'Outspoken' Short Film Series Celebrates Voices and Contributions of LGBT+ Adventists

Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer today released the first installment of a new ten-part project called “Outspoken” that features stories of LGBT+ Adventists. This is the third major project for the husband-and-wife team dealing with the intersection of sexuality, gender and the Adventist faith.

Their first film, the feature-length documentary “Seventh-Gay Adventists” (Watchfire Films, 2012) followed the lives and spiritual journeys of three Seventh-day Adventists in same-sex relationships as they struggled with tensions between the distinct cultural markers of their faith community and their identities as lesbian or gay individuals. After screening at film festivals and in and around Adventist communities, the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray, followed by a wider online release.

Akers and Eyer followed “Seventh-Gay Adventists” in 2014 with “Enough Room at the Table,” a film intended to model for the Adventist Church a process the filmmakers called “the sacred act of listening.” “Enough Room” brought together a diverse group of Adventist pastors, thought leaders and congregants—some LGBT+, some not—to talk with one another over the course of a weekend retreat. The film that documented those conversations provided a framework for congregations that might have had preliminary talks about homosexuality and sexual identities, but that might have lacked resources for moving the conversations forward.

I spoke with Daneen Akers about this new project—how it came to be and what links it to and separates it from past projects.

“This new series is a shift for us,” Akers told me. “We’ve journeyed from thinking that we as allies are doing something helpful to realizing that we are the ones who are deeply blessed by getting to witness and share the stories of our LGBT friends.”

The “Outspoken” series of short films will be released exclusively online on the first Friday evening of each month, starting today. The short-film format lends itself to online sharing, and Akers and Eyer hope the films will spread via social media to again foster listening.

“For this new series, we wanted to highlight stories of people who are giving back, showing up, and creating,” Akers said. That engagement with the Adventist Church was a criterion for selecting the subjects of the “Outspoken” series.

Akers and Eyer wanted to make sure the series included gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people as well as some parents. “We’ve really felt convicted about how isolating and lonely it is for Adventist parents of LGBT children with so much misinformation and judgement,” Akers said. “Some parents have said that when their children come out of the closet, they go in a closet.”

Yeshara Acosta, a self-identified “homeschooled, vegetarian pastor’s kid,” is featured in the short released today. It was her story that provided the impetus for this film series.

“The first time we met her, we were struck with her incredibly vibrant presence, her huge heart for God and people, and her beautiful voice and songwriting talent,” Akers said. “We have two daughters, and we both mentioned that if our daughters grew up to have just half of her heart and vibrancy, we’d feel incredibly proud as parents.”

Not all parents feel the same way, Akers noted, especially within conservative religious communities.

“We’ve been around this conversation and community at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality long enough to realize that a lot of Adventist parents can’t see their queer children with those eyes of love and gratitude because of what their theological views have taught them about being LGBT,” Akers said.

“A lot of good can come from sharing stories like those from these beautiful souls in the new “Outspoken” series. And it’s an honor to be sharing these stories that give us so much hope.”

WATCH: Yeshara - Outspoken

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7866
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Thank you for sharing Daneen and Stephen’s work here. This is a much needed window into the struggles and authentic lives of LGBTQ+ individuals, their friends and families. The more we learn the stories of those that are different from us, the more we begin to see them as real people and as people that Jesus came to accept into His kingdom. Hopefully, through the stories that are shared in this project more SDA Christians will see LGBTQ+ individuals as more than just defined by their sexuality and gender. These are real people who love God and want to be a part of His kingdom. They are not living in rebellion and sin, but rather have come to terms in many cases with who they are in relation to God. Can we not now get to know them and fully embrace them as fellow children of God in His kingdom?

I pray that through this project God’s inclusiveness will open the gates of compassion in all out hearts, because so many LGBTQ+ Christians have felt too much judgment and rejection. They need to be loved as all of us need to be loved and accepted.

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Great that we’re finaaally having this discussion. I think we also have to remember and acknowledge those LGBTI+ who have sat quietly in churches through the ages feeling misunderstood, judged and afraid.

Nothing is as soul destroying as being around judgemental religious people and having that guilt unintentionally/intentionally heaped upon you.

