Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International Celebrates 40th Annual Kampmeeting

In July 2019, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship, International celebrated its 40th annual Kampmeeting in Portland, Oregon. Similar to, yet different from, traditional Adventist camp meetings, this is a time when LGBTQ+ Adventists, their families, and supportive allies come together to worship, socialize, and tell their stories.

At this year’s Kampmeeting, sessions featured a mix of spiritual and social topics from Adventist pastors and professors, as well as Adventist university alumni and other speakers. Traditionally, Friday night includes a foot washing and communion service; for some, this is the only occasion where they can openly participate in this ordinance.

Sabbath morning is a Kampmeeting highlight. The traditional Sabbath School is replaced by “Kinship in Concert,” a worship hour where attendees use their voices and musical instruments to praise God. Many grew up singing in church and haven’t been able to participate in a church setting for years. For them, it is an incredible blessing to be able to fellowship and worship in this way. An inspiring Sabbath sermon follows the music, and the opportunity for fellowship extends throughout the day. This year, the approximately 80 attendees enjoyed Sabbath lunch in a nearby park.

From left to right: Floyd Poenitz (SDA Kinship vice president and article author), Cameron Whitten (local Portland community advocate and civic entrepreneur), and Yolanda Elliott (SDA Kinship president).

SDA Kinship was organized in the late 70s, but it wasn’t until August 1980 that the first organization-wide meeting was held at Kohl's Ranch in Payson, Arizona. Joining the Kinship members traveling to Arizona from all over the United States were six individuals sponsored by the General Conference. These GC representatives were professors Jim Cox, Larry Geraty, and Fritz Guy; pastors Jim Londis and Josephine Benton; as well as now former pastor Colin Cook. This took place soon after the 1980 General Conference session in Dallas, Texas.

After this groundbreaking meeting, SDA Kinship was hopeful about having a working relationship with church leadership, wanting to build bridges of understanding of those who identified as LGBTQ Adventists. Unfortunately, to the dismay of LGBTQ+ Adventists around the world, the General Conference decided to go the route of sponsoring ministries that promised to cure homosexuality. The prayer of SDA Kinship’s members is that the General Conference will someday agree to talk with us, rather than only about us when the subject of homosexuality or sexual orientation comes up. Within the church, there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals.

From left to right: Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Yolanda Elliott, and Floyd Poenitz. Dr. Rhue, PhD, earned a degree in Psychology/Sociology from Oakwood College (now University), and a Master of Social Work from UCLA. In 1986, Rhue graduated from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, becoming the first African American to receive a PhD in Human Sexuality. In 1988, she helped found the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum. Then in 1996, Dr. Rhue co-produced and co-directed (with Oscar-nominated directors Frances Reid and Dee Mosbacher) the documentary All God's Children which dealt with African American family and religious values, civil rights, and homophobia. The film won several awards, including Best Documentary at the National Black Arts Film Festival, and a Lambda Liberty Award from the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Forty years later, SDA Kinship is still providing a safe and spiritual community for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex, and are current or former Seventh-day Adventists. Forty years ago, the emphasis was on the lesbian and gay designations and has now expanded to include additional descriptors for gender and orientation. There is also outreach for family and supportive allies who go through their own "Coming Out" process. The motto “Jesus never looked the other way — and we shouldn’t either!!” is used to open dialogue with family and allies. The SDA Kinship community has about 3,600 members in almost 100 countries worldwide.

SDA Kinship's biggest challenge is to let Adventist Church members around the world know that this special community exists. Knowing that you are not the only LGBTQ+ individual (or family member of someone who identifies as such) in the SDA Church can be very important. Just having one supportive person by your side can save lives. If you know someone who could benefit by knowing about our community, please share with them our website ( or encourage them to contact us for more information.

SDA Kinship, International Officers:

Yolanda Elliott - President

Floyd Poenitz - Vice President

Jacquie Hegarty - Secretary

Robert Bouchard - Treasurer

Dave Ferguson - Director of Church Relations

Clinton Sorzano - Director of Communications

Debbie Hawthorn-Toop - Director of Women's Interest

John and Carolyn Wilt - Directors-at-Large for Family and Friends

Jerry Richard - Director of Development

Peter Reynold - Director of Youth Interest

Justin Mezetin - Director of Technology

Linda Wright - Webmaster

From left to right: Floyd Poenitz, Angel Rivero, and Yolanda Elliott. Rivero studied Theology at PUC and served several SDA churches and hospitals, but after coming out in 2017 he had no choice but to leave the denomination and is now an MDiv student at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. He is a certified candidate for the ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.

This article was written by Floyd Poentiz, vice president of SDA Kinship, International. All photos courtesy of the author.

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Thanks for this report. I was sorry to miss Kampmeeting this year—it’s always such an incredible space for spiritual renewal, new insights, and connecting with dear friends.


Kinship fills an important space that does not exist elsewhere. I hope and pray that the organization continues to support those who still want to have a spiritual experience in their lives and connect with those who support them.


Thanks for your report here.
Thanks for your tireless service there in kinship floyd.

It was air time here and on aventist today that put you on my map all those years ago from 2003 2005 and in the years since.
To the next 40 years God willing.

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Thank you Floyd and all those who helped organize and make Kampmeeting happen. I have family members and dear friends for whom Kinship is their primary spiritual connection with the church. The kind of fellowship that happens at Kinship Kampmeeting reminds me of the times Jesus got together for meals with so many of those on the margins. There is truly room at Jesus’ table. I long for the day when all God’s followers will know this.


Although it’s not as easy for me to get to Kampmeeting anymore, I was so happy to be able to attend this year in nearby Portland. I count some of my very best friends among Kinship members, and it was so special to get to see many of you this time. I think of Kinship, especially on Friday night and Sabbath, as my spiritual high for the year! Just to hear the vibrant and enthusiastic singing of hymns is a blessing that stays with me! While our church still has a long way to go, I am happy to see signs of growth and progress recently that are encouraging.


Plain stubborn ignorance on the part of our GC officers. It reminds me only of Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.“ There can be no better way to betray our message than what our GC officers are pretending to know. All they have to do is call the Loma Linda Dept of Psychiatry to ask for an opinion… It only takes is 5 seconds to make the call. With all the time they have on organizing committee meetings that have no true purpose, why don’t they shape up and do something productive?


I wonder what was learned from the failure of Colin Cook to bring about any healing. His inability to “heal” himself spoke volumes. Who knows how many lives he damaged? Had the church been more alert, the damage might have been reduced.


It is commonly known that making the same mistake twice is impossible, unless one is cognitively delayed and/or compromised. By the time one makes a mistake the second time around, it is a choice.


How do I describe the impact of this year’s Kinship Kampmeeting? It was possibly the first time I’ve truly experienced community. People of all different races, stages of spiritual growth, backgrounds, genders, orientations, languages, all joining together to sing as you see in the picture below “When we ALL get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we ALL see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.” Could there be any doubt that our God is bigger than all our differences and in fact, celebrates them (see Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 if you do doubt)? Not in my mind after hearing peoples’ stories, hearing praise songs sung with an enthusiasm I haven’t heard in years, witnessing love and acceptance like I’ve only read about and seeing modeled for the first time a masculinity that is vulnerable, open, genuine, authentic, in touch with emotions and yet still strong. And seeing women who are standing up, being bold, not backing down from oppression…it was all such a powerful experience of true community and was a huge blessing to me.


SDA Kinship’s next meeting will be our European Kinship Meeting in southern England in September. If you are interested in attending, check out our website or email us at:


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