Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones
Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones, Adventist Edition. Posture Shift Books/Lead Them Home, 2006-2018. Available from North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 9705 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia, MD 21046.
Reviewed by Dave Ferguson
A new 71-page booklet from the NAD titled Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones provides the most compassionate response to LGBT+ Adventists ever published by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, while still maintaining the church’s position as established by the North American Division’s Commission on Human Sexuality.
The booklet is the Adventist edition of material prepared by Bill Henson of Lead Them Home, which includes Adventist contributors and the statement prepared by the NAD Commission on Human Sexuality. The booklet identifies as its intended audience parents, families, friends, pastors and teachers. According to the booklet our “posture”—the way we communicate the good news in our lives—makes all the difference. “To love others is to live out God’s truth. When we fail to love, we misrepresent God (who is love) to those He desires to reach.”
The introduction shares eight important signposts along the pathway, based on findings from an Adventist study produced in 2017 (VanderWall, Sedlacek and Lane) and proposes that the church shift our focus from causation to compassion.
The introduction also includes a glossary of terms to help readers understand the material that follows.
While some may assume that the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its leaders expect them to reject or respond harshly to a person who comes out as LGBT+, the book insists that “to the contrary pastors, teachers and the NAD are calling members to walk lovingly and patiently with LGBT+ young people.”
A Q&A section based on the Adventist study offers insights on how, and how not, to deal with Adventist LGBT+ members. The booklet stresses the importance of expressing acceptance while maintaining one’s own beliefs. Statistics of the results of rejection of LGBT+ people by church and family highlight the importance of maintaining a sustainable support system. Even loving parents may make mistakes that can hinder the relationship with their child, and the booklet suggests positive ways to navigate relational gaps. Common questions and appropriate responses are shared, along with principles for having healthy conversations about faith and sexuality.
Probably the most surprising part of the booklet for me was the section regarding dealing with a LGBT+ loved one’s partner, and the impact it can have long-term on family relationships. A very informative section on transgender and other identities will probably be educational for most of those who read this booklet; following the self-disclosure by a transgender child, parents are encouraged to find trusted supporters who are committed to walk with them on this journey.
A couple of pages specifically speak to members of the LGBT+ community. The booklet provides 32 tips for relational effectiveness, as well as these four guidelines for pastors and teachers: Include, Listen, Protect and Invest.
The booklet concludes with the question “Why Love and Accept? and suggests five reasons: “Love expresses the truth about God; Love is commanded by Jesus; Love protects; Love makes us available and Love is patient and kind.” It is my hope and prayer that new conversations will result from the study and implementation of these concepts in the church.
Dave Ferguson, is the Director of Church Relations for Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, an organization for helping Adventist LGBT+ people, their parents, pastors and teachers navigate the journey of faith and acceptance. He writes from California.