Adventist Chaplain Terry Rice Waits “Indefinitely” for Church Endorsement


(Spectrumbot) #1

Terry Rice, hospice chaplain in Walla Walla, Washington, finds his career on hold because the Adventist church has so far refused to acknowledge his calling through ordination.

Question: You are a chaplain for a hospice in Walla Walla, Washington. How long have you been working as a chaplain?

Answer: I’ve been a healthcare chaplain since 2008 and before that a Chaplain/Bible Teacher in Seventh-day Adventist academies. A chaplain is a pastor that ministers in a community impacted by a non-congregational institution.

After I “came out” as gay, I moved from the educational setting to the health care setting where I minister to hospice patients, their families, and our own staff as they desire.

When someone comes on hospice they are given a prognosis of six months or less to live. A hospice team providing comfort can include a nurse, NAC [certified nursing assistant], social worker, chaplain, and volunteers if desired.

What does your job entail? What does a typical day look like for you?

While the hospice is a non-faith-based nonprofit, spiritual support is highly valued in our community. Thus I am one of two full-time chaplains who travel to farms, log cabins, assisted living centers, and the state penitentiary in our counties of northeast Oregon and southeast Washington state. I empathize with patients/families and administer spiritual practices congruent with their faith as they engage in soon-coming death. I serve the bereaved in many grief groups we offer, or through funerals when there is no reference to a pastor.

Baptisms, communion, prayer, scripture reading, and guided meditation, are among the many rituals I might be asked to perform for such a diverse religious population.

Were you a theology major?

I graduated with a BA in Religious Education from Southern Adventist University to become an academy chaplain. After teaching for a couple of years, I took a year to train as a literature evangelist in Florida, in a program called SOULS (east) at that time.

Right after that, I trained at Andrews University in the seminary, graduating with a Master of Divinity. Then I returned to teaching religion at our academies.

Throughout this training I served in Beijing, China as a student missionary and Taipei, Taiwan in the founding teaching team and summer camp director for what is now Primacy Preparatory Academy.

How did you decide to become a chaplain?

I had a heart for spirituality at an early age. But it was after talking to Chinese students desiring Bible studies in Beijing that I followed my heart for learning and sharing wonderful things about God.

Have you belonged to the Adventist church all your life? What was your upbringing like?

I was born into a missionary heritage, where my grandfather was president of Spicer Memorial College in India, and together with my grandmother started a community service center in Cooranbong, Australia. My oldest brother was born while my parents were serving in Papua New Guinea. And I grew up within this culture while my father was a professor at what is now Southern Adventist University. I am an Adventist to the core! Growing up near the colleges, my upbringing was a collegiate-style Adventism.

Does the hospice you work for require that you be endorsed by your church?

I’m glad they haven’t as it would have caused more stress in the matter.

But my employer does assume that we chaplains do what it takes to grow professionally. And the Association of Professional Chaplains requires that I have endorsement by the national agency of a denomination before I engage with the committees that lead to Board Certification. Being board certified puts me in an inter-faith network of chaplains to collaborate and explore best practices and accountability to a code of ethics, and continuing education.

As a pastor, acknowledgment of my calling through ordination (within a denomination) would also be my next step.

I understand that the North American Division refuses to permit Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries to endorse you because you are gay. What have they told you about their decision and the reasons behind it?

Last August, I went to support my chaplain colleague, Jaci Cress, being ordained (commissioned) at an Adventist hospital in town. The North American Division team performing the service took me aside. They told me that my “endorsement is in process.” When I asked for how long, the answer was “Indefinitely.” And that I “have no choice but to wait.”

During the service, the NAD team called all pastors to come to the front to lay hands on Jaci Cress.

“Why aren’t you going up there? Aren’t you ordained?” a social counselor sitting next to me asked. “I’m ordained by Jesus Christ,” I said.

But when the NAD team prayerfully laid hands on my colleague, she asked for me to come to the front with the other local pastors to join in the laying on of hands.