And having nobody to talk it through with.
Let’s remember those people.

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If it were up to TW, their voices (LGBT+) would be muted and silenced forever…except for the more “acceptable” voices of “Coming Out Ministries” who tell the story that the GC would like to hear. I am grateful, too, for Steven and Daneen who have virtually dedicated their lives to telling the story of the LGBT+ in the Adventist Church because they deserve a place where they can be heard in Christian grace and dignity.

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And here I thought it was sin that destroyed you.

Matt 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

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Perhaps someday some dedicated couple would also develop an organization focusing on parents to provide a safety net where they can explore their shattered dreams, disappointments and anger and then help them heal.

This would be a worthy cause. Sexual orientation can never be changed or “chosen” as it is a gift from God whereas personality traits and parental attitudes are not intractable and can be modified and/or changed.

Remember John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Perhaps this is the gist of @rohantocharles assertion that religious and pious people can be extremely judgmental to the point where it interferes with their ability to obey God’s commandments. I’m sure you’re aware and have seen this phenomena as an ordained minister where they fail to see the forest for the trees.

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Stephen and Daneen … ever since seeing SGA I have been inspired by you and your ability to share and tell stories. Thank you for keeping on keeping on and showing how to raise kids who are allies as well! I turned 50 this year on my shared birthday with MLK and committed to being an Ally with a louder, less fearful voice. Thanks to you and seeing how you do it, I THINK I can get there. Yeshara’s story is powerful and I’m so glad it’s here for us to share with and use to encourage others. Every voice, every story, every life is powerful.

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Thank you, Stephen and Daneen for continuing your great work.

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Thank you, Daneen and Stephen for this amazing work. I’m so glad you are telling these LGBT Adventist stories! They will change the world and they will change the church. Our church is poorer today because we cannot embrace the love and sensitivity to God that so many of our LGBT members possess. If we could only shed our fear and open our hearts to them, God would pour out such a blessing. Thanks again, for your sacrificial life’s work. It is a life-giving ministry of healing and reconciliation that touches lives and warms God’s heart.

The other day I heard the term “symbolic annihilation.” Within media representation theory it is the act of erasing another group through non-representation. This is exactly what our current General Conference administration has done. Kim Green is right. If it were up to Ted Wilson, LGBT voices would be silenced forever. I attended the Cape Town several years ago. When some of the presenters said things that did not please Wilson, he placed a gag order on the conference papers and has not allowed for any open dialogue since. By representing these stories in a short, sharable format, you are ending the annihilation. You are ensuring that these LGBT persons will have a presence in the church, that their voices will be heard, that the complexity and beauty of their faith and and humanity will not be flattened or discarded. Again, thank you.

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So Allen, how do you get people to that point?

The primary focus of the main group seems to shut out those with whom they do not see eye-to-eye. No matter what curves each person must go through, first and foremost they are God’s specific creation and must be treated with the dignity of Son’s and Daughters of God, or else we are not fulfilling God’s commandment to love - unimpeded indefinite benevolent compassion forgiveness and mercy - our neighbor as ourself. Can you call yourself honestly Christian without doing that?

God did not need us, did not make us to serve him. But He made us that He may fully serve us!

Christ is risen!

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What a bracing tonic, that our splendid film makers, husband and wife team, Stephen Eyer and Daneen Akers, have finally opened a window, revealing wholesome, respectable, honorable, appealing, and admirable
Adventist gays/lesbians.

We look forward to more of this series, which will hopefully serve as role models for our closeted gay and lesbian offspring.

For decades, Adventism has been exceedingly efficient, effective, and even energetic in making our gay/lesbian offspring feel bad.

Like yelling “faggot” at a gay person is deliberately designed to be hurtful, humiliating, and HATEFUL.

The church continues on every level, to portray our gay/lesbian children as inherently immoral, and unless careful, they will become depraved, debauched, libertine and promiscuous. Homosexual sin is portrayed as worse than any other.

Very flawed role models have been presented, which has been confusing to our teens. Deliberately destroying a young person’s sense of self esteem. self respect, and self worth are surefire methods to induce suicidal thoughts and impulses.

Not surprising that a significant per centage of our Adventist gay young people have acknowledged such destructive, damaging, desires.

