. We need to address how we will protect our understanding of the origins and sacredness of the Sabbath.

The situation around the ordination of women has become extremely messy.  In Atlanta the constituents voted to ordain all deacons, including women deacons. Whether some parts of the world will do so remains to be seen. They also made a decision to form committees to study the issues involved with ordaining women to the ministry. By 2015, no matter what is decided by the General Conference Session, the ordination of women will go forward. There are divisions and conferences that will not be able to wait any longer for the process to go forward.

The third primary issue facing the church at this time is homosexuality. In the next five years we will need to carefully consider the theological concerns (both pro and con). We will need to train our pastors to work with their gay and lesbian congregants in thoughtful, honest, supportive and compassionate ways. We need to address legal challenges. And we need to address public relations challenges, such as the public reaction to a Seventh-day Adventist woman who was running for parliament and decried because of the church's reputation for homophobia, the refusal of the church to allow Carrol Grady and her organization that supports families of gay and lesbian people to have a booth at the General Conference Session, and the refusal of the Toronto Vegetarian Association to allow the Seventh-day Adventist Church to have a booth at their health fair because of the church's homophobic policies.

The church could address these issues by applying pressure that would affect the careers of people, curtail educational institutions, demand some sort of “total commitment” document to be signed by employees as a sign of loyalty to present policies, censure books and publications and guard against external influences. But how well could this possibly work?

As we head into these discussions, I am convicted that we need to protect the identity of the Adventist movement by recognizing our non-negotiable core of basic Christian beliefs and key Adventist convictions. I believe we need to remain intentional about unity and, at the same time, be intentional about creating a space for diversity.

I suggest that the church recognize the value of a postmodern climate, stimulate dialogue and study, educate our members about various issues, reflect positive attitudes towards diversity in our publications, give educational institutions freedom and accept some ruggedness at the edges. I think it is important that our church accepts some differences between the administrative divisions on the issue of women in ministry, letting some issues be determined at lower levels for positions regarding certain geographical territories.  While doing this I suggest that the church let local congregations have their own unique “flavor.”

As we go into these times of change, we need to keep a spiritual mind, be willing to listen, distinguish between principal and culture, develop the tolerance for others that we want for ourselves (including when they hold opinions that disagree with ours), look for what binds us together, and strengthen our patience and our understanding that change takes time. Perhaps we may even need to be prepared to change our own minds about some things.

Recently retired president of the Adventist Church in the Netherlands, Reinder Bruinsma has had a stellar career as a leader and thinker among us. Author of numerous books in several languages, he has served as school principal, church pastor, and director of communications then executive secretary of the Trans-European Division. His most recent book is The Body of Christ: A Biblical Understanding of the Church (R&H 2010).
Discussion Questions ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 1  —  January 2011
Discussion Questions

Besides including a representative collection of your email messages in each edition of Who Cares?, we plan to include a question for discussion.  Your comments are welcomed and will be shared in the next edition, which is now scheduled for April 1. Send your thoughts and comments to editor@whocaresnewsletter.org. Here's the current discussion question:

Ellen White wrote, “Men hate the sinner, while they love the sin. Christ hates the sin, but loves the sinner. This will be the spirit of all who follow Him” (DA 462). How difficult is it to experience and communicate true love for a person while feeling hatred for what we perceive to be his sin? When does hating my brother's sin become judging him?

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.
Claude E. Steen, III Editor
Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
Linda Wright Layout & Design

 

Who Cares? Newsletter — July 2011

Editor’s Perspective: A Million Gay Adventists? ↓↓
whocares banner2A
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 3  —  July 2011
Editor’s Perspective
A Million Gay Adventists?

Claude Steen, III

Of course, no one knows for sure.  But that number may not be off by much!

What percentage of a given population are likely to have same-sex romantic attractions as opposed to the majority who have a heterosexual orientation?

Again, no one knows for sure. But evidence shows that homosexuals are a minority in every culture around the world, even though to be "outed" in some of them is equivalent to a death sentence.  Most evidence suggests that sexual orientation is not learned or chosen but is simply a part of who we are, no matter our skin color, native language, religion or the societal norms where we live.

Does anyone really know what the percentage of homosexuals to heterosexuals is?  Not really. But studies have been done and estimates have been made and the numbers vary. They vary all the way from under 2% to near 10%. Of course, many who talk about the numbers have a stake in the outcome, so the estimates tend to be squeezed upward or downward depending on who is talking. Also, with homosexuals comprising the most despised minority in just about every culture in the world, most thoughtful researchers agree that significant percentages of this minority are still invisible and uncounted.

So let's choose a number somewhere in the middle, say 5%, as many thoughtful observers do. Then let's apply that number to people attending Adventist congregations around the world, again taking a conservative estimate of about 20 million people in church on Sabbath morning. The answer comes to about one million of them being homosexual! And it doesn't matter if you'd rather lower or raise that number, for whatever reason. The conclusion is still pretty much the same.

This is a subject that is not going away! This topic can no longer be ignored!

The implications of all this become more clear in the following report by Rene Drumm, now Dean of the School of Social Work at Southern Adventist University. She describes the results of in-depth interviews with 37 gay and lesbian Adventists done about 10 years ago. Why read the report of a study done 10 years ago? Because we didn't read it when it was fresh. And the questions it raises have still not been answered! Don't let the dispassionate language fool you. Once the facts sink in your emotions may shake you!

Also in this issue of Who Cares? Pastor Todd Leonard makes a modest proposal about how to reconcile orthodoxy with a loving ministry to gays. He writes from his own experience with this ministry.

Then we have answers to a couple of questions directed to Arlene Taylor, our "Brain Guru."  And we have links to a couple of news notes, one about an action by an Adventist Union Conference concerning gays and the other about Southern Baptists, whose official stand on Homosexual issues is very similar to ours.

Finally, you might be interested in our link to a website maintained by a straight Christian woman from a conservative denomination who has made ministry to gays her central focus. She may be mostly conservative theologically, but there's nothing conservative about her ministry!

We at Who Cares? would love to hear from you! Are you happy we're talking about Adventist homosexuals or does it upset you that we're distracting church employees from the work of spreading the three angels' message? Are we being way too politically correct or have you also been praying for a better way to love this minority? Don't just keep quiet. Tell us what you think.

And if you're not ready to have your views publicized, we understand. Just tell us, and we won't "out you!"

Till next time,

Claude E. Steen, III

 

Claude E. Steen III retired from more than 40 years of active pastoral ministry in June 2010. His work was mostly in the Southern and Columbia unions with 5 years in Ethiopia and a short stay in the Southwestern Union. With his wife Donna (Chalmers) their family consists of 2 married sons, 2 married daughters, a gay son, and 11 grandchildren. He lives happily with Donna in a restored 1827 farm house at the end of the road near Roxboro, NC.  claudesteenis@gmail.com

Gay and Lesbian Seventh-day Adventists: Strategies and Outcomes of Resisting Homosexuality ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 3  —  July 2011
Gay and Lesbian Seventh-day Adventists:
Strategies and Outcomes of Resisting Homosexuality

By Rene D. Drumm

Renee Drumm

This article presents findings from a qualitative study of 37 gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists. Using in-depth interviewing, the research explored participants’ accounts of the home environments and examined participants’ journeys in trying to reconcile a lesbian or gay sexual orientation with an identity as Christian. Findings offer contextual information regarding the participants’ experience growing up in Adventist families and Adventist churches whose religious beliefs prohibited homosexual behavior. Findings highlight various strategies participants used to resist homosexuality, including several change strategies that appear unique to Christian gay and lesbian persons that have not been previously examined in the literature, and the outcomes of those efforts. These findings suggest implications for social work practitioners, social work educators, and faith-based communities.

Many world religions point to the Bible story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as proof of God’s disapproval of homosexuality (Ponse, 1978). Particularly among conservative Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish adherents, the practice of homosexuality is condemned (LeVay & Nonas, 1995). In spite of this, many homosexual persons have religious identities and commitments that they are reluctant to give up (Salais & Fisher, 1995). Studies suggest that “gays and lesbians belong to the various major faiths and denominations in about the same proportions as other Americans” (LeVay & Nonas, 1995, p. 106). Further, research indicates that among gays who were religiously affiliated, the religious attitudes of gay and non-gay members were not much different (O’Brian, 1991).

In studying religiously affiliated gays and lesbians, researchers note the pervasiveness of the influence of religious socialization on the individual. Religion frequently provides a worldview with which all other competing forces must contend (Thumma, 1991). This worldview may be so powerful that it produces measurable differences in attitudes among gay and lesbian persons. Wagner et al. (1994) noted a significant difference between a community sample of gay persons not associated with a religious institution and those affiliated with a particular religion concerning religious beliefs and religious behavior. These findings may indicate important differences in the gay community between religiously affiliated and non-religiously affiliated gay and lesbians.           

Internal Conflict and Seeking Change

The more serious homosexuals are about their religious experience, the more conflict they may have over their homosexuality (Bell & Weinberg, 1978). Some researchers note an association between religiosity and homophobia (Berkman & Zinberg, 1997). Individuals reared in families whose religious beliefs define homosexual behavior as sinful may internalize these convictions (Wagner et al., 1994). Some may believe “If I am homosexual, I must not be a true Christian; if I am a Christian, I cannot be homosexual.”

As a result of the conviction that homosexual behavior is inherently non-Christian, religiously affiliated gays and lesbians often seek to change their sexual orientation (Friedman & Downey, 1994). The search for a change in sexual orientation, however, is often disappointing because such a change appears to be highly unlikely (Friedman & Downey, 1994). Coleman (1988, p. xv) states, “many of the psychoanalytic and behavioral approaches which were designed to purge homosexuality from the individual and create heterosexuality were found to be generally ineffective and ethically questionable.”  Research concerning “change ministry” within the Adventist church found widespread sexual abuse of the counselees by the “reformed homosexual” center director (Lawson, 1987). While literature exists supporting the possibility of change in sexual orientation, it remains controversial. One reviewer of change therapy concludes that these studies “are consistently flawed by poor or nonexistent follow-up data, improper classification of subjects, and confusion of heterosexual competence with sexual orientation shift” (Haldeman, 1991, p. 155).    

As social perceptions and attitudes have shifted regarding the merit and efficacy of changing sexual orientation, acceptance of one’s homosexuality has become the focus of social work practice and policy. Consequently, the literature has dwindled concerning efforts religiously affiliated gay and lesbian persons make to change their orientations. In addition, there is a significant lack of information about the everyday experience of many homosexual Christians in terms of integrating their religion and sexual orientation.

This paper addresses the experiences of gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists and reviews their journeys in reconciling a lesbian or gay sexual orientation with an identity as a particular kind of Christian. Seventh-day Adventists view homosexual behavior as sinful (Ministerial Association, 1988). Since this is a typical stance in conservative Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism (Orbach, 1975; Thumma, 1991), this research may have implications for persons of other religious faiths as well.

Methods

The naturalistic paradigm of scientific inquiry provided the structure for this qualitative study (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The naturalistic paradigm holds that perceptual realities are “multiple, constructed, and holistic” (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 37). In-depth interviewing provided the vehicle to gain a deeper understanding of lesbian and gay Adventists from the perspective of the participants.

Study Participants and Sample Selection

Thirty-seven individuals contributed information for the study. Of these, 28 were interviewed, and nine submitted autobiographies for analysis. There were 14 women and 23 men whose ages ranged from 23 to 56. While most were Caucasian, there was one Asian American, one African American, and one person of Hispanic descent. There was also some international diversity in the sample. One participant was a native of Australia and two participants were Canadian. All participants had graduated from high school. Seventeen participants had completed college, eight had continued on to a master’s degree, two had graduated from medical school, and three had earned a doctoral degree.

This study used purposive sampling methods in accordance with the conventions of the naturalistic paradigm to magnify information and add understanding (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). To locate participants, I used the internet computer network developed by members of SDA Kinship International, called KinNet. SDA Kinship International is a support group for Seventh-day Adventist gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered persons.

I invited users of this group to reply to a general announcement explaining my project. Members could participate by agreeing to an in-depth interview or by submitting an autobiography. To be included in the study, the participants needed to meet two criteria: (1) identify themselves as homosexual and (2) be a current or former member of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Data Collection and Analysis

I developed an interview guide based on the research questions from my doctoral dissertation. This guide was used as a starting point to direct the discussion and assist in getting similar information from all participants (Lofland & Lofland, 1995). Autobiographies were also gathered from some participants. In this way, I was able to use multiple sources of data. Triangulation “improves the probability that findings and interpretations will be found credible” (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 305).

The interviews lasted an average of two to three hours with a maximum of six hours. Participants reviewed and signed an informed consent agreement prior to the interview. Interviewees had an option of being audio-taped or allowing me to take notes on a laptop computer to record the data.

The naturalistic paradigm calls for inductive data analysis (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The data were initially processed using the computer program Ethnograph to assist in coding the emerging themes. As coding continued in the analysis process, I examined specific instances of the codes to clarify similarities and differences. Using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), I generated both descriptive and explanatory categories. This process led to interpretive insights as I noted the emerging themes.

To assure accuracy in my interpretations, I used member checking as an analytical tool. Member checking consists of the participants reviewing the report for accuracy (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The purpose of member checking is to provide a direct test of the findings and analysis with the participants themselves.

Findings and Discussion

All of the names used through this study are pseudonyms. I chose to use pseudonyms instead of case numbers so that ethnicity and gender would not be masked. In addition, pseudonyms aid the reader in identifying the participants as persons rather than objects used for scientific study.

Growing Up Adventist

For the majority of lesbian and gay Seventh-day Adventists in this study, understanding the influence of family and religion was fundamental to understanding how their conflicts formed between their sexual orientation and religious affiliation. Most participants grew up in Adventist homes and were firmly entrenched in the Adventist religion. One participant summarized his experience:

To answer the question of how I became an Adventist, I’d have to say that I don’t know what else I could have been. I was born in an Adventist hospital (on the Sabbath, no less), to SDA parents who had graduated from SDA schools, sent there by their SDA parents. I went only to SDA churches and my parents socialized almost exclusively with SDAs. My aunts and uncles were SDAs. One set were missionary doctors, another uncle was an academy Bible teacher. My mother’s father had been a missionary to Japan (Marvin).

Participants in this study overwhelmingly reported growing up experiences of typical Seventh-day Adventist families. The majority of participants described having family worship, following a vegetarian diet, keeping the Sabbath, and other traditions promoted by the church. Nearly all participants related that they had come from a close-knit family. “I come from a very loving and caring family. We are very close to this day. I call them all the time and assure them that I love them. They do the same” (Donald).

Seventh-day Adventist education was another important factor influencing these participants. All of the lesbian and gay Adventists in this sample attended a church-affiliated school for at least some portion of their education. “The greatest influence on my development as an Adventist was probably the fact that I attended SDA schools from first grade through a master’s degree” (Tom). 

The combination of being raised in Adventist homes and attending Adventist schools produced a similar acceptance of Adventist teachings and traditions among the participants. Most participants accepted the Adventist religion and belief system in its entirety. “I went to boarding school for academy and an Adventist college a few hours away after I graduated. I had a good experience. My teachers were great. I really never questioned the Adventist beliefs having grown up in the environment” (Nathan).

Dealing with the Conflict of Religion and Sexual Orientation through Resisting Homosexuality

Having had similar family and educational backgrounds, participants in this study also experienced comparable journeys as they developed an understanding of their sexual orientations. Much has been written in the literature regarding stages and models of how people come to see themselves as gay or lesbian (Cass, 1979; Coleman, 1982; Plummer, 1975; Troiden, 1988). Less is known about the specific strategies individuals use to try not to be gay or lesbian. Lesbian and gay Adventists offered some insights about how they resisted homosexuality. While some of the strategies reported here reflect themes from the literature, I will elaborate on the unique aspects of lesbian and gay Adventists’ journeys in resisting homosexuality.

As these participants began to understand their sexual orientation to be other than heterosexual, they engaged in a number of strategies to resist “becoming” gay or lesbian. Participants used change-seeking strategies that included: staying in denial, seeking professional help to change orientation, engaging in suicide attempts, praying, claiming Bible promises, using religious rituals, immersion in religion, and heterosexual marriage. Many participants used tools they had gleaned from church teachings to ward off homosexual urges. Of these eight strategies, five appeared unique to gay men and lesbians with strong religious identities. That is, the strategies of staying in denial, seeking professional help, and engaging in suicide attempts are common in the literature as ways that lesbians and gay men sometimes deal with their homosexuality. While research documents heterosexual marriage among gay and lesbian populations, it is generally not within the context of trying to change sexual orientation. Praying, claiming Bible promises, using religious rituals, and immersion in religion as strategies in changing sexual orientation are seldom mentioned.

Denial

Denial is a typical response in understanding oneself as gay or lesbian (Troiden, 1988). Participants in this sample, however, often connected the denial of religion or God. One participant remembered, “I couldn’t admit to myself that I was gay. It seemed to be such a sin. I just knew it had to be my fault, my choice made wrong somewhere I didn’t remember” (Marvin). A woman reported, “My first reaction [to realizing my homosexuality] was screaming inside, ‘No! God, No!  I’d rather die.’”

Professional Help to Change Orientation

About one-third of this sample sought professional help to change their sexual orientations. The range of modalities included traditional talk therapy, aversion therapy, and residential treatment. In each case, these efforts failed. This supports existing literature which documents the difficulties that are typically encountered in changing orientations (Friedman & Downey, 1994). 

In some cases, failure to change was only one problem associated with treatment attempts. One participant experienced sexual abuse while attending a church-affiliated “change ministry” program. This ministry was operated by a “reformed homosexual” who was a former SDA minister (Lawson, 1987). This participant committed himself to residential “treatment” and was sexually approached by the director from the first weekend at the center until he left over a year later. Subsequent interviews with former residents revealed wide-spread abuse among the counselees in this particular “change ministry” (Lawson, 1987).

Suicide Attempts

Research indicates that suicide among lesbian and gay adolescents is six times higher than the norm (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 1997). It is not surprising, therefore, that about one-fourth of the participants in this study also attempted suicide in response to their homosexuality. These attempts ranged from taking handfuls of pills (whatever they could readily find) to cutting their wrists and hospitalization.

Prayer

All of the participants in this sample used prayer as a means to resist homosexuality. This generally took the form of praying to God to take away homosexual desires. “I spend entire nights agonizing in prayer with God. Begging Him, ‘Please Lord! Please! Don’t let me be gay!’ I found myself praying, ‘Please Lord, let this cup pass from me, but your will be done’” (Joanne). 

“I have prayed my entire life (since age 13) that the Lord would change me. I didn’t want to have these feelings. I didn’t want to go to hell. I didn’t want to be this way” (Mitch).

Claiming Bible Promises

Adventists believe that God, through the Bible, promises help in times of need. Participants were taught to “claim” these promises, that is, to dimension believe that God’s help will come to them if they ask, referring to certain Bible texts. “I resolutely decided I could overcome this, with God’s help. It was sin and all sin could be overcome through Christ. I began looking for Bible texts to admonish myself. I’d look for promises of overcoming and ask friends to pray for me” (Sue).

Use of Religious Rituals

The “laying on of hands” is a religious ritual where Adventist ministers and elders of the church pray for the person who needs “healing.” The laying on of hands is done in a group while touching the individual. One male informant recalled, “Soon after my first affair I was filled with guilt. So the next morning I said to him [my partner], ‘You can’t stay here. This is wrong.’ He left and I got into the religion thing again. People prayed for me with laying on of hands” (Alan).

Immersion in Religion

When trying to resist homosexuality, some lesbian and gay Adventists would immerse themselves in religious activities hoping that the homosexual tendencies would lessen.

“I did a lot of praying. I got involved with church activities like leading out in song service, youth activities, helped out with Pathfinders and I led out in Sabbath School” (Nathan).

“After my sophomore year in college, I decided to become a student missionary. If I had a year off to do nothing but concentrate on ministering to others, I could overcome this” (Sue).

Heterosexual marriage

One way participants in this study tried to resist homosexuality was to pursue a heterosexual relationship and get married. Most individuals realized that they were gay or lesbian; however, they hoped that marriage would change their orientations. All of the participants in this study who married are now divorced. In general, participants held their former spouses in high regard and expressed much regret for the pain the marriage caused. One female participant remembered her heterosexual marriage,

I guess I allowed myself to fall in love with the idea that this guy loved and cared for me. When he asked me to marry him, I was 32 years old and figured this was God’s answer to my prayers. After all, we were taught that if we asked God to take away unnatural desires he would do so (Nan).

Other participants were less sure that the marriage would change them but wanted to give it a try. On his wedding day, one participant recalled, “Standing in the church waiting to say, ‘I do,’ I was thinking, ‘I shouldn’t do this. Hans, you’re gay. But you can’t back out now. What will the church think of you?’ I wanted to be married. I wanted to be straight. I thought I could pretend” (Hans).

Outcomes of Resistance

While the lesbian and gay Seventh-day Adventists in this study had previously resisted acknowledging and accepting their homosexuality, at the time of the interview, they recognized their sexual orientations as a part of them that would not change or go away. This section outlines three basic outcomes or decisions participants made to deal with their homosexuality and religion after abandoning resistance.

Leave the Church while Retaining Gay/Lesbian Identity

Approximately one-third of the participants in this study (12 out of 37) chose to leave the church after realizing that their resistance was not going to change their orientations. In this study, leaving the church refers to dropping church membership. In spite of dropping church membership, many of the participants still sustained, to some extent, Adventist traditions. For example, some remained vegetarian and observed the Sabbath, which are traditions of the Adventist religion.

There were three conditions under which lesbian and gay Adventists in this sample left the church. These conditions included: (1) no longer believing church doctrines; (2) believing church doctrines, but not being able to conform to them; or (3) feeling righteous indignation and leaving the church.

No Longer Believe Church Doctrine

The majority of participants who left the church did so simply because they no longer believed church doctrines. Nationally, the Adventist church experiences about a 50 percent drop-out rate as people change their religious beliefs (Willis, 1998). Being gay or lesbian may or may not itself have been the decisive factor in these participants’ decisions to leave the church. One woman shared, “I left because I no longer believed the doctrines nor the dogma of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, even in God. I believe that there is no one truth as SDA’s claim” (Anna).

Believe Doctrine, Cannot Conform, Leave the Church

Another condition of leaving the church was that the participants believed the church doctrines, but realized that they could not conform to the expectations of the church (celibacy) and left. These participants believed that homosexual behavior was wrong and therefore did not want to go to church because they knew they would not remain celibate.

I’m no longer in the church, but I’m a lot more comfortable with myself as a gay person. I don’t pretend to have the big answer [about homosexuality]. I would take the position that it [homosexual behavior] isn’t a sin if I was talking to my mom. But I’m not sure I’m convinced of that myself. It would be very hard to come back to the church. It would make a difference if the church turned its position around. I still hang on to certain Adventist traditions. I tithe to Kinship, and I’m still a vegetarian, don’t drink or smoke. The big issue is the gay issue (Mark).

Believe Doctrines, Feel Righteous Indignation, Leave

A third condition for leaving the church was that participants felt wronged by the church and left. In general, these participants believed most of the Adventist doctrines but did not attend church because of the church’s stance on homosexuality. These participants felt that the church had rejected them and in return, they rejected the church. One participant said:

With respect to institutional Adventism, I want no part of it unless I am welcome. Until gay acceptance is written as part of a policy of acceptance, I want no part of institutional Adventism. I have a wonderful worship community that I am a part of. I will not simply idolize my past, nostalgia, or familiarity (George).

Retain Church Membership Through Celibacy

Homosexuals who practice celibacy can hold church membership in good standing since the church’s objection is focused on homosexual behavior rather than orientation.  Two of the 25 who retained church membership did so by practicing celibacy.  These individuals fully recognized and accepted their sexual orientation and believed it would not change. At the same time, they did not want to give up church membership and therefore made a commitment to celibacy. One participant said, “For myself, I have to be celibate because it [homosexuality] is a controversial issue. I might not keep that same reference forever, but for now, I’m committed to living a celibate life (Jim).

Integrate Gay/Lesbian and Adventist Affiliation

About 60% of the lesbian and gay Adventist in this study (23 of 37) had fully integrated their sexual orientation with their Adventist church lifestyle and membership. The participants in this group were fairly open regarding their sexual orientation and their Seventh-day Adventist affiliation. In general, participants who integrated gay/lesbian orientation with church membership were either in a committed same-sex relationship or were looking for a life partner. The following interview excerpts illustrate the integration of homosexual orientation and Adventist affiliation.

Despite the church’s official opinion, there are two things I’ve always been–always will be–a Seventh-day Adventist and a lesbian. God doesn’t expect me to try to be something I’m not, or say I can’t be something I believe in (Nan).

I am still a quite conservative Adventist. The Adventist lifestyle is something that works for me and something that I worked out with God on my knees after many hours of prayer and studying and tearful contemplation. The same goes for my homosexuality. I have peace in my heart that God accepts me as I am. Being the omnipotent God that He is, he knew I was going to be gay long before I was a gleam in my Dad’s eye. Now I see my homosexuality as a blessing. It took a long time to get there–34 years (Hans).

Conditions Leading to Integration

There were three conditions that appeared to facilitate the integration of lesbian/gay identity and church affiliation. These conditions were:

     1.     Having an accepting church congregation.

2.     Having a job that would not be in jeopardy if sexual orientation became known.

3.     Having an accepting family.

Having an Accepting Church congregation

The condition that appeared mandatory for a fully integrated identity was having an accepting local church congregation. Without an accepting church congregation, the participants’ church membership was withdrawn. A female participant reflected:

My involvement with the church has been less than average in the last six years. It’s not because I don’t believe–I do–but I was limited because of how I thought the church may perceive me. But lately, I’ve found a refuge in the church. When I go to prayer meeting, my partner comes with me. The pastor said that if the gay fellowship in his church increases, he would be more than happy. People in this church are warm and accepting, or at least not mean. So, I’ve started to go back to church more and try to teach my partner who is not an Adventist more (Carol).

Having a job that would not be in jeopardy if sexual orientation were known

Another important condition for integrating a lesbian or gay orientation with Adventist affiliation was for the participant to hold a job in which sexual orientation was not an issue. None of these participants were in a position where their employment would be jeopardized by coming out publicly. Most participants in this category were self-employed or worked for non-church related organizations. One participant reported, “I came out to my boss [an Adventist] and she said, ‘I don’t see it [your sexuality] as an issue.’ Then she told the president of the company, and the president said the same thing” (Brandon).

Having an accepting family

Having an accepting family was another condition facilitating the integration of gay/lesbian identity and church affiliation. While the majority of families in this sample initially had difficulty accepting a gay or lesbian family member, over time they did accept the gay or lesbian member. Nathan shared, “Now I feel loved by my family. I understand that they had to have a ‘coming out’ period of about three years. Since my father is an Adventist pastor, it was important for me to be accepted by him before I could go back to church.”

Conclusions

Lesbian and gay Seventh-day Adventists in this study shared a number of common pathways on their journeys in understanding their sexual orientation and their relationship to the Adventist religion. Most participants grew up in highly religious homes with loving, involved parents. This contrasts with other research on gay and lesbian families. Pattison and Pattison found that their “subjects reported that the primary cause of their homosexuality was unsatisfactory relations with their parents. Eight subjects stated that their fathers were distant, aloof, and uninvolved with them” (1980, p. 1558). Since this study only included 11 gay men, this difference could be because of small sample size,  researcher assumptions, or biases.

Gay and lesbian Adventist used a variety of strategies to resist homosexuality. While the literature addressed denial (Troiden, 1988) and suicide (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 1997) as resisting strategies, it does not address the other strategies discussed by these participants. My sense from the data is that gay and lesbian Adventist may engage in strategies to resist homosexuality to a greater degree than other studies indicate. These data demonstrate an extensive use of resisting strategies by the participants. It was also interesting that many of the resisting strategies connected to religion: prayer, immersion in religion, use of religious rituals, claiming Bible promises. Participants relied on tools gleaned from their religious upbringing to try to overcome what they believed was sin.

