The year 2020 was a very complicated year for the entire world: wildfires in the United States and Australia, contested elections in the United States and in other places, and worldwide protests against racism, all while navigating daily life amidst a global pandemic. Many of us have made it thus far, and 2021 will have its challenges as well. As I look forward to 2021, I am hopeful for vaccines and I am grateful for the increase in technology that has helped us remain connected even when in different locations.
The Connection magazine is a place for members to share their stories with other members. It’s also a place to promote useful resources for our membership, highlight events that have happened, and learn about major Kinship projects. Kinship’s theme for 2021 is“Loved and Affirmed.”
“So, you’re religious…how does that work?” The“So, you’re religious…how does that work?” The question, posed by nearly every guy who bothers to read my dating profile, used to make my eyes light up with excitement, a chance to share the good news of God’s all-embracing love. Now after years on the market, it often reads like a death sentence to an otherwise fun conversation. The complicated relationship gays have with religion is no secret —without it, you wouldn’t be reading this issue of the connection today — but a cold response to my faith has never stopped Jesus from riding shotgun in my search for a mate. He and I are a package deal. To our friends and family, we find it easy to be open about what we value, the objects of our affection, and the truths we believe in.
In many churches, this sort of proclamation is celebrated and encouraged. We are exhorted to never be ashamed of the gospel and to let our light shine before the world, while other forms of revelation are conveniently forgotten. We forego confessing our sins to each other for fear of being judged, censured, or disfellowshipped. Even in our more raw testimonies, we sanitize and scrub them of too much detail, making them suitable for children’s ears, and hopefully featuring a hallelujah-worthy happy ending. The resulting church becomes more a home for robots than the redeemed, each one going through the motions of community, all while carefully guarding significant issues of the heart.
Leo: When did you first realize your daughter was LGBTQIA+, and when did she begin telling others? What was her early coming out experience like? Interview with a mother of an LGBTQ child in Brasil
Cynthia: Well, I’ve always known she was a palette full of colors. I’m not sure about when she started telling others about her sexuality. These days kids don’t need to do a big reveal on it. They are way more open-minded, and they accept other people’s individualities. Her early coming-out moment wasn’t a big thing for me. Once she had been understood, loved, and respected in her family, she began talking about it as the natural thing that it is.
I was editor of the Connection from 2003 to 2016. I was editor of the Connection from 2003 to 2016. To say “there were joys in the work” is one of the understatements of my life. Thinking of you all recreates a gusher of appreciation.
I am immeasurably glad that, through our newsletter, I got to have contact with Kinship members and allies, church leaders, college libraries, educators, lawyers, counselors, theologians, program developers, etc. on six continents. There must have been a reader on Antarctica, at some point. I apologize that you are not coming to mind. I am glad we got to share spiritual thoughts, church joys and angst, relationship stories, coming out journeys, recipes, travel tales, news items, activity announcements, photographs, wedding tales, baby announcements, aging issues, hiking reports, HIV sadness, poetry, and health suggestions; in short, the varied stories of our community.
Here in the United States, June is Pride month. For more years than I can remember, but probably close to 20, Kinship Region 2 has participated in the D.C. Pride Parade—until last year when it was postponed because of the pandemic. Each year before that, my region has rented a large pickup truck, decorated it together, and given out candy and flyers along the parade route. Not one year has ever passed without someone with an Adventist background coming up to us, amazed that an Adventist LGBTIQ organization like Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International exists!
Many of our members also tell us that they are gratefulKinship exists. When I attended my very first Kampmeeting in 1995, I had an overwhelming feeling of belonging. I was among my people, my family; I was home. That year I met so many new friends, and I have kept those treasured relationships for all of these years since then.
Many people deal with depression that can be amplified at this time of year because of the holidays. Some people find this is their least favorite time of the year because of loneliness, anxiety, grief, medical issues, big family or social events, and other kinds of stress.
When we have partners, siblings, or other family and friends to lean on, it can be a little bit easier to handle things like these or the pressures of the season. But what about those who have been disowned by their families and churches and have nowhere to turn nor anyone to turn to?
By Helen Pearson
I was brought up at the heart of the Seventh-day Adventist community. My father was a paid and ordained minister for forty-four years. Working with equal commitment to the church, my mother was an unpaid pastor (eventually ordained as an elder). But my parents never tried to hide either their own imperfections or those of the church. They taught us to be “boundary dwellers” to look for truth everywhere —both inwards into the church and outwards into the wider and very real world. They also taught us the core Adventist value of “present truth”—the idea that new truths are revealed to the people of God at different times in history. They taught us to look for and seek to discern that truth wherever and whenever we could find it. I believe I heard some of that “present truth” last weekend at European Kinship Meeting.
