Seventh-Gay Adventists Companion Film Premieres This Weekend at UltraViolet Festival

This weekend at the Spectrum UltraViolet Arts Festival in Glendale, California, the new film project from Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer, the producers of Seventh-Gay Adventists, will debut. The film entitled "Enough Room at the Table" is created to be a companion to the SGA Movie, and seeks to answer the question, "What Next?" Daneen and Stephen will not be in attendance, but arrangements have been made for a conversation following the screening to be facilitated by Chris Blake. In November of 2014, when the film was in the formative stages, I spoke with Daneen Akers about her hopes for the project ("Makers of Seventh-Gay Adventists Say New Film Project Answers Qustion 'What Next?'). Below, Daneen talks about the film's coming to fruition, and about the topic of LGBTQ Adventism today.

What's the story behind the title of this film?

We didn’t have a title for this film going into it but hoped one would emerge over the course of the filming. This new film is really meant to be a model of intentional, respectful, and inclusive dialogue about the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality in the church. We invited 12 Adventists from around the country to participate for a weekend of conversation, and we intentionally invited a diverse group. The group included pastors, educators, parents, and LGBT Adventists (one who wouldn’t now identify as gay but same-sex attracted), all from from differing theological paradigms, experiences, and perspectives. Nobody except the facilitator knew who else was going to be participating, but they all were the type of people who, no matter their beliefs, were open and willing to dialogue in a genuine and authentic way with others. Our hope is that this group would model what is possible when we can talk and share as people and not just labels or positions statements. And that’s what happened—and it was a huge privilege to watch that happen.

The space we were filming at near Angwin, California was a great space, but it had a table that I didn’t think would fit the whole group at once. This group proved me wrong. The first evening together after a day of incredible bonding and sharing, this group all pulled up chairs around the table and managed to fit and continue sharing.

The next morning, the facilitator talked about how the previous evening “we discovered that we had enough room at the table for all of us.” And that phrase, “Enough Room at the Table,” just really jumped out as a perfect title that encapsulates the goal of dialogue like this. For too long the only people invited to the table to talk were a select few. In particular, LGBT people have been intentionally shut out of conversations about LGBT people. And that causes much harm, both for our LGBT brothers and sisters and their families, and for anyone who cares about how we treat each other, regardless of our differences. Less than a day into the dialogue, one of the pastor participants said, “It hasn’t even been a full day and already I can’t imagine this day not happening. My life is so much richer and my view of God so much better having just met everyone here.” That’s the beautiful and profound space that is created when we truly engage with all of the voices who need and want to be at the table of conversation. We find that there is enough room at the table. And it’s a beautiful thing! It’s church at its very best.

You won't be able to be in attendance for this screening. If you had been able to be there, what would you have wanted to say to the audience that will be watching it?

I’m eight months pregnant with another daughter, and so I’m beyond my capacity for traveling very far at the moment. Part of me is really disappointed about that because I love the conversational spaces that Spectrum creates, and I’m particularly thrilled with the artists presenting this weekend (Jennifer Knapp’s incredible rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” plays over the credits of Seventh-Gay Adventists, and I’ve heard her perform and speak before and am bummed to miss this in Glendale!)

However, our goal with this companion dialogue film was really to model what we hope the community will now do. It’s time for individuals to take control and be empowered to start conversations in their own circles, families, and churches. Our vision of this film isn’t a cinema experience but a small group of five to ten people connecting and sharing in living rooms and around dining room tables. I know it can be a hard and scary thing to intentionally talk about topics that are often incredibly divisive. But these conversations are the crucial first steps for healing and helpful shifts, and the ripple effects of each of us taking up the call to provide a space for those conversations will be powerful. I love how this group models that. It is not a requirement at all to be in full agreement—it simply takes being open to walking with others in a mutually respectful and authentic way to start talking. And that conversation will lead to closer relationships, more authenticity, more healing, and more people at the table of fellowship that none of us owns but that we’re all invited to. So I would simply encourage people to watch, listen, find others to engage with, and use the resources we’re developing to host your own small group conversations. It’s time for each of us to be the change that we want to see, and that starts with listening and talking together in intentional, authentic, safe, and inclusive spaces. This film is meant to model how that can happen.