Once participants came to believe that their sexual orientations would not change, they made choices about church membership in accordance with their beliefs about homosexuality and the church doctrines. Study of choices about church membership in relation to sexual orientation is lacking in the literature; however, a number of studies point to religion as important in the lives of some lesbian and gay persons (Davidson,1970; Shallenberger, 1996; Thumma, 1991). While participants in this study clearly saw no “choice” in their sexual orientations, they were able to choose what to do about church membership under their given circumstances and did so with varying outcomes.

Implications for Social Work Practice

Social work has a long history of faith-based involvement, research, and advocacy. It appears that addressing religiously affiliated gay and lesbian persons sometimes presents social workers with unique challenges. How do conservative social work practitioners and educators integrate their religious beliefs and convictions with their social work mandates of inclusion and advocacy? How do liberal social workers work respectfully with religiously conservative gay and lesbian clients who may be choosing to try to resist homosexuality or to integrate their sexual orientation with the beliefs and practices of their religious groups?

First, social workers should become educated about sexual orientation in general, its development, fluidity, and its multifaceted features. In checking the research on sexual orientation, particularly “change” in orientation, it is crucial to pay particular attention to research rigor, methodology, and how the conclusions flow from the data. Some research abstracts examined for this article that appeared to support orientation change, upon careful examination of the full article, supported instead, little to no change.

Secondly, social work practitioners who have religious convictions against engaging in same-sex relationships may hesitate to advocate for gay rights such as extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. Social workers may want to consider the impact on lesbian and gay persons who have done what they could to be true to their religious convictions and come to believe they can never be heterosexual. While some of these individuals may choose celibacy as a way to resolve the conflict, others believe that finding a life partner more feasible. These people believe they are simply doing the best they can with what they feel they were given.

Third, social workers may not realize the importance of religion in the lives of their gay and lesbian clients because of the lack of information and dialog about religiously affiliated gay and lesbian persons. Social workers should not assume that gay and lesbian clients are void of spirituality because their religious convictions do not include heterosexual sex-within-marriage as the only appropriate sexual expression. Similarly, social workers should not assume they know what the goals of their religiously conservative gay and lesbian clients are or should be. Respect for client self-determination is complex, especially when workers and clients may have differences of values and goals, regardless of what direction that difference may run.

Finally, social worker clinicians must carefully consider the ethics of engaging in therapies designed to change sexual orientation, even with clients who request such therapy. Research indicates the lack of these therapies’ efficacy while documenting some inadvertent harm that clients have suffered because of such therapies. The integrity of both the client’s and social worker’s values must be protected, not always an easy thing to accomplish.

In terms of social work education, educators should provide students with specific information about religiously affiliated gay and lesbian persons. Popular media presents a picture of the lesbian and gay community at large that is not necessarily in keeping with gay and lesbians who have strong religious convictions. Silence insinuates non-existence, which presents a biased view of homosexual persons.

Faith-based Communities

Too often, it is easy for religious adherents who see homosexual behavior as sinful to pass judgment on lesbian and gay persons as simply choosing to live an immoral lifestyle. Given the magnitude and range of strategies lesbian and gay Adventists use to avoid homosexuality, it appears unlikely that this is the case. It is important to recognize the reality of gay and lesbian Christians and to listen to their voices, often full of pain and confusion, as they seek to honor their religious beliefs. 

How should the non-gay/lesbian church community respond to their gay and lesbian members? It may be important for church members of all religions to re-examine their attitudes towards gay and lesbian adherents. The issues, complex and deeply-woven into the fabric of Christianity, are unlikely to change quickly or dramatically. In spite of this probability, we must begin meaningful dialogue that incorporates new knowledge and a deeper understanding of sexual orientation into our perceptions and subsequent actions.


References

Bell, A., & Weinberg, M. (1978). Homosexualities: A study of diversity among men and women. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Berkman, C. S., & Zinberg, G. (1997). Homophobia and heterosexism in social workers. Social Work, 42(4), 319-332.

Cass, V. (1979). Homosexuality identity formation: A theoretical model. Journal of Homosexuality, 4(3), 219-235.

Coleman, E. (1982). Homosexuality and psychotherapy. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc.

Coleman, E. (1988). Integrated identity for gay men and lesbians:  Psychotherapeutic approaches for emotional well-being. New York: Harrington Park.

Davidson, A. (1970). The returns of love: Letters of a Christian homosexual. Downers Grove,  IL: InterVarsity Press.

Friedman, R., Downey, J. I., &. (1994). Homosexuality. New England Journal of Medicine, 331(14), 923-929.

Haldeman, D. C. (1991). Sexual orientation conversion therapy for gay men and lesbians: A scientific examination. In J. C. Gonsioreck (Ed.), Homosexuality: Research implications for public policy. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Lawson, R. (1987). Trouble in an “ex-gay ministry” [Quest Learning Center/Homosexuals Anonymous].

Le Vay, S., & Nonas, E. (1995). City of friends: A portrait of the gay and lesbian community in America. Cambridge,  MA: The MIT Press.

Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills: Sage.

Lofland, D., & Lofland, L. H. (1995). Analyzing social settings. University of California: Wadsworth Publishers.

Ministerial  Association. (1988). Seventh day Adventists believe... Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing.

Orbach, W. (1975). Homosexuality and Jewish law. Journal of Family Law, 14(4), 353-381.

O’ Brien, T. (1991). A survey of gay/lesbian Catholics concerning attitudes toward sexual orientation and religious beliefs. Journal of Homosexuality, 21(4), 29-44.

Pattison, E. M., & Pattison, M. L. (1980). Ex-gays: Religiously mediated change in homosexuals. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(12), 1553-1562.

Plummer, K. (1975). Sexual stigma: An interactionist account. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Ponse, B. (1978). Identities in the lesbian world:  The social construction of self. Westport, Co: Greenwood.

Salais, D., & Fisher, R. B. (1995). Sexual preference and altruism. Journal of Homosexuality, 28 (1/2), 185-196.

Shallenberger, D. (1996). Reclaiming the spirit: The journey of gay men and lesbian women toward integration. Qualitative Sociology, 19(2), 195-213.

Thumma, S. (1991). Negotiating a religious identity: The case of the gay evangelical. Sociological Analysis, 52(4), 333-347.

Troiden, R. R. (1988). Gay and lesbian identity: A sociological analysis. New York: General Hall.

Wagner, G. J. S., Pabkin, J., Remien, R., & Williams, J. (1994). Integration of one’s religion and homosexuality: A weapon against internalized homophobia? Journal of Homosexuality, 26(4), 93.

Zastrow, C., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (1997). Understanding human behavior and the social environment. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall Publishers.

Rene D. Drumm, Ph.D., is Dean of the School of Social Work at Southern Adventist University. She earned her Ph.D. degree from Texas Women's University, her MA in Social Work from Michigan State University and her BA in Sociology from Andrews University. She has taught at Andrews University and Southwestern Adventist University. She is married to Stanley Stevenson, also on the Social Work faculty at Southern. They are the parents of twin daughters who are students at SAU. Rdrumm@southern.edu
When God Disagrees with God, Whom Do You Follow? ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 3  —  July 2011
When God Disagrees with God, Whom Do You Follow?

By Todd J. Leonard

Todd Leonard

Over the last year or so I’ve become more public in my support of open and inclusive congregations for my LGBT brothers and sisters and in my convictions that LGBT relational behavior, when lived within the spirit of the biblical principles outlined for heterosexual relationships, are compatible with God’s will.  This has, of course, led to many discussions with friends and colleagues who disagree with me on the subject.  Most of the conversations have been mature and, at the heart, each person I’ve talked with is ultimately concerned for God’s grace and salvation for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals. 

But there are two comments that have come up in almost every conversation.  They go something like this:

1) “Because multiple places in both the Old and New Testament condemn homosexuality1, and nowhere is there scriptural support for LGBT practice, I must be faithful to God and scripture and view the behaviors as sinful,” and,

2) “I believe that we in the church must show love and compassion to people like gays and lesbians, but we must also be clear that their active practice of the lifestyle is a sin and that we want them to repent and break free of their bondage to that sin.  We must love the sinner, but hate the sin”

One of my good friends even said to me (this is a paraphrase), “I really wish the Bible didn’t say that homosexual behavior is a sin because I just want to accept them without having to condemn their lifestyle.  It seems like Jesus would be good friends with gays and lesbians.  But there are not any stories of Jesus doing that nor are there any words from him approving their lifestyle.  If I’m going to be faithful to God, I have to stick with the only texts that speak to the subject and obey them.”  His wrestling with the issue was obvious.  His compassionate heart was on his sleeve.  And he wanted to find a way forward, but could not. 

What do we do when the words of God seem to be at odds with the acts of God?  What do we do when we have a clear command from God with a chapter and verse that seems to be at odds with the Spirit of Jesus that can’t be cited chapter and verse? 

A casual reading of the Bible will lead you to see story after story of people who start out with one understanding of God and end up with another one based upon what happens in their lives.  One such story is where God plays gospel cupid between a Jewish Peter and a non-Jewish Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11. 

According to the account, an angel of God visits Cornelius, someone whom a Jewish person would refer to as a “good heathen”—someone who behaved ethically but still was not one of God’s people.  The angel tells Cornelius to request a meeting with Peter (Acts 10.3-6).  Shortly thereafter, God gives Peter a vision (10.9-16).  In the vision, Peter sees a smorgasbord of non-kosher animals and, in verse 13 he hears the God of Moses tell him, “Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat.”2  Peter, having received a direct command from God, and who, at the moment, was really hungry and would have probably enjoyed the taste of a good pork chop, disobeyed God by obeying God.  He said, “Surely not, Lord.  I have never eaten anything impure or unclean” (10.14).   God responds by saying, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 

This is a major problem for Peter.  For hundreds of years, Jewish people devotedly followed God’s command that they were to not eat anything unclean.  Peter was born and raised with this understanding.  He followed Jesus for over three years and never observed him before or after his death and resurrection ever eating unclean meat.  But now, in this vision, God—and there’s no doubt in Peter’s mind that it is God—tells Peter to enjoy a shrimp cocktail.  What does Peter do when confronted with a God who, in Peter’s mind, disagrees with Himself?  Three times the voice of God in his vision tells Peter to ignore the voice of God from his upbringing.  And each time, Peter goes with the God of his upbringing over the God who was speaking to him right then. 

Peter wakes up and gets a knock at the door.  Cornelius, the good heathen, was requesting a meeting with him.  For a Jewish person, entering the home of a Gentile was a much greater sin than eating catfish.  Cozying up to an unclean person was much worse than devouring an unclean animal.3  Peter, who had been reflecting on the vision, started to connect the dots between it and the fact that now he, a clean Jew, is entering the house of an unclean, non-Jew who wants to learn about Jesus.  When he arrives at the home of Cornelius, he says, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him.  But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean” (10.28).  Then, while Peter is in the middle of talking about Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit comes on everyone in Cornelius’ house, before they finished their Bible studies, got baptized, got circumcised, or learned kosher dietary practices.  Peter, in amazement at what is happening, says, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?  They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (10.47). 

Unlike in the vision, Peter, when recognizing the hand of God upon this cross-cultural meeting and seeing the evidence of the Spirit at work in Cornelius’ family, discarded the scriptures taught to him at his mother’s knee that said he was to keep himself separate from unclean Gentiles.  He rejected the words of God from the past in light of the acts of God in the present.  And, incredibly, so did the early church.  They called Peter in to reprimand him for mixing with Gentiles, but after hearing his eyewitness account of God’s Spirit at work with non-Jewish people, they end up saying, “It’s really happened!  God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!” (11.18) 4

Have not faithful followers of God over the millennia had to adjust their understanding of God in light of new revelation?  Has not the powerful work of God’s Spirit in the now forced people to re-read the Bible stories of God’s words and actions in the past?  We have allowed science to lead us to a reinterpretation of certain passages.5  We have allowed our convictions about human equality to change the way we understand verses about slavery and women’s subjugation.  We have changed our understanding of end-time prophecy in light of Jesus not returning when we were convinced the Bible said he would.

If we see evidence of the Spirit of God at work in the life of a gay man, how do we turn our backs and say, “Because of what God said in the past, I am choosing to not believe what He appears to be doing in the present?”  If we are struggling to still explain to ourselves why two lesbians in a committed relationship is incompatible with God’s ethics of fidelity and love for one another because we’ve got half a dozen proof texts that say that it’s wrong, no ifs, ands or buts; isn’t it time that we let go of God’s words in the past because of His obvious action in the present?  If accepting bisexual and transgendered individuals into our faith communities seems like something Jesus would do, can’t we just go with the Spirit of Jesus?  Those of us who hold to the traditional reading of Leviticus 20.13 have already chosen to disobey God’s command to kill practicing homosexuals.  Can’t we just disobey the rest of that verse in light of the ministry of Jesus and how the Spirit is working today in LGBT individuals around the world and welcome them into our midst as spirit-filled men and women of God?

It is time to be faithful to God.  Not the One whose old words we thought we understood, but the One Who is acting now and is working in your heart and mine.  Let us be obedient to the never-ending revelation of God.

1. It is not the purpose of this article to address the linguistic and theological issues related to the “condemnatory” texts in scripture (Genesis 19:5, Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9, I Timothy 1:9-10).  The SDA Kinship website discusses these texts and their interpretations and provides resources for further study

2. All scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are from The Holy Bible, New International Version, Zondervan, 1984

3. For an example of a Bible passage that Peter was probably taught regarding the need to stay separate from foreigners, see Deuteronomy 7.1-6, part of an important section of the Torah where God gives his laws to the people of Israel again like he did at Mt. Sinai

4. Acts 11.18 is taken from The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Eugene Petersen, Zondervan, 2002

5. For the purpose of this article, I am not referring to the current creation/evolution debate.  I am referring to simple changes in the way we read passages like Psalm 19.4-6 and Ecclesiastes 1.5 where the sun is described as orbiting a stationary earth.  We now read these passages as metaphors rather than literal astronomical descriptions in light of the evidence of the earth as the orbiter rather than the sun.

Todd J. Leonard has been a pastor for 11 years, serving Adventist churches in Georgia and Tennessee. In May 2011, he joined the staff of the Vallejo Drive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Glendale, California as Pastor for Collegiate and Young Adult Ministries. He has been married for 14 years to Robin, mother of their daughters Halle, Abigail and Emma. Todd's 1999 M.Div. from Andrews University helps him focus his passion for creating communities of faith that welcome people from all walks of life and compassionately serve their cities. Todd@reconcilerestore.net
Answers from The Brain Doctor ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 3  —  July 2011
Answers from The Brain Doctor

By Arlene R. Taylor, Ph.D.

Arlene Taylor

Q:  A friend told me recently that males and females begin life with both sets of sex organs and that each possesses the same hormones. That’s probably just another one of those theories to justify bisexuality. Have you ever heard of such rubbish?

A.  Rubbish as applied to theories to justify bisexuality or to the perception that human beings begin life with both sets of sex organs and that each possesses the same hormones? Personally, I’ve never thought of either hormones or sex organs in terms of rubbish.

Since every brain on the planet is believed to differ in structure, function, and perspective, each brain has its own opinion. The tone of your question suggests that your opinion on the topic of sex organs and hormones differs rather dramatically from that of your friend. The brain and body are “fearfully and wonderfully” constructed. Whatever else humans are (e.g., relational, spiritual), they are sexual beings at their very core. That does not indicate, however, that a person’s core sexual being and the sexual behaviors he/she chooses to exhibit are one and the same.

In terms of sets of sex organs, your friend was on the right track. Here is a brief summary.

Internal sex organs: Both genetically male (XY) and genetically female (XX) fetuses start out with two sets of internal primordial structures, the Wolffian and the Mullerian.

  • In the presence of testicular hormones, the Wolffian ducts develop (e.g., prostate and vas) and the Mullerian ducts regress.
  • In the absence of testicular hormones, the reverse happens. The Wolffian ducts regress and the Mullerian ducts develop (uterus and fallopian tubes).

External sex organs: Both male and female fetuses also start out with a single set of external primordial structures:

  • Testosterone stimulates these structures to differentiate into penis and scrota, becoming recognizably male by about week 9-10 of gestation.
  • In the absence of testosterone, these same structures become clitoris and labia, regardless of the levels of estrogen or progesterone. So, no hormonal influence from the female gonads (ovaries) appears to be needed for differentiation of female external genitalia. Some have referred to this as a preprogrammed state, perhaps contributing to the perception that the default position for a human fetus is female.

Your friend was also on the right track in relation to the topic of hormones. As members of the same species, males and females are far more alike than they are different. This means that as far as is presently known, human beings have the same types of hormones. Relative hormonal levels differ, however. Males tend to have estrogens but at much lower levels than those generally found in females. Females have testosterone but at a much lower level than that typically found in males. Some studies have shown that at puberty the average male has 20 times the testosterone in a comparable female. And speaking of testosterone, competition appears to increase the level of testosterone in the male. Interestingly enough, competition doesn’t appear to have much impact on testosterone levels in the average female.

Sex organs and hormones as rubbish? Not so much. Complexity on top of complexity and fraught with potential for variation? You bet!

Q. I’ve been looking for a book to help explain more about what creates a female versus a male. In other words, I’m beginning to think there’s more to this process than just whether the fetus has a XY chromosome pattern versus a XX. Do you know of any books that are “readable” for a non-scientist?

A.  Actually, one of my favorites was written by Melissa Hines, a clinical psychologist who did years of postdoctoral training at the UCLA Brain Research Institute. Entitled, Brain Gender and published by Oxford University Press, Inc. (2004), the book contains a wealth of information. Although some of the material is technical and the contents include descriptions of research projects, the language is understandable to a wide variety of readers, including the interested layperson.

More to your question, Dr. Hines wrote in Chapter 5, Gonadal Hormones and Human Sexuality, “Core gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as gender role behaviors, are each independent characteristics and could show different types of relationships to hormones.” She included examples of the multifaceted dimensions of human sexuality and ways in which each may relate to gonadal steroids (hormones) as opposed to chromosomal patterns alone. As a brain-function specialist, I have found Chapter 10 especially fascinating: Sex and the Human Brain. Although similar, the brains of males and females do differ in some structural and functional aspects. Overall intelligence doesn’t appear to be one of them. In other words, although types of intelligence differ among human being in general, and among males and females more specifically, one gender has not been shown to have higher levels of overall intelligence as compared to the opposite gender.

You may be able to pick up a used copy of the book through internet sources such as www.amazon.com.

Q. Years ago I recall hearing you make a comment about “female brains in male bodies and male brains in female bodies.” I can’t imagine that so many mismatches actually occur between the brain and its housing. I assumed, of course, that you were speaking of homosexuals.

A.  I do recall having made that statement, and probably more than once.Your assumption was inaccurate, however. Who a person is sexually includes at least three components:

  • Gender Identity – the sense of one’s core gender identity as being male or female (or in some cases half-and-half or neither)
  • Gender Orientation – the preference one has for the gender of preferred sexual/erotic partners (both in actual behaviors exhibited and in fantasy or imagination)
  • Gender Role – the types of behaviors that are culturally associated with gender or that exhibit sex differences

In the overwhelming majority of human beings, these three components are present in harmony. That is, an individual with male-typical Gender Orientation also has male Gender Identity and tends to exhibit masculine Gender Role behaviors. A person who has female-typical Gender Orientation also has female Gender Identity and tends to exhibit feminine Gender Role behaviors. At times, however, these three components are not congruent.

  • A man with a masculine Gender Identity, who exhibits masculine Gender Role behaviors, may have a sexual orientation toward males, an orientation more typical of females than males. A woman with a feminine Gender Identity, who exhibits feminine Gender Role behaviors, may be attracted sexually to other women.
  • A genetic male (XY) with masculine internal and external sex organs, may perceive he is a woman psychologically; while a genetic female (XX) with feminine sex organs may perceive she is a man psychologically. These types of individuals are considered to be gender dysphoric.

Gender Identity and Gender Orientation can diverge in differing brains. Some individuals decide to change their appearance to match their psychological Gender Identity. If they undergo hormone treatment and sex-change surgery, they are often referred to as transsexual persons. (Wikipedia defines a transsexual person as an individual whose identification with a gender is inconsistent or not culturally associated with their biological sex.) Some (e.g., genetic males who perceive that they are psychological females), may be interested in female sexual partners, whereas others are interested in male sexual partners.

How does this happen? There are any number of possible contributors, some of which are highly speculative. Currently, there is little direct evidence, according to Dr. Hines, to support a hormonal contribution to the development of a transsexual person. In many parts of the world, transsexual persons are stigmatized. Discrimination and negative attitudes are often associated with specific religious beliefs or cultural values. There are cultures, however, that seem to have little difficulty integrating individuals who change gender roles.

So how does a person whose three components are harmonious relate to another whose three components are in disharmony? My brain’s opinion is that the topic would need clarification and investigation primarily when one person views another as a potential life partner. In that case, an exploration of each person’s Gender Identity, Role, and Orientation would seem to be of critical and long-term importance. Other than that, it reminds me of one of my little French Grandmother’s favorite expressions: Tend to your own rat killin’ and let your neighbors tend to theirs.

Arlene R. Taylor PhD is founder and president of Realizations, Inc., a non-profit corporation that engages in brain-function research and provides related educational resources. She is a talented speaker who specializes in simplifying the complex topic of brain function, with the goal of helping individuals learn to thrive by design. Learn much more at www.arlenetaylor.org.
Links of Interest ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 3  —  July 2011
Links of Interest

On the seventh annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), May 17, 2011, the Executive Committee of the Netherlands Union of Seventh-day Adventists demonstrated remarkable awareness and moral sensitivity by voting a historic resolution opposing all forms of violence against homosexuals. We at SDA Kinship International applaud this action by our Dutch brothers and sisters and commend them as an outstanding example for other units of our international church to emulate. Use this link to the Trans-European Division news website for the details.

http://www.ted-adventist.org/news/statement-on-violence-against-homosexuals

Southern Baptists are similar to Adventists in their official statements regarding homosexuals and homosexual practice (see http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/pssexuality.asp). As the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, they are different from us in number of members (less than 1 million to about 16 million in the US) and in having a much more loose-knit, congregational form of organization. For a glimpse of some of their current struggles with the topic of homosexuality follow this link.

http://www.truthwinsout.org/pressreleases/2011/06/17209/

How much can just one person accomplish? Kathy Baldock is a Christian housewife and mother who never questioned her conservative church's position on homosexuality till she became acquainted with a lesbian to whom she wished to witness. Since then she has become a one-person powerhouse of concern for GLBT people, speaking out for them to other Bible-believing Christians and trying to become a channel of God's love to them. One of her most audacious acts was to attend the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco wearing a tee shirt with this message in bold letters: "Hurt by church? Get a str8 apology here." She says she felt more naked than some of the people around her who really were naked! But she is determined to put the love of Jesus back into the dialogue between gays and conservative Christians. You may not agree with everything on her website, but it debunks many misconceptions we conservative Christians often carry, and it will challenge your thinking and your own lifestyle. Start by reading Ten Insights on the GLBT-Christian Dialogue here.

http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/2011/06/07/dear-church-ten-insights-on-the-glbt-christian-dialogue/


The mission of Who Cares?
A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators, 
is to increase awareness among Adventist leaders 
of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex people 
in our congregations and classrooms, 
with the goal of increasing our understanding 
of what makes these people special 
and how we might become more effective 
in sharing the love of God with them.

With an estimated 5% of our church members and students likely to experience symptoms of one of these classifications, yet with very little understanding and much false information being believed about them, there is an urgent need for us to become better informed and much more purposeful about ministering to them in ways that do not drive them away but rather tenderly love these special people as Jesus would.

The first issue of Who Cares? was published in January 2011. Your comments and questions will be welcomed at editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.
Claude E. Steen, III Editor
Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
Linda Wright Layout & Design

Who Cares? Newsletter — October 2011

Editor’s Perspective: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the Adventist Church ↓↓
whocares banner2A
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 4  —  October 2011
Editor’s Perspective
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the Adventist Church

Claude SteenI'm writing this on September 20, 2011, the first day of a new policy allowing openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to serve in the United States military. The old policy, generally known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (DADT) became law on December 21, 1993, and expired at midnight last night.

DADT was seen by most as progress for gays since it made it illegal for military personnel to discriminate against or harass closeted homosexual service members—a not unusual practice before DADT. The old policy prohibited openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from serving in the military. Gay persons wanting to serve were required to keep that part of themselves hidden. During the nearly 18 years DADT was in force more than 13,000 service members were discharged from military service under its provisions.

What does all this have to do with you and me, leaders in the Seventh-day Adventist church? Like the United States military, we also know that gays and lesbians exist in our ranks. We have no specific regulations called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (indeed there are very few official church policies at all regarding homosexuals), but Adventist practice ranges all the way from pre-DADT harassment to post-DADT acceptance. Maybe it is time for us to look carefully at what we're doing and start talking about how we might minister more effectively to our gay members and potential members.

One of the problems with DADT in the military was that it required gay service members to pretend they were something they were not. Speaking in support of DADT's repeal, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said that, from now on, Americans serving their country "will no longer have to lie in order to help protect us. The end of 'don't ask, don't tell' is an important victory not just for equality, but integrity."

Reading the following articles by Adventist gays and their family members highlights some of the same problems in our church. With the church having labeled all homosexual activity a sin on a par with sexual molestation of children and incest (see Church Manual pages 170 and 185) what is there to talk about except mourn its existence and condemn those who practice it? So gay members are forced to pretend they are something other than what they really are in order to worship God with us.

Not talking about homosexuality fosters ignorance, massive misunderstanding, and misguided actions at every level. Although officially we don't consider it a sin to be homosexual in orientation, it is not unusual for gay members to be shunned and disfellowshipped even while living chaste, celibate lives.

Believing that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle that can be overcome by a simple decision, perhaps aided by prayer, fasting, or counseling, leads to the notion that Adventist gays are stubborn troublemakers, flaunting their love of gross immorality. Quite the opposite impression—of men and women longing to serve God and enjoy spiritual fellowship with godly people—becomes evident when openness and acceptance allow us to get to know gay Adventists personally.

Jesus wasn't afraid to speak of the five husbands of the Samaritan woman at the well because He didn't condemn her for the facts of her life. Rather, He saw her as the spiritual evangelist that she was to become. Once armed with Jesus' acceptance and pure love for her, she was empowered to lead her whole town to faith in Jesus.

How sadly different was the treatment received by some of our authors whose service for God and His church were abruptly ended when leaders learned more of the facts of their lives.

In this issue we are asking the question, "How well is our Adventist version of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' really working?" The answer, it seems, is not as positive as we might wish. In fact, in many cases, it is downright horrifying to anyone learning to love as Jesus loved.

Veteran pastor Rudy Torres, with the aid of a new survey, writes about the difficulties of evangelizing gays who are sincerely seeking God and His truth.

You may wince at the evident pain in Robert Ramsay's report of how Adventist practice failed to work in his experience. Rather than speaking of sexual orientation, he prefers the term "affectional orientation" to describe his desire for a male partner.

Catherine Taylor's experience as a lesbian Adventist was also painful; but she reports how she has found peace and meaning in Adventism, if not orthodoxy, through caring leaders and churches.

Sharlett Reinke writes about the struggles of Adventist parents of gays. Although very active in a ministry to other parents with gay children, she has yet to come to terms with the stance of her church.

Finally, you may enjoy another Q & A session with our "Brain Doctor," Arlene Taylor, Ph.D. She writes about the revulsion many feel when they think about what gays do.

Confronted with the woman caught in adultery Jesus famously said two things. "Neither do I condemn you," and "go and sin no more." What did He mean by "sin no more"?

It is said that, while men crave sex, women crave love and acceptance. The law of Moses required death by stoning for both partners in an adulterous relationship; yet, the man, in this case, was not accused. It becomes clear that this was a "set up." The woman was duped, lured by false promises and hopes. And how much choice did women really have in a culture that considered them property? Was Jesus only saying, "Don't ever have sex with a man other than your husband again"? Or was there much more implied in His invitation?