"It was the right thing to do," Jaci told me later when I asked her why she had made a point of my participation.

The wait for endorsement has required a lot of patience on my part, since I fulfilled my requirements many years ago.

My experience with Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries has been very supportive until I reached the committee that includes pastors of other NAD entities.

The chaplains who head up Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries have spent years serving the general non-Adventist population and some have an awareness of the social injustice gay people face. Their experiences of gay Christians in the military is well informed.

But I can imagine communicating this viewpoint is very difficult to those whose perspective on LGTBQ people is informed solely by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I really feel for them as they try to find the “right moment” where a committee of well-informed pastors see my being gay as a non-issue to the hospice community I serve. This moment never seems to come. I wonder if they are worried that I am believing the strong faith of the loving, committed, same-sex Adventists that I see God bless. I wonder if they are puzzled that one can be called to celibacy and still be unashamedly gay. Whatever their reasons, they don’t understand that waiting prolongs a climate of oppressive injustice for me.

Is there any chance that the Division could change its mind and decide to allow you to be endorsed? Is there a specific person or committee that is responsible for the decision?

Apparently a committee chair noticed my name and removed it before the committee could vote on it. Unfortunately devoted, godly men with good intentions are taking action to keep the church “pure” from people like me.

But the only person feeling this action is me. Some sort of accountability must be introduced in the NAD to make sure well-trained chaplains are not dismissed without discussion. Messing with the ordination/endorsement process should put their own ordination status at risk. But I see no accountability here, nor any real communication. I am told by both retired/current Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries members that people don’t want to vote against the person stonewalling me, as he has lots of political influence in the NAD. And my career is stuck in this political game “indefinitely.”

After four years of keeping this issue silent, last year I started to get vocal. Realizing my chance to voice this, I was flown out to the General Conference in Silver Spring this year to answer questions about my being gay and Adventist.

Still today, ACM has not voted on my name “yay” or “nay” nor made recommendations as they promised me. If I’m at fault for misunderstanding, I’m sorry. But no one is continually clarifying with me anymore.

Whenever I am discriminated against by my church, this pattern of silence always happens.

Thank God this is a non-issue at my hospice, and there any hold-up based on one’s sexual orientation is seen as a case of discrimination, upheld by law.

But in religion, people can discriminate. I take responsibility for putting myself at risk to stay Adventist. I know my beliefs are more affirming. I realize this can be a scary issue for people who feel they must protect the church from “condoning sin.” I sin; we all do from time to time, regrettably. My question is: Where have I sinned on this matter? What does this have to do with hospice ministry?

I wonder if they aren’t happy simply because I am not ashamed of being gay.

How does the lack of endorsement affect you professionally?

As I said, it holds me back from networking with other colleagues in the Association of Professional Chaplains. And I think my hospice deserves a chaplain who is ordained after so many years.

How does it affect you personally?

When you’ve dedicated yourself to the church you love, and see yourself as nothing other than a Seventh-day Adventist; when this church puts you “in process” with no reassuring guarantees because of your sexual orientation — I feel very dehumanized. I start to question my own abilities. I feel less confident. My tendency is to beg for affirmation, until I discover my best affirmation is found in Jesus who created me utterly amazing.

I can’t expect them to understand, let alone advocate. You see, I’ve been in this position waiting many times — most frequently when I am dealing with the Seventh-day Adventist church. The whole experience is really gut-wrenching. Must I choose another denomination, even though I feel so connected to Adventism? Being gay and Adventist is who I am.

Would you consider leaving the church? Or your job? What are your plans? Why do you stay?

We all are making choices. The church is making a choice to not do anything and stay silent. And this means “Go away." It took me six years to learn this.

Even if I believed the best and I got a “Yes,” would I want this kind of endorsement backing my hospice ministry? I’m here on this earth to serve the Lord and minister. I love my church, but I love my Lord more. I love what He calls me to do more. If this means leaving my church to do His will, I will do it.

