Pastor and Bible Teacher at Highland View Academy Fired
Recently a beloved pastor and Bible teacher at Highland View Academy was fired for performing the same-sex marriage of his daughter. Kinship responded by sending the following letter to church administrators involved with the decision.
December 5, 2013
Dear Principal Snider,
I'm writing because my heart, as a retired pastor, cries when I learn of situations such as the one at Highland View Academy involving Pastor Brett Hadley. My understanding is that he's been fired because he participated in his daughter's marriage to her same-sex partner. I would love to have you correct me, if I'm wrong. Seventh-day Adventist Kinship feels a special connection to Highland View Academy since our president, Yolanda Elliott, is a 1975 alumnus.
It is my understanding that Pastor Hadley's theological convictions about same-sex relationships do not differ from the official Adventist position. He simply believes in unconditional love. He is being a father, even if he does not fully agree with his daughter. While I'm sure some will see it differently, it appears that the conflict here is between a father's love, based on his understanding of Adventist family values, and making sure that all employees adhere to the current church position regarding homosexuality.
As a former pastor who focused on youth and young adults, I have seen an increasing number of our members leave the Church because they believe it is more interested in upholding a position than in caring for and loving members of the church family. I believe that concept is reinforced when such actions are taken against a beloved pastor and spiritual leader on the campus, whose only transgression is love.
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship has provided a “city of refuge” for many LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) who are current and former Adventists and their families, who have been made to feel unwelcome in their churches and schools. Although not being viewed favorably by the Church, Kinship feels a strong sense of mission to follow the example of Jesus in ministering to those who have been marginalized because of a sexual orientation they did not choose, and we appreciate the family members who support them as allies. I hope and pray that someday soon my Church will be willing to have a conversation with God's children who have a different orientation or gender identity.
While some continue to question my faith and loyalty to the Church simply because of my sexual orientation, I don't question that you and others are seeking to do what is best. I would just request that you join me in prayer that the lives of the young people at Highland View Academy will continue to have a higher priority than political pressure and public perceptions of being “too easy” on sin. Jesus, in his leadership, was continually expanding our human understanding of God's love and grace, especially in the face of the religious authorities of His day who had deemed certain groups of people as “outsiders” and “unworthy.” Showing up to love each other unconditionally seems like the very epitome of what Jesus said we'd be known for. This is what I see as the goal for every pastor and church administrator.
With Christian love,
Dave Ferguson, Director of Church Relations
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International
A response by Kinship's President, Yolanda Elliott.
Dear Pastor Remmers:
I graduated from Highland View Academy in 1975. I still live in Maryland and so attend class reunions whenever I can. Some of my longest friendships are those I made in academy and many of my positive childhood memories are from my time in the Mt. Aetna area.
The news about Pastor Hadley's administrative leave and resignation has deeply saddened me, not only for the Hadley family and the students Pastor Hadley taught, but also for the wider HVA family including alumni like me.
I'm baffled and disappointed by how your administration has responded to a father participating in his daughter's wedding. What did you hope would be accomplished by disciplining Pastor Hadley in this way? Every account I've read says that the event was non-religious and Pastor Hadley shared stories about his daughter with the guests—as any loving father would have.
I know that the academy has always aimed to provide a quality Seventh-day Adventist and Christian education for the students who attend, so I do not understand how punishing Pastor Hadley and his family supports that aim. I don't think anyone's confused about what the church thinks of LGBT people or same-sex marriages. Everyone knows what the church thinks and how the church's teachings make being part of Adventism extremely difficult for the LGBT people who are members and for their relatives. Young people like the students watching this case unfold are leaving the church because they see no compassion in how the church responds to people. I've fought to stay myself because it is my church too. My God is compassionate even when the church is not.
In Message magazine last year, GC Family Ministries director Willie Oliver responded to a member asking whether a Seventh-day Adventist Christian should attend his relative's same-sex wedding. Pastor Oliver didn't contradict or undermine the church's teachings when he wrote that "this is a dilemma each person will have to answer individually" (Romans 14). We can't expect to grow with each other when we trample on each others' relationships. We can't be light or salt when we fail to act with love.
The bottom line of our faith is love to God and love to man, and as I learned back at HVA, the core of the Golden Rule is compassion. When we show compassion for our family members, even when we disagree with them, that's our chance to show others the love of Christ. Pastor Hadley came to a different conviction than some of his colleagues and relatives might have, but it was the conviction of a father and it was compassionate.
I will be praying for you and the administrators at HVA. I'll also be praying for our church, that it will learn the meaning of the compassion it claims to have for LGBT people and their families.
HVA Class of 1975