Could Jesus also be saying through His kindness to her, "Because I do not condemn you for choices you made under circumstances beyond your control, go in My love and acceptance and you will be empowered to live a holy life. Filled with My Spirit of love and purity you will learn to give and receive true love, and you will be transformed by my grace."

Is it possible that we church leaders could begin to say to gays and lesbians, experiencing forces beyond their control, "Neither do we condemn you. Through us, and through the love and acceptance of the church, receive the love and acceptance of our Lord. Receive His forgiveness and His purity, even as we leaders seek to receive it every day. And together we will be guided by His Spirit into His righteousness and His eternal kingdom."

Practical ways to live out this example of our Lord may yet need to be found. But let us consecrate ourselves to seeking His ways with all our hearts.

Till next time,

Claude E. Steen, III

Claude E. Steen III retired from more than 40 years of active pastoral ministry in June 2010. His work was mostly in the Southern and Columbia unions with 5 years in Ethiopia and a short stay in the Southwestern Union. With his wife Donna (Chalmers) their family consists of 2 married sons, 2 married daughters, a gay son, and 11 grandchildren. He lives happily with Donna in a restored 1827 farm house at the end of the road near Roxboro, NC.  claudesteenis@gmail.com

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
". . . See All the People!" ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 4  —  October 2011
 ". . . See All the People!"

How Adventist "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Impacted a Lesbian Adventist

by Catherine Taylor

Catherine Taylor When I was a little girl, I worked to make my hands accurately follow the rhyme: “Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.” I delighted in the fact that my own small hands could look both like a solid church with a steeple and then, amazingly, like a very small congregation.

When asked to write this article, my mind threw up an image of a monolithic church with a steeple. The sides of this church displayed quotes from the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. One of the quotes I picture on that monolith reads, “Adultery, sexual abuse of spouses, incest, sexual abuse of children, homosexual practices and lesbian practices are among the obvious perversions of God’s original plan”(page 170).

Another quote reads, “Among the grievous sins for which members shall be subject to church discipline are the following: …Such violations as fornication, promiscuity, incest, homosexual practices, sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults and other sexual perversions, and the remarriage of a divorced person, except of the spouse who has remained faithful to the marriage vow in a divorce for adultery or sexual perversion”(page 185).

Both quotes puzzle me because in their list that condemns those who use power to abuse the vulnerable, they also include a condemnation of mutually consented, lovingly committed relationships between equals. No matter the logic, these views are often what people oriented to or involved in same-sex relationships face in their congregations.

Adventist publications, including the Church Manual and Adventist Review, as well as the 2009 conference on “Marriage, Homosexuality and the Church” held at Andrews University, have systematically refused to acknowledge more than one opinion on the validity and value of same-sex relationships. As a result, many gay and lesbian members experience a sense of hopelessness, isolation, confusion, and anger at God as well as at the church. In some cases, individuals also experience extreme self-hate and suicidal ideation. 

As a young lesbian, I remember wondering how I could somehow separate two integral parts of myself and choose one in which to live. I thought if I was going to go to hell, I might as well go all the way.As a psychotherapist, I have been weighted with sadness as I have seen the lengths to which Adventist gay and lesbian people will go to somehow fit in and be accepted by the church. As a student of the Bible, I have been startled that people who profess to thoroughly investigate God’s word can take statements and teachings out of context in order to condemn members of their church family. As the editor of Connection (SDA Kinship’s member newsletter) I have been profoundly moved by the stories I read, describing the move toward wholeness. I wonder at a people who can sing, “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true,” while sending their “brothers and sisters” to an abyss of anger or despair.

But, then, as in the nursery rhyme, I open my mental hands and find that the church is not a monolith but a group of pastors, theologians, administrators, teachers, medical personnel, and congregants with a wide continuum of study, journey, contacts, opinions—and heart. Here are some of the voices who have been the face, thought, heart, and arm of the Adventist church for me in my journey to integrate myself as a Seventh-day Adventist lesbian Christian. I have come to realize that the voices of the church are complicated, changing, and individualized.

The Books –In the early 1970s I first realized I was not going to end up in an opposite-sex marriage of two missionaries. I decided to check out what the Adventist Book Center carried that shed light on homosexual Adventists. I would casually wander in and surreptitiously scan the index of any book that looked like it might be useful. None were. The only one I remember was Dr. Charles Wittschiebe's God Invented Sex. Its comments on same-sex relationships offered the opinion that God may have invented sex for heterosexuals, but not for gay and lesbian people. I remember the despair I felt, standing there in the aisles of the Adventist Book Center during camp meeting. I tried to decide to leave the church.

Pastor Philip – My agnostic first partner announced to me that my level of misery indicated I could not and should not live without my church; we had better find an Adventist one, talk to the pastor, and begin to get this confusion clarified. She looked one up in the phone book, drove me there, and made an appointment for us with the pastor. Pastor Philip was a newly minted minister with a three-church rural district. He very kindly and gently showed me what I have come to know as “the clobber texts.” He said he could not figure out a way God could bless same-sex relationships. At the same time, he never once, as far as I know, told anyone in the church or pointed a pulpit finger of God’s wrath at me.

Some mix of his response, my clarity that I would never be in an opposite-sex relationship, and my need to participate in my spiritual home led me to gradually build a compartmentalized life. For the next twenty-seven years I was a Sabbath school teacher, lay preacher, personal ministries coordinator, conference women’s ministries director, camp meeting speaker, and consultant to conference and union administrators and personnel. I never introduced my partners for who they were. Even as I write, I can feel the exhaustion from that double life waft over me. Keeping this secret left me a less open and emotionally accessible person. I believe it had a large part in my substance abuse. It affected the depth of emotional intimacy I had with Adventist friends. It affected my trust in the way God could lead my life. For fifteen of those years, the clobber texts seared my mind and soul, heating end-of-time fires I could not figure out how to escape. Larry Geraty – I have no definitive idea why it took me fifteen years to ask for help to study “those texts.”  In 1973 I found Troy Perry’s book, The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay.I enjoyed the book; but, like many Adventists, I didn’t want to get my theology from the Metropolitan Community Church, the Presbyterians, or the Methodists. I wanted a certified Seventh-day Adventist theologian who would understand those texts. I would like to tell you that courage drove me to clarify the meaning of Leviticus, Romans, and Corinthians, but I think it was the exhaustion. I just needed to find out. I needed to know if I could live with hope. Murky despair is a difficult companion. I made an appointment to talk with Larry.

I remember his book-lined office. I remember his reading glasses, the kind you peer over to look at the person in front of you. I remember his kindly eyes. I remember watching him take down the books he used in our chat. I remember my sense of encountering revelation as Larry explained meanings of the context and words in Leviticus. I remember relief.

I remember my “Oh, no!” moment when Larry looked at me over his lenses and said,“Now, Catherine, this means you need to live a Biblical life—one partner, one God.”This meant I had to make an emotional and contractual commitment. I remember my mental, “Oh, I just don’t think so!” response when Larry said, “Catherine, you need to let other Adventists know that there are conservative, Bible-believing, Bible-following gay and lesbian Adventists and that you are one of them.” I was selfish, self-protective, and still mistrusting that God would lead me. I did not want to give up being a camp meeting speaker or any of the rest of the ways I connected to the church. I remember my gratitude to Larry that only deepens, even now. He threw me a life preserver—and a responsibility.

Madeline Haldeman was a speaker at the very first Kinship Kampmeeting I attended. I don’t know much about her except that when she spoke about Jesus to our group of rather flowery LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) folk, she introduced us to a Jesus who loves us and plans to live with us—and our partners—in Heaven. I listened to her with open mouth and with remaining gratitude.

Hyveth Williams – To the faithful in the wooden benches of a New England camp meeting, Hyveth thundered a call for Adventists to become Bereans. She challenged us to study and think more deeply. She called us to understand the difference between Biblical principles, policies, and practices. She pushed me on the next steps of my journey to the Bible study that was published as Eden’s Gifts (see below).

Pastor Henry – Eleven years ago Pastor Henry came to shepherd our church district. At about the same time I ended an unhealthy relationship.

A year later I began to date the woman I would eventually marry. In a rage, the woman I had left began to write to every conference and union with whom I had worked in any capacity. She effectively helped me out of the church-related closet in a way that let Adventists in my part of the country know that, yes, there are Bible-believing, observant lesbian Adventists. I don’t think this is how Larry intended I should become an example, but it was effective. My camp meeting invitations ended. My consultations ended.

Pastor Henry came to visit me at work to ask me if I was a lesbian. I told him I didn’t want to be the object of a witch hunt and would not be part of that conversation. Today I wish I had just said “yes.”  The outcome would have been the same and I would have felt less like the Cowardly Lion. Thursday of the next week a church elder called asking me to attend a church board meeting to discuss the disciplinary action the leaders planned to take toward me.

Pastor MitchI was not ready to lose my membership in the Adventist church. I called a Kinship friend and asked him what my options were. He said to call Mitch. I did. Mitch listened. I told him the situation and asked him if I could find membership asylum in his Adventist congregation. He said he thought it was possible. I said, “I want to be very clear with you that I am a lesbian in a relationship.” He said I had been clear the first time. When did I need my membership shift? By next Tuesday.

Friday night he called me back, told me he had talked to a member of his church who knew me, and asked me if it would be okay if his congregation welcomed me as a member by profession of faith the next day during worship. I had found sanctuary.

The Millers Falls Church – At the Tuesday board meeting Pastor Henry began proceedings by explaining that they had called this meeting in the belief that I was acting in ways that called for church discipline. He laid out the process that they planned to take. I told them I had already become a member of another Seventh-day Adventist congregation and believed this process was now no longer necessary. Pastor Henry was outraged. He condemned any church leader that would interfere with his actions toward a member of his congregation.

I told the leadership that I loved this congregation, even in such a difficult time. I told them that even though I had needed to move my membership to another place, I was committed to their well being. I told them I planned to continue attending and sharing what gifts they would allow. Within two weeks the church called a business meeting and passed a motion that forbade me to come on church property, even as a guest.

Laura refused to be part of the vote. A seventy-six-year-old taciturn New Englander, she had shared a camp meeting tent with me over several years, infinite numbers of mosquitoes, one flood, and many conversations. Talking to her daughter about her reactions to the church, she said, “I don’t understand Catherine being a homosexual, but I know she loves God and I will just trust her to Him.”

Ann has been my friend and fellow Adventist for thirty-eight years. She is a pastor’s wife. Ten years ago, when we finally began to discuss my orientation, Ann went to the internet and studied everything she could about being a lesbian Christian. She came back to me saying, “It sure looks to me like this is a Biblical gray area.”She has become one of my staunchest advocates. My coming out to her has deepened our friendship and leaves me regretting the years I kept a wall of caution between us.

Cool Spring Fellowship of Seventh-day Adventists – Ann and her husband John are founders of a rural church plant. They invited my partner, Karen, and me to be part of that group. They told anyone who didn’t want us in the congregation that perhaps they should find another place to worship. When Karen and I got married six years ago, they were celebrants in our wedding. All but one couple in the church plant attended.

The Millers Falls ChurchThe voice of the congregation changed. Pastor Henry left. Three years ago a representative called to say they welcomed me to come back and visit the church. Until that point I had respected the vote of the business meeting and not returned. A few weeks after the phone call, I returned for a visit and was welcomed with hugs and affection.

Pastor Henry – People change. At the July 2011 Kinship Kampmeeting, a new member phoned her beloved brother to tell him how much she was enjoying her experience. He asked her if Catherine Taylor was attending. Startled, she asked him how on earth he knew me. “I am one of those bad pastors I told you about and I was a bad pastor to her.” I was surprised that this new Kinship member was my former pastor’s sister. I was surprised he was supportive of her. At that moment it seemed to me that I had looked into a window of how God is working in the church. It seemed to me like I had walked into a miracle. I don’t have a tidy end to this part of the story; it’s in process. The Bible – Adventists declare that the Bible is the basis of all church policies. My craving to learn more deeply the Bible’s voice led me to more study. That study became a paper for a European meeting on the subject of homosexuality and the Adventist church. Over the course of my research, it has become increasingly clear to me that the Bible’s voice on same-sex relationships is not the voice expressed in the church manual. My study, Eden’s Gifts, is being used in a variety of ways. I invite you to take a look at this booklet and share your feedback.* Ellen White – No discussion of Seventh-day Adventist policies or views on any topic would be complete without a study of Ellen White’s contributions to the topic. The difficulty with this topic is that she said nothing about homosexuals or committed, same-sex relationships. But here is a quote from Sister Ellen that could change the lives of millions if implemented in church policy:

“Judge not that ye be not judged.” That is, do not set yourself up as a standard. Do not make your opinions, your views of duty, your interpretation of scripture a criterion for others and in your heart condemn them if they do not come up to your ideal. Do not criticize others, conjecturing as to their motives and passing judgment upon them.(Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pages 123, 124.) 

Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.” I have read the policy. In others and myself I have experienced a broad range of reactions to that policy. But I have experienced the One who is greater than that policy and I am seeing the way that Heaven is working in our church. That is a greater power than any policy. *Eden’s Gifts by Catherine Taylor can be found online at http://sdakinship.org/en/edensgifts.html. If you have questions or thoughts you would like to share with Catherine, please feel welcome to contact her at katgurian@aol.com.

Catherine Taylor is a child and family therapist in Southern Virginia where she lives with her partner, aunt, uncle and two dogs. She has been active in the Seventh-day Adventist church since age 6 when she became a student at Bakersfield Junior Academy. As an adult she has held significant offices in various churches as well serving several local conferences as executive committee member, camp meeting speaker, women’s ministries coordinator, and consultant on family issues. Since being “outed” to her church as a lesbian, her professional expertise and leadership skills have benefited SDA Kinship, where she serves as editor of the member newsletter, Connection, and in numerous other significant leadership responsibilities.

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
What Will I Say? ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 4  —  October 2011
What Will I Say?

How the Adventist "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has affected a gay Adventist

By Robert L. Ramsay

Robert Ramsay These days I pray that new acquaintances will not ask which religious denomination I grew up in. I don’t want them to know that I was once a keen supporter of the Seventh-day Adventist church. I don’t want them to know that I used to serve my Lord as enthusiastic ingatherer, Junior division pianist, Sabbath school superintendent, junior Sabbath school teacher, adult Sabbath school teacher, church organist, vespers leader and CHIP (Coronary Health Improvement Project) facilitator.

I don’t like revealing my association with "The Caring Church" because folk may ask if I’m still a member. Then what will I say? Will I lie and say yes, or will I tell the truth? And if I tell the truth, how much will I reveal? Will I explain why I was disfellowshipped? Will I explain why I would never again choose to be a member of a church that treats some of its long-time faithful so dishonestly?

I could tell them how I grew up in "The Caring Church," how my mother rocked me in her arms while singing "Jesus Loves Me." I could tell of the wonderful years at camp meeting, when I shadowed my hero, our local pastor, as he went about his duties. I could tell how enthusiastic I was when the fall ingathering campaign rolled around, how I loved to hold that little box with the electric candle and tramp through the snow from door to door asking for funds to help the less fortunate. I could tell how for fifteen years I served as organist for the largest church in my conference, how I battled rain storms, blizzards, and icy roads to get to choir practice on Friday nights after exhausting weeks at work. I could tell how I rushed home from work four nights a week, for four weeks in a row, to facilitate the CHIP program.

I could tell how I had to suppress my true self in order to carry out these ministries. I could describe the frustration I felt at the welcome desk each Sabbath morning as the blue-haired ladies asked, “Why isn’t a nice young man like you married?” I could tell how uncomfortable I felt when they introduced me to some new female, how I yearned to tell them the truth, to ask if they knew any good Christian men who were open to dating another man.

I could tell how it hurt to read in the Adventist Review that gay Christian is an oxymoron. If given the opportunity, I would ask the men in responsible positions how they came to that conclusion? Did they find their gay friends wanting in the spiritual department? Did they find their gay and lesbian sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, uninterested in heavenly themes? What first-hand experiences led to their dehumanizing deduction?

I could tell how I limped through the four most hellish days of my life at a CHIP summit in 2003. I could explain how uncomfortable I felt as the delegates, who were there to learn how to help people enhance their lives, were killing me word by word as they commented negatively on Canada’s public debate regarding same-sex marriage. I could explain the hurt of their refusal to even consider that same-sex bonds might be based on the identical God-given impulses as their own relationships: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.

I could tell of my anger while playing the piano for an evangelistic presentation in which the speaker thundered enthusiastically about the sins of Sodom, flashed a picture on the screen of men and women roasting in fire and brimstone, then declared, “There you have God’s opinion of same-sex marriage!” Even worse was the chorus of "amens" from the church members who were present. Like the evangelist, had they never studied what the whole Bible says about the sin of Sodom?

I could tell how, once I told the world the truth about my affectional orientation, "The Caring Church" took swift action to terminate my years of ministry. I was no longer to play the piano for the juniors, unfit to be church organist, unqualified to teach an adult Sabbath school class. If I would not voluntarily relinquish my church membership, "The Caring Church" would take action. This it did, violating official church policy by striking my name from the church books despite the fact I was living a celibate life. My mortal sin was that I dared to verbalize my belief that God might actually bless same-sex unions.

I could tell how in agony of spirit over "The Caring Church’s" action against me, my parents contacted the church-supported Quest Learning Center which promised to change affectional orientation. I could tell how the center’s founder was paraded like a prize chicken on the It Is Written telecast and within the pages of Ministry magazine and other church periodicals. I could tell of the Quest Center’s nonsensical tapes that I listened to for hours, out of respect for my parents’ desire to help. I could tell how personnel at the Quest Learning Center abused clients, and how "The Caring Church" only disassociated itself from the center when threatened with legal action.

I could tell how embarrassing it is to read on a popular Adventist ministry’s website that affectional orientation can be influenced by businessmen wearing pastel colored shirts, and women wearing pants and jackets. I could tell how shameful it is to read month after month in the union magazine how homosexuals are destroying marriage. Do well-educated religious-liberty professionals really believe that the plague of divorce and single-parent families is caused by homosexuals?

I could tell someone all of the above, but usually I keep my mouth shut, both from a sense of shame that my former faith group is determined to reject the truth about LGBT people (therefore God has given them up to believe a lie); and perhaps, despite all the abuse, because I still harbor within my heart some latent love for "The Caring Church."

I could tell how I pray that one day the Seventh-day Adventist Church will deal sympathetically and honestly with its LGBT members. Until that day arrives, I will maintain a wary distance from "The Caring Church." As any Christian counselor will advise, returning to an abusive relationship makes as much sense as a dog returning to its vomit.

Educator, musician, and writer, Robert Ramsay taught elementary-age students in the public schools of Manitoba, Canada, for twenty years, then worked as an administrator for the Capital Regional District in Victoria, British Columbia. A successful freelance writer for over thirty years, he has published articles in magazines such as The American Organist, Adventist Review, and Exercise, For Men Only. He also serves as substitute organist for a number of different churches. Currently he lives in White Rock, British Columbia. Being gay is not just about sex, so Robert prefers to speak of “affectional orientation” rather than the more common “sexual orientation.”

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
Sharing God’s Grace with All ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 4  —  October 2011
Sharing God’s Grace with All

How does Adventist policy toward gays affect our ability to evangelize them?

By Rudy Torres

Rudy Torres"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19a, NIV).

"Then, I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Revelation 14:6, RSV).

We Adventists are not effectively sharing the good news with our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) sisters and brothers. We are not telling them in compelling ways that God loves them unconditionally. This is a tragic admission, because, until we find a way to do so, we are not being obedient to the gospel commission of making disciples of every nation, kindred, tongue and people.  

Like the Jewish community in Christ’s day, we are ineffective with marginalized people because we are judgmental. Luke 15:1, 2 describes the situation thus:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

This text implies that when tax collectors and sinners were sincerely looking for God, they did not come to the synagogue or the temple where they were banned from worship and would have been given the cold shoulder. Rather, they drew near to Jesus because He told them that God loved them because they were His children. Never did Jesus say that God loved them in spite of who they were. On the periphery of Jesus’ audience, the Pharisees and scribes, members of the temple in good and regular standing, murmured because they did not approve of Jesus including sinners within the scope of God’s grace. By dismissing Jesus with a judgmental “Birds of a feather flock together,” they rejected His inclusive message of grace in the form of three parables He went on to tell them, namely The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Two Lost Sons (The Prodigal Son).    

Some things don’t change. When LGBT people who have been banned and ostracized by the Christian church want to draw near to God, they don’t usually go to any church, including the Adventist church because chances are they would be condemned and rejected. Why is this? It is because the Christian church, including the Adventist church as a whole, is not preaching the same message that Jesus preached. If it were, marginalized people would flock to the church to learn about a loving God rather than go elsewhere or nowhere. Unfortunately, many LGBT and other marginalized peoples reject Christianity because the Bible has been used to condemn them.

This tragedy became clear to me in October of 1996 when I walked through acre after acre of the AIDS Memorial Quilt covering the entire National Mall in Washington, D. C. As I meandered through the quilt, I read about two thousand of countless thousands of panels, each meticulously crafted in memory of an AIDS victim; and I found but one biblical text quoted. There were a plethora of quotes from poets, philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, New Age authors, and mythology. It struck me that, by and large, the Christian Church has alienated our LGBT brothers and sisters from itself, the Bible, and Christ.

That is the situation of the LGBT community outside the church. What about this community within the Adventist church? Have we as an Adventist church alienated our own LGBT members?  

In a survey recently sent to members of Kinship, an organization for Adventist LGBT people, asking for their input on the topic of their positive and negative experiences in Adventist churches, one respondent said, “The last time I went to church, a lady in my pew got up and moved and muttered just loud enough for me to hear that ‘your kind isn’t welcome around my kids.’”

There were 236 respondents to this survey. Of these 66 (28%) no longer attend an Adventist church. Of the 170 who attend an Adventist church, 50 (29.4%) indicated that the Adventist church in their area was LGBT-friendly and 120 (70.6%) said the church in their area was not. Of 196 respondents, 76 (38.8%) felt comfortable inviting a non-Adventist LGBT person to their local congregation, and 120 (61.2%) did not.

While this survey is not scientific because it was given to a random sample and not a representative one, it is safe to assume that the Adventist church fared better than it would have from a scientific sampling because the survey is skewed toward those attending LGBT-friendly congregations.

What has gone wrong and what can we do about it?

First, on a corporate level, we must recognize that something is wrong with our narrow evangelistic method. We have misdiagnosed the problem by believing that the non-Christian LGBT community is impervious to God’s grace. We have failed to recognize how legalistic and mean-spirited our approach to evangelism can be.    

Second, we as a church have fallen victim to the numbers game. We want numbers for our evangelistic dollar, so we have chosen to do niche evangelism. We have primarily geared our public evangelism and personal evangelism to a narrow band of people who are already Christians who share our worldview and our prejudices with the exception of the Sabbath. This approach targets a narrow segment of the population that is most likely to respond to our traditional methods of evangelism. When we use this approach with secular and post-modern audiences, usually our results are meager. Recently, in a large metropolitan area, the local Adventist conference rented a large auditorium and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to reach a predominantly secular city with traditional evangelistic sermons delivered by a well-known evangelist. What were the results? There were fewer than forty baptisms. Clearly, we must develop other approaches to evangelism that target different segments of the population. Many of these approaches will not be through public preaching and lectures.

Third, we have not intentionally trained our members to be friendly and inclusive in their thinking. Often sermons by pastors target groups such as Catholics, LGBT peoples, adulterers, fornicators, and drunkards in mean-spirited attacks lacking in empathy and love. These approaches alienate sensitive members and the groups being attacked and create a climate within the congregation that is smug, intolerant and judgmental.

Fourth, we as a church need to develop an intentional strategy for reaching our non-Christian LGBT brothers and sisters. What would these include? I will take my cues from the experiences of 167 people who wrote responses to the Kinship survey and suggest the following:

  1. Promote a spirit of love and respect to all visitors and members. Ninety percent of all respondents to the survey were treated rudely from the pulpit (mean-spirited anti-gay rhetoric from the pulpit) or from the membership through nasty personal remarks or malicious gossip that came back to the aggrieved. We need a lot of training on interpersonal relationships. Fortunately, there were many stories telling of loving Adventist pastors and church members who were caring and accepting of all LGBT people. Unfortunately, they are in the minority and their viewpoint usually did not prevail. We need to increase their tribe!

  2. Rather than judge people on their perceived sins, we need to exemplify Christ’s inclusive love expressed in his words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If membership in the church were determined by those who come in response to Christ’s invitation, it would change the nature of the church; and it would promote a spirit of love and inclusion since many marginalized people would respond. What takes place now? Twenty-four LGBT respondents reported that their church membership was terminated in a cold, uncaring way. A majority of LGBT Adventists who attend Adventist churches remain in the closet because they are afraid that if their sexual orientation were known, they would be asked to leave the church. Some congregations who knew that their members were LGBT people banned them from participating in church activities but gladly accepted their tithes and offerings.

  3. Encourage LGBT-friendly congregations and Adventist colleges. About 10% of the 167 written responses indicated a totally positive experience in the Adventist church. Virtually all of these attended LGBT-friendly congregations. Some respondents from areas of high-LGBT populations knew of no LGBT-friendly churches in their areas. We need LGBT-friendly churches in all large metropolitan areas.  

  4. Above all, we must not get involved in political issues by publicly opposing gay marriage and domestic partnership rights. Since our inception as a church, we have advocated the separation of church and state. Let’s stick to effective evangelism. When one young adult read of her local Adventist union taking a public position against gay marriage, she said, “Thank you for reminding me of why I no longer attend the Adventist church.”

If we became sensitive to our LGBT sisters and brothers in and outside the church, we would truly become more caring of all sinners, including heterosexuals.

Rudy Torres, a retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor, has proclaimed the good news of salvation from some of the most eminent Adventist pulpits in North America. He has shepherded congregations, large and small, on both the east and west coasts. In retirement he is still busy writing and doing life coaching from his home. His mission has been and remains, "Experiencing freedom in Christ and encouraging other to do the same."  

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
Who Are We? ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 4  —  October 2011
Who Are We?

How Adventist "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Affects Parents of Gays

By Sharlett Reinke

Sharlett Reinke On a sunny summer Sabbath, my favorite kind of day, my husband and I were worshiping at the Adventist church closest to our home. Friends from out of town were there as well. The pastor was one our contemporaries from college and was presenting a series on the Ten Commandments. The subject at hand was adultery and he was hitting hard on divorce.

I looked across the aisle at a young man who had recently divorced. My heart hurt for him as I knew the pastor’s comments were going to make his journey harder and cause him pain.

Then, without warning, the pastor switched subjects and began a tirade on “the terrible sin of homosexuality.” My husband and I sat in stunned silence as he continued. Around us sat friends who know our son is gay. I managed to keep a calm exterior until I reached the car. My heart was breaking at the awful and untrue things that had been said about homosexuals, whom I know to be nothing like the pastor's descriptions. Through my tears I asked, “What am I doing in a church like this?” Even now I still wonder when I see how my church continues to treat our gay sons and daughters.

That day I knew I was going to speak to the pastor. I also I knew I was going to need time for God to help me deal with my anger and to give me His spirit and words.

Several weeks later, I did visit the pastor. Someone who knew him well had told me, “He needs to hear this from a mother.” The pastor did not know why I was there. We chatted briefly and then I asked to share a picture with him. The picture was of my gay son with his arms around his grandparents. As he studied the photo, I simply said, “You know, pastor, you are looking into the face of a gay man.”

He looked up and said, “Well, I just spoke about that.”

I told him “I know.” I said I was not there to change his mind about homosexuality but I wanted him to know how incredibly painful it was for me to hear someone say the things he had said about my son. We talked for some time. We prayed together. While I doubt I had much impact on his theology, I hoped that he would in the future realize how much pain he could cause by his words.

My experience is not unique or unusual. Gays and their family members are often subjected to these kinds of attacks while in church. In one church a speaker who certainly meant his words to be comforting, said, “Jesus loves the perverts, homosexuals, and murderers.” It is not at all comforting to the mother of a gay son to have him placed with murderers and perverts for his “sin” of being gay.