Besides the obvious fact that you have a background in film making, what makes film your medium of choice for exploring the topic of LGBTQ experiences within the Adventist context?
I think there’s something about looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other's voices that has great power to connect us, even when we don’t always agree. The medium of film humanizes and personalizes what has far too often been a purely abstract and disconnected theological debate. But the incarnation of Jesus and his ministry, which was intentionally personal, really highlights the importance of connecting as people, as fellow beloved children of the Divine. Jesus engaged on a personal level, and he actually seemed to care little about theological debates except around how God and the values of the Kingdom were depicted. His main emphasis was about how we treat each other. And so we want to model really seeing each other and engaging in that space of personal relationships in this conversation.

How do you feel about the present and the future of the Adventist Church's relationship with its LGBTQ membership?

It depends if I’m looking at the corporate church or what’s happening in local congregations and between people. At the corporate level, it’s been a depressing summer all around. San Antonio felt like a push to further define, contain, and draw firm boundary lines—for women, LGBT people, scientists. And I’m still regularly hearing really hurtful stories about how churches and families often respond to someone coming out as non-heterosexual or non gender-conforming. But there’s also more awareness than ever before that the status quo isn’t working and something must change, that regardless of the differing theological paradigms and experiences, it’s wrong to continue as we have. People in the pews are absolutely stepping up and starting to take risks in the name of love and listening to those currently excluded by the corporate church.

Thematically, the UltraViolet Festival is asking the question, "Where do you find hope?" How would you answer that question?

I find hope in people. More and more local churches and, most importantly, individual Adventists, are committing to doing the hard work to bring about real changes in how we listen and engage, particularly with those who our current system is not just excluding but hurting. As a pastor in this dialogue film points out (referring to a Christian theologian’s analogy), LGBT people are really the canaries in the coal mine. If our churches aren’t safe for them, are they really safe for any of us?

Production notes and loose ends--Say just a bit about what went into the film's production, and how it will be rolled out.

I’d like to thank the grassroots community that made this film possible, and I just really want to encourage people to commit to taking this conversation to the next level in their own homes, churches, and communities. We know what we need to do, and it’s time to do it! Watch Enough Room at the Table, download the facilitator’s guide we’re putting together at http://www.enoughroomfilm.com, commit to getting a diverse group around your table for a day to simply begin talking and connecting as people and fellow companions on this journey. The film premieres this weekend at the UltraViolet Arts Festival, and then we’ll be releasing it widely at the end of the month with the accompanying materials that we hope will give others the tools they need to grow this conversation, beginning in their own living rooms.

This film was very difficult to edit as hearing this group talk is a real treat--I just haven't seen this sort of conversation before. Our cut of "must have" content was five hours long! (The run time is an hour and 40 minutes now.) So we are going to have extensive special features available along with the film when we release at the end of the month.

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7073

This last month, an individual spent time in jail because her conscience would not allow her to sign gay marriage certificates. She was denounced rather than accommodated. Although she had many sympathizers, the culture dictated jail rather than making some sort of arrangement.

Adventist culture still allows those who hold a differing view from the culture to participate in their own culture. Note how Daneen describes those who promote gay issues in contrast to those who oppose:

In other words, to promote homosexuality is to be for “love”. Those who do not share her view of course, are for the opposite, hate, as is so often stated by her comrades in arms.

American culture is now way beyond mere language. Some who oppose gay marriage are jailed, and those in the marriage business who differ with the culture are forced to supply the accouterments for the celebration, or close shop.

Just what is the meaning of being tolerant? Is Tolerance Blvd. a one way street, and jail time awaits those going the opposite direction? Daneen has a very rosy view of how the acceptance of homosexuality would make the church a better place. I think the culture has shown a starker view: capitulate or be crushed.