Interacting with thousands of patients of other religions tells me that God is very alive and present out there. Right now I’m told by pastors of another long-standing denomination that they’ll not only consider ordaining my hospice ministry, but also ordaining me to the people I serve in the Adventist church, having a dual identity with them.

And there is some friendly competition between pastors of local congregations Sweet Life Church and First Congregational Church about which of them might back my hospice ministry. I love their grace toward my Adventist beliefs and being gay. Both say that joining their denomination doesn’t mean I must leave the Adventist church, unless a local Adventist church enforces a narrow membership policy on me. That would be their choice — not mine — and I’ll respect that.

How and when do you think the church's attitude toward gay members might change?

It will never change in my lifetime, if we keep a need for a global consensus to bless what we say and do locally. In North America it has changed for the better over the years, where a few more Adventist churches are becoming not only welcoming but also affirming.

What is there about the Adventist church that makes you feel hopeful?

I know of many Adventist pastors who tell me privately that my orientation is a beautiful expression of God’s diverse creation. It starts with humbly learning God’s love and realizing “sola scriptura” doesn’t mean “sola hermeneutics.”

We Adventists also have an imperfect social justice history that has eventually sided in favor of inclusion. Our expression of Christianity is different enough for many progressives to remain in the church to some degree. Also, millennials teach us that sometimes we need not leave one tribe for another. So long as one Christ-serving tribe fills the soul with strength, we can identify with many and make a difference everywhere.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7738

(Steve Mga) #2

The way I see it, IF another group will Endorse Terry and allow him to maintain his SDA beliefs, it would seem to me to be sensible to go this direction.
I have been enjoying the friendship of a local Episcopalian church [I sing in their choir and have played the organ for service 4 times recently] for about 10 years.
We say the Nicene Creed every Service. It is actually a way of repeating MY OWN Adventist Baptismal Beliefs every Sunday. I find ALL of my Adventist Beliefs located in the Nicene Creed.
We have a fount with water near the worship place door. I can take my fingers and place water on my forehead as a baptism renewal each Sunday.
I am still active in the Adventist church. Have played the organ for almost 12 years there. Actually, the current organ is one I owned and donated several years ago to replace a smaller one.
Just because one finds Fellowship with Non-SDA Christians and finds they value you as one of THEIR members, only means that BELIEVING ALLOWS one to Embrace all in Christ.

Religion is based on Doctrines. Ideas and opinions about God. Its Behaviors are based on Rules and Programs with specific goals that Guarantee certain Results. Members belong because of family belonged, status, or choice. And, Members submit to the Authority of others.

When one moves to a Spirituality of conviction. Understanding of God through encounters in the context of life experience. Practices instead of Rules that draw a person into crafting a way of life. The Asking of – WHAT are we going to do? Discernment NOT Order in finding answers to questions. No focusing on a list of do’s and dont’s that fail to connect to the questions of existence today. NOT finding rules and techniques that apply. But the allowance of the imagination to engage the “What are we going to do?” question. And be OK to do this within a local community of believers. However that Local Community is formed.

I would venture to say that Terry has already crossed the bridge from just being Religious to that of being BOTH Religious AND Spiritual. And this journey has allowed Terry to be what he is now — Terry.
[actually, I have heard about Terry now for several years, and he was always spoken well of by those who I know that know him. I wish him well in his Vocation as a TRUE Disciple of Jesus Christ, not just a follower.]

EDIT [11/19]-- Thanks for your reply. No, one does not need to “give up” Adventism. I don’t plan to either. BUT I have been blessed by the embrace of others who have welcomed me into their Communities as one of them, with all the “rights and privileges” a lay person can have. Even enjoying participation in Community Outreach functions. [feeding the homeless, my 7th year in a Tuesday Tutoring program including being the bus driver, member of several committees]
Bless you as you explore friendships. I worked 2 yrs as a Home Health Nurse and we did hospice care. When one of our clients was in the process of dying from cancer, we all went to the home to be with the client and family. Hospice care is more family care than what hospital nursing is.
Thanks for the insight into solving many Spiritual difficulties other than Hospice related.