One mother, who knew nothing about homosexuality, while searching for answers after her son came out, contacted the local Adventist Book Center and asked if they had books on the subject. The lady answering the phone said, “We don’t believe in that!” and hung up. When I asked the mother what she did then, she replied, “I just kept on loving my son.”

A young man shared with me that, when he came out to his parents, they ultimately left the church. They felt they could not be Adventists if they had a gay son since they were prominent members of their church. The mother said, “You cannot be a loving and supportive mother of a gay child and an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the same time.” The son eventually changed his name to keep from further harming his family.

A devoted couple continued to love and support their lesbian daughter and her partner. They rarely spoke of her being gay to anyone outside the family. Only once did the mom confide in a friend from church, but her silent plea for understanding was met only with a lecture about the sinfulness of her daughter’s lifestyle. They did not feel it safe to talk to anyone in the church. They said they knew no one would understand.

It is often said that when a loved comes out of the closet, the family goes in. The family has to deal with the loss of their dreams for their child as well as the condemnation and lack of understanding from others. There are many in our church touched by the issue of homosexuality, but they and their loved ones remain silent and alone. Sadly, I have found that my church is often not a safe place for those of us who are on this journey.

The first response to a child coming out for many families is a shock, then grief, followed by “What did I do to cause this?” I have heard of a few families who did find pastors who were compassionate and understanding. More often, those who have sought pastoral help are given several Bible texts along with the assurance that their loved one will be lost unless they change their orientation and/or never have an intimate same-sex relationship.

Our family was not unusual in that we remained in the closet for several years following our son’s coming out. He was working for the church, and it took some time for him to extricate himself from a career he loved. We told virtually no one, none of our Adventist friends nor any family members. It was over two years before I talked to another parent of a gay child and found I was not alone.

I became involved with SDA Kinship “Family and Friends” after our son began to authentically live his life as a gay man. I can honestly say I never expected to be on this journey, but I have determined that I will no longer be silent. I strive to be an advocate for all gays and their family and friends.

I believe that the main result of the Adventist version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is to keep gay Adventists and their families silent. Therapeutically, we are only as sick as our secrets. Do we want to continue with this “sick system” and not have the healing hospital that our church needs to be? My faith tells me that God loves us all equally, gay and straight alike. I believe that He wants all of his children to live openly and authentically, true to who they are.

Present Adventist policy and practice continues to enable the church to comfortably ignore the gays in our midst as well as the families that love them.

I long to be a part of “The Caring Church,” a church that will fully live up to Jesus’ great commandment of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. If gays are not our neighbors, then who are they?

Perhaps the better question is, “Who are we?”

A Texan by birth who joined the Adventist church at age 18, Sharlett Reinke majored in social work at Southwestern and Union Colleges. Domestically she raised sons with her husband on a North Dakota farm. Professionally a social worker, she served in mental health, hospital, community, and nursing home settings. Moving to Nebraska for her eldest son to attend Union College, she was employed there for 14 years in the science and math division as a secretary and project manager for the honors program. Loving a gay son has led Sharlett into a rich ministry of encouragement to other parents of gays.

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
Questions and Answers ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 1/No. 4  —  October 2011
Questions and Answers

Arlene TaylorQ: I am unable to even have a conversation with people who "do it" differently from straights. For my part, I wish they would all just disappear. I feel really ill when I think about it, yet I can't seem to stop thinking about it!

A. I can make some comments from my experience (but I certainly don't know everything). For example, when I have a conversation with other individuals, my brain is focused on the conversation and the topic under discussion. My brain definitely does not think about how they might “do it.” It never does.

The question implies a rather stereotypical assumption about how people "do it." Undoubtedly, there are as many ways to engage in sexual behaviors as there are people doing so.

Choices about sexual behaviors are not necessarily consistent with a person's core gender identity. My years in public health certainly taught me that. For example, there are cultures in which rectal intercourse between males is perfectly acceptable when a female partner is pregnant. In their view, it has nothing to do with an orientation toward being either straight or gay. As one man put it, "It simply has to do with sexual release pure and simple—and beats masturbation." (I was tempted to ask him to define pure and simple sexual release but I didn't. It certainly has gotten him a sexually transmitted disease.)

There are also cultures in which rectal intercourse is considered to be a perfectly acceptable form of sexual activity for a female prior to her marriage, in order to make certain she is a "vaginal virgin" at her wedding. And there is a sub-set culture in male prisons in which rectal intercourse is practiced, even though those same males exhibit that behavior only while incarcerated. Once out of prison, they reportedly revert to heterosexual behaviors—whatever those may be. And I could go on. If everyone who "did it" differently (and differently from whom?) just disappeared, a sizable population would likely disappear from this planet.

What you choose to think about is one of the few things over which you have control (assuming your brain is functioning within the parameters of a normal brain, so-called). If you can't stop "thinking about it," and you feel really ill when you do think about it, you must be spending a lot of time feeling really ill. That would be a choice, of course. Yours. If you truly want to get a handle on this (and you may not), decide what you will think about. Select several healthier replacement thoughts. Use your willpower to help you focus on the replacement thoughts you have selected.

Q: I have heard that you can tell whether an individual is gay or straight by the length of his or her ring finger. Is that true?

A. Some researchers think that digit ratio, as it is sometimes called, is a marker for brain differences molded by prenatal hormones. They think these measurements may tell you something about what was going on in terms of levels of hormones in your mother's uterus just weeks after your conception, a time when your fingers, and more importantly, your brain, were developing.

Several years ago, an article in Psychology Today ("Sexuality: Your Telltale Fingertips") briefly discussed the relative lengths of a person's ring finger versus index finger. The author wrote, "Like a bit of prenatal graffiti, a longer ring finger says, 'Testosterone was here.'" Because of the influx of sex hormones at this prenatal stage, men tend to have ring fingers that are slightly longer than their index fingers; in females, these fingers are usually the same length or the index finger is just a bit longer. Along with external genitalia, relative finger length is the other sexually dimorphic physical trait fixed at birth (other differences showing up at puberty).

A variety of studies have linked digit ratio to a plethora of things including left-handedness, heart disease, autism, aggression, hyperactivity, ADD, etc. According to Dennis McFadden, psychology professor at the U of Texas at Austin, lesbians may be more likely than straight women to have a masculine finger ratio. That does not, however, tell you anything definitively about a specific individual. In my experience, I have met straight women with longer ring fingers, who were (incidentally) excellent athletes. Consequently, you may want to avoid rushing around trying to measure the ring and index fingers of other individuals.

  • If you are interested in reading more about this, the article may still be available:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200506/sexuality-your-telltale-fingertips

  • In addition, Joe Rojas-Burke recently wrote an article in LifeExtension on how to determine digit ratio.

http://www.lef.org/news/LefDailyNews.htm?NewsID=10983&Section=Disease&source=DHB_110407&key=Body+ContinueReading&utm_source=DHB_110407&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Disease&utm_content=Body%2BContinueReading&utm_campaign=DailyHealthBulletin

Q. My daughter insists she's gay. She must be lying because her father and I are straight, so how could she be gay? I've told her to just use her willpower to be straight; but when I say, "Don't think about women and those things," her reply is "That doesn't work." So what's wrong here?

A. "What's wrong here" may involve a number of issues. Parental brain function may or may not be replicated in biological offspring. And even when children do resemble one or both parents, each brain is unique. The fact that you and your husband believe yourselves to be straight has little if anything to do with your daughter's brain. If she has not been abused by a male (e.g., she is not saying she is gay in order to reduce expectations for marrying a male), her being honest enough to tell you she is attracted to other females is quite brave of her. If it's a passing fad, she may eventually change her mind. If it represents her brain's sexual orientation, she will likely not change her mind (whether or not she succumbs to pressure to live a straight lifestyle).

As for willpower, many people misunderstand its role. Willpower is believed to be located in the brain's executive center, directly behind the forehead, as is working memory. Willpower rarely helps a person stop doing a behavior, especially if it provides some type of reward. Willpower is designed to help you achieve a goal, learn a new skill, or develop a healthier replacement behavior (for one that was resulting in negative outcomes).

Are you familiar with work by Dr. Daniel Wegeman (the white bear phenomenon)? When you say, "Don't think about the white bear," a picture of a white bear pops up in working memory and you actually think about the white bear more than you did before. Saying, "Don't think about . . ." is relatively unhelpful. The brain first makes a picture from the words and it often misses the "don't." Once something goes into working memory, the brain makes no judgment about whether it is good or bad. The brain's position is: if you put it in working memory that's what you want, and my job is to help you get it. Therefore, avoid giving negative instructions.

Having said that, I suggest you accept your daughter just as she is, keeping wide the door for open discussion and non-demeaning, non-shaming conversations. She may be gay—and it's her brain so she'll be the only one to know who she really is. And if she is gay, my belief is that there is a way for every brain on this planet to live a rewarding and satisfying life. It may not be the one you live, however; and you will need to decide whether you are going to make life harder and more difficult for her than it already is, or love her just as she is even though she is walking a different path from the one you chose.

Arlene R. Taylor PhD is founder and president of Realizations, Inc., a non-profit corporation that engages in brain-function research and provides related educational resources. She is a talented speaker who specializes in simplifying the complex topic of brain function, with the goal of helping individuals learn to thrive by design. Learn much more at www.arlenetaylor.org.

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Church Relations, Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design

Who Cares? Newsletter — February 2012

Editor’s Perspective: A Year of Asking, "Who Cares?" ↓↓
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Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 1  —  February 2012

Editor’s Perspective

A Year of Asking, "Who Cares?"

ClaudeSteen150x200

With this issue of Who Cares? we begin our second year of publication. As editor, I have had a year of learning much and of humble gratitude for all those who have been willing to write and those who have read our words. Thankful for the start we have made, I am more than ever convicted that we are beginning to fill a real need in the Adventist church—the need to provoke prayerful discussion among Adventist church pastors and educators about how we might more effectively minister to our gay and lesbian members, students, and attendees.

With the potential for a million or more gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) people going and coming through the doors of our churches and schools worldwide, it is none too soon for us to think again about our attitudes toward these people, our understanding of their uniqueness, what it takes to meet their spiritual, emotional, and social needs, and what we really believe about how God would have us relate to them.

These people are not strangers to us. We know many of their names because they are our children, our church members, our students, and our visitors. They are among us because they identify themselves as Adventists or are thinking about becoming Adventists. But they harbor urgent questions about whether they can measure up to our expectations, whether we would accept them if we knew their big secret, and, most of all, what God thinks of them.

GLBTI members and students present a significant challenge to us as church and school leaders. Many of us are ignorant about current scientific understandings of homosexuality. Some of us don't really know any gays personally so we are unfamiliar with their challenges and feelings. Even though our denomination has official position statements and policies on the subject, we are not all in total agreement as to what the Bible really teaches or on what basis we should accept gays into our fellowship or schools. Some of this disagreement is because some of us haven't really paid much attention to the issue, while others who have studied into it have developed serious questions about the validity or effectiveness of the current church position. Still others have implicit faith that our official position is exactly right.

Meanwhile, as we leaders try to find the right path, a gay member is wondering if she'd be welcomed at her local Adventist church and if she can safely bring her partner, who's searching for spiritual enlightenment. A child in our school is being bullied by classmates who sense that he's somehow different than they are. A gay member who married a fine Adventist woman in hopes of "curing" his same-sex attraction is realizing the marriage is about to come apart despite his best efforts. One of the most talented and promising students in the academy is seriously contemplating suicide because of his abhorrence and fear of the same-sex attractions he struggles with. The time for complacency about homosexuality is long past! Are you one who really does care and wants to help minister to this segment of God's family?

Who Cares? does not advocate doctrinal change for the denomination or propose specific policy positions. But we do urge all pastors and teachers to become familiar with the issues surrounding homosexuality and Christianity, the scientific information available and, if possible, to become personally acquainted with some of the gays and lesbians near you. We know Jesus deeply loves these people; and, with His Spirit's guidance, you can, too. In order to help raise your consciousness of issues and possible solutions, Who Cares? tries to bring you thoughtful articles from both sides of the traditional/progressive divide. And we do advocate for a basic attitude of loving acceptance of all God's children as we believe Jesus did.

In this Issue

First, we feature an interview with Daneen Akers who has been working with her documentary filmmaker husband, Stephen Eyers, for the last couple of years to produce a new film called Seventh-Gay Adventists: A Film About Faith on the Margins.

Bryan Aalborg's recent D.Min. dissertation was titled Clarity and Compassion: Preaching to Achieve the Formation of a Local Church Policy which Affirms Grace and Transformation to Homosexuls. Bryan is senior pastor of the Foster Seventh-day Adventist Church in Asheville, North Carolina. His article, To Bridge a Divide, Imitate Jesus, supports the denominational position but pleads for the love and balance of Jesus.

Dr. George Babcock's 53 years of remarkable achievement in Adventist educational administration are reflected in his article, Confronting Bullying in Adventist Schools. Not a problem, you say? Amazingly, at 75, Babcock is principal of Hinsdale Adventist Academy and knows well the subject he writes about!

As an academy principal's wife, Beth Anderson has lived most of her life on academy campuses. As school counselor at Mount Pisgah Academy in North Carolina she sees up close and personal the struggles of Adventist teens who realize their romantic and sexual attractions are different than most of their peers. Her article, God's Children, Our Responsibility, will be worth your while.

And we have a gift for you! We'd like to send a free copy of Andrew Marin's book, Love Is an Orientation, to the first 100 readers who request it. It's a book that stands out from among the many polemics on homosexuality, and we think it will transform your thinking and your ministry. So read our review and email us your request.

We close this issue with another Q & A column, Answers from The Brain Doctor, by our resident "brain doctor," Arlene Taylor, Ph.D. You may be amazed at the questions and enlightened by the answers.

Our Guiding Star

Whether pastors or educators, we each need a guiding star to keep us moving in the direction God has ordained for us. Though I can't claim to have faithfully followed it, early in my ministry I chose as my compass the same words that Jesus quoted as His reason for coming to earth. These words still ring true as we consider a ministry to our gay brothers and sisters.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives,
and release from darkness for the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor" (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV).

May God help us to learn how to translate these lofty ideals into practical ministries to all God's children!

Claude E. Steen, III

Claude E. Steen III retired from more than 40 years of active pastoral ministry in June 2010. His work was mostly in the Southern and Columbia unions with 5 years in Ethiopia and a short stay in the Southwestern Union. With his wife Donna (Chalmers) their family consists of 2 married sons, 2 married daughters, a gay son, and 11 grandchildren. He lives happily with Donna in a restored 1827 farm house at the end of the road near Roxboro, NC. claudesteenis@gmail.com


whocares banner3

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

Claude E. Steen, III Editor
Dave Ferguson Subscriptions
Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
Linda Wright Layout & Design
Creating the Film Seventh-Gay Adventists ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 1  —  February 2012
Creating the Film Seventh-Gay Adventists

By Daneen Akers

Daneen Akers

Daneen Akers and her husband Stephen Eyer are putting the finishing touches on their new documentary film they've named Seventh-Gay Adventists: A Film About Faith on the Margins. Here are some questions about this film I recently asked Daneen, along with her answers. Editor.

Question: What was the original motivation that prompted you and Stephen to begin this huge project?

Answer: We really began this project in the fall of 2008, although we didn't realize it at the time. We were part of the "Adventists Against Prop 8" initiative, a small but influential advocacy group within the church in California that asked Adventists to consider voting "no" on Proposition 8--the proposed California constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Our opposition was based on the long-standing Adventist position on a strict separation between church and state.

We'd been going to church at a small, inclusive church that wasn't officially Adventist, but it met on Sabbaths and the pastors used to be Adventist pastors. Word got around the San Francisco Bay Area that it was a space where all were welcome, and a number of gay, lesbian, and even transgender Adventists began attending regularly because there aren't other welcoming Adventist congregations in the Bay Area. For the first time, we became really close friends with gay and lesbian Adventists, and we saw through new eyes the hurt, fear-based propaganda, and stereotypes that came out of Prop 8 (much of it, unfortunately, from religious groups). We couldn't just sit by. I was also pregnant with our first-born, Lily, and I think imagining what kind of church we would want for her was a big part of our involvement.

When Prop 8 passed we were incredibly disappointed! I remember Stephen, who has worked in film for more than a decade, telling me, "What the church needs is a film with stories. That's how hearts and minds are changed." I agreed and wondered who could do it. After a few days of mulling that question over, we realized that we could do it! That was three years ago almost exactly.

Question: What experience do you two have in film-making?

Answer: This is our second feature documentary. The first was about fibromyalgia, a chronic pain and fatigue condition that my mother has. We'd recently finished promoting that film and we knew we wanted to do another documentary because we find the medium such a powerful way to share stories that aren't typically heard. Stephen has done a lot of film work over the years and was actually the first student to graduate from PUC's Film and Television program (it was called Digital Media Technology then). Although I've also done a lot of writing and teaching, I really enjoyed working with Stephen on a common cause. Film is just a visual form of writing, I've learned!

Question: Why do you think a film on Adventist gays is needed today?

Answer: A good film is just a good story. But because we're entering people's lives so completely in a film, we can go places emotionally that wouldn't otherwise be accessible to us. Adventists don't talk about homosexuality the way some churches do, although there is occasionally a stridently anti-gay sermon. With us, it's usually "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." However, this isn't healthier. It simply means that there is an entire demographic in the church that has no voice and isn't often visible. And when people don't know something or someone, a great deal of fear and misunderstanding develops.

A film like this is a chance to hear from people whose very existence is often ignored. Or, if it is acknowledged, the discussion happens entirely around abstract theological issues. We feel strongly that we need a new way to have this conversation, and we feel that these stories can provide a relational lens through which to have this conversation in an entirely new way. And, even if an Adventist happens to know someone who is gay, it's not easy to find a way to ask them, over haystacks, about how they have reconciled their religious identity with their sexual orientation. That's not exactly polite conversation material!

So a film like this is an opportunity for us viewers to experience these incredible stories and spiritual journeys in a way that would be hard to do otherwise. There's something pretty amazing when we just hear someone else's story. And that doesn't mean this isn't still a complicated topic in the church and in families! But this film's message is very hopeful that we can live together, worship together and be in intentional, loving relationships with each other while we keep talking.

Question: When did you start and what have been your biggest challenges?

Answer: We started the project early in 2009. The biggest challenge of any documentary is always funding, and its been huge for us to step out in faith, many times not knowing how we were going to pay expenses and keep moving forward. But it has all worked out, often at the last minute as an answer to prayer. It's been incredible to see the huge community of people who have come together to make the film happen--some contributing significant funds, others a widow's mite. A student set up a recurring donation of $20 a month and told us she was giving to the film instead of buying fancy coffee! People really have cared about making this happen.

The other big challenge is letting the film grow, shift and change over the process of production and editing. A documentary film requires incredible vision and energy to actually produce, but it also requires holding that vision with an open hand in order to see where your stories are taking you. We began making an issue film, but we've ended up making a film that's entirely story-driven and character-based. That means that we have a great deal of footage that isn't in the film. I keep saying we'll have amazing special features on the DVD one day! Following our film subjects and their stories took us in a different direction that we'd originally imagined, but that direction is one of grace, gentleness, and hope, and I think the film is a much more powerful vehicle to challenge stereotypes and engage all of our hearts with each other, no matter our theological positions, because we were willing to let the film's vision evolve and expand.

Question: Have contributions been your only source of funding? Will you be charging people to see the film? What costs are still looming ahead?

Answer: The film has been almost entirely funded by contributions from individuals who believe in the film's goals and want to see this conversation in the church happen in a new way. We did receive two small grants, but they were less than one percent of the budget. We're still in the very beginning stages of releasing the film, and films come out quite slowly. Right now we've just been doing some private screenings, most of them for the benefit of someone featured in the film. So far we aren't charging for admission but are accepting tax-deductible contributions to help cover the screening costs. We're entering the final phase of the film, so our upcoming costs are primarily to cover screening costs and outreach materials.

Question: You have traveled around the US finding and interviewing many people for this film. What kinds of people did you interview? What impressions, feelings, convictions have come to you as a result of your travels and interviews?

Answer: Yes, we started this project with a three-month, 10,000-mile road trip just trying to get to know this community and the topic. Our daughter was nine months old when we started and a few days shy of her first birthday when we ended, so it's a bit of a blur trying to remember just how all of that worked. It really was a great way to delve into the project.

We set up story booths around the country in Adventist population centers (near colleges, typically) and tried to spread the word that we wanted to hear from LGBT Adventists (current and former) and their families. We heard the most incredible stories, and that's where some of the themes that we knew needed to come out in the film started to take shape. There were just some really common experiences that almost every gay Adventist had, like not consciously knowing that there were any other gay Adventists while growing up. And every single person had wrestled deeply with scripture, theology and God's will for his or her life. Almost every gay Adventist I've met knows the Bible better than I do! I knew we wanted that deep, spiritual walk to come out in the film.

We also interviewed a wide range of pastors, theologians and other Adventist professors and thought leaders about the church and homosexuality, and we found ourselves blessed by each conversation, even by those we had expected to be uncomfortable with, based on past publications. I think that's a big part of why the film "gentled" in tone. We were tempted at first to respond in kind to some extremely un-Christian treatment we'd witnessed towards gay Adventists. But in talking to even the most conservative voices in the church, we realized that, by and large, Adventists are trying to do their best to love people and do what they think scripture requires of them. It's not easy, and while the policies can be harmful, most people really do want to be loving. They just don't always know how! And the wide-spread ignorance and stereotypes that are often present in churches are mainly due to this being a taboo topic, which is another reason we wanted to make a film that would prompt thoughtful conversation.

Question: What is the target audience for this film?

Answer: We've always had a few audiences in mind for the film. The first audience, and the one we care most about is those Adventists who are ready to discuss homosexuality in a new way. Change happens in a church from the pews up, and Adventism has a marvelous system where individual churches have a great deal of autonomy. So a local church really can decide that gays are welcome to worship on Sabbath mornings, and a really tangible change that is felt in the lives of many people can happen.

We are also planning to share the film with general audiences as well. All people experience a longing to belong and to be accepted. They get what it's like to struggle with your identity. And the spiritual identity piece of this film is fascinating to non-Adventists. When we tell people that it would be just as hard for our film subjects to stop being Adventists as it would for them to stop being gay, they find that a very interesting situation.

We also want to share the film in LGBT film festivals because so many people assume that being gay and being a person of faith is an "either/or" proposition. This film shows that it can be "both/and" in a very beautiful way. So far the non-Adventists who have seen the film love it because, usually, they'd known almost nothing about Adventism. We really tried to make sure the film showed why Adventism is such a powerful community of belonging. It's really almost like an ethnicity! I keep telling Stephen that the church should be giving us an evangelism grant! When else are a bunch of secular film-goers and LGBT activists going to be wanting to know more about Adventism?

It's still very early in the release process for us, but our plan is to continue to do select private screenings, then to screen a few film festivals, and then--assuming we find the funding--take the film all around North America for screenings and discussions. I'd love to do as many international screenings as we can, too. And then we'll make the film available on DVD and likely online somehow. Our intention has always been for the film to prompt thoughtful, sincere dialogue about how we treat our gay and lesbian church members. And in order to do that, we need people to see the film! I definitely think this will be a slow roll-out with a lot of screenings in living rooms on a Sabbath afternoon. I've had several students tell me that they aren't coming out to their parents until this film is ready for them to all watch together. And I do imagine a lot of family conversations that are going to start in earnest because of this film.

Question: What is the length of the finished film?

Answer: It's 100 minutes long, not counting all the DVD special features and deleted scenes I have planned.

Question: How can I be sure to not miss a showing that may occur near where I live?

Answer: Please sign up for our newsletter at www.sgamovie.com and follow our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sgamovie. If you'd like to help plan a screening in your area I'd love to hear from you! Please write me at daneen@daneenakers.com

Question: Is there still need for more money for this project? Are you still accepting donations and how may I donate?

Answer: Yes and yes! We are almost done with all of the post-production final touches, but we're entering the screening and outreach phase of the film. In some ways, I'm glad I didn't realize three years ago how much energy and dedication this project was going to take, or I don't know if I could have imagined doing it! I am only now realizing that making a film is just half of the process. Getting it screened and discussed is the other half of the job, and screenings, travel, and outreach all require time and funds too. You can find all of the information to make a tax-deductible donation at www.sgamovie.com/donate.

Question: Isn't there a danger that by focusing so much on homosexuality Adventists may become more comfortable with it and thus lower the moral standards of the church or its members? Wouldn't it have been better to have made a film advocating higher standards of holiness and Biblical morality rather than glorifying the lifestyles of church members who have fallen into this Biblically condemned way of life?

Answer: There's a great quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer I keep pinned above my desk that says, "Listening is the first thing we owe the oppressed." I think its quite fair to say that within conservative Christian communities like the Adventist church, gays and lesbians have not only been oppressed but very, very misunderstood. Before we decide how someone should live or whether or not their love is immoral or their families are inferior, let's simply listen to their stories.

Jesus certainly modeled giving each and every person, especially those frequently dismissed by their cultures, His full attention, and respect. That attention was healing! And I feel strongly that we simply need to start sharing stories. When we do that we can no longer sit in judgment. That doesn't mean everyone is going to agree, and it doesn't mean we're all going to suddenly share the same interpretation of Pauline texts. We don't yet agree on the role of women, so it's going to be much longer before we agree on this topic! But it does mean that we can start showing up in our homes and churches with genuine, Christ-like love for all our brothers and sisters.

Question: Having gone through this lengthy and challenging project, do you feel positive about what you have accomplished? Why?

Answer: What we feel good about is being the curators for some truly powerful stories that otherwise would not be heard. And even though it's just the very beginning stage of sharing this film, the feedback has been so affirming that it feels clear that God has led.

The film could have been angry or bitter--there's certainly material to justify that tone! But that's not a space where change can happen. We started the film feeling quite bitter about some very un-Christian treatment of gay and lesbian Adventists we witnessed. Yet we're ending it feeling very positive because we've seen such amazing love and respect in the lives of our film subjects. They've found different paths, but they are all hopeful stories that can help us all lean into intentional, loving relationships with each other even though we haven't figured out a theological statement we can all sign off on.

Of course, this is almost the exact same case with the role of women in the church. And one of our goals with the film is that homosexuality can be much like women's ordination: we don't all agree and we interpret the Genesis stories and Pauline writings a bit differently at times, but we still agree to stay in fellowship with each other while we keep dialoging. Nobody is going to disfellowship me because I advocate for women's ordination. What I've seen while producing this film is actually a lot more hope than I expected. And that's a very good thing.

Daneen Akers is the co-producer/director of Seventh-Gay Adventists: A film about faith on the margins, along with her husband, Stephen Eyer. They live and work with their three-year-old daughter, Lily, in San Francisco, CA. You can learn more about the film at www.sgamovie.com or email her at daneenakers@gmail.com.


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Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

Claude E. Steen, III Editor
Dave Ferguson Subscriptions
Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
Linda Wright Layout & Design
To Bridge a Divide, Imitate Jesus ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 1  —  February 2012
To Bridge a Divide, Imitate Jesus

By Bryan Aalborg, D.Min.

BryanAalborg1

“In the sight of our law, the African slave-trader is a pirate and a felon; and in the sight of Heaven, an offender beyond the ordinary depth of human guilt.” (1) So stated Daniel Webster in a speech given in 1820 commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock.

John C. Calhoun, however, along with others in the South, presented an entirely opposite viewpoint. Regarding slavery in America, Calhoun observed, "Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually." (2) Defenders of slavery noted that the Bible did not forbid it but guided a humane practice of slavery.

In the 19th century, slavery divided a nation, leading to tragic loss of life for tens of thousands. Now it is unquestioned that slavery demeans humans created in the image of God.

Today homosexuality generates sharp contention. Scholar-author Robert Gagnon crystallizes the opposing viewpoints resident in the general Christian community.

