An Open Letter to the General Conference and North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

My name is Ora. I am twenty-one years old. I am the child of a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and the grandchild of a Seventh-day Adventist missionary. I have been enrolled in Adventist schools since the eighth grade and I am currently attending an Adventist university. I am queer. I am exhausted, I am hurt, and I am angry beyond measure.

I feel the need to preface this by saying that my queerness has never been a mystery to me. I’ve been acutely aware of it ever since I could remember. I was not taught to be ashamed of it until I transferred to an Adventist academy in the eighth grade. It went from being a fact of my life that I felt no need to invest in one way or the other, to being an aspect of my identity that I felt the need to hide. I felt like I was broken. I felt like God hated me for something I could not control. I was taught that it was irredeemable, it was a sin, and for some reason it was not something that was covered by the blood of Jesus. I felt a pain and a loneliness that was far beyond my age because that is what you, the church, taught me to feel.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. It was a monumental moment. It was a moment where, for the first time, I felt that my humanity was being seen and that it was being respected. And you, the church, took that opportunity to make it clear that you didn’t believe that was right. You, the church, decided to double down and make it clear that I am not an equal, that I am an abomination, that I am broken.

One year later, I felt more confident in who I was. I had done my own reading, I had researched theology that was affirming, I had to fight for it, but for the first time in years, I felt loved by God. I made the decision to come out to my parents and they made me feel even more loved. I had spent years at war with myself, denying myself my own humanity, but for once I felt like I was at peace. I stepped into my identity as a queer person and felt freedom.

I’m writing this on June 16, 2020. The United States is, for lack of a better word, in shambles. In the midst of a revolution in which Black people are fighting for the right to simply live and a global pandemic, two key events have occurred that impact the LGBTQ+ community greatly:

1. On June 12, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that strips away protections that LGBTQ+ people had from discrimination in medical care. In other words, any medical professional that I see can now legally choose not to treat me if they suspect that I am queer. It’s a death sentence. It’s a slow and calculated genocide to deny any community the right to safely seek medical care — especially in the times we live in now. You, the church, were silent. You, an institution known for your medical care, said nothing.

2. On June 15, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace and in the hiring process was illegal and unconstitutional and you, the church, took less than 24 hours to release a statement in which you said that you were worried that your religious liberties were being infringed upon.

I have fought to stay in this church. I have not asked for tolerance or acceptance because, quite frankly, I don’t need that from any being but God. I have asked for much less than that: to be seen as human. But you have made it abundantly clear, time and time again, that you are unable and unwilling to do that. And so I am unable and unwilling to remain in this church. I will not fight to stay in a place that does not want me. I am tired of asking for the bare minimum and being told that it’s too much, so I won’t ask anymore.

But before I depart, I have a few final questions for you: If a marginalized community gaining basic human rights is viewed as a threat, are you — the church — still doing God’s work? Can you, in good conscience, say that you are still a safe haven for sinners, for the downtrodden, for the forgotten? Are you being Christlike? We, as followers of Christ, are called to care for the least of these — are you walking in your calling?

Ora Battle is an intercultural communications student at Washington Adventist University. She is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10529
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Ora, you really hit the nail on its head in what you wrote. I feel the same disgust at the Church’s response. Thank you. I am proud of you.

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Ora, not only are you succinct in calling the church out for not taking the example of acceptance of Jesus as well as their failure to live what they preach you also remind us that those who act as ‘gatekeepers for their God’ are exactly the opposite. Thank you for the reminder.

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Such good questions, Ora…and really they shouldn’t even have to be asked.

No matter what, you are God’s child and truly you only do have to answer to Him/Her. I hope that you find a more accepting and affirming faith community and feel peace and love there.

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Thank you for saying this. We need to hear it.

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Thank you, Ora, for your letter. There are other welcoming Christian communities out there. You will always be with God. I just wish we could be blessed by your honesty and integrity also.

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My heart goes out to you. I understand. Thank-you for expressing your pain so openly and vulnerably.

Good for you. There’s no need, ever, to stay in an abusive relationship with an abusive partner, and the denomination is the abusive partner in relationship with millions of its members across a wide spectrum. You’ve made the correct decision.

I will just echo your questions to the SDA denomination.

What about it, Pastor?
What about it, Oregon Conference President?
What about it, NPUC President?
What about it, NAD President?

And finally, what about it, Ted?

Do you have a heart of flesh or a heart of flesh or a heart of stone? Now is the time to decide, before you are responsible for even more carnage than you’ve already caused.

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Thank you, Ora, for leaving the Adventist church loud and proud. I’m so glad you know who you are and, more importantly, that you LOVE who you are.

