by Monte Sahlin
By AT News Team, March 7, 2014
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship, an independent fellowship of Adventists who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual (LGBTI), has released a letter they sent last week to Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the denomination's General Conference (GC) objecting to the "marginalization" of their constituency in discussions of the denomination's approach to sexuality. The letter speaks to a conference on “alternative sexualities” the GC is convening in Cape Town, South Africa, March 17-20.
The meeting will involve "key people in the global leadership" of the denomination in “a conversation … to gain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding alternative sexualities and … the challenges the church is facing in this area, in order to find a way to be redemptive as well as obedient to the teachings of Scripture in a more consistent manner around the world,” according to a web page linked to the event. The letter from Kinship points out that the group "has worked with and for Seventh-day Adventist lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people around the world for nearly 40 years, yet no representatives … were informed of or invited to this meeting. We strongly and respectfully object."
"It is not appropriate" for denominational leaders "to hold official conferences about Seventh-day Adventist lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people without allowing a range of us to be present, participate or speak. It’s incomprehensible that our church would discuss us as an issue, … what church policy should say about us and how our pastors and teachers should minister to us, without ever consulting with us. When we are not invited to our denomination’s table, we all-too-easily become its meal. This is not acceptable," wrote Yolanda Elliott, president of Kinship.
"Ex-gay" representatives from Coming Out Ministries have been invited to the meeting, according to the letter. They "do not speak for the thousands of SDA Kinship members in more than 80 countries around the world or our supportive relatives and friends. … And they cannot provide the full or current perspective your committee seeks."
The letter points out that many members of the group "continue to attend Adventist congregations and are tied to the church by their deeply held faith. Others, demonized by Adventist-sponsored ministries such as the Quest Learning Center and one-sided conferences such as Gays In the Family, have left the denomination, and the loss of their energy and gifts is a denominational loss. If, as you say, you wish to gain a greater understanding of our sexualities and gender identities, families, employment concerns, pastoral needs, and spiritual lives, please allow us to participate in this conference. What we have to say is important, and no one knows our stories better than we do."
The letter offered prayer support for the meeting. "We will encourage Kinship members worldwide to join Janet Page’s prayer team in inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you during the conference and as [the] committee deliberates." It also asked for a direct response from Wilson or one of the other GC officers.
The group also pointed out that Africa is not only the fastest-growing region for the denomination but the continent where there is a very high incidence of HIV-AIDS and where governments have recently enacted laws criminalizing homosexual activity. Retired GC president Jan Paulsen supported HIV prevention projects in Africa.