The church—local congregations and denominational bodies—divides because of fierce disagreements about the status of homosexual Christians, their relationships, and their qualifications for ministry. One side appeals to the explicit statements in Scripture regarding same-sex intercourse, the structures of God’s creation, principles of sexual holiness, two millennia of church tradition, the influence of environment on the development of homosexuality, the dearth of long-term and monogamous homosexual relationships, and the negative health effects of homosexual behavior. The other side points to genetic causation, the fruit of caring homosexual relationships, the antiquated worldview and obsolescence of other parts of Scripture, and such Christian virtues as tolerance and inclusion. (3)

Will the currently divided Christian community come to embrace a unified view and practice regarding homosexuality? Time will reveal. Presently a unifying and healing approach will attempt to imitate the mind and attitude of Jesus.

Jesus came close to those whom the community regarded as sinful. To the paralytic carried by four friends, Jesus assured, “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mark 2:5). (4) Because of her conversation with Jesus, the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well hurriedly returned to town exclaiming, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did” (John 4:29). It is reasonable to assume that “what she ever did” was well-known in her community, exposing her as a target of scorn. These instances are only two among numerous others.

Jesus attempted to come close to those whom the community did not regard as sinful but who actually were. Days before His betrayal, trial, and condemnation, Matthew 23 records a severe and emotional monologue of Jesus directed to religious leadership, concluding with what was likely in broken voice: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). His cry, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” along with the imagery of the “hen gathering her chicks,” is rich with significance from the Psalms (see Psalm 17:8; 57:1; 91:1-4). With compassion, Jesus took the initiative to come close to and make Himself available to the sinful of all stripes. Some embraced Him. Others did not.

At the same time, Jesus manifested compassion toward the sinful He also spoke clearly about sin. Together with an assurance of “no condemnation,” Jesus directed the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). To the healed paralytic of 38 years, Jesus instructed, “Sin no more lest a worst thing come upon you” (John 5:14). Jesus clearly stated His affirmation of the Old Testament’s moral code: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17, 18). Jesus never backpedaled on sin.

Much of the heat generated by today’s conversation about homosexuality revolves around sin. Are same-sex acts sinful? Some voices claim the Levitical passages (18:22; 20:13) do not apply to today because the Old Testament prohibitions were stated in the context of condemning idolatry. (5) It is asserted that contemporary homosexual relationships in the context of mutuality, caring, and love are outside these Old Testament restrictions. Leviticus also, however, prohibits adultery in the same general context of idolatry (Leviticus 20:10). If one allows for homosexual acts disassociated from idolatry, then a consistent interpretation and application calls for the allowance of adultery disassociated from idolatry. Adultery today occurs with mutual consent, but it is still defined as sinful.

Or, it is claimed, the prohibitions of same-sex acts are contained in the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26) which has a time-bound application to the Hebrews of antiquity. (6) However, within the Holiness Code, moral absolutes such as adultery (Leviticus 20:10) and incest (Leviticus 18:6-18) are reaffirmed in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9; 5:1-7).

Some suggest that Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 refer to homosexual prostitution or pederasty. (7) However, New Testament scholarship concludes that Paul’s comments refer to general male same-sex acts and do not refer exclusively to prostitution or pederasty. (8)

Jesus did not say anything specific about homosexuality. He did not say anything about slavery either. We wish He would have. He did, however, endorse the Edenic model of marriage as God’s design for sexual experience (Matthew 19:3-9). Jesus’ lack of specific comment on homosexuality or slavery does not assume His endorsement or allowance of either. Regarding homosexuality, the Bible in both testaments presents a common view. Same-sex acts are sinful. It is unlikely that Jesus would contradict that perspective.

Having briefly noted the Bible’s comments on homosexuality specifically, let’s return to the approach of Jesus in ministry. Jesus continually extended Himself to outcasts regardless of their background or behaviors (Luke 15:2; 19:1-9). Christian communities should imitate Jesus’ model by doing the same. While not compromising what the Bible reveals regarding homosexual behaviors, individuals and the church as a whole are Christ-like when extending friendship, love, and support to those who find themselves in a homosexual experience. The church is to be the community in which all can experience friendship, love, and support regardless of one’s specific life issues.

Generally speaking, conservative Christians should follow Jesus’ lead in connecting with persons outside of their comfort zone (John 4:27). And, generally speaking, Christians who are not inclined to pay attention to the Bible’s specific comments regarding same-sex acts should imitate Jesus’ value of the Bible as a whole. Jesus clearly possessed a high regard for the sacred writings of His day, appealing to them again and again (see Matthew 19:4; 22:31; Luke 18:31; John 5:39). All are called to imitate Jesus. Reach out in friendship, extending value upon every person who resembles, in some manner, the Creator. Uphold God’s revealed design and perspective in relationships and life.
____________________

1. http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dwebster/speeches/plymouth-oration.html. Accessed 01/16 2012.

2. http://www.ushistory.org/us/27f.asp. Accessed 01/16/2012.

3. Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, (Nashville, Tennessee, Abingdon Press, 2001), 26.

4. Scripture references are from the NKJV.

5. John J. McNeill, Church and the Homosexual, 3d ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), 57.

6. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), 100, 101.

7. Thomas Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 95.

8. D. F. Wright, “Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The Meaning of ARSENOKOITAI (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10),” Vigiliae Christiannae 38 (1984), 125-153. See also Marion L. Soards, Scripture and Homosexuality: Biblical Authority and the Church Today (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 19.

Since 2002, Bryan Aalborg, D.Min., has served as senior pastor of the Foster Seventh-day Adventist Church, Asheville, North Carolina, known for its "come-as-you-are" congregational culture. Under his leadership, the church has also become known in Asheville for its Community Services ministry, serving over 100 people weekly with basic necessities, networking with other churches to increase services to the needy, and providing extended instruction and mentoring to persons desiring to rise above poverty. Bryan's doctoral dissertation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, Texas) is titled Clarity and Compassion: Preaching to Achieve the Formation of a Local Church Policy which Affirms Grace and Transformation to Homosexuals.

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
Confronting Bullying in Adventist Schools ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 1  —  February 2012
Confronting Bullying in Adventist Schools

By George Babcock, Ed.D.

George Babcock

Every year millions of young people are emotionally or physically injured as a result of bullying or cyberbullying. Many are left with lifelong scars. Some are hospitalized for depression. Others even commit suicide. Unfortunately, all of these things have happened in Seventh-day Adventist schools. It takes considerable courage to talk honestly about bullying—especially when it takes place in a church-operated school system where the curriculum and teaching is Christ-centered.

We must be careful not to be too judgmental because many youth who attend Adventist schools do not come from homes which could be classified as truly Christ-centered. In other words, some of the students, parents, and teachers may not be as dedicated to Jesus as they should be. As unbelievable as it seems in 2012, there are some Adventist church school principals and teachers who think that bullying couldn’t be a problem in their schools. Further, some think that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students do not exist in our God-appointed schools. (Shades of Ahmadinejad who said that there are no gays in Iran.)

Research tells us that bullying is most common in grades 6 to 10, but it can happen at nearly any age and among both sexes. Among boys, physical bullying seems to be the typical method of attack. Pushing, tripping, and hitting are widespread and well-known examples of this type of behavior. Girls seem to prefer social or relational bullying. They use peer pressure and manipulation to isolate and hurt other students’ feelings. They sometimes convince a group of students to ignore, shun, or avoid a particular student, which causes the attacked student to feel trapped in an invisible cage with no friends, no one to talk to, and no way to escape.

The most common form of bullying is verbal bullying. Students are teased, mocked, threatened, insulted, and taunted. These verbal attacks usually focus on things outside their target’s control, such as physical appearance, sexuality, race, family or parents’ income. The most rapidly growing form of bullying is what is called cyberbullying. Using cell phones, instant messages, social sites, chat rooms, and online videos, bullying may be intensified in ways that were not possible a few years ago.

As an educational administrator with 53 years of experience in Seventh-day Adventist schools, I have reason to believe that the bullying experienced in Adventist schools is somewhat less than what is experienced in public schools. At least, when talking with my public school administrator friends, it would seem that we have fewer bullying challenges. However, this is no reason to lessen our efforts to combat this growing scourge. Unlike the public schools, at an Adventist Christian school, we can openly seek help from the Lord to combat this very unchristian conduct.

At the college/university levels, the type of bullying engaged in by most youth in grades 6 to 10 is somewhat lessened, but GLBT bullying often escalates in the late high school years and at the collegiate level. However, we will make scant progress with GLBT bullying unless we tackle the entire bullying scope at every level.

I would like to quote from the Student Handbook at Hinsdale Adventist Academy:

“Bullying in any form will not be tolerated. This includes but is not limited to:

PHYSICAL BULLYING (hitting, punching, pinching, tripping, kicking, pushing, scratching, spitting, stealing or damaging property, throwing objects at someone, hiding/taking belongings, etc.)

VERBAL BULLYING (teasing/name calling, making offensive remarks, making discriminatory remarks, insulting, threatening, repeated teasing, intimidating someone, etc.)

EMOTIONAL/SOCIAL BULLYING (spreading rumors, excluding someone, ignoring, making fun, preventing people from befriending someone, etc.)

CYBERSPACE BULLYING (any form of bullying using cell phones, computers, Facebook, any other electronic equipment or social media, etc.)

All of the above items are especially offensive when connected with someone's gender, sexuality, race, religion, ethnic origin, or economic status.”

Added to the above is the following anti-bullying statement:

Students are expected to act with consideration and respect for other students, staff, and their property. School personnel are responsible for creating a safe, civil, and respectful learning environment where students can gain the knowledge and the interpersonal skills they need to succeed. Bullying creates a climate of fear and hostility, disrupts the educational process, inhibits the ability to learn, adversely affects student participation in educational programs and activities, has a negative effect on a school’s social environment, and leads to antisocial behavior.

Bullying behaviors may focus on an actual or perceived characteristic such as race, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity/expression (GLBT), or other reasons related to a student’s distinguishing characteristic. Hinsdale Adventist Academy prohibits any and all forms of bullying by students and will not tolerate acts of retaliation for reporting of bullying. School faculty and staff shall identify and stop bullying behavior and refer perpetrators for appropriate discipline.

To add emphasis to the above, each student must sign a document stating that they have read and understand our policy on bullying. Additionally, the academy has an anti-bullying week when we bring in specialists to speak in every classroom (grades K-12) each day that week on all aspects of the subject. Three additional chapel services (two in the first semester and one in the second semester) give emphasis to this topic. We especially highlight GLBT issues in grades 6 to 12.

Should any form of bullying appear after we have educated each student about this topic, the parents of the student doing the bullying are immediately called and the student is suspended from school. Students who engage in this conduct again are dismissed from school. Fortunately, since I have been principal, we have not had to dismiss any student for this reason because both the parents and students know that bullying of any sort will not be tolerated.

In Adventist schools, the administration, faculty, and students need to read and talk about bullying and try to figure out where each one fits into this issue. How has bullying affected you? Have you been a bully, or a victim, or one of the many bystanders who allow bullying to exist? What can you do at your Adventist school to make bullying go away or at least be less common? I have found that honest opinions and real-life experiences can help guide students as we deal with this hurtful behavior.

George P. Babcock, Ed.D. has a resume considerably longer than this article, spanning 53 years of remarkable achievements in service to the Seventh-day Adventist education system. Not yet willing to write the final chapter, at 75 he is in his second year as principal of Hinsdale Adventist Academy in Illinois.

Highlights of Dr. Babcock's career include four years as president of Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts; 12 years at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, first as dean of the School of Education and Psychology then as vice president for academic administration; eight years as president of Pakistan Adventist Seminary and College; and 12 years as General Conference Associate Director of Education in charge of 2,700 institutions scattered from the Pacific westward to the Mediterranean. Earlier positions included academy principal, local conference associate superintendent of education, and union conference associate director of education.

Much more than high-sounding titles, each of these life chapters have been marked by outstanding accomplishments, including leading roles in establishing a day academy, integrating formerly all-white schools in the American South, establishing the School of Visual Art and Design at Southern, establishing English language programs for Arabic-speaking business professionals in the Middle East and serving as a consultant to the Ministries of Education in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A special interest of Dr. Babcock's has been helping to increase Adventist involvement in the visual arts, especially in film production.

The recipient of many honors, Dr. Babcock has been married to his wife, Fern, for 54 years, with two adult children and three grandchildren.


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Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
God’s Children, Our Responsibility ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 1  —  February 2012
God’s Children, Our Responsibility

By Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson

Jennifer, Samantha, Robert, Dave, James, and Neal are not in the Seventh-day Adventist Church any longer. They have moved on as many of our young adults in the church have. However, Jennifer, Samantha, Robert, Dave, James, and Neal are gay. How did that contribute to why they left the church? Or did it? Some have found other faith communities where they can worship God safely with others. Some have filled their lives with careers, family, children, and friends. As church members, what is our responsibility to our young people?

Anthony, on the other hand, came out to his friends and family within the last year. He still attends a Seventh-day Adventist church. He says,

I am still unflinchingly a Seventh-day Adventist, but less because I feel accepted by the church, both locally and otherwise, and more because I feel led by God to the place where He is most evident. Basically, I believe there is much work to be done in the acceptance of homosexual people as ‘people’ rather than as sinners in constant need of repentance. Because, the truth is, we are all sinners in constant need of repentance and renewal.

But there is definitely a stigma towards openly gay Adventists within the church. Let me be clear: this does not often stem from hatred, fear, or even confusion on the issue of homosexuality. Most Adventists who have consulted me about my ‘struggles’—and there have been struggles—do not hate me, fear me, nor are they confused at all about their views on Christianity and homosexuality and where they do or do not intersect. However, I still feel judged every time I step into my local church, and I cannot help wonder whether that is because they know me so well there. I grew up there, so can they help but feel a little uncomfortable around someone each member may have suspected, but now knows, is definitely gay? I think many of them are simply attempting to figure out what it all means.”

In over 25 years of being an educator, I have only had one student come out directly and question his sexual orientation while in academy. This may be because a lot of our students don’t start to seriously answer those questions for themselves until they get a bit older. And that’s fine.

However, could it also be because we don’t give them a safe environment in which to ask those questions? Students are intuitive. They know which staff are safe to talk to and which ones are not. One student, who came out three years after he graduated, told me that he was very scared to tell the staff at his former school. I’m not sure how many he talked to, but he was relieved that those staff members he confided in showed unconditional love for him. Whatever your beliefs about homosexuality, it is up to us to love our students and model true Christian love to them. It is not up to us to judge them, just to love them.

Are our policies at Adventist academies meeting the needs of our students and families? Adventist boarding schools have always received mixed reviews for their policies and discipline track records. As a counselor and educator, I feel we need to take a good look at the services we are providing for our students. Yes, the parents and church members are paying the bills. Yes, the parents and church members sit on our boards. They have a vested interest in how we run our programs. However, are some students falling between the cracks when it comes to their emotional needs? I believe the answer is yes.

Many of our Adventist academies do not address the issue of homosexuality in their handbooks; but, in my limited research, I came across two schools which directly did. One stated that students could be disciplined for “any type of sexual conduct, including sexual harassment and/or homosexuality.”* The other stated that the following may result in suspension or withdrawal: “Involvement in sexual relationships with members of the same or opposite sex” and “advocating or professing a homosexual lifestyle or practices.”

One administrator, whose school does not have a written statement in its handbook, stated, “As long as the church has an official stand, the school is responsible to uphold the church’s position.” He continued to say that most, if not all our schools, have LGBT students in attendance; but we cannot allow them to openly profess or promote their lifestyle on campus. He feels our schools and dormitories are not equipped to deal with this challenge, but he strongly believes that students need to be encouraged to talk with someone they trust and feel safe with.

Another English teacher I spoke with said that, although it had never come up as a discipline issue at any of the schools where she had worked, many students had poured their hearts out in journal entries and even talked with her. She felt her place was to listen.

We are expected to educate our students academically, spiritually, and religiously, and make sure they are disciplined and acting like proper Adventist young adults. Never mind that a lot of teens are sent to us with no discipline at home! The schools are expected to have all the answers and are criticized when our agenda is not the same. Back in the 1970s, families took for granted that their children would attend the local conference academies. Our academies were bursting at the seams. Many parents that send their children to Adventist academies in 2012 do so because they want them to be in a sheltered and safe environment, away from gangs, drugs, partying, and Sabbath-infringing activities.

I believe it is not enough to provide a safe haven from the outside world. We have the opportunity and responsibility to help our students use critical thinking skills, to step outside of their comfort zones, to be caring world citizens, and to have the opportunity to seek a relationship with God, their Creator.

Our students are children on the cusp of adulthood. We need to listen to them, hear their concerns, and help them come up with options. I have students who come from traditional Adventist homes, homes where there are drugs, single-parent homes, same-gender parent homes, homes with a deployed parent, and homes where there has been sickness and death. These kids need Jesus in their lives. Why would we want to turn them against Him? And we do turn them against Him when we are mindlessly judgmental.

At this point in time, I don’t think our church institutions are ready for a whole lot of change. But I do think that we need to keep this a matter of prayer. When a student asks about being gay on a boarding school campus, I remind them of our policy of no public displays of affection. I tell them that the policy applies to everyone. This has often been enough of an answer; because, at that point, they are just beginning to think about the ramifications. Sometimes it may be enough, but I’m sure sometimes it is not. I urge students to be very careful who they trust with personal information because it is not always safe. It is important that we provide our children with a secure place to ask the tough questions and seek answers. We must teach our children to trust God and that His love for us is unconditional. He wants a relationship with each and every one of us. No child should feel left behind. I want to be one who encourages and leads students to the foot of the cross and stays there beside them.

*This is an example of failing to distinguish between a gay person experiencing same-sex attraction and indulging in homosexual activity. The Adventist position does not condemn those who are tempted but does forbid same-sex activity. Our schools should understand this difference and make it clear. Editor.

Beth Anderson is a Mainer transplanted to the mountains of western North Carolina where, for the past 12 years, she has served with her academy principal husband as school counselor, sophomore English teacher, and librarian at Mount Pisgah Academy. She holds an MA in education (school counseling) from Western Carolina University and a BA in English from Atlantic Union College. This summer will complete 30 years of marriage to her husband, Rick, who, with their three young adult offspring, challenge Beth’s ability to deal with her family of New England team sports fanatics. She finds great joy in mentoring teen girls in their lives and Christian growth but also dreams of living in a log cabin on the three acres of Maine woods she owns. She lists hobbies of reading, yard work, music, walking, and visiting labyrinths and beautiful gardens.

Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
An Orientation Change for Christians? ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 1  —  February 2012
An Orientation Change for Christians?A review of Andrew Marin's book Love Is an Orientation:Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.

By Claude E. Steen, III

Love Is An OrientationIn the battle between conservative Christians and gays, conservative Christian Andrew Marin believes the only way to achieve victory is for Christians to change their orientation. His game-changing book, Love Is an Orientation, (2009, InterVarsity Press, 204 pages) is a must-read for anyone concerned about homosexuality or the bitter relationships between the two camps.

Marin, who is founder and president of the Marin Foundation in Chicago, never intended to be involved in ministry to gays. In fact, as a young adult Christian he was offended and sickened by the very idea of same-gender sexual relations and was certain that gays were so offensive to God that only eternal destruction could await them.

Then, over a space of three months, three of his closest friends confided to him that they were gay. He was horrified and sickened by those revelations, feeling that he could never speak to those friends again. But his love for them soon led to a quite opposite response. He decided to immerse himself in the gay community in an effort to better understand his friends. He has since housed his wife Brenda and their children in the middle of Boys Town, the main gay suburb of Chicago.

Today his organization is lauded not only by gays but by many conservative Christians as well as by many in the wider community. His basic premise is that if we are ever to be successful sharing the gospel with the gay community we will have to somehow tear down the wall of distrust and hatred that separates conservative Christians and gays. Amazingly, Marin uses the very same Biblical passages that most Christians use to condemn what they call the “gay lifestyle,” to show, instead, how to elevate the conversation, cool the angry rhetoric, and build bridges to the gay community.

Besides pointing out the principles for reconciliation with gays, Marin makes some startling assertions. One is that, with a radically different approach, he finds gays hungry and thirsty for the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ. To test that assertion, the Marin Foundation has just completed the largest-ever research study on religion in the gay community. Results of that study are scheduled for publication early in 2012.

But are gays who Marin sees so eagerly responding to the gospel forsaking their homosexual ways? That question misses the main point, says Marin. It is not our job to either convict a person of their sin or to judge the quality of their response. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict and God the Father's work to judge. Our work is to connect people to Jesus Christ by becoming channels of His unconditional love to sinners. When we truly learn to do our part God is fully able to take care of His.

Marin contends that the focus of conservative Christians on the perceived sins of gays is a major component of the great wall that separates the two groups. We must stop judging them and trying to convict them of their sin and get on with the business of loving them unconditionally. Once gays have been captivated by the love of Jesus revealed through His followers, He will deal faithfully and effectively with the issues of their lives.

The subject of sexual orientation and whether God will deliver gays from same-sex attraction is a complex and murky topic of great disagreement. Rather than trying to find and defend definitive answers, writes Marin, Christians must get back to our assigned work of telling the Good News and demonstrating the unconditional love of God. Though we may feel insecure doing so, we must trust God to lead his true children, including converted gays, into His will for them, whatever that might mean.

Some will fault Marin for refusing to give definitive answers to many of the questions we frequently ask about homosexuality and the salvation of gays. Marin has done this purposefully as a part of elevating the conversation to what he considers more important questions. He includes some very practical examples of how to avoid directly answering closed-ended “yes-or-no” questions which foster conflict and argument, and instead follow the example of Jesus by countering with open-ended questions that lead to the bigger picture and a more productive discussion.

The book is replete with instructive stories from the lives of gays, especially as they are confronted with the love of Christ in His disciples. And Marin also presents important principles of effective Christian ministry to gays which seem to have practical application in other ministry settings.

Not all conservative Christians will agree with everything Marin says, and the book has some weaknesses. But the central message of the book, the rich experience and spiritual principles which support it, and the practical guidance it gives would-be soul winners, far outweigh its minor flaws. This is a book which could dramatically change the nature of relationships between conservative Christians and the gay community. Don't try to continue the conversation without it.

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FREE BOOK OFFER TO OUR READERS

We at Who Cares? believe that Andrew Marin's book Love Is an Orientation is such an important departure from the many books arguing one side or the other about homosexuality that we're prepared to send a free copy to the first 100 of our readers that request it.

Andrew Marin is a conservative Christian who was horrified when three of his best friends "came out" to him within three months. But instead of abandoning or condemning those friends he decided to immerse himself in the gay community in order to understand and come close to these people he considered profoundly lost. He hasn't changed his allegiance to Bible truth, but he believes that God's Word teaches us better ways to reach across the great canyon that separates the gay community from conservative Christians. He is one of very few who is able to work closely with gays, conservative churches, and liberal churches; and he has a message for all of us that is Biblical and full of the love Jesus.

A fuller review of the book is in this issue of Who Cares? More reviews of Love Is an Orientation can be read at amazon.com.

You may also be interested in studying the website of the Marin Foundation, who recently concluded the largest, most comprehensive religious survey of GLBT people ever done. Results of the survey are expected to be published by the Marin Foundation soon. Check out www.themarinfoundation.org.

To get your free copy of Love Is an Orientation just email me at editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

Claude Steen
Editor

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Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design
Answers from The Brain Doctor ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 1  —  February 2012
Answers from The Brain Doctor

By Arlene R. Taylor, Ph.D.

Arlene Taylor

Q: Our 23-year-old middle son just "came out." His father is absolutely livid and says it's all my fault because "you had the fetus last." He now wants nothing to do with our son and is actually considering filing for divorce.

A. I am unaware of clear scientific evidence that would point to the person “who last had the fetus” as being totally responsible for its brain function. Blaming is really an attempt on the part of an individual to reduce the fear, emotional pain, or confusion the person himself is feeling. Avoid picking up the blame.

You will have some choices to make. For example: are you going to maintain a relationship with your son? If yes, you may need to do so in a way that doesn't “rub your husband's nose in the issue,” especially if he is not open to maintaining a relationship with his offspring himself. Find a way to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.

If your husband does file for divorce (and you may have no say in whether or not he does), how are you going to respond? As one woman said in a similar situation, “I have decided that I’d rather live by myself than be badly accompanied.”

The Serenity Prayer may be helpful. One version reads: Give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. It’s the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other that is sometimes a bit tricky.

Q. How are the issues that gay males say they face in society different from those that all males face? I don't understand this!

A. Your comment made me think of something my father used to tell me when I would say I didn’t understand another’s behavior: “Walk a mile in his/her moccasins and then let’s talk about it." Of course, I couldn’t literally do that but the concept did help put into perspective that each brain is different and that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to really understand another’s issues as that individual perceives them.

According to Alan Downs, the trauma of growing up gay in a world that is run primarily by straight men is deeply wounding in a unique and profound way. He agrees that straight men have issues and struggles that are no less wounding but that they are quite different from those a gay male faces. (Downs, Alan, PhD. The Velvet Rage. Overcoming the Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. P 5-6.)

I’ll have to take his word for it.

Q. President’s Day (begun in 1796 to commemorate George Washington’s birthday) has always been a huge celebration in our home. Not just because we all admire George Washington. It’s our wedding anniversary, my birthday, and our daughter’s birthday. My daughter just told us she is lesbian. She wants us to celebrate President’s Day as usual but I’m wondering whether we should just cancel for this year. What do you think?

A. What do I think? What I think is really irrelevant. I am wondering, however, the reason you would even consider canceling. It’s still your wedding anniversary. It’s still your birthday. It’s still your daughter’s birthday. If she had not shared this information with you, my guess is that your family would joyfully celebrate this year as always. Nothing has changed except that you now have a piece of information you may not have had last year. Has this resulted in you no longer loving your daughter or desiring to be with her or wanting to continue your family’s celebration tradition? If so, the message to your daughter may be that your love is conditional upon her sexual orientation—or, even worse, upon her hiding information from you.

I hope that your family’s traditional celebration is not about someone’s sexual orientation. Rather, about your biological family members affirming each other and the events that have meaning for you, having a good time together and making more memories. Time with each other on this planet can be very short.

What may happen if you cancel? Will you try to restart the annual celebration next year? Will your daughter have the heart for it or will the magic have been broken and a lovely family tradition killed? And for what?

Arlene R. Taylor PhD is founder and president of Realizations, Inc., a non-profit corporation that engages in brain-function research and provides related educational resources. She is a talented speaker who specializes in simplifying the complex topic of brain function, with the goal of helping individuals learn to thrive by design. Learn much more at www.arlenetaylor.org.


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Designed to highlight a conversation among Adventist pastors and educators about how to deal more constructively and compassionately with our gay and lesbian constituents, Who Cares? is a quarterly e-mail publication edited by Claude E. Steen, III, editor@whocaresnewsletter.org.

  Claude E. Steen, III Editor
  Dave Ferguson Subscriptions
  Jacquie Hegarty Director of Communications
  Linda Wright Layout & Design

Who Cares? Newsletter — August 2012

Editor's Perspective...Say a Prayer for the Gays in Your School ↓↓
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Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 2  —  August 2012
Editor’s Perspective
Say a Prayer for the Gays in Your School

Claude Steen

Schools are typically evaluated using numbers like enrollment, standardized scores, and finances. Churches are usually judged by the number of their converts or by the correctness of their theology. But Jesus made it very clear that He will judge the effectiveness of our work for Him by how kindly and consistently we seek to relieve the suffering of the outcasts and the despised (Matthew 25:31-46).

There is probably no minority that feels more despised and persecuted in Adventist schools than gay, lesbian, or transgender students or those perceived to lean in that direction. It's not that we intend to persecute these individuals. It's just that too often we don't understand their uniqueness. And while children tend to avoid, ridicule, or bully those they don't understand, even teachers too often let their frustration or contempt toward misunderstood pupils show. Or they may just not know how to deal with them.