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Kim Davis was OK in declining to provide Certificates, as her religious belief system at the time felt awkward about it.
Where she was NOT OK was in FORCING her Religious Belief System upon her Employees in her office. Telling THEM they Had to abide by HER Religious Belief System, even though perhaps THEIR Religious Beliefs were OK with distributing Certificates to who ever wanted one.
In doing this, Kim was ALSO Imposing her Religious Beliefs on the WHOLE COUNTY.
THIS was the reason she was Disciplined.
In other Counties around America when there was someone in the office who was uncomfortable with providing Certificates, another person was found who would provide the service cheerfully and efficiently.
YES! Kim Davis is NOT a hero. Eveyone, her lawyer, Politician Hopefuls, others, saw their chance to make a name for themselves, get their pictures in the paper with column inches for their scrapbooks. Her lawyer was seeking to put on his Resume, Litigated before the Supreme Court Supremes. But it didnt work, so he is on his way to Frankfort, KY to get noticed at the Capitol.
In the end, Kim Davis is just a Pawn for eveyone else to become famous.

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Not according to the bible.

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As so many have pointed out, Kim Davis performed a civic function that required her to uphold civil laws. The law of the land is that same-sex couples may marry, and she was in violation of the law of the land and of her civic duty to provide marriage licenses. Requiring her to do the job that she swore to do is not persecution. We ought to be very clear on this point. She had many other options available to her, and she chose to violate the law, knowing full well that she was breaking it.

As for questions of loving and hating, here are some facts: People in religious communities who identify as LGBTQ are at much higher risk for suicide, experience much higher rates of depression and feelings of isolation and rejection. I’m going to venture a guess that there is a direct link between the treatment they receive from their religious community and those statistics.

What you may have missed about this film project is that those who participated come from all backgrounds–from conservative to liberal–and they sit down with one another, and talk together.

THAT is what the church needs in greater measure right now.

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It is as simple as: Ms. Davis was jailed for civil contempt of court. She knew if she did not follow the judge’s orders, she would be jailed.

What if everyone, while at their positions for work, refused to provide services based on their beliefs?

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The whole “she swore an oath to do her job” line is poorly thought out since even a neophyte can discern the oath she swore was long before the supreme court made its decision.
The next in the poorly thought out line is the assumption that she violated the “law” when she refused.
A neophyte can also grasp that a Supreme court decision isnt Federal law or State law. It can be the basis for representative governments to make or modify existing laws which is necessary since the entire state of Kentucky voted by a 75%+ margin to put a marriage definition of a man and woman into the Kentucky constitution.
The suggestion that she knew she was breaking the law shows little knowledge of how laws work and come into being.

  1. In 2004 after gay marriage was banned in California several officials directed the clerks in their districts to issue marriage certificates to gay couples, which was against the law. One said he even did it for conscience’s sake. None were ever prosecuted or jailed.

Now, Jared, why were they allowed to break the law and disregard their civic duty without consequences, but this clerk was sent to jail? You say Davis was required to carry out a civic function. But so were they, an oath they took before receiving office, but were not jailed. The judge here had many other options, I might add,

  1. Death certificates do not contain a box for orientation. Therefore it is impossible to determine when a suicide is related to homosexuality, or if the thinking of those around the individual was the cause of that suicide. Are you asserting that religious communities including SDA church communities are causing suicide in the gays among them? Or is that just a venture of yours? I think you have to have some pretty good statistics to prove that, and I don’t think you do, having looked at the stats myself. But if you do, lets see them.

The above two issues do not address the point I was making: The intolerance that is most pronounced here is not that toward gays but against those who hold to the church’s view. Daneen and you are with the main stream, and the church is in the minority, and that minority is facing intolerance from the government and those who promote the gay agenda.

I ask again, what is the meaning of being tolerant? Is Tolerance Blvd a one way street? Seems to me it is.

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Thanks Jared–I think you understand the goals of this project and the participants! Thrilled to share it with you and the rest of the folks at the arts festival this weekend.