No wonder Adventist parents are devastated when they learn they have a gay child.

Hopefully this narrative will change as Eyer/Akers continue to show us that it is possible to be Adventist and gay/lesbian and still be upright, responsible, respectable, wholesome, honorable and admirable.

How utterly refreshing!

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It is indeed a wonderful work done by the film producers to make known that there are brothers and sisters who are struggling with their sexuality. It is also wonderful to have them share their journeys along life and the amazing desire they have to share the word of God. Yes, Jesus showed compassion and love to all. The remarkable stories of the woman at the well and the woman caught in the act of adultery, may be seen as great examples of how Jesus deals with the sin problem. to both of these women, Jesus clearly showed them the errors of their ways, forgave them and in particular, the woman caught in the act of adultery, he said “Neither do I condemn thee,go and sin no more. John 8:11;” obviously, he was not saying to her that she must not sin at all, my understanding of this passage of scripture, is that he was telling her, look, I understand you situation, I know you have a weakness, but now that you have encountered me, I will help you overcome this particular sin. Go, and with your willingness to give up this sin, I will give you the strength to do it no more. Another example of Jesus’ willingness to save people from their past way of life is the story of the man at the pool of Bethesda. for 38 years he suffered of his affliction, he wanted to be healed, but no one, even the staunch Christians of his day, chose to help him. when Jesus helped him, he said: “Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more lest a worst thing come unto thee. John 5: 14;” My point, Jesus is willing to help those who are struggling with their sexuality identity, he wants us to help the gays and lesbians by loving them, working with them and encouraging them to surrender to him so he can deliver them from their struggle. He does not expects us to condone their lifestyles for certainly it is not what he approves. However, he declares in Micah 7: 18 & 19: ’ Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, that passeth by the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage. He retaineth not his anger forever, because he deligheth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Since God is so awesome, let us continue to work with our brothers and sisters. let us love them and help them to love Jesus by following his commands and live a life that reflects his will. In doing so, let us remember that we too are sinners, who are struggling with issues of different forms. We too have spiritual weaknesses and deficiencies that we want to overcome as well. So, in this light, let us journey together in love adhering to the word of God.

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Thank you for your most excellent comment. Loving and loyal to Scripture.

What I know about the intent behind these films, their producers, and this movement within Christianity is the following: The sexual prohibitions outlined in the Bible in the Old and New Testament do not apply to homosexuals that are committed to each other in a relationship. They say monogamy is the key, Vandell.

So, when you talk about “overcoming this particular sin”, that will be offensive to them because they will insist that the committed homosexual relationship is not sinful, and rather equal to a married husband and wife in God’s eyes.

When you suggest that “giving up this sin” is possible with the Lord, they will say, “What sin!?”

You would most likely be surprised how many Christians you go to church with have accepted this line of thought. I found out at my former SDA church that even the assistant pastor and several elders and church board members were ready to defend a lesbian couple soon to be “married”.

They want to normalize and celebrate committed homosexual relationships in the churches and encourage integration into all aspects including top leadership.

I’m just not into that I guess.

There is something known as intersecting lines . We can see it clearly in the story of the woman with the issue of blood . If studied closely, you would notice that over a 12 year period , things happened to a 12 year old young girl at the same time . Just keep that in mind , that in the 12th year , these two lives met on a dusty street , and both where changed. You can’t be LGBTQ and not expect change when you come to Jesus . To promote it as an alternative lifestyle in the church is wrong . We must love everyone. We must care and support everyone . But to suggest that this is just an evolution in these persons relationship with Christ and the church is wrong also . Friendship , partnership, or just business relationships are fine and well , but there is no where in the Word of God that the church is to accept or condone same sex relationships or any variation of it .Sin has messed up a lot of things , but we must go back to what was expected of us from the Beginning . For 6000 years women have been having children . Upon giving birth, the doctor or mid- wife would say , " You have a boy ,or you have a girl ". I wonder how they where able to tell that. That simple fact has not changed . If so, How is the church suppose to thread it’s way through some 50 plus variations of gender classifications .We all need help. We all have sinned . Let us take our stones and build altars, asking God to show us the way forward.

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