Is It Safe to Come Out?—Imago Gei

Kendra Arsenault, Spectrum Magazine, and SDA Kinship have come together to bring you the premiere episode of Imago Gei, a podcast to share the latest on queer theology, stories, and a minority perspective on faith.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thanks, Kendra Arsenaux.

I listened to the first edition of your podcast, and have a number of thoughts. I also have a response to your episode’s thesis question.

First, I’m sorry you were assaulted. I despise any male who takes, as I perceive you mean, sexual advantage of any female. I never think such people should be shielded, or protected. I also believe you. I believe you had to make a series of detrimental and debilitating decisions about how to continue with your life. All of this needs to change into something more just for the victims, and more punitive for the victimizers.

I think it’s important this podcast is happening, and I’m glad you — from an incomplete, third-person perspective like mine — bounced back so quickly to do it.

I also think it’s important a non-white person is leading this conversation. I suspect, to a great degree, a more nuanced discourse may be possible because of this, if people do not resist it. By people, I also mean you.

I think the promotional artwork you’ve used is gorgeous; beaux-arts and luxe. I have a big problem with the podcast title. I suspect you’ve anticipated this and it may not matter to you.

Because you experienced the traumatic experience of being fired as you were, and because it’s so recent, I’m not sure your statements about the incident and its outcome are ones to which a distant observer, like me, can meaningfully counter-respond.

You’ve brought it up in the podcast, which means, technically, it’s fair game for discussion. But the way you speak about it suggests you, being a fair person, would probably admit you are not, and perhaps never could be, in a place to address it impartially. This is reasonable. Certainly, you’re entitled to your feelings about your experience.

However, this incident has now become a chapter in the history of LGBTQIA issues within the SDA Church, and activism in this context; at the very least, a significant example of a reporter becoming part of the story, and/or, arguably, even objectively, injecting themselves into it. I suspect you, and/or others, may disagree with this qualification of the narrative. I’d be willing to have the talk.

In any event, if you ever do a podcast where you examine the story of Advent Next, the three episodes they took down, your coming out, your firing, and the aftermath, perhaps I, or people like me, will be able to correspond about this matter, then.

To your thesis inquiry:

“Is it safe for someone to come out to you? In your church? Why, or why not?”

I cannot see how one would be able to answer this question. It’s akin to asking a white person, “Are you racist?” Ninety-seven times out of a hundred, the answer will be a Trumpian, “I am the least racist person you’ve ever encountered.” It’s like asking a person if they smell funny.

Only LGBTQ+ people in my church, or who know me, can answer this. In fact, the only way I could meaningfully respond to your question is by asking, “What do you mean by ‘come out’?” When one thinks about it, this is exactly where the issue rests for the church.

At one point, “coming out,” to a would-be receiver of said information, meant hearing someone say they were gay, then responding equanimously, with the implicit agreement not to bait, harm, or otherwise mistreat them, then, or at a future time.

Today, the act of “coming out” includes the same, but may also arrive with a panoply of distinct sexual preferences and expressions, plus a world of additional ontological commitments; some to which I might accede, others of which I’d consider nonsensical.

By the response I’ve just given, my guess is most LGBTQ people reading this will look at your query, then point at me and say, “Hell no.”

I’d accept this on its face. But I’d also suggest the exchange is still valuable, if only as a partial model of the larger issue: We are still talking past each other. To a great extent, I suspect this is a fundamental, and perhaps indelible, quality of the debate.


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HarryAllen, I have to completely disagree as to your “big problem” with the name . The courageous title is itself part of the story. It is the reimagining of the concept of “God” itself. In her tradition, changing a cherished title of “Imago Dei” to “Imago Gei” is saying that yes, we are all made in the “Image of Gay” whether we like it or not. We are all part of that beautiful rainbow and the choice of sexual partners of any gender is ours alone, and for many it is an irresistible impulse put in place through Creation itself. Kendra has a masters in theology so she knows more than most of us how impactful this is, and the clear message it sends to a church that has utterly failed to recognize her gift and to appreciate her present truth. She could have made no greater power move than this title and Spectrum is wise to support it. Spectrum would do a great disservice to the podcaster and set its progress back were it to capitulate to the patriarchy and force a name change.

Thank you.

I heard, Me Me Me and not onceJesus, from these Seminary Students and after listening to the entire podcast I felt sad.

I think the Imago Gei title is fantastic. I think it wonderfully articulates the idea that we can manifest the image of God in all of our relationships, regardless of whether they are heterosexual.

