Chère famille Kinship dans le monde entier !
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 grateful Kinship 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.
I’ve been thinking recently about just what Kinship means to its members. What does Kinship do, and who benefits from Kinship’s existence? In fact, it made me think about what it would be like to do a Kinship version of It’s A Wonderful Life (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/).
Strategic planning for any organization can be daunting, but it’s a necessary thing for the growth and health of that organization. In past strategic planning sessions for Kinship, we’ve talked about how much an all-volunteer organization can do, how we can encourage more members to be involved and to lead, what our goals are regarding the Adventist denomination, and what our goals are regarding our members and their needs.
When so many people around the world had such an atrocious 2020, it’s a bit daunting to come up with an inspiring New Year’s message for my Kinship family. Not one place on this globe has been unaffected by the pandemic, much less the all-too-common bigotry and hate. The last year makes us wonder and think of the song, “Where is the Love?” by the Black-Eyed Peas. Listen to the song here. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpYeekQkAdc&ab_channel=BlackEyedPeasVEVO] To read the lyrics, click on this link. [https://genius.com/Black-eyed-peas-where-is-the-love-lyrics]
But now that 2021 has arrived for all of us, I’m again hopeful for the future. The production of the coronavirus vaccines gives me hope that if we all do our part by receiving the vaccination when it’s available, and also by continuing to wear masks, socially distance, and wash our hands, we will finally be able to see each other, meet together and, as Kinship is very well known for, hug each other again!
October has quickly slipped away and November is upon us. Here, in America, one of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. I enjoy it because it’s one holiday when we count our blessings. Of course, as I think about it, it feels sacrilegious to celebrate Thanksgiving. I’ve come to think of Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day. And it’s hard to think of Thanksgiving without realizing I was taught that it celebrates people who survived in a new land only to take that land away from the people who were here first, Native Americans. I don’t have the power to correct anything in our past. But what I do have the power to do is to live in a way that supports good in the world today. I believe my faith calls me to do that.
La perte de la juge Ruth Bader Ginsberg a rendu ces dernières semaines difficiles, pas seulement pour les femmes des États-Unis, mais pour nous tous. La juge Ginsberg constituait une présence extrêmement consciente et intelligente à la Cour suprême qui a permis de renforcer les droits civils des femmes aux États-Unis, de promouvoir l'égalité des hommes et des femmes ainsi que de se comporter avec grâce et détermination au sein de la plus haute juridiction du pays. Son héritage perdurera en dépit d'un effort concerté pour saper ses efforts. Je suis reconnaissant de ce qu'elle a fait pour les femmes et, en tant que femme non mariée à un homme, je ne serais pas devenu autonome en tant que propriétaire d'une maison et d'une entreprise grâce à son travail d'avocat des droits civils et de magistrat à la Cour suprême.
For me, the last few months have been a hard grind. As a caregiver, I hear lots of folks asking when we’ll ever get back to normal, whatever normal is! And I’m not sure. But it would be overwhelming to focus only on what’s been challenging. So, instead, I thought I’d share just a few of the things that have brought me some amazing moments of joy since you last heard from me.
When 2020 began, who could have ever imagined just where we’d be by July? With the global pandemic, our lives have taken quite a turn. While the effects of COVID-19 have been horrific all around the world, the infection rate has worsened in my country. Without clear and decisive leadership using actual science and making sure every citizen has access to personal protective equipment and accurate testing, there is very little chance that the infection rate will slow down any time soon.
On top of that, some police officers have felt empowered to use their authority to oppress, harass, and kill Black and Brown people. When four police officers killed George Floyd, it was only one of the latest cases to inspire a global movement for racial justice. But it’s not just police officers who feel they have the right to detain, harm, or kill people. A White father and son team shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery and were filmed by a friend doing it. Ahmaud was jogging while Black. Thank God they are all being charged with murder. Protests for justice, for George, Ahmaud, Breonna, Tony, and so many others are still happening every day in major cities across America and around the world! This feels like a real moment for change. I pray that it is.
These last several months in the United States where I live have been extremely stressful for everyone. Quarantining has brought out the best in some people and the worst in many. Incidents of domestic violence have increased significantly as most people have been asked to stay at home. And not only have millions of people lost their jobs, but the number of people who’ve died from COVID-19 in my country has surpassed 100,500.