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Here is a link to LGBT suicide by Wkipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_among_LGBT_youth
I’m sure that some will not be satisfied with the stats shared here and the article makes clear that national stats are not available because there are currently no national stats on the the total number of LGBT persons in the U.S. and as was pointed out Death Certificates currently do not include orientation or gender identity. But, if you just Google LGBT suicide you will find lots of information to support the stat of a higher incidence of suicide for the LGBT community and that it is increased in communities where the orientation and gender identity are viewed as a choice. The Adventist conference a year ago in South Africa made clear that orientation is not a choice and attempts to change it are not successful and lead to further emotional distress. When we talk about Tolerance Blvd and those who don’t accept those in the LGBT community being the ones who are being “persecuted”, perhaps one should remember two things: the makers of the film have been blacklisted from holding a position in an Adventist school and parents of LGBT people have been shunned in their congregations as bad parents because they have an LGBT child. Those hardly seem like tolerant positions.

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Thank you, Steve and Daneen, for all the work you have done on both films!! Thank you for the sacrifices you have made to do this and thank you to Lily for going with the flow–so well!

Next big event–the arrival of Lucy!! Blessings to all!

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The Adventist Community is deeply in debt to Stephen and Daneen for their ministry of love, understanding and justice. Together with the first, this new film will provide blessings for many years to come. The message here goes beyond the specific issue of sexual orientation, to a deeper understanding of how we continue to stay in communion with each other even when we passionately disagree about important subjects. What I learned from the first film was not how to be more loving towards lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, but how to be more loving towards conservative Adventists. If we can only engage in respectful and productive conversations with people we already approve of and agree with, we are not really a Church Community, but a pathological cult.

If you are a doubter on the edge of the Church, who is suspicious of anyone who takes the Bible seriously - watch this film and see how you can learn from and love people who are different from you. If you are a confirmed traditionalist who is suspicious of anyone whose sexuality differs in any way from neat and tidy heterosexuality - watch this film and see how you can learn from and love people who are different from you.

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One of the most glaring requirements for being a “member” of the Adventist community is the expectation (from a majority) that everyone aligns with a master checklist of beliefs. The beliefs are non-negotiable and encompass a number of subculture lifestyle expectations.

Whereas the Presbyterians, Methodists, or even Catholics would be happy to have others join their community of faith, most Adventists have layers of expectations that you MUST believe. This includes everything from what one does on Saturday, whether one drinks caffeinated drinks, “who” is allowed in the gates (LGTBQ), where you are educated, even career choices that are preferred and those that are not. In the Adventist faith community there is the term “true Adventist.” In other faith communities not a reality; all are welcome.

How many times on this very forum have I read posts that read basically, “Well, if that’s what you believe, why don’t you just find some other place to worship.”

Conversations are utterly impossible with hardcore participants who do not even want conversation in their community if it involves disagreeing with their passionately held views. I just read on the AdVindicate Forum about a woman being baptized into the church who wore jewelry. The poster called her a Jezebel. @GeorgeTichy has already been called “dumb” by a very frequent poster who disagreed with George on something. These attitudes do not help create a place to communicate, but are calculated to take over the conversation with powerful words that send messages of unwelcome community.

I find it so ironic that the welcome mat has conditions that number way beyond 28.

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I think that the more we participate the more people will see that we are not either dumb or trouble makers (like Jeremy, imagine, Jeremy @vandieman referred to me there today.)

Yes, there are some super-radicals there, but guess what, we had them here too once in a while - until they hung up themselves. If we do not engage in personal attacks, and use our thinking with reason and caution, there should be no problem.

I wish more Spectrumites went there and participated. Don’t have to confront anybody, just say, “In my opinion…” Nobody can kill us because of our opinions…

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George I agree that civil discourse and engaging others who think and feel different than us is critical. I don’t like to hear shots fired from either direction. That includes people who I agree with taking shots at those real conservatives over on that other site.

I know myself well enough that I really run the risk of doing that sort of thing if I were to post there so I will just say away and let you the master statesman do my talking. But back to people who I agree with taking shots. That happens here as well. That is no better than them taking shots. And I know that some might say that it doesn’t happen but it does if we are honest. And that includes ME.

If there is to be discourse on any of these subjects we all must be careful about what and how we say things.

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Allen, if I may respond (still not entirely clear about the new rules, if I’m allowed to respond to a commenter or not, if not I apologize).

