January 19:     An Adventist pastor and his church in Kenya are featured in an article published by Stanford University School of Medicine’s blog Scope, outlining the difficult choices faced by gay health workers in countries where homosexuality is a punishable crime. The piece, titled “Where homosexuality is a crime, gay health workers face tough choices,” examines the experience of Dr. Jason Nagata, who, while serving as a global health worker in Kenya, was subjected to an Adventist pastor’s preaching about the “abomination” of homosexuality.

Nagata was attending the church with his Kenyan host family. The health worker began “to sweat profusely, his face dripping and his palms wet,” as he sat in the pew with his hosts who did not know that he was gay. “It was clear all the people in the church had similar viewpoints, as they were nodding in agreement with the pastor,” he said. “I think I was just trying as hard as I could not to let anything show on my face.”

As a Stanford pediatric resident, Nagata wrote for Global Health Promotion (the official publication of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education) about his experience in Kenya. He described how the government was discussing creating a constitutional amendment shielding the LGBT community from legislation that could punish gay people with 14 years imprisonment.

The pastor of the Adventist church  he attended was “fiercely opposed” to the proposed amendment, recalls Nagata. The physician framed his experience at the Adventist congregation in the larger context of the challenges gay health professionals face working overseas. “I wondered to what extent it would be safe or practical to come out to colleagues whom I would be working with internationally. Because coming out is a very big deal. I was still hiding a big part of myself from others, like my host family.”

In his article, Nagata weighed the risks of exposure with the benefits of gay health professionals revealing their sexual identity. He suggested that biases toward homosexuality might change if people came into contact with openly gay friends or family members. However, he warned that there are real risks involved in gay health workers coming out in host countries, including physical violence.

The Adventist Church held a major summit on human sexuality in March 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa, where conference leaders reaffirmed traditional church views condemning homosexual practices and also affirmed the need for Adventist to extend a compassionate outreach to LGBT people. A commitment also was made to continue studying questions surrounding alternative sexuality and the church.