I am so sorry for what we have done to you and your LGBTQ spiritual siblings. Our church has done so much harm, mostly by not giving a damn about you. Yes, there are the Westboro types in our denomination, but most of us just don’t care. Like an abusive household, we’ve been both abuser and enabler.

So, yes, get out of Adventism and find healthy spiritual community that recognizes you as God’s beloved creation and a revelation of Their glory. I promise that I will do everything I can as an Adventist pastor to affirm God’s glory in every LGBTQ sibling who has the misfortune of growing up in a denomination such as ours.

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Thanks Ora for expressing what so many of us are feeling. My emotions are quite raw after the press release. I commend you for speaking out… something we should all be doing. If not now, then when?
I don’t know if you are taking a moment to read these posts, but if you are, please reach out to me. I’d love to talk to you. Search my name on FB and you can find me. Please.
You said it all, so I don’t need to elaborate and write more.

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I wish I could say something that would make a difference in the way the church continues to invalidate our LGBTQ members. The best I can say is that I fully affirm what you have written and I fully affirm you as a precious child of God. You put to shame the many who have not learned yet how to love and accept those whom God calls precious and beloved. Just know that there are many more than you know who are persistently pushing the church on this issue. It is easy to get discouraged, but I will keep pushing. As a college professor I know of a number of college students like yourself that have been hurt by the church and I work with these students on my campus. I will always be here for you and others if you need a safe haven. Feel free to look me up anytime and God bless you as you continue your walk with Him, wherever He may lead you.

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Ora, I can’t imagine the struggles you’ve had. I know mine, but not yours or anyone else’s. I’m sure you’ve had plenty of conversations about being homosexual, and heard all the Bible verses regarding the subject. And have made up you mind that God is not condemning of lgbt persons. However, you asked if the church is welcoming…and this may not change your mind, but Jesus called everyone, but His call was first to “deny self” then follow Him. He did not accept the rich young man, because he would not deny himself and sell his possesions. Was Jesus not being welcoming? Jesus said, if anyone loves father, mother, brother sister more than Me, they are not worthy of Me. That’s pretty exclusive. God calls us all, but we must be willing to deny self, then follow Jesus. We all have to do it with one issue or another. Se us Lott May be one of the biggest, most difficult, but there are no exceptions. We all must deny what is most precious to us…I know it seems impossible, or not necessary, but Gods will is not for humanity to decide for itself what is acceptable sexual behavior. We can all Overcome by Jesus’ blood. God’s call is to change, but how can I change if I don’t believe my actions are sinful. God includes me, then transforms me. He wants to transform you, however, if you do not see that need, how can you be accepted? I hope and pray God guides you…it is possible to love someone, but not accept their choices as correct. Jesus died for the rich young man, he loved him more than we can ever know…but he laid out the conditions for salvation and let the decision up to him. He is doing the same with you…

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You seem to assume that God has condemned people like Ora and that their only hope is to repent and, I assume, remain celibate for life, or something like that. Ora points out that as he reads the Bible, God does not condemn him as gay, and I agree. There is no reason Ora cannot go on and find a life partner, get married and have God’s blessing upon her marriage. I pray that God will open your eyes that you may see as He does, with no condemnation where none is warranted.

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Good article ora.
It’s disappointing but expected to see the response from general conference, more shattering is nad being in it; half a step forward in circulating the booklet from posture shift “guiding families”.

Though what’s their fuss? With religious examptions the new laws don’t apply to the church’s organisations do they?

A sorry situation when the people of God are dragged into treating staff and members in a Christlike way by non adventists/ Christians.

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My offspring (no longer my son) is Non Binary. Do I love them? With every beat of my heart. Should they teach in an Adventist school? Absolutely not. I will defend them and love them and do my best to encourage and support them to my death, but if I had younger children in our schools I would want them to be taught as I taught this offspring. About how God loves them even more than I do, and about God’s best design for families. They might choose to walk a different path as well, but I would want them to know. Even with the best intentions and hiring SDA teachers we still have historically had problems in our schools with what is taught. And yes, even SDAs are human, and we have trouble learning how to love. God’s still working on me. I hope I’m still learning.

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Ora, I want to thank you for your vulnerability and desire to call out the Seventh Day Adventist Church. These experiences you mention reflect my own so well. The SDA church has continuously disgusted and disappointed me with their actions from blaming my mother for the physical abuse she endure at the hands of her husband to calling me unworthy of love for being queer and vocal about marginalized experiences. It is not every day that someone who has been raised in the church and under the household of someone so involved in the church has the bravery to speak out about all the heinous activities done. I want to thank you for this and offer myself up as a resource for you. Although our journeys may be different since I no longer believe in Christianity they are similar in that we must heal from all the damage the SDA church has done to us. I am here for you and hope that you are able to heal no matter how hard it may be. Your fellow queer ex SDA.