  1. 2004, CA ban on gay marriage. My thoughts on this are as follows. 1. The article is in regards to the Seventh-day Adventist response to homosexual issues and the church, a different, although similar issue to what is happening in the country but let’s not confuse the two. 2. In the secular world, the issue is CA was still unsettled back in 2004. And, of course California is more liberal than Kentucky. The issue has now been settled with the Supreme Court (who declined to intervene, which is a response in itself). Kim Davis’s actions were in violation of Federal ruling which impacted a State Government elected official. I would suggest that in 2004, if the Supreme Court had at that time sided with the State of California in deny marriage certificates to gay couples, that clerks who issued them would also have run afoul of the law and would have been banned from doing so.

The judge did have options, but also had discretion. As the judge noted, any fines he might have imposed would have been paid by other parties rather than Mrs. Davis. The judge believed his role in this matter was compel this County Clerk to follow the (now) law of the land - and you can argue his actions in fact did so.

I’ll add that Mrs. Davis certainly has the right of personal conscience. But she doesn’t (in my view) have the right to not fulfill the duties she was elected to. I’ll grant that those duties changed. Here’s my example. If someone is a prison doctor, they can help heal prisoners. If the law changes and as a part of their duties, they are required to oversee executions, but they do not believe doctors should participate in administering death, then they are obligated to quit their post as prison doctor.

  1. Allen, you mention death certificates and orientation. I re-read the article and see nothing at all about this. You suggest that someone here is suggesting that SDA’s cause suicide among gay people. I see nothing in this that warrants that suggestion, perhaps I missed it.

Lastly, as you note, your real issue is your perception that now in American society it is only correct to be tolerant if you are pro-gay culture and you are intolerant (and worse) if you have a different view, especially if your viewpoint is based upon your religious principles.

I do think you have a very valid point. I do think that those who are passionately invested in a cause, whether it’s pro-gay rights, or whether it’s a belief that a gay lifestyle is prohibited by the scriptures, are doomed to crash upon each others principles. This in the same way that someone who views abortion as murder will crash with someone who does not believe that this tissue is a human being and therefore not murder and the State ought not dictate to a woman what happens within her body and for the rest of her life - these conflicts are not resolvable.

I guess my answer to those questions is, are both sides willing to concede that the other side’s belief’s are held for legitimate reasons, even if they disagree with them? Are they both willing to accept in Christ’s love that they have earnest disagreements? Or is it more important to be RIGHT, than to demonstrate the loving character of Jesus?

Allen, is it possible for you to be able to say to someone who is gay “I love you. I accept you as you. I don’t understand your life and everything that I was raised to believe tells me it’s wrong. However, I love you all the more - without giving up my beliefs”. And for someone like Daneen or for a gay individual is it okay to say to Allen: “I love you. I understand that who I am challenges everything you believe to be true about the scriptures. I view those scriptures differently. I know that’s hard for you, but I love you non-the-less even if we won’t agree on this point.”

As Christians and as Adventists are we leading with love? Or leading with intolerance, from either side of the question?

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Allen, I will admit, jail was a little too much.

However, I do not see this case like the one with the cake bakers. Let me try and put it this way; something that might resonate with you more; and why I do not agree with Davis on this:

Mrs Smith was voted in by the people (which included Christian and non-Christian voters) and works for the government. She is a very religious women; and does not bend over backwards on anything. Now, on one particular day a gentlemen walks into her office and ask’s her why he did not receive his pay? Mrs Smith’s answer is that he worked on Sunday, which goes against her religious beliefs and therefore cannot, and will not sign the check, until he stops working on that day.

Things escalate and Mrs Smith is taken to court. The judge, hoping to resolve this the best he can, tells her that she can get someone else in her office to sign the paycheck; thereby removing her from this difficult situation, and everyone gets what they want; and most importantly the law is upheld. However!..She refuses even that because it will still have her name on it and she would be seen as promoting working on Sunday.

What does the judge do…

And what should Mrs Smith have done…

I’m sure you know that this story of mine may very well happen to us one day.

Seeing as you cannot reply here, I will be very interested to her what you have to say at the Lounge.

P.S.

We, of all people, need to be very careful that we do not become so zealous, that we end up protecting and putting into office the very people who can take our freedoms away.

Thanks,

Tony

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