“A Sanctuary for Conversation”
“A Sanctuary for Conversation”
by Montell Snyder (ghost written by S.L. Washburn)
This last Saturday I had the privilege of attending a workshop called “A Sanctuary for Conversation—Listening, Loving, Learning: Authentic dialogue about LGBT+ people in the Adventist Church.” The workshop was held at the Berkeley Seventh-day Adventist Church. The purpose of the workshop was to “create safe spaces for positive, healing, informed, authentic conversation.” According to the organizer’s website, Open Dialogue Resources, this is the third time this material has been presented. The main presenter was Chris Blake, who has been an editor for Insight Magazine and who currently teaches communications at Union College.
Overall, this workshop was one of the best I’ve seen presented in an Adventist church. It opened with a very useful discussion on how to listen productively. Chris Blake described the different types of non-listening and talked about ways to listen better. The workshop covered several topics, including the exodus of young Christians because of the Church’s unloving stance on homosexuality, the destructiveness of impossible “Change Ministries,” and the Church’s position on orientation.
The best parts of the workshop were the interviews of several LGBT people, and a few parents of LGBT children. Attendees not only listened to these people’s stories but asked what it felt like to live through them. One of the parents broke down as she answered questions. I felt like the emotion was real. I felt like it was honest. I felt like it was authentic. I felt a lot of compassion, a lot of empathy coming from the audience for the interviewees. A lot of the interviewees expressed a lot of hope for the future. They knew they were different but also felt they were normal human beings.
I left the workshop feeling like there was hope for an Adventist church which is honest and open to all its children. I highly encourage you to attend one if you ever have the chance. I only had one issue with the presentation: The Church's position that sexual orientation is not itself a sin, but gay people must be celibate was explained before there was any discussion of the dangers of a single sided story. As an LGB person myself, it was very hard to listen to the same arguments that we’ve heard so many times, before there was a chance to hear other LGBT voices. I am very glad that LGBT Adventists who do believe in loving gay and lesbian relationships were allowed to speak. I only wish that those voices came a little earlier in the presentation. Luckily, I hear that the organizers are going to move those alternate viewpoints up to make it easier for LGBT attendees to sit through the entire presentation.
“A Sanctuary for Conversation” was certainly different than most Adventist workshops on LGBT+ issues. It included multiple viewpoints and created a loving space for honest discussion. I felt like everyone present, gay and straight alike, left better than they came. I highly encourage you to visit OpenDialogueResources.org and request a workshop in your area or offer to host one if you have the means.
A growing, changing brother in Christ,
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