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So, we’re nearly done with a quarter of SS lessons that were supposed to improve our hermeneutics. What practical contribution have they made? Did they make any attempt to enlarge our understanding of the handful of “clobber” texts that have traditionally been used to demonise LGBTIQ people? No, they haven’t. In fact, the lesson on Creation and Marriage (May 20) explicitly marginalised them yet again, with its emphasis on “one man and one woman”. Well, God bless you if you’re heterosexual! But where does this leave the others, people like Ora? It leaves them out in the cold. We’re not an inclusive church. We exclude all those who don’t look or sound just right, especially those whose natural sexual identity is different.
Our church does not lack scholars who could enlarge our understanding of this topic, both scientists and theologians. Some have written very helpful papers. But the church isn’t listening. And those who do speak out are marginalised themselves. We choose to be willfully ignorant by clinging uncritically to the traditional view of this topic. And in doing so, we choose to continue to inflict pain upon people like Ora and drive them out of the church.
Ora, I’d like you to know that there are many in the church who reject its anti-gay stance. Having studied the issue carefully, prayerfully and biblically, they have reached a more gracious conclusion. May God bless you as you leave us. My heart goes out to you. But I sense you know that Jesus loves you just as you are. If only our church was more committed to genuine, open dialogue on some of the hard questions!

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Yes, there are many IN the church. When will it be time to reject the church for the rejection, the killing of body and spirit for which it is guilty. There comes a time when enough is enough. Are we there yet?

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Thanks you for being willing to post here. I am happy to hear that you have, and are willing to walk this journey with you child. You didn’t provide the amount of time that you and your child have been on this journey together. I expect you have been on it for a much shorter time than your child. As a parent myself, a member of the LGBTQI community, I would gently offer, that we don’t need to know, nor do you need to let us know your child’s gender assigned at birth, and it is very respectful to your child to not tell us without their consent (which you may well have, and if so, please ignore that input from me).

Shifting my focus in relating to your remarks. You clearly don’t want “open” LGBTQI people in SDA education, as somehow we will lead the children astray. The truth is, we are already there, as well as pastoral ministry. Further, there are many LGBTQI people, that are amazing teachers, and would be marvelous role models of love and acceptance in an SDA institution. I will also suggest, that most of us, from outward appearance and dress, look, act, and speak in a manner that is indistinguishable from cis-gender, heterosexual people. The role model that might be provided, but which you would/do chose to exclude, as does the church, is based on an untrue, and not fully informed sense of LGBTQI people, a theology based primarily in tradition regardless of what you’ve been told by pastors, and even many/most SDA Theologians, I suspect. I am not suggesting that your child would be a good fit in an SDA school or any school as a teach, as I do not know them, but I do know a significant number of LGBTQI people, that have proven track records of teaching excellence coupled with a deep Christian walk and experience, these people would be an amazing gift to have in SDA schools.

Let me end with this. Listen well, read and interact outside your comfort zone with the LGBTQI community. Interact with LGBTQI committed Christians, Worship with them, sit and eat and talk with them, go to where they have gathered, as a parent ally (by yourself or with your child if they chose to go). You will be in for an amazing blessing if you do it, and I suspect that you may come to see things through a different lens.

May you be blessed in your journey with your child.

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Ora, Thanks for being the beautiful voice and person that you are!

I realize that for you and me, the SDA church is unlikely to become a loving and embracing space within the frame of our lifetimes, (there are certainly a few congregations that are the exception, but few is key here…). For this my heart is heavy as they are missing out on such wonderful perspectives about God, and God’s love, and the breadth and depth of that love. But I am glad that we live at a time, where we are able to find the places and space that can help us pursue productive relationships with God, others, our communities, our families, and yes ourselves. Hold your head high, speak your truth boldly and lovingly, as you have here, and you will be an amazing blessing to those you encounter in life.

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Thank you Ora for your testimony.

The shabby shaming and shunning of Adventist LGBT offspring is cruel, callous, uncaring and unchristian.

The greatest need of an LGBT adolescent is a feeling of self worth, self esteem, confidence, self respect —- all impossible in a condemning Adventist environment, which can be so impoverishing as to lead to suicide.

So my advice to all Adventist LGBT, both adult and adolescent, is to distance yourselves from this detrimental, destructive, damning denominational environment.

Ora, you seem to have successfully done that

MORE POWER TO YOU !!

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