Last April, I thought about leaving the Adventist Church.
I was listening to a report from an "Alternate Sexualities" summit held in South Africa, from which I learned that I still disagreed with my church’s official standing on LGBTQ+ relationships. (See reports here, here, here and here.)
“As Seventh-day Adventists, we are opposed to homosexual relationships and practices.”
“As a church, we will not officiate same-sex marriages, support gay-straight alliances in our schools or participate in any action that could condone same-sex relations.”
I kept hearing this reference to “we:” “We believe…we decided…” and I felt sick because I didn’t believe this. I didn’t decide this.
The report left me with two questions slamming around in my head: Can I still be a part of the Adventist Church if I don’t believe everything the church officially believes? Do I even want to be?
This past summer, many members of my church were heartbroken over the “no” vote in regards to women’s ordination at the General Conference Session. Many of us wondered, can we still be Adventists if we don’t agree with this? Do we even want to be?
I can’t answer this question for everyone, but I’ve answered it for myself.
After listening to the aforementioned report, I poured my heart out to a teacher who listened and then completely changed my perspective. “Sarah,” he said. “You get to decide what Adventism is.”
Before that moment, I viewed Adventism as something someone else decided and controlled. There was one Adventism, one way of doing and believing, and I either fit into that or I didn’t.
But in reality, there are as many different ways of being Adventist as there are people in the Adventist Church.
In a sense, millions of Adventisms exist in our world. If someone asks what books Adventists read, both “The Great Controversy” and “Harry Potter” are viable answers. If someone asks what Adventists do on Sabbath, both “attend church” and “eat at Olive Garden” are accurate.
When people ask what Adventists believe, they often receive a standard answer: Adventists believe in the Sabbath and that Jesus is coming soon.
In reality, Adventist belief differs widely. There are Adventists who believe in the sanctity of same-sex marriage, and there are those who don’t. There are Adventists who don’t believe women should be ordained pastors, and those who do. There are Adventists who believe Jesus is coming really soon, like next Tuesday; Adventists who believe “soon” means in their grandchild’s lifetime; Adventists who believe “soon” might mean the year 3015.
Adventist beliefs are as diverse as the members that make up the church. If Adventism was only one thing, only one way of believing, perceiving and living in the world, I would have to leave because there wouldn’t be room for me. But I’m staying, because there’s room for me and there’s room for you, even if we believe differently in a lot of different areas.
I’m staying because Adventism is mine, and I decide what it looks like. I’m staying because if I left, I would forfeit my ability to grow, shape and shift my church. I’m staying because I’m positively influenced by other Adventists, both similar to and different from me.
I’m staying. Will you?
Sarah Ventura is a senior English major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. This article first appeared in The Clocktower, the Union College student journal, and is reprinted here by permission.
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