(Ted Robertson) #3

Perhaps it would have been good to ask Mr. Rice in the interview if he believes that homosexuality is a sin.


(Joselito Coo) #4

Adventist chaplains are ministers with current conference-issued credentials who are granted ecclesiastical endorsement to serve in one of the specialized ministries.

Is it the NAD or the Southern Union Conference that bears the responsibility to authorize Terry Rice’s ordination?


(Brenton Reading) #5

Thank you for sharing your story Terry. Your persistence and patience through this indefinite ordination process is a testament to your worthiness of endorsement. May your ministry continue to bring comfort, encouragement, and peace. Please know that whether or not the institutional church endorses you, I along with many other Adventists wholeheartedly endorse you as a friend and minister of the gospel good news.


(Danielle) #8

I’ll ordain you, Terry!


(Bb Yeaton) #9

The church is not “refusing to acknowledge his calling”. The church recognizes that Mr Rice thinks that it’s normal for some men to be sexually attracted to other men. And the church recognizes that while Mr Rice may very well believe in celibacy for now, if “Mr Right” comes along, then the situation quickly becomes a leader in a homosexual relationship. The SDA church is not ready for that…some denominations are.

Obviously, some of Rice’s coworkers are fine with it, and sounds like he may be listening more and more to them. Might not be such a good idea.

I see Daneen Akers has recently enthusiastically endorsed some christian blogger who has left her husband and children to pursue a lesbian woman. Ms Akers is obviously excited, but let’s remember that everybody is not ready to celebrate homosexuality (especially when a family is shattered).

If Mr Rice had kept his personal matters to himself (like who he is attracted to), I don’t see how there would be any issue, and he would have already been endorsed. And he could work out his temptations with the help of the Lord like it should be done… privately. Once somebody becomes an advocate for homosexuality, it very well may interfere with their career, especially in SDA.


(Sam Matthews) #11

This article shows how important it is that ordination not just be opened to women but also to faithful members of the LGBTQ community. Whether he is “practicing” his homosexuality or not, or whether he was born that way or it became an acquired taste (trust me, it happens) those of us in the LGBTQ community should not be excluded from the ordained ministry just because of whom we are attracted to or choose to express ourselves with sexually.

The women’s ordination movement must include us as well if they are truly interested in genuine equality.


#12

Attraction is OK but practice isn’t?

Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon. IS 55:7

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. PS 19:4

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against
the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rom 12:2

From George below…

“1) Perhaps it would also be good to ask some professional if the “homosexual condition” (nature) is a sin.”

As if anyone who is a “professional” is a reliable authority??
99% of professional clergy void the Sabbath commandment.
Professional doesn’t mean much anymore. All politicians are "professionals"
Anyone ever get a 2nd or 3rd opinion from another doctor…who is a professional?


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #13

A.,Ted Robertson,

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychology Association, along with similar bodies in Europe, are all in agreement that sexual orientation, both hetero and homo, is not CHOSEN by the individual.

Just as one does not choose to be left or right handed, blond or redhead, male or female, gays and lesbians have ZERO choice in the matter of their sexual orientation.

So when you ask is homosexuality a sin, it is no more a sin than being left handed or red headed, both MINORITY roles in our culture!

If you are in disagreement with this, please inform all of us when YOU made the definite, deliberate choice to be heterosexual.

We would like to know the time, place, date and circumstances of your momentous decision!

All us when our sexual hormones kick in at puberty, are just INSTINCTIVELY attracted to the gender, with which we will have romantic and impulsive connections for the rest of our lives, be they hetero or homosexual.

While we may CHOOSE, deliberately NOT to be sexual, we cannot change our sexual orientation.

So homosexuality is NEVER a sin if the person is celibate.

Maybe if your favorite child/grandchild/niece/nephew /cousin turned out to be gay/lesbian, your attitudes would change.