Part of the misunderstanding is the idea that these students should just "shape up," quit thinking those "sinful" thoughts, and start acting "normal." Yet virtually all current scientific evidence points to the concept that sexual orientation is already firmly in place by the time a child begins school. Like right- or left-handedness, our romantic or sexual attraction to same- or opposite-sex peers is just who we are. You probably don't recall making that choice yourself, and neither do they.

So while Who Cares? is not pushing for a change in Adventist doctrine about sexuality, we are advocating for a change in the Adventist church regarding the way we treat gender and sexuality minorities (GSMs). Official Seventh-day Adventist teaching does not say that it is a sin to experience same-sex attraction. Neither does the Bible or Ellen White. Yet many of us feel such revulsion toward anything homosexual that we tend to treat anyone that appears to be gay very awkwardly, if not rudely, or worse. The result of this kind of treatment from well-meaning Christians is extremely damaging, and sometimes catastrophic, to same-sex-attracted people.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and other GSMs are part of our big-tent Seventh-day Adventist church right now. This is a fact that cannot be avoided. What we can do something about is to learn how to love these people as Jesus loves us. He knows very well how to "save completely those who come to God through him" (Hebrews 7:25). That includes both them and us, for we are all sinners.

Adventist educators are the front line in the church's response to GSMs. Although young GSM children seldom really understand why, they know they are different and keenly feel negative reactions of their peers. And on academy and college campuses these students struggle to understand their developing sexuality, want desperately not to be different, and are terrified by fears that they are too sinful to save, while often eagerly seeking for holiness and acceptance with God. Perceptive educators can see the signs and sense that judicious, gentle care is needed for these special students.

As you look over the articles in this issue of Who Cares? please keep a prayer in your heart for the GSM students in your school. You may not have noticed them yet. But they are probably there or soon will be. And pray that all of us in the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist church, educators and pastors alike, will be given a love great enough to treat this special minority of God's children the way we would want to treat Jesus. Because that is exactly how He will judge us at His coming.

Claude E. Steen, III

P.S.: And don't miss the opportunity to see Seventh-Gay Adventists: A Film about Faith on the Margins. More info available in this issue.

Claude E. Steen III retired from more than 40 years of active pastoral ministry in June 2010. His work was mostly in the Southern and Columbia unions with 5 years in Ethiopia and a short stay in the Southwestern Union. With his wife Donna (Chalmers) their family consists of 2 married sons, 2 married daughters, a gay son, and 11 grandchildren. He lives happily with Donna in a restored 1827 farm house at the end of the road near Roxboro, NC.claudesteenis@gmail.com
Building a Vocabulary: Defining the LGBTQIA Community ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 2  —  August 2012
Building a Vocabulary: Defining the LGBTQIA Community

Twid Widmer

By Twid Widmer

Editor’s Note—Arguably one of the first steps in loving someone is to know a name and recognize an identity. If God is calling us to more proactively love people from gender and sexuality minorities (GSMs) we've got to understand some basic definitions and know what they'd prefer to be called. That may be a daunting task for someone with no connections to the GSM community. Twid Widmer is highly qualified to help. Until recently the son of an Adventist pastor, she is now a trans woman whose masters thesis included a chapter defining dozens of GSM terms and explaining current acceptable (and unacceptable) terminology. Here is her adaptation of that scholarly chapter specifically prepared for Adventist educators and pastors. —CS

The LGBT community is a community that is constantly growing and changing. LGBT Individuals have always existed; but it is only recently, since the advent of identity politics in academia, that we have begun to define the community. Since the community is still being defined the terms and definitions used to talk about the community are constantly changing. This often leads to confusion about what these words really mean. For many Adventist educators and pastors, an encounter with the LGBTQIA community may be intimidating simply because they find themselves unsure about who these individuals are.

Right now, you may be asking: what exactly do all those letters stand for anyway? Well. Let’s find out!

LGBT: A common acronym which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender or trans*. There are variations that also include the letters QIA which stand for queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or ally. These communities are also commonly referred to as Gender and Sexuality Minorities (GSM).

Homosexual: Literally means, attracted to the same sex. This is seldom used anymore. Instead, the words gay and lesbian are most often used.

Bisexual: Attracted to both sexes.

Gay: Usually used to refer to men who are attracted to men.

Lesbian: Usually used to refer to women who are attracted to women.

Transgender or "Trans*: An individual whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. This community is quite large and there are many individuals who fall within this umbrella term. The asterisk represents an attempt to be inclusive of all who may be gender variant, not just trans men, trans women, and non-binary identified individuals. This community includes two spirit, bigender, agender, and genderfluid individuals as well as non-western examples of non-“male/female” genders like the fa’afafine in Samoa and the kathoey in Thailand. 

Questioning: Individuals who are unsure about their sexual identity and/or their gender identity.

Queer: Queer is a commonly used umbrella term that some individuals who fall within the gender and sexuality minorities self-identify as. Once used as an insult, it has since been reclaimed by GSMs themselves. It should probably not be used by individuals who do not identify with it because of its history as an epithet.

Intersex: Individuals who experience any manner of gendered ambiguity in their physical characteristics. This can include reproductive organs, genitals, hormones, chromosomes, or other manifestations.

Asexual: Individuals who do not experience sexual attraction. They may, however, experience romantic attraction and still engage in relationships both sexual and non-sexual.

Allies: Individuals who actively work to be supportive and improve the lives of individuals who fall within the gender and sexuality minority.

Cisgender: Someone whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth, i.e., somebody who is not transgender. Cisgender can often be shortened to cis. “Cis-“ is from the latin meaning “on the same side of.”

Trans Man / FtM / F2M / female to male: A man who was assigned female at birth. Trans man is the most acceptable term to use here.

Trans Woman / MtF / M2F / male to female: A woman who was assigned male at birth. Trans woman is the most acceptable term to use here.

Transsexual: The term often refers to binary identified trans people who physically transition in any way. This term has passed out of general use and the more inclusive “transgender” is more preferred because it does not focus on the physical transition.

Crossdresser: An individual who wears clothing typical of a gender they do not identify as. Crossdressing can be motivated by aesthetics, sexuality, a small part of a person’s identity, or it may have many other motivations. The word transvestite was also used to describe this kind of person, but is now considered derogatory and not preferred.

Drag Queen / King: Crossdressing for reasons of performance and entertainment. Usually, drag is viewed as an exaggeration of gender stereotypes.

This list is just the beginning of the complex and interesting people that fall within the gender and sexuality minorities all over the world. The best way to learn more is to actually get to know LGBTQIA individuals in real life and listen to their stories. Everyone’s experience is going to be a little different.

Twid Widmer is a trans* woman from the Bay Area in California. This past spring she received a Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her MFA "Performing Transition: Depicting the Transgender Experience" is a combination of the fields of performance studies and gender studies and it examines film, television, and theatre depictions of transgender individuals. She also holds a BA in English Literature from Pacific Union College. In the fall, she will apply for PhD programs and eventually look for a full time teaching job as a professor at the University level. She likes to imagine that in the future she will curl up next to a roaring fireplace with numerous cats and a loving partner.
Confronting Bullying in Adventist Schools ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 2  —  August 2012
Confronting Bullying in Adventist Schools

George Babcock

By George Babcock, Ed.D.

Every year millions of young people are emotionally or physically injured as a result of bullying or cyberbullying. Many are left with lifelong scars. Some are hospitalized for depression. Others even commit suicide. Unfortunately, all of these things have happened in Seventh-day Adventist schools. It takes considerable courage to talk honestly about bullying—especially when it takes place in a church-operated school system where the curriculum and teaching is Christ-centered.

We must be careful not to be too judgmental because many youth who attend Adventist schools do not come from homes which could be classified as truly Christ-centered. In other words, some of the students, parents, and teachers may not be as dedicated to Jesus as they should be. As unbelievable as it seems in 2012, there are some Adventist church school principals and teachers who think that bullying couldn’t be a problem in their schools. Further, some think that LGBT students do not exist in our God-appointed schools (shades of Ahmadinejad who said that there are no gays in Iran).

Research tells us that bullying is most common in grades 6 to 10, but it can happen at nearly any age and among both sexes. Among boys, physical bullying seems to be the typical method of attack. Pushing, tripping, and hitting are widespread and well-known examples of this type of behavior. Girls seem to prefer social or relational bullying. They use peer pressure and manipulation to isolate and hurt other students’ feelings. They sometimes convince a group of students to ignore, shun, or avoid a particular student, which causes the attacked student to feel trapped in an invisible cage with no friends, no one to talk to, and no way to escape.

The most common form of bullying is verbal bullying. Students are teased, mocked, threatened, insulted, and taunted. These verbal attacks usually focus on things outside their target’s control, such as physical appearance, sexuality, race, family or parents’ income. The most rapidly growing form of bullying is what is called cyberbullying. Using cell phones, instant messages, social sites, chat rooms, and online videos, bullying may be intensified in ways that were not possible a few years ago.

As an educational administrator with 53 years of experience in Seventh-day Adventist schools, I have reason to believe that the bullying experienced in Adventist schools is somewhat less than what is experienced in public schools.  At least, when talking with my public school administrator friends, it would seem that we have fewer bullying challenges.  However, this is no reason to lessen our efforts to combat this growing scourge. Unlike the public schools, at an Adventist Christian school, we can openly seek help from the Lord to combat this very unchristian conduct.

At the college/university levels, the type of bullying engaged in by most youth in grades 6 to 10 is somewhat lessened, but lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) bullying often escalates in the late high school years and at the collegiate level. However, we will make scant progress with LGBT bullying unless we tackle the entire bullying scope at every level.

I would like to quote from the Student Handbook at Hinsdale Adventist Academy:

“Bullying in any form will not be tolerated.  This includes but is not limited to:

  1. PHYSICAL BULLYING (hitting, punching, pinching, tripping, kicking, pushing, scratching, spitting, stealing or damaging property, throwing objects at someone, hiding/taking belongings, etc.)
  2. VERBAL BULLYING (teasing/name calling, making offensive remarks, making discriminatory remarks, insulting, threatening, repeated teasing, intimidating someone, etc.)
  3. EMOTIONAL/SOCIAL BULLYING (spreading rumors, excluding someone, ignoring, making fun, preventing people from befriending someone, etc.)
  4. CYBERSPACE BULLYING (any form of bullying using cell phones, computers, Facebook, any other electronic equipment or social media, etc.)

All of the above items are especially offensive when connected with someone's gender, sexuality, race, religion, ethnic origin, or economic status.”

Added to the above is the following anti-bullying statement:

Students are expected to act with consideration and respect for other students, staff, and their property. School personnel are responsible for creating a safe, civil, and respectful learning environment where students can gain the knowledge and the interpersonal skills they need to succeed. Bullying creates a climate of fear and hostility, disrupts the educational process, inhibits the ability to learn, adversely affects student participation in educational programs and activities, has a negative effect on a school’s social environment, and leads to antisocial behavior.

Bullying behaviors may focus on an actual or perceived characteristic such as race, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity/expression (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender students), or other reasons related to a student’s distinguishing characteristic. Hinsdale Adventist Academy prohibits any and all forms of bullying by students and will not tolerate acts of retaliation for reporting of bullying. School faculty and staff shall identify and stop bullying behavior and refer perpetrators for appropriate discipline.

To add emphasis to the above, each student must sign a document stating that they have read and understand our policy on bullying. Additionally, the academy has an anti-bullying week when we bring in specialists to speak in every classroom (grades K-12) each day that week on all aspects of the subject. Three additional chapel services (two in the first semester and one in the second semester) give emphasis to this topic. We especially highlight LGBT issues in grades 6 to 12.

Should any form of bullying appear after we have educated each student about this topic, the parents of the student doing the bullying are immediately called and the student is suspended from school. Students who engage in this conduct again are dismissed from school. Fortunately, since I have been principal, we have not had to dismiss any student for this reason because both the parents and students know that bullying of any sort will not be tolerated.

In Adventist schools, the administration, faculty, and students need to read and talk about bullying and try to figure out where each one fits into this issue. How has bullying affected you? Have you been a bully, or a victim, or one of the many bystanders who allow bullying to exist? What can you do at your Adventist school to make bullying go away or at least be less common? I have found that honest opinions and real-life experiences can help guide students as we deal with this hurtful behavior.

George P. Babcock, Ed.D.
Principal, Hinsdale Adventist Academy
Hinsdale, Illinois

Dr. George Babcock, Principal of Hinsdale Adventist Academy in Hinsdale, Ill., finds the timing of the ban on Grady's booth and the sudden change of the convention schedule to be more than coincidental. In his own school, a non-discrimination policy that he pioneered two and a half years ago, expressly forbidding discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation or gender identity/expression," has recently come under attack by angry parents and other constituents. Pressured by the Illinois Conference administration, the statement was overturned last week and replaced with the standard North American Division non-discrimination policy which does not address discrimination based on religion, physical handicap or sexual orientation. Read the article in the Huffington Post...

George P. Babcock, Ed.D. has a resume considerably longer than this article, spanning 53 years of remarkable achievements in service to the Seventh-day Adventist education system. Not yet willing to write the final chapter, at 75 he is in his second year as principal of Hinsdale Adventist Academy in Illinois

Highlights of Dr. Babcock's career include four years as president of Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts; 12 years at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, first as dean of the School of Education and Psychology then as vice president for academic administration; eight years as president of Pakistan Adventist Seminary and College; and 12 years as General Conference Associate Director of Education in charge of 2,700 institutions scattered from the Pacific westward to the Mediterranean. Earlier positions included academy principal, local conference associate superintendent of education, and union conference associate director of education.

Much more than high-sounding titles, each of these life chapters have been marked by outstanding accomplishments, including leading roles in establishing a day academy, integrating formerly all-white schools in the American South, establishing the School of Visual Art and Design at Southern, establishing English language programs for Arabic-speaking business professionals in the Middle East and serving as a consultant to the Ministries of Education in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A special interest of Dr. Babcock's has been helping to increase Adventist involvement in the visual arts, especially in film production.

The recipient of many honors, Dr. Babcock has been married to his wife, Fern, for 54 years, with two adult children and three grandchildren.
Behind Closed Doors ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 2  —  August 2012
Behind Closed Doors

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By Ella Hammond

While rearing children every parent experiences defining moments that become clearly imprinted in memory with a variety of feelings. Some will be happy, some will be sad, some confusing, some satisfying, some heartbreaking. Those defining moments began for me when my oldest son, Chris*, started attending the local Seventh-day Adventist elementary school.

It wasn't long before I got a call from Chris' teacher asking me to come in for a conference. He "wasn't fitting in" was the concern. So began a pattern that continued throughout his school years. He always seemed to be the one picked on and left out of the group. So much so, that one of his teachers told me that he had "become the class scapegoat, and needed to learn to defend himself!"

Another of those defining moments for me came in 1981, about three years after we had moved to a lovely little community in the Midwest. Our sons had begun attending the local Adventist school, and Chris was starting his fifth-grade year. One day he came home from school very upset and asked, "Mom what does fag mean?"

In all honesty, I replied, "Well, I remember from studying ancient history, that a bundle of sticks was called a faggot. And I remember from my academy days that the guys used the word 'fag' as a slang term for a cigarette. I guess they must be calling you a bundle of sticks!"

"But Mom," he insisted, "it must mean something worse than that—the way the kids say it."

I didn't know how to help! I am a fourth-generation Adventist, my dad was a retired minister, and I had attended Adventist schools my entire life. I had a college degree in home economics with teaching certification in elementary education. I had taught first grade in the public school system until Chris was born, yet I was clueless. Go ahead and call me näive, sheltered, or ignorant; but I truly did not know any other meaning for the word.

So I went to see his teacher. I told him what had happened and how I had explained it to my son, and said we both wanted to know what else it could mean. I will never, ever, forget his reaction. He looked away, hemmed and hawed, turned red, and began, "Well, I am ashamed to say it, but..." Finally, after I urged him to spit it out, whatever it was, he said, "It is the slang term for a homosexual!"

I felt as if I had just been hit in the stomach. When I could talk, I said, "Please see that this stops. I don't want my son called that!"

I will freely admit that Chris was not a model student at school. But we never had any trouble with him at home. As I talked to his teachers and worked with him, I kept wondering, Why can't he get along better with the other kids? Why does he have such a hard time fitting in at school?

Only recently Chris told me, "Mom, I wanted to fit in so badly. I wanted to be liked." And the reason we didn't have any trouble at home? "I felt safe here, Mom. Home was the only place I felt safe."

From that moment in the classroom with Chris' teacher, my whole life began to change. I did not know then how much it would change. For several years I never said a word about my concerns to anyone else—not the family, not the pastors, not my friends, not even my husband—hoping it would not could not, be true. My son was not a homosexual! Surely all this would go away as he grew up. But it didn't! Life has a way of throwing us into situations and forcing us to deal with them.

My son's life began to change from that moment, too. Thus a naive, young, Seventh-day Adventist mother and her young son began a very complicated journey. This short story can give you only a brief glimpse of that odyssey.

I will share just two other moments that are indelibly stamped on my mind. The first happened on a weekend Pathfinder outing where our club was staying in an Adventist church school facility. We had just arrived; and I, along with the others, was helping carry supplies into the kitchen. In just those few minutes since our arrival, there on the blackboard was already written in big letters for all to see, "Chris is a fag." And years later, at the Adventist college Chris was attending, he went out to his car after a snow storm and on the windshield, in the snow, someone had written, "Chris is a fag."

Our teachers desperately need guidelines and training on how to deal with a gay child in the classroom. Several years ago on a trip to Michigan for a regional music festival, we unexpectedly encountered one of Chris' former elementary school principals, who was then a conference education superintendent. He shook hands with both our sons and congratulated them on their education and jobs. He pumped Chris' hand especially hard, and said, "I always knew you would turn out okay!"

My son's face froze. Knowing the anger Chris felt toward this man, I walked away, praying harder than I had ever prayed before. When I returned, the poor man was standing there with his mouth hanging open, and my son was unloading all his pent-up feelings from those elementary school years. I will never forget the words he used.

"Mr. ____, you did not protect me. Your job as principal and teacher was to protect your children and to teach them to be kind to each other, but you did not protect me."

The next day I had a chance to talk to the former principal alone. I asked him if he had known that other students had called Chris "fag" and said he was gay. He answered, "Yes we did. We talked about it behind closed doors, but we didn't know what to do."

"Why didn't you talk to me about it?" I asked.

Once again he said, "We didn't know what to do."

So, because these staff members didn't know what to do and were afraid to talk about it, they did nothing. So my son's self-esteem was daily trampled into the ground. They did not know how to get out from behind those closed doors. And I, as a young mother dealing with it the best I knew how, did not know how to get out from behind the closed doors, either!

True, we all have scars from our childhood and must learn to live with them. But the topic of homosexuality, above all others, seems to frighten and horrify many Christian teachers and pastors. We parents of gay children seldom find understanding, guidance, or support in our churches or schools. Our gay children have even fewer resources for their questions and fears. I write this not to elicit sympathy for my son or myself, but to help clarify in some way the kind of treatment that Chris, and all gay young people, have to deal with during their growing-up years.

These are only the main points of our story. But it is because of these experiences I've shared that I am determined to somehow help lessen the anguish of other families like ours. I want to help open doors so that church families, teachers, and parents will have some tools to deal with their situations, and will no longer fearfully hide behind their closed doors.

I have heard my dad, the retired pastor, say so many times, "Our church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints." We all are sinners. And God loves every one of us.

*Some names and situations have been changed to minimize embarrassment.

Ella Hammond is an Adventist wife, mother, and grandmother. Her son, Chris, now teaches in a community college and works in architecture. He usually attends church only when visiting his mother's home.
The Film Seventh-Gay Adventists Provokes Raves and New Conversations ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 2  —  August 2012
The Film Seventh-Gay Adventists Provokes Raves and New Conversations

Daneen Akers

By Daneen Akers

It's been over three years since my husband, Stephen Eyer, and I decided to make a film that focused on the stories of gay and lesbian Adventists. At that time, we'd been going to church with several deeply religious Seventh-day Adventists who were also gay and wanted to remain true to themselves while also being part of the faith and religious culture they felt were core to their identity.

Stephen and I were also raised in the Adventist church with family ties that go back several generations. So we understand how strong the pull of this religious community, with its deep cultural practices and distinctive beliefs, can be. Even for someone with good cause to leave (like most GLBT Adventists), the church is a way of life, a community not easily left. Not only are unique Adventist practices like Sabbath-keeping deeply held beliefs and practices, but there are haystacks, Big Franks, and the small bubble of the church family. There is much to love.

We realized that this intersection of faith, identity, and sexuality would make for an interesting film. When we began filming three years ago, we were making an issue film and spent three months on a road trip around the country interviewing theologians, pastors, professors, and other thought-leaders within the Adventist church. But somewhere along the way, a different film emerged—one that is now entirely character driven. We found ourselves caught up in the depth, authenticity, and raw humanity that emerged as the main subjects of the film wrestle with how to reconcile their faith and their sexual orientation. And we’ve kept our editorial style extremely restrained in the film in an effort to keep the focus of the film on the stories of the film subjects.

These are stories rarely heard either in conservative churches or in the gay community, and they are deeply moving. The people featured in this film often feel they are on the margins of all of their communities of belonging because they hold deeply to their faith and their sexual identity. For them, faith and identity are a “both/and” scenario instead of the “either/or” choice that has often been seen as the only option in the shallow God vs. gay rhetoric of the culture wars and religious debates.

Seventh-Gay Adventists now tells the story of three gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists whom we followed for nearly two years. All three grew up in the church and are products of the Adventist school system. David, a young man originally from the Midwest, has spent five years in "ex-gay therapy" and is just starting to explore accepting himself as both a gay man and a Christian; Sherri, a lesbian mother from Ohio, wants to raise her two young girls in an Adventist church with the beliefs and traditions she loves; and, Marcos, a Brazilian who now lives in the Bay Area, is trying to find his way after being fired as an Adventist pastor for being gay. They all desire a way to reconcile their faith and religious identity. Their voices add a not-often-heard perspective to the conversation about identity and religion in America.

The tone of the film is actually very gentle and even bridge-building. And, despite the serious topic, it's a very humorous film, particularly for Adventists who "get" all of the cultural references. The reaction to the film within the Adventist church and with other, largely conservative, Christian audiences has been beyond what we had hoped and prayed for. And it's incredibly satisfying to see these stories that we've been transformed by start to work in the hearts of others.

After a special screening here in San Francisco for a group of about 60 Adventist theologians and religion teachers, the feedback that we kept hearing from those present was, "The tone of this film and the story approach is the best way to move this conversation forward in a positive way in the church, regardless of theological differences." 

Here are a few more endorsements the film has received from Adventist thought-leaders so far:

  •  "Whatever one's position regarding homosexuals and the church may be, this film is worth seeing because it candidly probes issues with real human faces and stories." —Dr. Roy Gane, professor, SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University
  • "The movie, which simply tells stories rather than taking an advocacy stance, is powerful. It can, I believe, do much to make Adventists more compassionate in this controversial area of lifestyle." —Dr. William Johnsson, retired editor, The Adventist Review
  • "The film is superb—a poignant and profound experience beyond any I've seen on the subject." —Chris Blake, author and professor of English, Union College
  • "It is a movie every Seventh-day Adventist ought to see." —Steve Moran, youth pastor and delegate to the Atlanta GC session
  • "I saw the film in San Francisco with a group of Adventist teachers and pastors from across the country. There was great diversity in the room—bona fide Adventists from the left, right, and middle. I heard not a single note of condemnation from left, right, or center following the viewing, despite clear differences about the acceptability of homosexual practices in the Adventist church. My take was that all felt that they must try to understand this phenomenon of people who are both homosexual in their orientations and faithful Adventists in their heads and hearts." —Tim Mitchell, Senior Pastor, Pacific Union College Church
  • "There are many blessings to be had from this film, not the least of which is liberation from the ugly, unproductive, endless-loop arguments that any mention of sexual orientation is likely to trigger among Adventists in any forum. It becomes clear after sharing in the experience of this film that the point is not 'who is right and who is wrong?' The film invites us to step back from these kinds of locked-in, well-worn hobby horses, and instead work towards creating genuinely Christian communities of faith.... My hypothesis is that, after seeing the film, a significant fraction of those same Adventists (on both sides) will feel called to lay down their swords, learn the difference between argument and conversation, and begin both telling and listening to each other's stories." —Dr. Aubyn Fulton, Professor of Psychology, Pacific Union College

Not only have audiences responded well to the pure story approach of the film, but several story points in the film model relationships and paradigms for how we can be in genuine relationships with those we have significant theological differences with. One of the biggest hopes of the film is that we can worship together, love each other, and be in intentional dialogue even if we don't completely agree. People with different theologies can love each other with the love that Jesus said would distinguish his followers from others.

Our plan right now is to continue doing screenings throughout the summer and fall in as many communities as possible before working on the DVD version (there will be a lot of special features on the DVD given that we started editing with 150 hours of footage!). We've taken a slower release approach with this film mainly because we believe deeply in the community experience that comes from watching the film together. In many ways, the post-screening discussion is the reason why a documentary like this gets made, and we absolutely love seeing the film with an audience and sensing the space for listening that these stories create. It's what gives us energy to keep doing this work despite the many challenges.

Margaret Mead famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” That belief has been our motivating force for several years now as we've worked and sacrificed to bring these stories to the big screen. And the grassroots community that has come forward in the past three and a half years to make this film a reality has been awe-inspiring to witness. As we enter the screenings and outreach phase of this film, I'm looking forward to meeting and talking to Adventists all over the country (and, hopefully, internationally) about this film, these stories, and how we can work together to make our church a more loving place for all who seek God.

Daneen Akers is the co-producer/director of Seventh-Gay Adventists: A film about faith on the margins. She and her husband, Stephen Eyer, met at Pacific Union College in Honors English and now live and work in San Francisco with their 3.5-year-old daughter, Lily, and their 13-year-old "first-born" dog, Pali. You can learn more about the film, look up the screening schedule, watch a trailer, or make a tax-deductible contribution to support screenings at http://www.sgamovie.com.
PUC’s Unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance Tackles One of Society’s Most Uncomfortable Subjects ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 2  —  August 2012
PUC’s Unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance Tackles One of Society’s Most Uncomfortable Subjects

Colleen Uechi

By Colleen Uechi

It’s tradition. One night every other week, they gather in this brightly lit classroom. Skype is set up on laptops and placed in the front of the room. The table is piled high with drinks chilling under Ziploc® bags of ice, next to slices of cheese, crackers, and cookies. Then they file in—students, faculty, and staff alike. They laugh, greet each other warmly, sit down, and talk about homosexuality.

Not too long ago, a scenario like this—people sitting down to discuss homosexuality without waving fists or signs—might have seemed almost impossible. In many places it still is. As it becomes more commonplace, it has been a source of both immense comfort and rippling controversy, both on PUC’s campus and within the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a whole.

“When Christian communities consider the complex topic of homosexuality today, we must admit that it is becoming increasingly difficult to have an even-handed and cordial discussion,” says Dr. Leo Ranzolin, professor and religion department chair at PUC.

The problem, Dr. Ranzolin points out, is the way people tend to approach the issue.

“On the one hand, there are Christians who condemn homosexuals with a mean-spirited and unchristlike attitude, giving the impression that such persons fall outside the scope of God’s grace,” Dr. Ranzolin explains. “On the other hand, there are gay activists within the church who are insistent that the church embrace homosexual practice, even going so far as to characterize the articulation of the church’s historic stance on homosexuality as homophobic or ‘hate speech.’ These strident ideological voices create an environment which is not conducive for respectful dialogue.”

Making a place to talk about it

In the brightly lit classroom, one group is testing out the possibility of respectful dialogue within an Adventist setting. GASP (Gay and Straight People) is the unofficial gay-straight alliance (GSA) on campus. While various misconceptions have floated around as to the group’s activities, with some believing it to be a dating service or an activist club, GASP seeks to stay true to the original purposes that PUC alum Jonathan Heldt had in mind when he founded the group as a student in 2008—safety and support.