I listened to the podcast…and some thoughts:

Being “safe” does not mean being accepting of the person’s life. I’ve had youth at my church come out to me as lgbt, confess drug addiction, confess porn addictions, confess abortion etc. really serious stuff…they felt safe to do so and I tried to listen, encourage, comfort, etc…but I did not tell them what they did or were was ok. We’re mixing what safe means. I still have good relationships with all of them, but they know what the Bible says…I feel the podcaster’s definition of “safe” is you accept me and my action and identity as ok…and we cannot accept what the Bible prohibits.

The fact that lgbt have been and still are mistreated in churches does not mean that the only solution is to fully accept lgbt community members in open homosexual relationships as members of the sda church. The solution is to change how the church teaches and ministers to lgbt members, but their mistreatment does not mean acceptance is the only solution.

“Their truth” this phrase was used quite a bit and…there is no such thing as “my” truth. God did not ask me what I thought truth was or if I was ok with His commandments. He establishes right and wrong, truth and error. He presents His character of love and asks that we accept His truth and reject ours. We either do, or do not. Jesus said plainly, whoever will come after Me must first “deny themselves” take their cross and follow Me. Denying self is so unpopular today….but it is the first condition of following Christ.

Homophobic: near the end some time was spent hypothesizing on why people are “so defensive” when it comes to lgbt questions. Are they protesting a bit too much because they’re fighting homosexual feelings? What are they afraid of??? And all this innuendo is a way to misrepresent the position of those that do not believe lgbt is accepted biblically. I am not homophobic because I do not fear homosexuals, I’m not fighting homosexual feelings, I do not hate homosexuals, I do not take any joy in speaking out against homosexuality, etc . I simply believe the Bible prohibits homosexuality and it is contrary to God’s will. This is not homophobic, hateful, or unkind.

I pray for all those members of the lgbt community including the podcaster. I can’t imagine the struggle they have to go thru and yes, not being able to be open with those closest to you must be horrible. But I would say the issue isn’t revealing that you’re gay that’s the biggest hindrance, it’s that lgbt want the church to accept their homosexuality as acceptable to God.

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Thank you Kendra. Your voice is very different to mine (white, male, middle-aged, Australian), so I need to hear it. Looking forward to the next episode already.

Fantastic, Kendra. Thanks so much for taking us on this journey. I am so sorry for the way the church treated you. You’re an amazing person. There is so much to explore and lots to learn. Can’t wait to hear more. I hope you will interview Linn Tonstad from Yale Divinity!

Really? Biblical law contains hundreds of commandments. Do those commandments really “establish right and wrong, truth and error” for us today? E.g., the Bible prohibits wearing two types of cloth at the same time. You and I don’t think it’s a sin to wear silk and wool simultaneously…do we.?

How about Lev 23:39? "[O]n the eighth day shall be a sabbath . In that same chapter, most of us take “the seventh day” to mean “the seventh day of the week”. Has God shown us what to do on the following day?

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Hello, and yes, really. If it’s not the Bible that establishes right and wrong then what does? How do we as Christians determine right from wrong?

The examples you mention are from the levitical law, which the death of Jesus put an end to. For example circumcision was required OT but not NT.

But the bigger picture is that we have to look at the principles behind the commandments. That’s why Jesus stated to Love God with all out heart and love others as we love ourselves are the principles behind the specifics. The law says don’t kill but the principle is “don’t hate”. What I’m trying to say is that the Bible is what should guide us as believers in establishing what is God’s will.

And from my original comment, What I Meant was God/Jesus stated to look at a woman lustfully is the same as committing adultery. I don’t like hearing that, it convicts me of my failings and sinfulness, it establishes a high bar to follow, it may seem impossible at times not to fail, but God did not consult me to see if I agreed, He did not ask if I was ok with that principle. He establishes what He knows it best for me and ultimately for my good. He determines right from wrong…and His principles are always for our good!

God bless

in the ancient world, the wearing of mixed fabric clothing implied a worship of plural gods…obviously this prohibition is meaningless in our time, although the principle of having your clothing support your profession still applies…in general, the statutes, which amplify the decalogue, apply every bit as much as that decalogue, although it is the case that we sometimes have to isolate the underlying principle in instances where cultural evolution has rendered the literal statute meaningless…

here you’re conflating the seventh-day sabbath with the various festival sabbaths that could fall on any day of the week…when a festival sabbath coincided with the seventh-day sabbath it was called a high sabbath, eg., Jn 19:31…

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There are no such terms in the Bible as “seventh-day sabbath” or “festival sabbath” or “moral law” or “ceremonial law” or “Levitical law”.

“the statutes, which amplify the decalogue, apply every bit as much as that decalogue,”

Two problems there:

  1. Nothing says that’s their purpose. And

  2. Our “Prophet” always refused to acknowledge that the decalogue was never given to anyone except Israel.

1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.(Ex 20:2,3)



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