With 3-4 % of the population gay/lesbian, believe me, even the BEST of families have such members when in extended families of more than twenty,
one in 20/25 will be gay/lesbian.

I am not surprised that Chaplain Terry Rice is ostracized.

Mistrust, intolerance, discrimination, small mindedness, are all PERVASIVE attributes. A misogynist is rarely ONLY anti women, he is almost always ALSO, homophobic, xenophobic, racist and generally intolerant, biased, blue collar. and bigoted.

Archie Bunker, of the hilarious sitcom ALL IN THE FAMILY is the perfect prototype for these retrograde elements in our church. For a roller coaster ride of merriment and enlightenment those not familiar with the series should view if on YOU TUBE,

So when the heinous heretical headship dogma with its intense misogyny is now the dominant element in our hierarchy, I not a bit surprised that homophobia is an accompanying element!


(2nd Opinion) #15

The decision to withhold ordination from Terry is inconsistent with the 2015 NAD position statement on human sexuality. It reads (emphases mine)::

Sexual Orientation and Practice. While the Bible does not address sexual orientation, it does describe appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior. We acknowledge that attraction to someone of the same gender may be temptation, but not an act of sin (Matt 5:27-28; Rom 6:1-23; Col 3:1-10; James 1:14-15); therefore, those with same-sex orientation,who conform to biblical teachings about sexual behavior,may fully participate in the life of the Adventist Church.

Church Membership. The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual explains the criteria for becoming a member.Individuals desiring membership are expected to affirm and commit to the Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs and the responsibilities and practices of membership. This includes holding to a biblical view on human sexuality. Principles and criteria relative to membership are to be applied with fairness, consistency, and an attitude of love.

Leadership Roles. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, only members in regular standing are to fill leadership roles such as teaching and preaching.Leaders are held to a high standard of care as representatives and role models carrying out a sacred trust on behalf of Christ and His church.

Employment. Seventh-day Adventists employed by the Church are expected to respect and practice the beliefs and convictions of the organization.Church members engaging in inappropriate sexual activity or the promotion of any sexual behavior that is inconsistent with Adventist beliefs and mission are ineligible for employment.Church entities that employ non-members should use discretion when hiring individuals whose values may be contrary to the beliefs and convictions of the Adventist Church.

This statement allows for gay persons to be fully recognized as members, leaders and employees of the church organization, as long as they have committed themselves to live in celibacy and uphold the church’s view in this regard. To my knowledge, Terry meets all of these criteria. If not, then that should be spelled out to Terry by the NAD committee in question. To deny or delay ordination indefinitely without giving a sufficient basis for doing so, when all qualifications have been met, is unjust.

As for my brother Gideon’s comment above. The argument here is not that same-sex attractions should be indulged and not “forsaken.” As the NAD document makes crystal clear, temptation does not equal sin. Even Jesus was tempted in all points as we are. Heterosexuals, too, may have many sexually tempting thoughts each day. But that should not prevent someone from identifying as “straight.” Identifying as a gay person is not the same as indulging one’s same-sex attractions. It is simply an acknowledgement of one’s condition in life, so that others can understand where you are coming from and why you may not seek, for instance, romantic relationships with members of the opposite sex. It signals the way in which a person must navigate the world as a human being–without attractions to the opposite sex. It does not signal participation in or support for a “lifestyle.” Many “gay Christians,” such as Wesley Hill, use this label to describe themselves and their commitment to a life of celibacy and service within the church.


(Elaine Nelson) #16

In recognizing homosexuals are not attracted to the opposite sex, so they must declare celibacy for admittance to the church, why are heterosexuals not also required to declare celibacy until marriage, when marriage is now legal for both in the U.S. as marriage vows are taken for fidelity for either?


(Elias Rowlandson) #17

It would be nice of the church if they stopped playing politics. they have made the statement that they distinguish between orientation and relationships love life etc. he has aligned himself with them on celibacy therefore the staling tactics show them up for being duplicitous.