“I knew that there were other people at PUC who were in the same situation that I was, but I didn't know any of them because nobody was out,” Heldt, who now studies at Loma Linda University, writes in a Facebook message. “PUC just wasn't a place where people felt comfortable sharing that part of themselves.”

As a senior at PUC, Heldt, spurred on by his own personal struggles of coming out, sought to create a more comfortable place for himself and other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students. He presented his first proposal for a club to PUC’s Ad Council and was turned down, as the Council felt that “the sensitive topic and issues surrounding homosexuality needed to be dealt with on a personal, individual level in a private and confidential setting,” says Lisa Bissell Paulson, vice president of student services, in an email to the Campus Chronicle.

“Furthermore,” she continues, “these professional, safe, and confidential areas for individual students to discuss very sensitive topics were already in place. PUC has always assisted students not only in the Counseling Center but in health services, in our residence halls with deans, our chaplains, and other staff.”

Heldt kept searching and thinking, and with the help of PUC psychology professor Dr. Aubyn Fulton, he managed to pull together eight people for the first unofficial GASP meeting October 1, 2008. He also started another branch of GASP known as SafePlace, a network of people in whom students could confide and find guidance. Though Heldt regrets that they spent much of the time figuring out how to get the club going and not as much time on support, he realizes it was a necessary measure to establish the group’s foundation.

“I just hoped that the presence of the club on campus would send a positive signal to any PUC students who were themselves struggling,” Heldt says, “even if they were not yet at a place where they could come to the meetings.”

Through word of mouth and an active Facebook group, GASP flourished throughout the years, garnering closeted and out LGBTQs as well as straight allies. SafePlace grew in visibility with the creation of signature stickers (a green circle set behind black and pink triangles), while OurPlace, a branch for only LGBTQ students, was added this school year. While some things have changed—attendance consistently hits the forties, and the group now has newly elected officers—the group’s emphasis on community and confidentiality hasn’t. On its Facebook page, GASP states that it is entirely student-run and nonpartisan; and, as outgoing leader Amador “AJ” Jaojoco, a graduating senior, says, the group “is about building bridges, not reinforcing walls.” Dr. Fulton believes that GASP has the ability to provide common ground while housing a variety of attitudes and beliefs.

“I know that there are people who come to GASP pretty regularly who would say, ‘I still think that homosexuality is a sin,’ or ‘I don’t think homosexuality is God’s plan for human beings,’” Dr. Fulton remarks. “But [they also say], ‘I know for a fact that God wants us to treat everybody with love and respect, and I think that’s more important than the other. And so I want to come to GASP to try to find ways to make that clear.’”

In meetings members discuss LGBTQ-related topics. They’ve talked about everything from hate crimes to thought-provoking movies to what language does or doesn’t offend LGBTQs. Occasionally guest speakers come, ranging from former students to Adventist filmmakers. Despite the charged topic, meetings are relaxed. Members venture challenging questions without hesitation, and are quick to roar with laughter at the slightest hint of a joke. Students can identify as LGBTQ, but there is no pressure to do so. Members, both gay and straight, have offered positive feedback.

“GASP…made me feel less alone,” says Natalie Robles, a fifth-year senior majoring in Spanish. “No longer did I feel like I was the only one questioning my sexuality or struggling with reconciling my religion with my [orientation]. This group became a family.”

“Just watching some of the people in GASP come out, I kind of see a little relief in their eyes,” adds sophomore Nithi Narasappa, who is pre-med with double majors in business and biology. “Most of the people there, they don’t have any reason to trust us. They barely even know us. We just walked into a little, little part of their lives…. Just the very fact that they’re willing to talk about it means so much to me.”

Dr. Fulton, having seen the growth from the beginning, is amazed at the impact GASP has had.

“For me, it’s the single best, closest approximation to a Christian community that I’ve ever been a part of anywhere,” says Dr. Fulton. “When you see people really trying to live out the core values of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there’s a certain magnetism to that that attracts people. And I’ve never seen that more clearly anywhere than in these GASP meetings.”

A not-so-simple solution

The positive stories flowing out of GASP make unofficial support groups on Adventist campuses appear a simple and effective solution for helping students in need without defying church doctrine. Similar groups have been forming at various other Adventist colleges, and Jaojoco recently established the Intercollegiate Adventist GSA Coalition (IAGC) on Facebook. GASP itself is not the first of its kind, as Dr. Fulton and Jaojoco both reference a few other groups at PUC that have formed only to wane since the 1970s. Though not an advocacy group, the simple fact that GASP addresses homosexuality has many hesitant.   

According to Adventist.org, “Seventh-day Adventists believe that sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation.” The statement was agreed upon in 1999 by the General Conference Executive Committee, and went on to say that, “every human being is valuable in the sight of God, and we seek to minister to all men and women in the spirit of Jesus.” Several biblical passages are used to support the church’s belief that homosexuality is a sin, including the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis, laws in Leviticus regulating sexual behavior, and verses from Paul’s letters to the Romans and Corinthians.

However, some dispute the interpretation of these passages, and the fact that Ellen G. White, the prophetess whom Adventists so often turn to for scriptural clarification, never explicitly mentions homosexuality, leaves even more questions unaddressed.

All of this confusion can make starting new discussions difficult and dangerous, which is why most Adventist college groups remain unofficial and under the radar.

“I really don't know why it is so hard for humans to talk about difficult issues,” muses Leticia Russell, an assistant professor, and coordinator of the freshman Academic Success Program. “I do know what we like to talk about: ourselves…. In my experience, the benefits of sharing our stories, and really listening to one another (even when not everyone agrees) leads to positive exchanges and creates the opportunity for us to understand each other better.”

The case of SafePlace: An expanding conversation   

On May 14, a Monday evening, three members of SA and two student senators met in the office of PUC President Heather Knight. They were there to explore a proper response following a chain of events that amplified the discussion about GASP and LGBTQ students.

In the Student Senate meeting held May 9, senators Vivian Taina (Graf Hall) and Jonathan Cook (Village) presented the “SafePlace Policy Implementation Bill.” The bill focused on the welfare of LGBTQ students, seeking to implement a policy that would promote safety and prevent bullying against such students. (Though similar to the current SafePlace network, the bill was unaffiliated with SafePlace and GASP.)

Senators, faculty, and students raised many questions. As Knight explained later, the bill “represented a change in existing PUC policy, which only the PUC Board of Trustees has the authority to change.” Some senators wanted the bill to more clearly outline the steps Senate would take to implement the policy. Others brought up the concern that placing stickers on faculty members’ doors, as SafePlace does, would imply that doors without the sticker were not safe spaces in which to discuss homosexuality.

Though Knight was out of town and could not attend the May 9 meeting, Vice President Paulson read a letter from the president to the Senate regarding the administration’s position.

“PUC policies related to homosexuality are important and sensitive matters because they must be coordinated with, and consideration must be given to, the doctrines, fundamental beliefs, and position statements of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Knight wrote. “While Adventists are opposed to homosexual practices, Adventists should love and reach out to homosexuals while differentiating between orientation and practice…. It is and has been, the goal of PUC to make every place on its campus a ‘safe place.’”

The lengthy discussion prompted Senate to table the bill for a later vote, and Cook agreed to revise it along with Taina.

After the Senate meeting, many students got a glimpse of the bill and the letter penned by President Knight. As people reacted for or against the bill on GASP’s Facebook page, some administrators felt attacked, while other members scrambled to express the fact that they were neither trying to increase divisions nor advocating homosexuality, nor seeking official status for GASP. As Jaojoco has said in the past, “GASP is not a ‘club’ per se, nor do I want it to be. [It] is part of a support network and educational resource that has been built up over the past three years,” a thought that current GASP president and sophomore English major Nathan Shuey has echoed.

As Russell realized, a door of discussion had been opened to a much wider audience. 

“When each person comes into GASP, we start with a name, a story,” said Russell. “Now we’re bringing new people into this [conversation], so the question is, ‘How are we going to talk about it with these new people? How can we move together in relationship?’”

The meeting between the SA officers, senators, and President Knight answered part of Russell’s questions.

“The President was very…willing to help us find common ground on these goals,” said Cook, who was part of the private May 14 meeting. He described some safety-promoting strategies discussed in the meeting, such as “the possibility of having formal training for faculty, staff, and RAs…so that they will be better informed about various challenges that LGBTQ individuals face.” He explained that the bill is “undergoing an entire transformation.”

President Knight added that other steps could include “a Christ-centered strengthening of our existing harassment, hazing, injuring, or degrading others’ policies, as well as a listing of resources regarding where one could find support in times of crisis.”

Throughout all the uncertainties, President Knight values the relationships that have formed and that continue to be the central focus of the matter.

“We [have] developed a good level of rapport and a mutual understanding of the group’s role as an unofficial support group here at PUC,” explained Knight. “The leaders of GASP have been extremely respectful of the church’s and PUC’s position and really value working with the PUC administration to create a supportive environment that does not go against Adventist beliefs and expectations, which can be a tricky balance.”

Where do we go from here?

Now, more than ever, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to simply sweep this issue under the rug. Groups like GASP are growing in size and visibility. Walla Walla University recently deemed their own GSA a semi-official entity under their student association. Organizations are operating at higher levels to address the needs of LGBTQs within the church, such as Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, a non-church affiliated non-profit formed in 1976. A recent film documentary, Seventh-Gay Adventists, is premiering around the world, showing the stories and journeys of several people at the crossroads of religion and orientation. And, as more Adventists come out of the closet in an incredibly tight-knit community, the issue is hitting closer to home.

The whirlwind surrounding the SafePlace Bill illustrates the fact that telling stories and hearing different viewpoints is one thing; figuring out how to respond to them is another. Shuey doesn’t mind dialogue as long as it is conducted with respect.

“I think it’s good to be challenged on both sides, to not ignore each other,” says Shuey. “I don’t really care what anyone believes about homosexuality so long as they treat me like a person.”

Interestingly enough, two people who hold different viewpoints on homosexuality both envision a future without GASP and its counterparts. Ranzolin believes that “groups such as GASP would be unnecessary if the church truly lived out its beliefs and practices,” while Jaojoco, when asked about GASP’s future, says, “I don't want a 10-year plan. In 10 years I can sense an attitude [change] within the church. With enough change, we won’t ever need a GSA on this campus again after GASP.” Both realize that groups like GASP exist because of the sore rift between the church and the LGBTQ community.

Paradigm shifts historically take a lot of pain and time; so PUC and the Adventist Church as a whole may be in it for the long haul. For now, Senate will keep buying pizzas for its meetings, fueling meaningful discussions between students, faculty, and the administration. And GASP members will stock up on snacks and drinks for the Wednesday night meetings where, for at least a couple of hours, the bridge between Christianity and homosexuality can be crossed in peace.

Colleen Uechi hails from Hawaii, where she lives with her loving parents and hilarious little brother. She will be a senior at Pacific Union College, where she studies intercultural communications and Spanish and will be editor-in-chief of the Campus Chronicle this coming school year. Her career goals aim toward either the field of journalism or international non-profit organizations, both of which she would obviously not be doing for the money. She is an avid Yankees fan.
"The Brain Doctor" Answers Questions ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 2  —  August 2012
"The Brain Doctor" Answers Questions

Arlene Taylor

By Arlene R. Taylor, Ph.D.

Q. What's all this hype about a researcher apologizing for recommending change-therapy for people whose sexual orientation isn't straight? We've known that's possible for at least 20 years.

A. I don't know about hype. Neither do I know that "we've known that's possible for at least 20 years." Reportedly, the author of a 2003 controversial study on therapy to change sexual orientation has apologized for his conclusions. Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Columbia University, Dr. Robert Spitzer’s apology essentially represents a retraction of his original study conclusions, thus eliminating alleged evidence that a person’s innate sexual orientation can be changed through some type of psychological intervention. The conclusions of Spitzer’s original study were used by some to make claims that sexual orientation is a choice and that it can be changed through therapy. There are anecdotal reports of the damage that this type of therapy has done to individuals, including some reported suicides when the therapy didn't work. Wikipedia has posted a page on the topic. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Spitzer_(psychiatrist)

Q. My nephew, who “came out,” recently told me that I am both biased and prejudiced. I absolutely am not; I love him anyway. What can I do to convince him that he is in error?

A. “In error” about what? In error that he is gay or in error that you are biased and prejudiced or in error that you love him anyway? As a member of the human species, most likely you are both biased and prejudiced. I believe every brain is (see my definitions below). My question is whether or not you have taken time to figure out your brain’s bias and identify your learned prejudice(s). What you don’t know you don’t know is likely to come out subconsciously in your behaviors.

Have your behaviors toward your nephew changed in any way since he “came out”? Ask him to give you an example of what led him to arrive at his conclusion. His response, if he is willing to discuss, may provide you with a basis for altering some of your behaviors. If not, it may at least give you additional insight, which can be extremely valuable.

As far as trying to convince him that he is in error, I’d avoid that. To paraphrase a saying that my English father used to quote: a brain convinced against its will is of the same opinion still.

Bias can be described as the brain's innate preference toward what is known and familiar. By this definition, every brain is biased. Perhaps the fastest determination a brain ever makes when confronted with something new is whether or not it is known and familiar. When I meet a creature for the first time my brain has already whizzed through a sequence of determinations such as:

  • Human or not human?
  • Male or female?
  • My race or not?
  • My culture and language or not?
  • Safe or dangerous?

You get the idea. Suppose you see a fork on the floor. Your brain will immediately try to identify the object and search for a label. “Ah, a fork.” If your brain had never seen a fork it might be unknown and unfamiliar to you. After that, what your brain has learned about the rules for forks will likely kick in (e.g., the fork should not be on the floor, it needs to be picked up so it doesn’t cause injury, it must be washed before it can be used in preparing or eating food). All things being equal, the brain feels more comfortable with the familiar. Therefore, it makes sense that you may be biased in favor of your own culture and language because it is known and familiar, and in favor of your own sexual orientation.

Prejudice, on the other hand, can be defined as a learned, preconceived opinion about someone or something, positive or negative. For example, I am prejudiced against wandering around alone at midnight in the heart of a strange city or eating food prepared and offered by road-side vendors in almost any country. I am prejudiced toward certain types of favorite foods, music, books, travel, people who have a good sense of humor, and so on. Prejudices are often not only pervasive but also can be powerfully negative in race, culture, politics, religion, education, gender, and sexual orientation (to name just a few).

Q. My 17-year-old son just told me he is gay but that I shouldn't worry because he's in good company—Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo were both gay. I told him, in no uncertain terms mind you, that those men were artists and Da Vinci was also a scientist.

A. Did you have a question? Your comments suggest a number of concerns you might have. For example:

1. Are you upset that your son is comparing himself with a couple of the most brilliant minds in history?

2. Is your perception that being an artist/scientist negates the possibility that the individual could also be gay?

3. Are you wondering whether Da Vinci and Michelangelo really were gay?

Being an artist/scientist and being gay are not mutually exclusive concepts. Rather they are overlays. Should you choose to do so, you can access Wikipedia and find lists of notable individuals who have self-identified as homosexual or bisexual, or whose homosexuality or bisexuality has been backed by sources that are usually considered reliable. And yes, as a matter of interest, both Da Vinci and Michelangelo are on the Wikipedia list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gay,_lesbian_or_bisexual_people

Q. Why haven’t you addressed the “gay gene” in your Q&As? Has no one asked that question or are you just avoiding it.

A. Since you asked a question about the “gay gene,” so-called, I know of no definitive research that has identified a specific gay gene. In the early 1990’s there were studies done looking for X chromosome linkages. Researchers reportedly used twenty-two markers on the X chromosome to test for similar alleles (any of several forms of a gene, usually arising through mutation, responsible for hereditary variation). Similarities revolved around a marker known as Xq28, which was quickly dubbed by some as the “gay gene.” This notion still persists in some quarters. That is not to say a gay gene will not be found. It just hasn’t been found definitively—yet.

Q. I work at an acute-care hospital that is accredited by The Joint Commission. For heaven's sake, have they become pro-gay?

A. The Joint Commission (TJC) surveys many healthcare organizations, including hospitals. They advocate for quality healthcare for all patients. Have they become pro-gay? Not that I know. TJC has a current focus on the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Transgender) community as part of addressing cultural competency for all risk groups. Studies have shown that barriers to equitable care may be more pronounced for the LGBT population group than for other racial/ethnic minorities. Some studies have shown a higher prevalence of specific health risks in the LGBT population (e.g., anxiety and depression, substance abuse, sexually transmitted disease, and some types of cancer).

TJC wants healthcare organizations to be inclusive of all diversity. Recommendations include:

  • Using neutral and inclusive language when talking with patients (e.g., “Who is family to you?” rather than “Are you married?”)
  • Having inclusive visitation policies for all diversities
  • Avoiding assumptions about sexual orientations or gender identity and being clear that information about gender identity or sexual orientation comes from the patient only
  • Including the word “partnered” as an option on forms that ask about relationship status (e.g., single, married, divorced, separated, widowed)
  • Providing uni-sex bathrooms (e.g., a male can take his female wheel-chair-bound partner into the uni-sex bathroom or vice versa)
  • Requiring educational programs for physician continuing education that include discussion of cultural competency issues

Recently TJC published a 92-page field guide for “Advancing Competence, and Patient and Family Centered Care for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community.” (Incidentally, the latest report I’ve seen indicated that 3.5% of Americans are identified as LCB, while 0.3% are identified as transgender.) This field guide may be a response to instances within healthcare organizations that have been found to be problematic. For example, the lesbian partner of a pregnant female was prevented from participating in the labor and delivery process; a male was not allowed to be at the bedside of his dying gay partner, even though they have lived together for 36 years.

Are TJC recommendations a good thing? They certainly can be for the many individuals who have experienced marginalization and/or discrimination. Other organizations might do well to pay attention to the path TJC is forging. We are, after all, members of the same human species, trying to survive and thrive on this planet.

Arlene R. Taylor PhD is founder and president of Realizations, Inc., a non-profit corporation that engages in brain-function research and provides related educational resources. She is a talented speaker who specializes in simplifying the complex topic of brain function, with the goal of helping individuals learn to thrive by design. Learn much more at www.arlenetaylor.org.

Who Cares? Newsletter — November 2012

Editor’s Perspective: How Should the Church Meet the LGBT Challenge? ↓↓
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Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 3  —  November 2012

Editor’s Perspective

How Should the Church Meet the LGBT Challenge?
Claude SteenIt is hard to grasp just how quickly attitudes toward gender and sexuality minorities (GSMs) have changed in the world around us. And developments this year show that change is accelerating, both in and outside the church. The vexing question for the church and its members is, “How does our Savior want us to relate to these changes?”

During most of the 20th century, same-gender sexual activity was a crime punishable by lengthy prison terms in most of the United States. As late as 1986 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of sodomy laws in Bowers vs. Hardwick, most often used against gay men and women. It was only in 2003 that the high court reversed itself in Lawrence vs. Texas, invalidating sodomy laws in the fourteen states where they still existed.

Today same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, seven countries in Europe, in  Argentina and South Africa. In the United States the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. But such unions have been legalized in a total of nine states, the District of Columbia and two Native American tribal areas. Each of these expansions of marriage laws has been accomplished by legislative or judicial action, not by voter referendums, until this month. Previously Americans in each of the 29 states who asked their citizens to vote on a definition of marriage refused to include same-sex unions in that definition. Then on November 6 voters in the states of Maine, Maryland and Washington approved ballot initiatives legalizing same-sex marriage. Minnesota has not approved same-sex marriage, but on November 6 they defeated a ballot initiative to make traditional marriage a part of their state constitution.

Earlier this year President Obama became the first sitting US president to affirm his support for same-sex marriage, and then was strongly reelected by voters on November 6.

What’s happening among Adventists?

The Adventist church is not totally insolated from these cultural developments. Although no significant change in church doctrine or policy on this topic has been approved, there is a General Conference (GC) level committee assigned to restudy the issue. In 2009 a major conference on homosexuality was convened at Andrews University and the papers presented there which support the traditional Adventist view were published this year in a nearly 600 page, scholarly book published by Andrews University Press.

The documentary Seventh-Gay Adventists, a film about faith on the margins is making the rounds of Adventist population centers both here and abroad and seems to be softening attitudes toward LGBT people. (See schedule here.)

In October major presentations and panel discussions in two large DC-area churches focused on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the Maryland ballot initiative on the topic. At the GC Annual Council last month minor changes in official policy statements on homosexuality and same-sex marriage were voted by the delegates. Intended to strengthen the concept of the essential worth of all persons, the language changes are viewed by many Adventist GSMs as no less offensive than the words they replaced.

Perhaps the most rapid change in the North American Adventist church is starting to be seen on our university and college campuses.  When confronted with fellow students who’s romantic or sexual attractions are only toward persons of their same gender, large numbers of today’s Adventist college students seem to think that acceptance of what gays did not choose is a matter of basic fairness and human rights, and congruent with the loving attitudes of Jesus. Mostly student led and seldom officially sanctioned by college administrations, unofficial student groups are being formed on many campuses to study and discuss gender and sexuality issues and to work toward preventing social marginalization or maltreatment of LGBT students.

How should the church relate?

Looking at the big picture, how should the church meet the challenge of these changing attitudes both inside and outside the church? Aside from doing nothing, two basic options seem to present themselves.

First, we could use every tool at the church’s disposal to affirm and augment its historic position and warn against the evils of homosexual practice. This appears to be the direction presently being taken by General Conference leadership.

Another option might be to recognize that we are facing not just a doctrinal challenge but problems of human relationships. The problem is not so much that we call same-sex intimacy a sin, as it is the larger problem of how we treat sinners, all of us included! Some sins we excuse and minimize, others we actually honor, and some we condemn and seem to punish.

The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people that most demand our attention are our own members and children who are looking for practical solutions to compelling issues in their day-to-day lives. These are not theologians or activists that are challenging the status quo, but our children and sincere brothers in the faith who are crying out for understanding and guidance to deeply personal and perplexing realities in their lives.

Rather than a doctrinal problem, these issues could be seen as a challenge for us to come close to those we’re tempted to condemn, to reach out to them in love and get to really know and understand them. Likewise, some of the cultural changes we see moving into the church, which cause such fear and alarm among many of us, may actually be long-repressed reactions to our inconsistencies and our preference for dogma and judgment over the messy and sometimes perplexing work of nurturing relationships of caring and understanding. What may be needed most today is a supreme effort to learn and demonstrate the unconditional love of Jesus toward all his children, regardless of their differences or perceived failings. Could this be why Jesus said love is the most important thing? Do we really know how to do that?

It’s easy to say to someone we hardly know, “Same-gender sexual activity is an abomination to God.” And to someone entirely removed from us by judgment and perceived moral inferiority, it may not even be hard to say, “Your only option for morality and salvation is to live a life of singleness and celibacy.” But should we even be giving such prescriptions to someone from whom we are emotionally separated? Do we even know what issues God is trying to work on in that person’s life? Are we safe to prescribe when God may not yet be ready to deal with that person on the issue we feel so strongly about? And once we really get close to a person in Christ-like love we may find ourselves much less sure about knowing how to judge and prescribe. And that’s not bad! Really important things often take time and gentleness and a few mistakes before the final answer can be understood. Indeed, the final answer for my gay son may never be given to me, his straight father. So I’ve got to trust God enough to believe that He knows exactly how and when to give that final answer to my son!

Are all biblical pronouncements equal?

But you say, “We already know the answers! They’re clearly written in the word!” So they seem to be. Until you come close to someone who struggles with burdens you will never experience and you search the Word for practical light and find principles that appear to contradict each other. And you can’t help but wonder, for instance, “How do I know for sure that the rule of no same-sex intimacy (Lev 18:22) constitutes a higher principle than the truth that it is not good for a person to live alone, without life-long, committed intimacy (Gen 2:18)? Can one biblical principle trump or modify another? If so, which is which?

The fiction that all biblical pronouncements are equally important is refuted by Jesus when He declares love to God and man the greatest of all God’s commands. Our hubris of being quite sure we have answers for another may need to give way to a more tentative questioning that walks beside a struggling brother, joining him in his search to find God’s specific path for him. It may also mean trusting God to teach him the way even through slips and falls and tall weeds, so similar to those we’ve experienced on our own imperfect pilgrimage.

Concerning relationships within the church family, Jesus said, “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) And instructing our outreach He warned those who neglect to help the oppressed and the struggling that it is He who is neglected among the despised and that for all their supposed work for Him these neglectful servants will never enter His kingdom. (Matthew 7:22, 23; 25:41-43) The church in Jesus’ day was meticulous in its doctrinal correctness but it missed the main point of love to God and man and rejected the Savior Himself. May we in the Adventist church avoid that pitfall!

In this issue of Who Cares? Jason Hines addresses religious liberty issues relating to same-sex marriage; gay Adventist (but disfellowshiped) Robert Leonard Ramsey shares his view of what makes a pastor appreciated or not; two recently retired pastors, Gary Tolbert and Smuts van Rooyen write about self-loathing and self-worth; and Arlene Taylor answers more questions about the human brain as it relates to sexuality and gender issues.

A final thought: Should we be discouraged that upper levels of Adventist church leadership seem only to be pursuing option number one above? Two significant reasons bolster my optimism despite temptations to despair. First, the conversation is really just beginning and there is much yet to be learned on all sides. Second, though we tend to honor the “upper levels” of leadership, it is at the local church and school level that children are nurtured and families are cared for. Sometimes practical godliness has to be demonstrated on the ground, from the roots up, before it can be appreciated in the ivory tower or the main office. Let’s put compassion to work where it matters most and see how our God may make it grow!
 

Claude E. Steen III retired from more than 40 years of active pastoral ministry in June 2010. His work was mostly in the Southern and Columbia unions with 5 years in Ethiopia and a short stay in the Southwestern Union. With his wife Donna (Chalmers) their family consists of 2 married sons, 2 married daughters, a gay son, and 11 grandchildren. He lives happily with Donna in a restored 1827 farm house at the end of the road near Roxboro, NC. claudesteenis@gmail.com
Bad Examples ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 3  —  November 2012
Bad Examples

By Jason A. Hines
 

Jason A. HinesI had the pleasure of attending a screening of the documentary Seventh-Gay Adventists last month in Washington, DC and participate in a panel discussion about homosexuality in the Adventist Church. While I have already posted my general reactions, I was on the panel because of my expertise as a student in church-state studies. I was invited by the Metro Area Adventist Youth Association because they wanted to have a balance of voices on the panel. Dr. Nicholas Miller, a church-state expert from the Seminary at Andrews University, was already on the panel to represent the traditional Adventist position. I have talked about Dr. Miller in this space before, and this was certainly not the first time we were on a panel to discuss religious liberty and gay marriage.

 

In any debate about gay marriage, those who hold Dr. Miller’s views must address two often unspoken presumptions. First, that objections to gay marriage come from those who live according to the Christian ethos. Because of the Establishment Clause and its jurisprudence, it would be unconstitutional to outlaw gay marriage because it violates any particular religious laws. Therefore it is best to find an argument against gay marriage that does not appeal to religion. Second, many believe that churches should not be involved in political issues. The dominant theory in the 20th Century is that religion is a private matter and churches are private entities. The theory says that religion has no place in public life and should be involved only in spiritual matters of the heart. To argue Dr. Miller’s position (that Christians should come out in force and protect the “traditional” view of marriage), you have to construct an argument that churches have a role in the larger society that would allow them to not only be active but to be involved in the promulgation of particular laws that their religion supports.

Dr. Miller addressed both of these arguments over the course of the panel discussion. In response to the first presumption, Dr. Miller cited the principles of society at the time of the Founders. Individuality was not as all-encompassing a principle. The Founders believed in a form of natural law that assumed certain natural ideas and concepts that could be agreed upon through an examination of the world around them. Amongst these natural laws would be the idea that couples come together in order to create children and continue the species. Marriage is humanity’s way of codifying and promoting the union of a man and a woman for the propagation of the race and the raising of children. Because it is “naturally” impossible for homosexual couples to have and raise children, there is no reason to give any special benefits to their unions. This argument, based on these premises, leads to other arguments – like the idea that marriage is not a right, and that allowing gay marriage will harm children because the best home for kids is with their father and mother. 

