by Floyd Pönitz | 30 June 2023 |
As PRIDE month—a time to celebrate equal rights for LGBTQ individuals—comes to a close, I want to celebrate our accomplishments as humans over the past 54 years since the June 29, 1969, Stonewall riots in New York City.
As a 10-year-old Adventist who already knew that he was different, I remember hearing about Stonewall and somehow identifying with what was happening there without really having the vocabulary to connect with it.
That was also the year that I got baptized and became an official member of the Adventist church. I had no idea what magical things would happen when I was dunked under the water, but that unexplained and unmentionable feeling that would later be identified as “gay” did not get washed away.
It was an innocent time—and I would become increasingly confused as the years went by and I learned the church would condemn me for just having these feelings.
Fast forward to today. The church’s stance and refusal to openly talk about my feelings and those of millions of Adventists is as confusing today as it was to my 10-year-old self. I thank God for SDA Kinship; it was a major influence that has saved my life and got me to where I am in life today, and has helped me to not only exist, but to thrive.
(Kinship has released many videos from people from all walks of life expressing what Kinship means to them. They can be viewed on the Kinship YouTube channel here.)
Many of our members participated in Pride Events around the world, and some Adventist churches made space for the queer members of the church to celebrate with their friends at the church. I am very proud of these church communities.
Yes, there are haters who will say that is not appropriate. I feel it is something that Jesus would be in the middle of, participating in, celebrating the beauty of all humans in their diversity. Doing this is no more celebrating sin than any other event held at church when heterosexual sinners (whatever their sins might be) are present.
But not all was positive this month. The Ugandan Anti-gay Bill was signed into law and LGBTQ Adventists in Uganda live in fear of being arrested or even killed. Sadly, our church leaders there came out in support of a law that includes life imprisonment and the death penalty. This law has incited much violence by the community at large who take advantage of the situation to exercise their homophobia and misunderstanding of what it means to be LGBTQ.
In the middle of Pride Month, Elder Ted Wilson released a Human Sexuality Statement affirming that the church does not allow for relationships of any kind when it comes to someone who is not cisgender or someone who is not heterosexual. The statement reeks of ignorance about what it means to be LGBTQ, and the refusal of church leaders to dialog with LGBTQ members of the church.
We’re already here
Many in the church seem to forget that we aren’t seeking admittance to the church and church membership. We were raised Adventist and indoctrinated from Cradle Roll forward. Many of us were baptized as children. I was a 10-year-old who already knew I was queer, but not having the concepts to express what that really meant in relationship to the church. Yet I still wanted to join Jesus in baptism.
At my baptism, the 28 fundamental beliefs didn’t exist yet, so I didn’t have to pledge my allegiance to them. Instead I pledged to be a follower of Jesus, which I am still today. LGBTQ people are already in the church—members in good standing—confused about why the church no longer views them as important members of the Body of Christ.
There are still actions from the top levels of the church to oust a celibate bisexual Adventist pastor in good standing who has the support of his local church, conference, and union.
I heard another story of an Adventist pastor who was told by his conference that he had to choose between support of his trans-daughter and being a pastor in the conference. Thankfully, he chose loving and supporting his child, but no person—much less a pastor—should have to make that choice. He is now jobless.
This morning the news says that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing a website creator to discriminate, in spite of the law of Colorado, against same-sex couples. Being queer is still something that so many straight humans don’t understand, and leaders in politics and the church leverage that to create an us-vs-them scenario, to try to control people, and also to rally support by those who want to discriminate.
I got a note this week from someone on my Twitter feed saying that if everyone becomes gay, then no one will want to get married and have children, and the human species will die out. This illustrates the ignorance that prevails in the world and in our church. No one is recruiting. All we want is for those who are born LGBTQ to be able to live out their lives authentically and honestly without having to lie to be able to participate in their spiritual Adventist community of faith. All humans are created equal.
Although there is still misunderstanding of LGBTQ people, I’m convinced that more and more people are understanding what it means to be LGBTQ and that there is nothing to fear.
May the spirit of PRIDE—of surviving another day—be experienced every day of the year. SDA Kinship is offering a Kinship Pride wristband to anyone who wants to show their support of the queer Adventist community. Wear them to church; to prayer meeting; everywhere you want to let folks know you are a SAFE person. To request one (or two), send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address.
God loves you unconditionally,
Floyd Poenitz, a lifelong Adventist and graduate from Southwestern Adventist University, writes from Dallas, Texas, where he lives with his husband, Jeff. He serves as president of Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, where he works to create community for LGBT+ Adventists and their families and to raise awareness of LGBT+ Adventists in the church.