By James Appel
I've been trying to figure out why a straight, cis-gender male like me is finding my spiritual home with SDA Kinship, a Seventh-day Adventist LGBT+ community. Here's what I've figured out so far after having just come back from the European Kinship Meeting at Othona Retreat Center in the southern UK:
A Week at Quest Learning Center
BY JERRY MCKAY
By the end of the first week of September 1982, I had decided to relocate to Pennsylvania for counseling. The first thing I had to do was to call Perry in Japan, because my decision would require his finding a teacher to replace me on short notice. At $3.00 per minute, our call was brief. Perry said that any inconvenience my decision might cause did not concern him. Rather, he was concerned for me. After sharing a few details about my visit with Colin, I thought I had put Perry’s reservations to rest. That was not the case. Two days later, Perry called back.
Perry feared that my life—in fact, my whole identity—would become organized around homosexuality instead of a bigger paradigm—my maleness within a Christian framework. He was concerned that by going to Reading, I would establish and reinforce my identity through a sexual framework by being with and talking to other homosexuals, day in and day out. I thought Perry’s concerns were legitimate, but my ship named “Identity” had already set sail.
Ben Pickell, Jr., passed away on November 11, 2019, in Palm Desert, California. Ben was one of the founding members of SDA Kinship Int., Inc.
Ben was a much-loved veteran of Kinship and appreciated beyond measure by all who have been touched by Kinship’s mission: To provide a safe spiritual and social community to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex current and former Seventh-day Adventists, their families, and those who support them.
Ever had a good conversation that kept you up until midnight or 2:00 a.m.? A conversation that released your story from within your soul? There’s a certain magic that takes over late-night talks—you become braver. Walls crumble. Relationships form.
I can generally count on experiencing several of these talks at Kampmeeting, or really, any time I get together with Kinship folks. Many of my friendships through Kinship are long distance. Kampmeeting is our opportunity to come together from D.C., California, New York, Canada, and even farther. So when we meet up, sleep is often forgone in favor of connection and long talks.
By Eric Marquez
This year was my first Kinship Kampmeeting experience. As a student at La Sierra University, I felt it was a great opportunity to not only explore Portland and see a new place but to be able to learn and connect so much with people. Everyone that I met was extremely friendly and always had something nice to say. For everyone to take me under their wing meant a lot. Many of the people I got a chance to talk to during Kampmeeting were always so willing to talk about almost any topic and were very open and candid in talking about them. Something I did not expect was the generational differences that there are within the LGBT community, but I was very happy to learn more about it. So many times, I have read our histories in books and online, but to be able to hear it from people that actually went through it just hits you differently.
By Jacquie Hegarty
When Reggie asked me last spring if I would do the introduction for Pastor John McLarty at Kampmeeting this year, I was more than thrilled. I had known for many years who John McLarty is—a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who is a friend and ally of Kinship members. So I felt a connection to him, more than to any other of the scheduled speakers, even though I had never met him in person.
In April, SDA Kinship Colombia celebrated its FIRST annual Kampmeeting meeting in the region of Neusa in the center of Colombia, where we met with people from different areas of the country.
The landscape of the region contributed to the success of this first Kinship Kampmeeting in Colombia because the beautiful lagoon next to the mountains reminded us that we are a part of this beautiful diverse creation of God.
A Wedding and a Vacation
BY JERRY MCKAY
On August 10, 1982, barely a week after my first weekend visit with Colin Cook, my sister and I loaded up a rented Capri station wagon and set out for Alberta where I would be a member of the wedding of a college friend. The difference between this trip and others Marilyn and I had taken together before was that she now knew about my orientation. I told her the night I returned from my first visit with Colin. Her knowing about my orientation was significant, but it didn’t mean much. Without access to my experience, how could she know what I was going through? Often during this trip, I was lost in self-reflection about my past, present, and future, all through the lens of reparative therapy.
We knew we had reached our target destination for our first day when we saw a well-known landmark, a large island – the sleeping giant of Ojibwa legend – peacefully resting off the shores of Lake Superior just east of Thunder Bay. It was a long drive, for sure, but we were experienced at marathon road trips. During childhood, many a vacation covered the same route we travelled that day. For that reason, every curve in the road and every small town was familiar. This time, as we drove past familiar places, memories of particular family interactions and orientation- related experiences emerged. The strongest memories were associated with the tiny ubiquitous self-contained cabins we stayed in as a family.
Colombia is a South American country with a diversity of regions and beautiful landscapes. This diversity is also observed in its people, both in ethnic and sexual diversity.