To answer the second presumption, Dr. Miller cited two examples of religious involvement in society that I had not heard from him before. First, Dr. Miller recounted the story of the death of John the Baptist. In Matt 14:3-12, John the Baptist is arrested (and later beheaded) because he criticized King Herod for stealing his brother’s wife. Dr. Miller noted with import that this was an unlawful marriage that John chose to criticize. Dr. Miller surmised that John criticized the marriage because he knew how important marriage was to society and that the king’s bad example would have a negative effect. The second example he cited was from the history of Adventism. The Adventist Church was very active in the Prohibition movement in the late 19th and 20th Centuries. Dr. Miller pointed out that Ellen G. White urged people to vote for prohibition, and was concerned about the effect of drinking on society. The analogy is that we should be equally concerned by the detrimental effect of gay marriage on society and vote against marriage equality.

Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to address and refute both arguments. There are several ways to critique any natural law argument. First, natural law arguments are inherently subjective arguments, especially today when individualism is an important principle in society. Whose conception of natural law do we follow? What do we do when there is a minority who disagree with the majority view of natural law? Does the minority not get the same level of freedom simply because they believe a different set of moral values, which may be based on their own conceptions of what is natural? I told the people attending the panel that the history of America has been about the expansive notion of freedom, and that an argument like Dr. Miller’s is out of step with this notion.  Simply trumpeting natural law does not address any of these questions, unless you’re willing to state as George Orwell did in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” 

Dr. Miller’s second argument is suspect because of the bad examples he uses to prove his point. Dr. Miller is attempting to argue that Christians should argue for their beliefs in the public square, and vote for laws that align with their beliefs. To support this argument, he cites an example from the Bible where the prophet does not attempt any form of decree or legislation, and then he cites an example of possibly the greatest social experiment failure in American history. Oddly enough, both examples give clear indications about how Christians should attempt to change society. In Matt 14, John does not attempt to align himself with a political movement to outlaw the king’s marriage. Instead he addresses the king about his sin directly, in hopes that he will see the error of his ways. The Prohibition Movement was a colossal failure, at least the part where they passed a constitutional amendment in 1920. Outlawing alcohol only led to bootlegging, smuggling, and organized crime. Society was awash in illegality and violence, compounded by the fact that few municipalities devoted resources to enforce the law. Even after the amendment was repealed in 1933 alcohol consumption never rose to pre-Prohibition levels. This did not stem from the passage of the law, but from the fact that before they passed the amendment supporters held seminars and prohibition rallies, convinced people of the evils of alcohol and then people made the decision not to drink.

John the Baptist and the early proponents of prohibition have already given us the best example of how religious people can have the greatest effect on society. If we see an evil in society that runs counter to the will of God, we should show people it’s wrong and introduce them to a Savior who can help people live better lives. The God that I serve is a God of freedom, who only wants people to follow His laws if they choose to, not because they are being coerced into godly living by the laws of their country. If gay marriage is the scourge that Dr. Miller thinks it is, he should devote his efforts to helping gay people live lives more in accordance with what he understands to be God’s will, not trying to save society from freedom. After all, God does not save us from the freedom to follow or not follow his law. If we attempt to depict God as anything other than a God who allows everyone to live by the precepts of their own conscience, all we’re doing is presenting another bad example. 

Jason Hines is an attorney and PhD candidate in Church-State Studies at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Harvard Law School, he blogs about religious liberty, local Adventist church life, and other topics at HineSight where this was originally posted.
Ministering to God’s Queer Tribe ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 3  —  November 2012
Ministering to God’s Queer Tribe
By Robert L. Ramsay
Robert L. Ramsay The Pathfinders were seated in the front pew. They looked smartly professional in their uniforms. Four children had just been inducted into their ranks and a visiting pastor from the conference office stood to say a few words.
He spoke of the camaraderie the new inductees would enjoy in Pathfinders. He spoke of the life-long bonds they would form with their peers and leaders. As they met from week to week they would learn new skills that they could use in service to their friends, their community, and their families.
He then spoke of the way families have changed in North America. He noted that some families have a husband and wife, two cats, a dog, and a child. Other families have split up because the parents were unable to get along. Some parents never marry, yet they want to have children to love. And then there are gay families with children. “We all need each other,” he said, “so without being critical, I wonder if we as a church can welcome all these families? If so, we can make a real difference in our communities.”
I grabbed my notebook and began scribbling. Had I heard correctly? Had this pastor—a conference officer, no less!—actually  mentioned gay families without saying something negative? I looked around to see if others had caught his meaning. No one was waving a fist in protest. No one was stomping out of the sanctuary. I concluded that I had heard wrongly. Obviously, he must have made some slur against gay families that they agreed with. I assumed that I had somehow misinterpreted his remarks.
Wondering if I had actually heard a kind word meant to cheer my heart, the next day I emailed the conference officer to find out if I had heard correctly. He replied that he feels a conviction to encourage the church to embrace all people with the love of Jesus and leave judgment to God.
This pastor is one among a number of Seventh-day Adventist pastors who have ministered compassionately and intelligently to me since I was disfellowshipped more than twenty-five years ago. That was when it was discovered that I did not share the majority sexual orientation or affectional orientation as I prefer to call it, since this aspect of my personality concerns far more than satisfying the libido. Love, care for another and companionship through life’s good and rough times are all involved.
As one of God’s queer tribe who has chosen to maintain a connection with the remnant church, I have often found myself in the position of the Syrophoenician woman, following along behind the church members, ever on my guard to ward off unkind words and ignorant assumptions about my lifestyle, yet yearning for a crumb of encouragement. Fortunately, there have been pastors willing to toss me not only a crumb but on occasion a full crust of bread.
For pastors who feel a conviction to love and care for gay people in the church’s sheepfold, I offer the following tips.
1. Deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT) members and adherents pragmatically.
The Bible record reveals the heavenly Father and Son dealing pragmatically with human beings. For example, Israel demanded a kingly system of government. God warned that this was a worldly system that would be an abomination to them. When they ignored His advice, He accepted the less-than-ideal situation and blessed the monarchs and nations who followed Him.
Life would be much easier if all people were of one affectional orientation, but the fact is that some of us are different. The jury is still out on whether affectional orientation is of nature or nurture in origin. Divine revelation does not specify whether it was God’s wish to create a variety of affectional orientations, or whether the homosexual orientation is an aberration. Human research and wisdom do show that affectional orientation is not a choice. Both gay and straight people grow up with the bent of their affections hard wired. Straight people know this is true when they pause to remember the day, month or year when they chose their affectional orientation. No one can remember making this decision.
The pastor who wishes to be helpful will accept that his parishioner is what he or she is, and not recommend reparative therapies that do more harm than good.
Pastors should never defy reality by encouraging gay men and women to marry someone of the opposite gender, thinking that finding the right person will straighten out their affectional bent. Thousands of straight men and women have been cheated out of an emotionally and physically satisfying intimate life by knowingly or unknowingly marrying a gay person.
2. Be open to discussion of the subject with your LGBT congregants.
Being afraid to discuss life’s reality in this area will build walls between you and your LGBT members and adherents. You might agree to disagree about some things, but a frank and open discussion carried on in private will provide opportunity for understanding on both sides. One pastor endeared himself to me by saying, “We human beings have to be humble enough to realize that we may not know all the answers this side of the kingdom. We have to give each other the benefit of the doubt, realizing that the Holy Spirit may be speaking to you just as He is to me.”
3. Assume good things about the lifestyle being lived by your LGBT friends.
Some pastors delight in denouncing the homosexual lifestyle. They rarely specify what they mean by this, but I assume they are referring to lewd costumes and way-out behavior at gay pride parades. Or perhaps they have heard that some homosexuals are promiscuous. Assuming all gay folk live this way makes as much sense as believing that all heterosexuals pattern their lives after the headlines printed on the front of The National Enquirer and similar gossip magazines.
4. Admit you know little or nothing about gender and sexuality minority (GSM) issues if you have not studied the subject.
One pastor I encountered minimized the effect a homosexual orientation should have on the individual by comparing it to smoking or drinking. He stated that homosexual sex was addictive but its power could be broken just as one can quit smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. I countered that he was lucky heterosexual copulation was not pleasurable enough to be addictive!
His statement did not inspire me to consider him someone to whom I would confide struggles I was having in any area of my life. Much more encouraging was another pastor with whom I worked closely while renovating a church. When I told him that I could not transfer my membership to his church because I had been disfellowshipped due to my affectional orientation, he said, “That’s a subject I know almost nothing about, but I hope you’ll continue to attend so that we can get to know each other.”
5. Educate yourself.
Public libraries are filled with books regarding affectional orientation. Websites give more up to date information. Ask the LGBT persons in your congregation for a reading list.
Many straight folk assume that all gay authors are lying to justify themselves and therefore should not be read. However should you wish to minister more effectively to people of another race, would you avoid all books written by people of that background? Certainly not. They are best placed to give an accurate account of their experience. It is the same for gender and sexuality minorities. Only a gay or transgendered person can describe the inner workings of his or her mind, and account for the difficult decisions being faced.
6. Kindly but firmly correct misinformation or derogatory statements.
If you have studied the story of Sodom you will know that true sodomy is when the privileged figuratively rape the poor and defenseless, as we see practiced in today’s business world in which CEO’s of large corporations are rewarded with huge bonuses while ordinary folk lose their homes and jobs.
Not so long ago I attended a workshop conducted by the conference’s ministerial secretary, regarding how to reach post-moderns with the gospel. During discussion one of the attendees stated that gay people have ruined society. The ministerial secretary agreed with him. Did he really believe that LGBT folk are the reason there are so many divorces among heterosexuals, so many single parents, so much drunkenness, crime, and irresponsibility? He missed an opportunity to correct a myth commonly held by too many of the Christian faith.
7. Pay special attention to parents of gender and sexual minorities.
You may not know which families in your congregation are struggling to come to terms with a child or other relative who has come out of the closet. But by the words you speak, you can let them know it is safe for them to confide in you.
One of my teaching colleagues told me how one Christmas her son John came home as Jane. This dear Christian mother had no experience with transgendered people. She did not know where to turn and did not feel comfortable approaching her pastor. She feared that he would label her an unfit parent and that if the news became known the congregation would shun her.
Through sermons, Bible study times and social intercourse, you can let it be known that you are approachable regarding LGBT topics. You can also take the initiative to ensure the church library has up to date information that will help families cope.
Implementing these suggestions will encourage gay members and friends to maintain their contact with the Adventist faith. And a loving and understanding heart will be like a balm to families who learn that one of their loved ones is LGBT. Through your pastoral influence, you can help to make your church a safe place for all families and a blessing to your community.
 
Educator, musician, and writer, Robert Ramsay taught elementary-age students in the public schools of Manitoba, Canada, for twenty years, then worked as an administrator for the Capital Regional District in Victoria, British Columbia. A successful freelance writer for over thirty years, he has published articles in magazines such as The American Organist, Adventist Review, and Exercise, For Men Only. He is organist at Christ Alive Community Church in Vancouver. Currently he lives in Surrey, British Columbia. Being gay is not just about sex, so Robert prefers to speak of “affectional orientation” rather than the more common “sexual orientation.”
He Will Exult Over You with Loud Singing ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 3  —  November 2012
He Will Exult Over You with Loud Singing
By Smuts van Rooyen
 
Smuts van RooyenDuring the London Olympics, Bert Le Clos stole the hearts of the staid Brits when his son Chad beat the legendary swimming superstar Michael Phelps by five-hundredths of a second and won the gold medal. Overjoyed and emotional Bert began to gesticulate wildly in the spectator stands. Six times he shouted the word “Unbelievable!” then added, “Look at him, he’s beautiful. I love you, I love you!” 
When he was interviewed by the BBC’s Clare Balding he exulted, “I have never been so happy in my life.  It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven.  Whatever happens in my life from now on is just plain sailing.”  Then he promised that there would be a huge party at the Le Clos home in South Africa when they got back.
Scores of moved people immediately responded to this father’s enthusiasm for his son on Twitter.  One twitter tweet read, “Bert Le Clos you have just made my night.”  Another asked, “Is there an Olympic event for proud dads? Give the gold to Bert Le Clos.” And still another, “You are a legend. Your love and pride of your son is heartwarming.”
 
Here is a dad who not only recognizes his son’s accomplishments as significant, but also sees him as intrinsically beautiful, and subsequently loves him for both. There is a light in his eyes for his son.What a father!
Now what I need to know is whether God would ever respond to me in such an over-the-top fashion. Even a more subdued reaction on his part would be just fine. This need of mine to understand where I sit on God’s continuum of worth is not prompted by idle curiosity, or sheer impertinence, but by my experience of abuse as a child.
My father drummed a sense of existential uselessness and repulsiveness into my head by beating me about the face with his hard, flat hand.  Consequently, it was natural for me to view myself as devoid of any intrinsic value.  After my father sent me packing from home I attended a boarding school.  There I met a group of boys who suffered from a touch of Adventist Academy Oppositional Disorder.  One of their innovative but insightful pranks was to request that we sing “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” when favorite hymns were solicited.  But they had no intention of singing the whole song.  Instead, they held back in silence until we reached the line that asked, “Did he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”  This wormy phrase they bellowed out with obvious delight and then fell instantly silent again.  The effect was profound and made a deep impression on me.  I had many a heated argument with them, not because I was offended by their sacrilege, but because they would not concede that we all are worms.  How could they be so blind?  But it was a providential beginning of a journey for me.
 
 
Prominent Protestants besides Isaac Watts, the author of the fine hymn just referenced have, in my view, failed to see the distinction between being unworthy of grace (which is true) and being worthless persons (which is not true).  I am unworthy of my wife’s love but I am not a worthless person.  I can never be worthy of the death of Jesus but I hold my head high as his creation.  When the Psalmist looks at the heavens and is intimidated by their splendor, he asks the question of God, “What is man that you are mindful of him?”  The answer is not what one might expect.  It’s not, “An insignificant speck, a mere nothing, a meaningless absurdity.”  Instead, David declares that we are fantastic, excellent beings made only a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor.   
 
 
John Calvin asserted that God does not love us for who we are but for Christ’s sake alone.  God, he said, finds the reason to love us totally within himself and never within us. This thinking undergirds his doctrine of predestination, which has a high view of God but a low view of humanity, which is totally depraved.  The greater God is the more insignificant humanity becomes.  Calvin’s noble intention, with which I agree, is to protect salvation from the pollution of human effort. But he nullifies our humanity in the process.
This, in my view, is an overstatement of righteousness by faith without works.  It goes beyond the thrust of the Scriptures.  We do in faith choose to accept salvation.  God would not save us if we did not want him to.  He values and activates our inherent power of choice; he also makes our choices viable by presenting us with an option of salvation, which we could not generate ourselves.  So we cannot take the credit for choosing to receive what we could not accomplish. Nevertheless deep inside every human is a wonderful capacity to consent to what God has done for us in Christ.  We are unworthy but not worthless. 
Now I grasp that humans in the presence of God deprecate themselves.  C. S. Lewis argued, “The real test of being in the presence of God is that you forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small dirty object.” (Mere Christianity, p. 124.)  True, but of course the question is whether God concurs with such an estimate of His children. 
 

Certainly, in the story of Job, this is not the case.  Although Job does declare, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” God’s response is to challenge him to be the man that he really is, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 40:4, 7) God wants Job to stand and not to wilt before him.  It was Elihu, Job’s misguided friend, who argued that God regarded even the best of humanity, including Job, as worthless.  “Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless . . .’” (Job 34:18) But neither Job nor God would accept that label as true.  We must not forget that the story begins with God asking Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8) This is nothing less than an assertion of pride in Job, God clearly is impressed with the man, and wonders whether the Devil has noticed Job’s excellence.
 

As long as any part of the image of God remains in us we are valuable and loveable.  A human is a fallen chandelier shattered into a thousand inconsistencies on the marble floor.  But when the wind moves the lace curtains late in the day, and the long light of the sun shines on our brokenness, a rainbow radiates from our crystal. We are still incredibly beautiful! 
Stand in amazement before the mother who carries her emaciated child a hundred miles to the refugee camp.  Gasp at the accomplishment of the young man who frees his arm from the rock by cutting it off at the elbow with his pocketknife.  Smile with pleasure at the child who shares her ice cream with her little sister on a hot summer day.  There is just cause to wonder at the magnificence within us.
 

But back to God and Bert.  Would God ever cheer for me with Bert’s unbridled joy?  Well, not if he’s waiting for me to beat Michael Phelps!  I’m part of that group that cannot dog paddle well, that belly flops off the low dive, that pretends the snaps on soda cans are gold medals.  But we’ve heard God jubilating wildly in the grandstands over our modest successes and we love it.  The prophet Zephaniah shows God’s ecstatic reaction to us by proclaiming,
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
A warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will be quiet in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing!
 
 
Loud singing! 
Quite something, don’t you think?
 
Smuts van Rooyen recently retired from pastoring at the Glendale City Church in California. He lives with an ardent doubting faith that sufficiently works for him. At times he has flashes of how utterly God loves him. He has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and a M.Div. in Ministerial Studies from Andrews University. He has been married for forty plus years to his superb wife, Arlene, and has three grown children who have six little ones between them. As hobbies he enjoys testing the wilderness with his 4x4 pick-up, and writing. Much to be grateful for. Isn't grace amazing?
Normal ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 3  —  November 2012
Normal
Pastor Gary J. Tolbert
 

GaryTolbertSchool begins again and so does anxiety. Summers are great because I get to hide from the experience and forget it happened. I get to choose my social situation. The thousand people in my high school aren't looking at me, judging or condemning.

Life is not easy when you're a teenager who is different. There is this state called "normal" that everybody seems to fit into. But if you are outside of that normal place, you stick out like a sore thumb that is constantly getting bumped. The pointing, the whispers, the cruel jokes—all of these add up to anxiety and hatred of school and almost every social situation.  Other teens have dates, go to parties, enjoy time with friends… I am different. I hang out with a few other rejects. Misery loves company. 

To make matters worse my body reacts to what's going on in my brain and during my first class, the stomach acids are flowing too freely as they digest my small breakfast. Sounds of my gurgling, whistling stomach can be heard within an 8-foot radius of my chair. People turn, ask questions and giggle. My face turns red and sweat begins to bead up on my forehead and under my arms, staining my shirt. If I could, I would dig out my stomach with a knife to shut off the sounds and throw the annoying thing in the trash! I’d like to turn off the fluid soaking my skin—turn off the spigot at the source. But I can't. I just have to suffer. I am self-conscious of everything, so my day is dominated by fear.  This state of misery is my normal.

And it will happen again tomorrow—each day until the weekend when I am free again to hide in my little shell. Then I’ll go into my room, shut the door and enter the world of my own making where life is better, where I am accepted for who I am, where I have friends and family who understand. Where I am safe.

But wait a minute! Who decides what is normal? I’ve learned there is no objective definition of normal. My American Heritage Dictionary describes normal as conforming to the usual or typical pattern, level or type. Also, it says normal is being average. I assume the usual or typical relates to the current environment and culture. It is affected by the opinions of others. That is pretty subjective! There is no one standard for normal unless you move into the area of science, medicine or mathematics. Normal is determined by the average of the surroundings mixed with what others think.  Why do I allow myself to be dominated by this anxiety?

What if I’m above average, like with an IQ of 150? Or below average with a 93? What if I’m different in appearance or actions or reactions and personal thinking? It’s not bad. It’s just different! The creator made us all different, unique and special. No two fingerprints or DNA are exactly alike. Everything that God creates is an original. And maybe that uniqueness sticks out in the current environment. What mankind makes is rarely unique. Factories stamp out nearly identical chairs, automobiles, etc. But what God makes is always unique. What right do I have to ask the creator, “why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20) And if I see my differences as weakness, doesn’t the Bible say that God’s "power is made perfect in weakness?" (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Then I discovered “one who sticks closer than a brother,” (Proverbs 18:24) who is always there, and I think will always be there. Someone who accepts me for who I am loves me no matter what. Who never points the finger, whispers, makes cruel jokes, and never causes needless pain. Who loves me anyway! If I could only believe it…  

Maybe He has made me this way... My life then became a journey of discovering the purpose for “my normal.” There is nothing wrong with being different. As I fell upon the mercy of my Creator He lifted me out of the cesspool I was wallowing in as an escape mechanism.  He allowed me to be a pastor.  Some of what made me different was corrected by a surgeon’s knife. But the mental and emotional scars of those early encounters have followed me through life.  These are being healed only as I allow myself to believe He loves me, as I allow the power of His love to transform me.

So what if we are different than the norm? God understands us and accepts us for who are. To Him we are normal. And, if we will let it, our uniqueness can reveal more about God's uniqueness. That can become a new purpose for us all. 

For the past 30+ years Gary Tolbert has been a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church. While at Southern Missionary College, TN (now Southern Adventist University) in the mid-70s, Gary met Malia Hardaway and they were married. After graduating he began pastoring in the Florida conference. Two sons were born; both are teachers today and have their own families. Gary also received a Masters of Ministry degree from Andrews University. Because of health issues, Gary was forced to take an early retirement in 2012. Though he no longer pastors, he still enjoys hiking, writing, and fine art. Throughout his ministry Gary has sought to understand and explain a proper picture of God. Pastorgary777@gmail.com
"The Brain Doctor" Answers Questions ↓↓
Who Cares? A Newsletter for Caring Pastors and Educators  —  Vol. 2/No. 3  —  November 2012 
"The Brain Doctor" Answers Questions 

Arlene Taylor

By Arlene R. Taylor, Ph.D.

Q. Did you hear about the young man who recently committed suicide because of harassment for reportedly not being straight? Don’t his tormentors bear some responsibility for his death?

A. As with many others, this was a tragedy that could have been avoided. Science indicates that one’s sexual orientation appears to be set before he or she is born, before the person even comes out the chute. Unfortunately, because of the way they were raised, some people find it difficult to accept differences. Worse case scenarios typically involve harassment. The way in which we treat others and behaviors we choose to exhibit in adulthood are at least partially (if not completely) within our control. The preferences with which we appear to be born, apparently are not.

As far as responsibility goes, my brain’s opinion is that people do have some responsibility for their words and actions. That’s one reason I encourage people to be very careful of the behaviors they exhibit in relation to others, the words that they speak and write, and their nonverbal body language. All those communication tools send a message. 

Q. Recently someone told me (to my face, no less) that I am biased in favor of my own culture, language, and sexual orientation. I am not! It’s just that my brain is more comfortable around people who are like me. How could that be biased?

A. What is your definition of bias? 

The Wikipedia free encyclopedia defines bias as an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly equally valid) alternatives. Anything biased generally is one-sided and therefore lacks a neutral point of view. The Business Dictionary defines bias as an inclination or preference that influences judgment from being balanced or even-handed.

Suppose you were to see a fork on the floor. Your brain would likely immediately try to identify the object and search for a label. “Ah, a fork.” (Not every brain on this planet has seen a fork, however, so for those who have not the object will be unfamiliar and unknown.) After that, what your brain has learned about rules for forks will likely kick in (e.g., forks should not be on the floor, the fork needs to be picked up so it doesn’t cause injury, the fork must be washed before it can be used in preparing or eating food).

When I meet a person for the first time, my brain has already whizzed through a sequence of determinations, often at a subconscious level. These can include such factors such as:

  • Male or female?
  • Same or different race?
  • Similar or different language?
  • Similar or different culture?
  • Safe or unsafe?
  • And so on

My understanding of the brain is that it possess a bias toward what is known and familiar. In fact, some researchers have said that the fastest determination the brain ever makes when confronted with something new is whether or not it is known and familiar. So, my guess is that all things being equal, you are biased in favor of your own culture, language, and sexual orientation. They are known and familiar. It makes sense.

The tone of your question could suggest that you don’t want to acknowledge that you are biased in favor of your own culture, language, and sexual orientation. My brain’s opinion is that there is nothing wrong with bias—everyone has some—as long as you know what yours is and make choices about how to act it out in a way that will result in positive outcomes, insofar as it is possible to do so. On the other hand, when you don’t know what yours is, bias can be a virtual minefield. And if your bias is acted out in behaviors that result in negative outcomes, the battlefield may be littered with the wounded and dying.

Q. My daughter has identified herself as lesbian. Recently she said that I’m prejudiced against lesbians and discriminate against her friends. What is that supposed to mean? I’ve told her I still love her!

A. Well, there is love and there is love. There are the words and there is the atmosphere that surrounds a person (e.g., electromagnetic energy generated by neurons throughout the brain and body). My guess is that your daughter feels uncomfortable around you. Her friends may be uncomfortable as well. Your body language and behaviors may be sending a message that you are uncomfortable with your daughter and her friends, notwithstanding that your actual words say you still love her.

In face-to-face communications, studies have shown that the message tends to be conveyed in the following ways:

  • By spoken words – 7% to 10%
  • By voice tonality – 15% to 38%
  • By body language – 55% to 75%

The question then becomes, what have your communications actually conveyed to her daughter and/or to her friends? You may have said in words, “I still love you.” What have you conveyed through voice tonality, body language, and perhaps other behaviors? Words themselves may be the least of what you actually communicated. Let’s start with prejudice.

Prejudice is learned. It is a preconceived opinion about someone or something. Your brain may have developed it on its own from past experiences or may have picked it up from others. It may even have been triggered by cellular memory. Prejudice can be positive or negative. For example, I am prejudiced against wandering around alone at midnight in the heart of a strange city or eating food offered by road-side vendors in almost any country. I am prejudiced toward certain types of favorite foods, music, books, travel, people who have a good sense of humor, and so on. Prejudice can result in positive or negative outcomes, too. Prejudices are often not only pervasive but also can be powerfully negative in terms of race, culture, politics, religion, education, gender, and sexual orientation (to name just a few).

The word discrimination appears to come from the Latin verb, discrimino (to separate, distinguish, or make a distinction). It can be defined rather simply as the ability to recognize and understand the difference between one thing and another, between one person and another, between one situation and another. Think of it as describing the process your brain goes through whereby it responds differently to one person, situation, or belief system as compared with another person, situation, or belief system.

The ability to discriminate quickly and effectively is crucial to living safely. As with prejudice, however, it can have positive or negative implications. Some discriminate negatively toward other people and ideas ad infinitum just because they represent a different perspective. This can also include behaviors that are exhibited toward others based on one person's perspective. The term can also describe the unjust or unkind treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the basis of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion (to name just a few).

My guess is that at some level or another most everyone on this planet has discriminated against others and been discriminated against. It’s part and parcel of the human condition. For example, recently I offered to speak about brain function at a four-year college. I was told very directly that this would never happen because I was Caucasian, and the majority of the students were non-Caucasian. I was so taken aback I almost blurted out: “And your point would be? Regardless of skin color, our brains are all the same color.” Anyway, as I said, human beings experience discrimination. It’s a fact of life. The bigger question for me is whether or not I will take discrimination personally and over-react or just move on through other open doors. My personal goal is to avoid discriminating negatively simply on the basis of observed differences.

Back to your question: What is that supposed to mean? It could mean something as simple as the fact that you recognize and understand that lesbians are different from non-lesbians. The tone of your question implies that perhaps you and your daughter are not seeing eye-to-eye in terms of her perception of your mindset and behaviors.

Have you asked your daughter what triggered her brain to believe that you are prejudiced against lesbians? What behaviors has she seen you exhibit that her brain classed as discriminatory against her friends? If she is willing to tell you, that can at least give you some idea of how she perceives you come across. If you genuinely believe you have no negative feelings about her and her friends, tell her that. On the other hand, if you can understand how your communications and behaviors may have come across in a way you did not intend, you can do something about that, too. Honest dialogue, engaged in with love, can result in a new sense of understanding. 
 

Arlene R. Taylor PhD is founder and president of Realizations, Inc., a non-profit corporation that engages in brain-function research and provides related educational resources. She is a talented speaker who specializes in simplifying the complex topic of brain function, with the goal of helping individuals learn to thrive by design. Learn much more at www.arlenetaylor.org.

 


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