Encontro Europeu de Kinship
Adventists from the LGBTQIA+ spectrum met in Aeschiried
Spiez/Switzerland | 09.09.2022 | APD | Switzerland
From September 1-5, more than 60 people who are or were Adventist Christians and belong to the LGBTQIA+ spectrum met in Aeschiried, in the Bernese Oberland. This included friends, family, and supporters. The 21st European SDA Kinship Meeting took place this year, for the first time, in Switzerland. The participants came mainly from German-speaking and other European countries, but also from the USA, Venezuela, and Colombia.
The annual meeting was organized by "Seventh-day-Adventist Kinship Europe", a private organization that has been actively supporting queer people in the Adventist Church, former church members and their families for decades. The meeting was supported by treff21, the regional Adventist church in Heimberg, which has been a Kinship partner church since 2021, and by the German chapter of SDA Kinship Intl.
«Come, take a deep breath!»
The long weekend was themed “Come, take a deep breath!” The visitors awaited an "inspiring and varied program", said Christian Alt, one of the organizers told APD. The time spent meeting other LGBTQIA+ people and supporting friends was central. Conversely, this weekend gave heterosexual church members the opportunity to meet many queer people in person and ask them questions.
Friday's presentations were themed under the motto "Breathe deeply - overcome depression - let wounds heal - take hold of your life".
Significantly higher suicide rate
The medical doctor and theologian Dr. Ruedi Brodbeck spoke about concrete and practical ways of overcoming depression. He referred to the great value of the twelve natural principles for holistic health, as summarized in the NewstartPlus® concept. Particular attention was also given to the topic of forgiveness as a key element for spiritual healing. People from the LGBT spectrum have a roughly five times higher risk of mental illness and a correspondingly significantly higher suicide rate. The vast majority are victims of discrimination and exclusion, usually in their own families and churches.
Barbara Witzig, MA in practical theology, held a morning service and then presented two research papers entitled "Pastoral care for LGBTQIA+ people - basics and ethical considerations" that she had submitted as part of her theology studies.
Worship service in the Reformed Church in Kirchenthurnen
On Saturday, a service was held in the Reformed Church in Kirchenthurnen/BE, to which the organizers of the Kinship weekend had invited friends and guests. Afterward, everyone had lunch together on a nearby farm, a so-called “potluck”, followed by a baptism ceremony.
The day was rounded off in the "Z Aeschiried" conference center with a fireplace interview. Daniel Zwiker MA, psychotherapist ASP, and theologian MA, presented information about his experiences with queer people and encouraged those present to follow their path in life, which is often filled with special challenges, with self-confidence.
On Sunday, the attendees could choose from four different excursion programs in order to get to know the country and its people better in beautiful late summer weather.
In the feedback round at the end of the conference, participants expressed what Kinship and this weekend mean to them. A guest from the USA emphasized that, in addition to the good organization, he particularly appreciated the warm hospitality of the local SDA church community: "It was a fantastic experience, especially because so many people, including Adventist pastors, were there to support us. I've rarely seen anything like that." One participant quoted Axel Kühner's well-known saying: "You cannot fall lower than in God's hands", and confessed: "In the difficult times of my life, Kinship became part of this hand of God for me". Ruud Kieboom, Head of SDA-Kinship Europe, concluded the conference: "We are overwhelmed by the unexpected growth of the group and want to remain an open and learning community".
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International
SDA-Kinship is a private support organization for current and former Seventh-day Adventists from the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It was founded in the USA in 1981 with the aim of providing a safe, spiritual and social community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, and intersex people and their families. Today it has around 4,500 members in over 60 countries.
The President of SDA Kinship International, Floyd Pönitz, wishes for more direct dialogue with Adventist Church leaders in the future. He emphasizes that the time is ripe no longer to talk about but with those who are LGBTQIA+. He made it clear: “The biggest challenge for SDA Kinship is awareness of our existence in our own SDA community. Even after more than 40 years of existence, very few Adventists know that Kinship even exists. We are unfortunately one of the best-kept secrets of the Adventist Church. Anyone who comes out, and publicly stands by their sexual orientation or gender identity, still experiences exclusion and rejection from their own church community. Many therefore leave the church and unfortunately often also leave God. That must stop. SDA Kinship strives not only to create a safe environment where members are heard and understood but also to educate church leaders about what it really means to be LGBTQIA+/queer.”
Adventist Church Leadership and SDA Kinship
According to Christian Alt, the Adventist world church leadership, as well as many pastors and church members, are critical of or even opposed to SDA Kinship because the organization takes an affirmative (affirming) stance towards queer people and their orientation or identity and also advocates for same-sex partnerships, encouraging them to be designed according to the biblical principles of marriage. Kinship interprets this to mean a monogamous, committed, and exclusive relationship based on love and faithfulness.
Link to the Adventist World Church leadership statement on homosexuality, just one aspect of the LGBTQIA+ acronym. There are currently no statements on the other letters of the acronym.