An Open Letter to Fellow Seventh-day Adventists


(Spectrumbot) #1

I grew up in a wonderful home, in a pleasant valley, the third child of four, during the 1960s and 70s. I am a product of an Adventist home, Adventist education, Adventist church life. I am deeply in love with Jesus. I am wholly devoted to the God of the universe, the creator of all we know.

Growing up I was taught the basics of God’s love, law, and doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at home, at school, and in my community. I was baptized while in the fourth grade by my uncle who, at the time, was the senior pastor of the large college church where we lived.

During my time in the Seventh-day Adventist elementary school I attended for all seven years (yes, seven!), I was blessed with wonderful friends, amazing teachers, and a great education. I can truly say that I am blessed to have grown up with the adult influences that I had at home, in my community, and at school. It helped form who I am and how I see the world, God, love, other individuals, and how to relate to them.

One of the memories that has recently been jolted into my consciousness is how we frequently spent our lunch time at school. In order to maintain some semblance of order, my teachers would play audio story tapes during our lunch hour. These tapes were frequently Your Story Hour episodes. I cannot specifically remember a single story from these tapes, although they each contained some moral or value.

There is, however, one story tape that I clearly remember (not by Your Story Hour). It started circulating somewhere around third or fourth grade and continued until I finished elementary school. The tape was about end time events, and the persecution of Christians by the government and other non-faithful or complicit “Christians.” We all fancied ourselves as faithful, standing for right though others strayed. Our Seventh-day Adventist eschatology having assured us that it was our faithful keeping of God’s law, and more specifically, a faithful “Adventist” keeping of the fourth commandment (the decalogue of Exodus 20) that would lead us to prison and torture, and for some even death as a martyr. We were taught that we would need to become so righteous that we would be able to stand through the “time of trouble” without divine intercession as we had no way of knowing when our own “close of probation” might happen, although still living in this world filled with sin. This fear-inducing imagery haunted me well into adolescence, as I expect it did for some of my classmates, though not all, I’d guess.

What caused this “jolting” of my consciousness? The ongoing conflict over the past several years about the ordination of women and its progression into the conflict about Seventh-day Adventist Church governance, the specific marginalization of myself by the General Conference Executive Committee votes, my experience attending The Reformation Project1 Annual Conference (October 18–20 2018), and the current U.S. Administration’s working to create a change in Federal policy that would seek to erase transgender people from the United States. Not that a change in U.S. policy would cause them/me to suddenly go away. The proposed policy would take a stance hostile to civil rights for transgender people, increase the challenge of obtaining healthcare and health coverage, making it much more difficult for transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people to live safe, productive lives in the United States.

The driving force behind these changes are the evangelical, fundamentalist “Christians” that stand behind the current U.S. administration, regardless of the lack of Christian values shown by the leaders, and policies it puts forward.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, at the General Conference policy level, voted a policy regarding transgender people in April 20172, that places the church more in line with the proposed new U.S. policy than a generous loving reading of scripture. I believe that the broader conflict of church governance, as brought about through the conflict regarding women’s ordination, has more to do with the church’s failure to be the voice for the marginalized, and having embraced the view of a male-dominated world, to which all should be subjugated. This view was on full display in recent General Conference actions during Annual Council (October 2018) and the July 20183,4 Seventh-day Adventist Church’s General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM), establishing “Compliance Committees” on a variety of subjects, including one regarding LGBTQI individuals. The General Conference has chosen to pursue a path that promotes discrimination based on gender and LGBTQI status, much like that of U.S. evangelical fundamentalist Christianity today.

It is not mainstream Seventh-day Adventists who are fully compliant with General Conference policy that will be jailed, tortured, and killed. It will start with targeting the likes of migrants/immigrants, transgender people, and racial minorities, and those who are “multi-minority” (fall into more than one category).

I spent three days worshiping with LGBTQI Christians from a multitude of Christian backgrounds, listening to preaching, singing praise to the God of heaven, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit, all from the frame and perspective of being marginalized Christians. It was truly amazing to worship with these wonderful Christian siblings, a foretaste of heaven. This group and other similar groups are the ones facing the “pointy end” of the dominate evangelical, fundamentalist Christian church’s spear and the government action at the behest of those “Christian” forces.

It is with this backdrop that I have come to the conclusion that during the pursuit to create a human, Seventh-day Adventist Church policy, relating to ordination, and the expansion of rights within the church, we lost sight of the bigger push that goes beyond just gender and the “license” to lead within the church here on earth, to the broader question of liberty and justice for all.

We have failed to recognize the radical call of the gospel to upend the social order that leads to tyranny and oppression, and traded it for a much smaller, although worthy goal. Our failing to seek that creation of a truly just and inclusive church, that seeks to upend the injustice in our legal, economic, and social orders has brought us to our crossroads today. We have failed to embrace the diverse and amazing creation of God in favor of a small god that we can control and fit neatly into the small box of our human making.

Here is my challenge to the Seventh-day Adventist Church: will we turn from our ways of human, male headship leadership? Will we turn back to a Christ/God-centered leadership that embraces all of God’s children? A leadership that creates and finds generous space, and advocates for the truly least of these, that seeks justice for all? Will I and my LGBTQI siblings be the target of the SDA faith, followed by women, and other minorities, or will we choose otherwise and be the shelter from the storm? Will we choose the God big enough to create all the universe, to include LGBTQI people, or the tiny god that seeks to create human hierarchies and subjugation?

