The North Pacific Union’s Regional Affairs Department is advertizing a conference called “Gays in the Family,” to be held April 5-6 at the Holden Convention Center in Gladstone, Oregon. As the wife of a retired pastor, the mother of a gay son, the founder of a ministry for other parents and family members of gays and lesbians, and a 20-year resident of Washington State, I am happy to see our union take this first step in starting a conversation about a topic that many people find uncomfortable. My husband and I first learned that our youngest son is gay some 23-years ago when we were at the General Conference. That was a time when homosexuality was something no one talked about. I am glad that today we can begin to talk about something that affects so many of us.
My husband and I are planning to attend this conference, and I do hope that it will initiate a real dialog about this difficult topic. It appears to be set up to look at the issue from only one viewpoint—that of gays and lesbians who have walked away from a life of promiscuity and drugs and have come back to God—praise the Lord! But there are other voices that also deserve to be heard, and I hope that at this or a future conference their stories can also be embraced.
There are many gays and lesbians who have never left the church. After praying for years that God will change them, they are still left to seek a way to reconcile their spirituality with their sexuality. There is almost never any support for them in this process from the church. How should the church respond to people like this?
What, for example, is the church’s responsibility in ministering to a lesbian couple who want to bring their children to Sabbath School and raise them in the church? Would we expect a divorced/remarried heterosexual couple to stop living together before allowing them to bring their children to Sabbath School? Or what should a church do if a gay couple offers to provide beautiful floral arrangements for services each week? Would we object to inviting a musician from another denomination to provide music at our church?
Nearly every gay or lesbian person who comes to one of our churches has parents who are praying that their son or daughter will find love and welcome there. Yet, nearly all gay and lesbian members say they feel rejected and ostracized in our churches. Shouldn’t we, as their Adventist brothers and sisters, be trying to make them feel like loved members of the family? If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you long for someone who would make an effort to understand you and listen to your struggles?
These are just some of the questions that I think need to be considered in the church’s discussion of this topic. After all, presenting only this one perspective would be equivalent to having a conference to discuss women’s ordination, but only allowing those who oppose it to speak. There are many people qualified to help us look at this issue in a pastoral way and bring us new information that would help us understand it better.
As a link to further discussion, a screening of the documentary movie, Seventh-Gay Adventists has been scheduled for 8:00 pm, Saturday night, April 6, at the nearby Clackamas Mall Century Theater for those who are interested in hearing other voices that will not be represented in this conference. Free seats can be reserved at http://sgaportland46.eventbrite.com.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5185