Three years ago, we formed the Kinship group which was organized with a small group in Bogotá; today we already have two more groups in the city of Medellin and Cartagena, with a total of almost 50 members distributed throughout the territory.
Life is unfolding like a dream for graduate student, Marc LaChance. In his final year at university, student housing pairs him with Howard Hildebrandt. Howard is built like a linebacker, Marc’s dream of what a real man should look like. He discovers that Howard shares his minority affectional orientation, and the two men become lovers.
Looking forward to graduation, they plan to escape Winnipeg’s cold, prairie winters by moving to Vancouver, British Columbia. They imagine their life on the Pacific coast: a house with an ocean view, winter weekends skiing Grouse Mountain, and summers sailing the Salish Sea.
At spring reading break, they make an exploratory trip to Vancouver. Marc obtains an interview with a suburban school district and is promised a teaching position in September. If Howard can land an engineering job on the coast, their dream will be realized.
Marc’s happiness is shattered when Howard tramples their dream into the prairie dust by accepting an engineering position in Winnipeg. His conservative religious upbringing tells him that men who love men will burn in hellfire forever. The guilt over his relationship with Marc is making him sick. He has no choice but to break it off.
DISCLAIMER: The material in this chapter deals with sensitive issues with respect to the author's experience when he was in counseling with Mr. Cook. Some may find this section upsetting. At the same time, the author would like to stress that these events were in 1982 and that a lot of time has passed since then. The author has a long history with Mr. Cook. Over the last couple of years, he has been in contact with Mr. Cook about these incidents. This, however, is for a later chapter.
LONG BEACH PRIDE IS ONE OF THE LARGEST PRIDE EVENTS IN THE COUNTRY.
We know that there are many people with a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) connection who are part of the LGBT+ community, are LGBT+ affirming, and support equality on all facets of life.
We are hopeful this will be the largest public demonstration of love, acceptance, and affirmation of all LGBT+ people with an Adventist connection. We encourage all attendees to wear or display Pride symbols/flags and clothing that proudly links you to an Adventist community like an Adventist university, church, or linked organization like disaster relief groups, veggie foods—whatever screams.
This Year, We’d Like to Do This
East-Central Africa Division (Kenya and Uganda, specifically) are open to receiving education on HIV/AIDS and learning about what it means to be an LGBTQ Adventist. Funds are needed to organize these meetings with the local pastors and Seventh-day Adventist conference officials to provide these resources.
An easily accessible online self-study program designed for pastors, teachers, and church leaders to help them understand what it means to be LGBTQ and to create a safe environment for those who identify as such. This program would contain several modules, including stories, videos, presentations, etc. to cover the various aspects of being an LGBTQIA Adventist.
But, Not Without Your Help
So, we’re calling on you to step up, dig deep, and pitch in whatever you can to help us share our journeys and reach out to those who need to be educated on what it truly means to be LGBTIQ and Adventist, and those who need to know they are not alone.
Can we count on you? Please consider supporting our continued efforts on April 19 by making a donation at sdakinship.org/give
First Visit with Colin
BY JERRY MCKAY
Once I named my experience—acknowledged my homosexual orientation—a predictable side effect emerged. I found myself wanting to meet others with a similar experience. The only way I knew of doing that was through an ad on the back page of The Japan Times.
Among the ads for apartments, language teachers, and cheap flights to the U.S., was the bi-weekly one-sentence notice for a gathering of gay men. The ad I had purposely ignored over the years was now my portal to meeting people like myself. I called from the language school, but only when it was deserted. The conversation was short. All I needed was the time and location of the gathering.
Kinship Kampmeeting 2018 is July 11-14 and our Women & Children First Retreat is July 6-11 in Baltimore, Maryland, United States!
Kampmeeting takes place at the Homewood Suites at BWI and our Women & Children First Retreat takes place July 6-11 at a place near downtown Baltimore, Maryland, United States.
September 6-10 in Vienna
SDA Kinship’s annual European Kinship Meeting (EKM) takes place September 6-10 in Vienna, Austria, a city famous for its cultural events, imperial sights, coffee houses, cozy wine taverns, and the very special Viennese charm.
The location for EKM is Don Bosco Haus, a Center of Continuing Education that has comfortable places to sleep, food for vegetarians and meat eaters, a very nice meeting room for our gatherings, and very calm surroundings.
When I think about what you might want to hear about each month, I think about the events Kinship leaders have organized, the updated website, the projects that are important for our mission and the amazing things happening in Africa and elsewhere around the world where Kinship members are making a difference for our community. I also want to share things that offer support and encouragement.
What’s on my mind at this moment is our annual Kinship elections. Each year, we search for members who feel a desire or call to contribute to Kinship by running for one of the open positions.