If the coronavirus outbreak wasn’t hard enough, the most recent attacks against our Black siblings, including Tony McDade, a trans man in Florida, have just been heartbreaking. We must all do our part to stand against racism and hatred every time we see it. It’s way past time for it to end.
Many Americans are focused on the upcoming presidential election and local elections to be held in November. It seems that with the pandemic situation, many states are working towards holding fair elections. There are also some states that are purging folks from the voter rolls, closing many polling places, and making voting harder in order to influence the outcome of the elections.
As February comes to a close and March has arrived, it’s time for our scheduled Kinship Board of Directors' meeting. All officers, directors and leadership staff come together to discuss what Kinship has been doing since the last board meeting, make plans for future events and programs, discuss ways to keep our members more engaged and connected, and find ways to meet the needs of our members. We also discuss the finances of the organization and ways to fund the programs and events we have planned for 2020.
It can be a daunting task as we come together and go through the prepared agenda. Historically, we’ve traveled to meet face to face. That, in itself, is a costly endeavor. And although it is by far the most effective way to go through our agenda and for various committees to meet together, it’s not always possible for many of our board members to do. If most of our board are unable to travel since everyone’s schedules need to align, we move to have a virtual board meeting. And that is how this upcoming board meeting will happen.
We just had a special election to fill the seat of recently deceased Congressman Elijah Cummings here in my county in Maryland. I took my one Democratic resident and myself up to the local elementary school to vote. It is such an important thing for all of us to do so that we all have a say as to how our county, our state, or our country is run. If we don’t vote, I don’t think it’s our right to complain. The only way things get changed is if we are willing to step up to help make the changes we want to see.
That’s also the way I feel about Kinship. It’s easy to comment on the things we don’t like about Kinship; but I feel that if we don’t like something about the way Kinship is going or being run, then we have a right to step up to help make the changes we want to see. One way to do that is to run for an open position during our elections in July each year. Another way is to lead a project or make suggestions for great projects you’d like to see Kinship undertake. Maybe volunteer in your local group, region, or chapter. If you have certain skill sets that you would be willing to share, donate some of your time to Kinship. If you have the ability, donate towards a project or Kampmeeting scholarships or to our general fund to help Kinship continue to grow.
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?
In July, SDA Kinship held its 40th annual Kinship Kampmeeting. It’s always a fantastic time to meet new folks, visit with those we see just this one time a year, and if we are lucky, reconnect with those who’ve not attended in many years too. I started thinking about what it is that keeps folks coming back each year and staying active in Kinship. What makes our members drift away or even leave under less than favorable circumstances?
I came into Kinship at a time when I was coming to terms with my sexuality and my spirituality. I accepted my orientation as well as the fact that I was loved by God just as I am. And I have stayed active in this community ever since.
In two weeks, we will gather near Portland, Oregon, for SDA Kinship’s 40th annual Kampmeeting! It is absolutely fantastic that Kinship has survived and grown into this amazing community of members from all around the world! And it started with just a few folks who wanted to connect with other gay and lesbian members from a Seventh-day Adventist background. Today we are many folks connecting with other LGBTIQ folks who are current or former Seventh-day Adventists or allies.
My very first Kampmeeting that I attended in 1995 was in Oregon. I remember vividly flying over all those beautiful evergreens as the plane approached Portland’s airport, feeling both excited and nervous to be flying somewhere I’d never been before and didn’t know a soul. John Wieland and Sherri Babcock picked me up from the airport. They were great people to send to help make a new member feel comfortable.
This past week has been a particularly difficult one for Kinship members in the United States and Kenya.
In the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system. It has only just moved on to the U.S. Senate, yet the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the North American Division have already cosigned a statement condemning it.
I imagine many of you watched the Oscars the other night. Some viewers were interested in what the stars wore while others hoped that their favorite movie won Best Picture or their favorite artist won Best Actor. There are so many categories at these award shows that there’s something for everyone to root for.
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.
A few days ago, the SDA Kinship leadership team met in Baltimore, Maryland, for our annual Spring Board Meeting where we spent a lot of time working on new initiatives to build a better tomorrow for our members and allies. You’ll get more details about these initiatives in the coming weeks.
Our mission at SDA Kinship is to provide a safe spiritual and social community to LGBTIQ current and former Seventh-day Adventists, their families, and those who support them, and we would want you to be part of our community.