(This article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Connection)
At the General Conference Session
Our ten days in Atlanta for the General Conference Session were packed. We arrived at the Exhibit Hall in the morning, took one break during the day, and left the Exhibit Hall when it closed at 7 PM. From there we either went to a service in the Dome or to a dinner meeting. I attended meetings with Union College Alumni, Andrews University Alumni, Kinship, SGA film project, and Spectrum.
Our survey had nine questions that focused on issues facing the church. All the questions had Yes or No answers, but lots of people wanted to discuss other possibilities which gave us good conversations. In the end, Floyd, Carrol Grady, Carol Toay, and I did over 1000 surveys. The two questions that focused on homosexuality are probably of the most interest to this group: "Should homosexuals be allowed to have church membership?" and "Do you have a friend or relative who is LGBTI?" For the first question we had 53% say Yes and 45% say No. We defined homosexuals as all homosexuals, both practicing and non-practicing; so the percent would have been much higher if we had only included those who by the church definition of celibacy were allowed to have membership. The second question showed 63% having homosexual friends or relatives versus 37% who don't. For most of the week, the percentage of those who said No on the first question was within 3% of those who did not have a homosexual friend or relative. It helps to show the importance of being open about our sexual orientation at the church. It was interesting to note, as we began analyzing the data, that 25% of those who have a family member or close friend who is gay don't believe they should have church membership. We hope to have a full analysis available soon.
I had the opportunity to speak personally with every college/university president in the North American Division about the possibility of starting a Safe Place program on their campus. There was unanimous interest in the program. “Safe Places” would allow students to talk with a faculty member about their orientation or other personal issue without fear of being kicked out of school. Between now and the November meeting of the Council of Presidents, I will be preparing an outline for them to approve during the next month, and then a full manual and webinar outline for them to review at their November meeting. If it is approved, it will be implemented in all the colleges and universities at the same time across the country. Put this one on your prayer list and positive thoughts page each day. This obviously took lots of time, but it was very fulfilling to accomplish.
We sold or gave away to key leaders 24 copies of the book, Christianity and Homosexuality, plus nearly a hundred DVDs of the video Open Hearts and dozens of copies of the booklet “Eden's Gifts” and the leaflet, “Homosexuality: Can we Talk about It?”
It was truly an amazing 10 days meeting thousands of people.