#18

Yes, you cannot control finding women beautiful when you are married but you can control how you think about them (not thinking about them sexually) and what you do about it (not cheating on your wife).


(Yvonne Stratton) #21

It would be the North Pacific Union. I’m sure that would make NPUC rebellious like PUC and CUC.
Terry is a wonderful Chaplain for Hospice and opens his home to those who need a safe place.


(Robert Sonter) #22

Thank you Tom, for your honesty and courage.

I can scarcely imagine what it must be like to live life in that place. I guess it doesn’t help much that those “suddenly losing their respect for you” when they learn you’re gay, have much bigger issues than you do - they’re not forced to confront their issues because they’re comfortably part of a community that affirms and encourages their bigotry.

I trust you’re finding meaning and belonging in the place where you now worship.


(Gregory Matthews) #23

In the U.S., Federal chaplains, such as I have been, are required by law (which is based upon the Constitution’s 1st amendment) to be approved by a recognized denomination both to be employed by the Federal government and to maintain that employment. IOW, I could never have been so employed absent SDA approval and the SDA denomination could have terminated my employment at any time. If the denomination had done so, I would not have had any recourse outside of the denomination itself.

I believe that this aspect of required denominational approval is correct and I support it.
I am not aware of anything else in regard to what Terry Rice has posted other than what he has said. But, I fully support the idea that the SDA denomination has the right to decide whether or not they will ordain and approve people for ministry. This is not a personal judgment of Mr. Rice, and I do not know all aspects of this. But, I want to be clear that I do support the right of the denomination to make such decisions.


(Ben Kreiter) #24

It appears Terry is celibate. As long as he is not in engaging in sexual acts he is not in violation of our church’s written documentation based in scripture on homosexuality (it has been referenced elsewhere in the comments). The division as well as many of it’s best scholars in our schools of religion and elsewhere have acknowledged the Bible as being clear about homosexual acts and silent about orientation.

This actually seems to be the church’s ideal scenario. I am surprised they are not moving forward and holding him up as an example of how one can experience same-sex attraction while still holding to the Biblical model of marriage being for one man and one woman.

Another commenter mentioned that he might change his mind on celibacy if the right person came along. He may, and the church should act just like it would if any heterosexual person engaged in sexually immoral behavior, which happens from time to time.

If he was openly involved in a romantic relationship I would agree with the church’s decision not to ordain as it goes against SDA beliefs, and would recommend Terry to find a denomination that more closely aligns with his beliefs to seek ordination, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.


(Jeffrey Kent) #25

Hang in there, Terry. Prayers for you.

I wonder whether you would take interest in this article which offers a biological perspective (judging others based on brains versus our genitals):

http://spectrummagazine.org/article/jeffrey-kent/2014/05/05/christian-attitudes-toward-sex-and-women’s-ordination-cerebrocentric


(Daneen Akers) #26

I’m guessing you’re referring to Glennon Doyle Melton? You might not realize that she and her husband were already divorced due to his repeated infidelity; so her coming out is not what broke up their family, although people and relationships are always complex. She and her ex are very supportive of each other still though, which is always a nice reminder that even in difficult times people can be kind and mature, especially for the sake of their children. As for this particular profile, I’m not quite sure why that tangent applies to a profile on Terry Rice. I can also attest to Terry’s incredible heart for people and his gift as a chaplain. He happened to be doing a chaplaincy fellowship at the hospital where my eldest daughter was born almost eight years ago, and he came by to visit our new little family. He was the first person other than us to say a prayer of blessing for her, and he’ll forever have a special place in our hearts for that. He’s a deeply kind, gracious, and generous person. His hospice is lucky to have him, and he deserves a chance to grow professionally. This is not a position that should require the same sort of orthodoxy text. There are many others in similar situations (not simply for being LGBT but for not fitting completely in their denominational checklist) in chaplaincy. It’s not a position requiring theological stringency. People in need are much more in need of a kind heart, a good listener, and someone who will meet them right where they are.