Our collective answer to these questions, will either keep us comfortable where we are now, or will paint a target on us as Righteous Troublemakers worthy of incarceration, torture, and execution.

Notes & References:

1. The Reformation Project is a Bible-based, Christian grassroots organization that works to promote inclusion of LGBTQ people by reforming church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. Their vision is of a global church that fully affirms LGBTQ people.

2. https://executivecommittee.adventist.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/111G-Statement-on-Transgenderism.pdf

3. https://news.adventist.org/fileadmin/news.adventist.org/files/news/documents/113G-Practice-of-GCSession-GCEXCOM.pdf

4. https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2018/08/23/massive-oversight-committee-system-set-general-conference

Randi Robertson writes from her home on the Florida Space Coast. She is a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Command Pilot. Currently she stays busy as a simulator and academic instructor for an international aviation training company, teaching pilots to fly the Cessna Citation 560XL. She also spends time working as an advocate, speaker, and consultant seeking to create a more inclusive and understanding world for transgender people. She and her spouse of 34 years have two wonderful, twenty-something children, who choose to live at home. Randi is a life-long Seventh-day Adventist, and is active in her local congregation.

Photo by Todd Cravens on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9180

(Tim Teichman) #2

Thanks for this!

I just wrote a somewhat snippy but serious post that tried to say some of what you wrote, but you did it much better.


(Alicia Johnston) #3

Thank you for this well articulated, rational, and gracious insight. I share your dream of a church that has a bigger tent for everyone and isn’t interested in flushing out the heretics but is interested in spreading the teachings of Jesus. Our church should be about what it’s about, not about attacking minorities and people who see scripture a little differently but agree with the core of Adventist teaching and want to be Adventist.


(Clive Ferguson) #4

I think you might like this book – “What Every Adventist Should Know About GLBTQ: The Call To Radical Ministry” by Raymond S King Jr.

Start reading it for free: http://amzn.eu/aUus8Zy

I just finished reading this and highly recommend reading it. :+1:t4:

May its contents enlighten and bless you by God’s grace.


#5

Agreed, Alicia J.
The Church is about WHO UNITES us,
and not what divides us.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have
love for one another.” John 13:35 :hugs:


#6

So you write a whole article on a supposed new US policy and cite not one bit of information about the policy! What is this in reference to, rolling back Obama’s use of gender in US title iX law as if gender meant the same thing as sex? Hardly too upsetting that we return to the original meaning of a voted law. About the only other thing could be the elimination of transgendered in the military, which certainly would not get rid of transgendered people from the united states. But looked at the footnotes. nothing there about the US policy. Maybe we are supposed to read between the lines, a completely horrible way of reading anything!


(Tim Teichman) #7

I expect the author figures all are aware. It’s been big in the news lately. Here are a couple of links.

In this way the tRump Administration is as ridiculous as the SDA Chuch’s recent statements on human sexuality, which are non-starters they are so inept.


#8

so it is just the title 9 stuff.

“Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.”

Like I said hard to be upset about using the correct terms in legislation.


(Tim Teichman) #9

Not at all. It’s much more far reaching.


#10

Yes, usually those who traffic in fear mongering often think some effect will be horrible. Remember 20-30 years ago the progressives would say don’t confuse sex with gender. Then Progressives redefine title 9 references to sexual discrimination to gender discrimination and suddenly gender and sex are the same. Problem is if gender is fluid or there are 82 sundry genders than the laws don’t really mean what they meant when written. So now people have to actually define sex scientifically and again gender cannot equal sex when we actually have definitions used in laws.


(Kim Green) #11

Wonderful, Randi! Thank-you so much for your carefully thought out and written article. I so hope and pray that your words will be a clarion call for greater understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ in both the Adventist world and outside of it. We are all God’s children and it is time that we embrace this.


(Floyd Poenitz) #12

Sadly this book obviously knows very little about the GLBTQ issues, and skimming the book, I saw several mistakes, so in my opinion it has no credibility. I would recommend googling Kathy Baldock’s “Unclobbing the Mess” videos on YouTube. There are two of them and they are very eye opening.


(Clive Ferguson) #13

Please enlighten us to the “several mistakes” that you have seen in the book that I recommended earlier.


(Kim Green) #18

Let’s see if he can handle that task.


(George Tichy) #27

Hey Tom, good seeing you again. Hope you are doing well.


(efcee) #28

I sympathize with the feelings expressed by the author here, but I don’t think that “othering” those who reach different conclusions than we, devaluing “their God”, and the like, will bear much fruit.


(Tom Loop) #30

It looks like both of my posts were deleted. Has TW been in cahoots with Trump to define me out of existence??:frowning:


(Website Editor) #31

@bigtomwoodcutter, your comments were replies to someone else’s comment, and that comment was deleted because it violated our commenting policy. Replies to deleted comments are auto-deleted as well. Hope that helps explain!

-WebEd


(Tom Loop) #32

I get it. My comment probably wasn’t the nicest in the world, but I couldn’t resist, given the ridiculous comment I was responding to.


(Frank Karth) #33

It would be useful at the very least to present the bible, i.e. what saith the Lord, when speaking of these issues. Even murder for hire hit persons may be wonderful family persons but that doesn’t change who or what they actually are.