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Why I almost quit the church this week (and why I stayed)

In light of the recent actions taken by our Church leaders at the General Conference, regarding LGBTI members and disfellowship as well as the bizarre demise of the critically-acclaimed 'The Record Keeper' series, it is hard to find much to be happy about. However, take courage and check out this message from our friend Daneen at Seventh-Gay Adventists. She says, "the real change always happens from the ground up (or pew up)--and that is already happening." 
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Dear friends,

I started writing this as my resignation-from-being-an-official-Adventist letter. The news this week from the headquarters of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists upset me that deeply.

The Hard News

In case you missed the last newsletter and the online updates, in brief, the corporate church passed a new guideline that says it is "inconsistent" to allow the vast majority of LGBT people to either become or stay members of the church. The new guideline was passed without any committee review, no questions asked, only 19 minutes of presentation by the authors, and right before the adjournment of the meetings when only 80 of the 200 delegates were still present.

While this is largely a symbolic measure because membership has been and remains a local church prerogative (prescient move, founders!), and while I also realize that in the big picture this is a sign of the institution feeling fearful around this topic and trying to mandate uniformity (which actually means the message of stepping into unconditional love even if we don't all entirely agree is actually being felt even in Silver Spring), I still know the message that it sent. My inbox and FB page were deluged with messages of pain, sorrow, anger, and a greater sense of marginalization. And many people asked "Why?" It's not as if there's a question about the church's official position now, so why single out a marginalized group for further marginalization? It felt like the very last thing Jesus meant when He said we were to be known by our love. (Several lawyer friends pointed out that its probably really about legal logistics trying to keep hiring/firing rights as the cultural and legal shifts around marriage equality are happening very quickly...still, it felt very much like policy and politics over people.)

I was very, very close to writing to ask my name to officially be removed from official membership. But I decided not to for three reasons:

1st: To ask my name to be removed over the less-than-above-board process and vote by 80 church administrators gives them too much power. The church is the people. And the people are diverse, and beautiful in that diversity.

2nd: The actual church where my membership currently resides is actually a fantastic church where I know all people are genuinely welcome to be members and participate in the life of the church. It's not my weekly church, as I no longer live nearby, but it's a sanctuary in the best sense of the world. I am glad to have my name on their books. And, ultimately, as I said above, membership is a local issue, and many more churches are taking quite important steps to be sanctuaries and houses of prayer for ALL people. I want to support those who are doing that hard and important work.

3rd: The very fact that the institutional church feels like it has to mandate uniformity around this topic means that the long-held assumptions and attitudes are changing. In the big view, this is a sign of progress. I want to be careful here, because I always want to emphasize that I actually do not believe that everyone in the church has to agree theologically around this topic (just as we don't around many other significant topics). But we can stop obsessing about bedrooms and step into unconditional love and getting back to being the hands and feet of God in the world.

I won't pretend that I didn't lose some love for my family's church of five generations this week. It was a brutal week for those of us who have been in the trenches trying to work for love and listening. But I'm not going to let a symbolic vote in Silver Spring be that powerful. The real change always happens from the ground up (or pew up)--and that is already happening.

AU Preso poster

Poster for upcoming LGBT listening space at Andrews University.

The Encouraging News

I'll close with some really encouraging news. On the same day as this vote, the Andrews University student paper did something historic and quite special. It dedicated an entire issue to LGBTQ student voices and supporting articles. Andrews is the location of the Adventist Theological Seminary, and is sponsored by the General Conference. In this sense it is often regarded as the flagship Adventist institution of higher education. Their willingness to address this issue so openly and straightforwardly should help more fearful Adventist institutions start addressing the issue openly in various ways too.

The editorial by Melodie Roschman is one of the most beautiful and powerful pieces I've ever read. It's in the link with the entire issue, but you can also read it extracted here. Please do yourself a favor and read the entire piece. It's truth. It's vulnerability in the face of a complex topic. It's listening to the people in her life who matter. And it's the voice of the future leadership--one that gives me so much hope!

And, next weekend (April 19th), there will be an official program shared by the student life team at Andrews where LGBT students will be able to simply share their stories.

At long last, it appears that the LGBT members of the church aren't just being spoken "at" or "about" but also "with." That's going to be the key to moving forward together in positive ways, regardless of theological differences. We must listen. We must enter those "with" spaces.

I'll close with a great comment someone left on our Facebook page:

"What could bring about change, even if we don't all agree? Well, for start, a spirit of humility that says 'I don't understand, but I could be wrong.' A spirit of hospitality that says 'Enough about me--who haven't we heard from?' A spirit of mutuality that says 'How might I see Jesus in you, my LGBT neighbor?'. A spirit of Justice that says 'When I diminish you, I diminish myself.'"

Thanks again for all that you do. I hope you know that this community is entirely responsible for the awareness, bridge-building, and advocacy we are able to do. Thank you for your continued support.

Much love and gratitude,

Seventh-Gay Adventists 

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