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Coming Out Ministries Accused of Covert Conversion Therapy, which Michigan Bans
In July 2023, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan House Bills 4616 and 4617 “to protect LGBTQ+ youth by prohibiting conversion therapy for minors.” Michigan joined 21 states that already ban what Whitmer called a “harmful practice,” saying the state was “prioritizing the wellbeing of young LGBTQ+ individuals.”
The press release announcing the laws said,
Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy” refers to any intervention that attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It rests on the false, offensive premise that an LGBTQ+ individual’s identity is pathological and must be “repaired” or “fixed.” The nation’s leading medical and mental health organizations oppose the practice of conversion therapy on minors. Not only is conversion therapy ineffectual, it can lead to significant long-term harm, including anxiety, depression, internalized homophobia, self-blame, and higher risk of suicide.
Whitmer said on her Facebook page, “Since day one, I’ve made it clear that hate has no home in Michigan. We’re putting an end to the harmful practice of conversion therapy and ensuring that everyone is welcome in Michigan.”
A Religion News Service news story reports that Coming Out Ministries, an organization currently fundraising for new headquarters across the street from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, may be covertly attempting to do exactly what Michigan has banned—change the sexual orientation or gender identity of individuals including minors.
RNS notes that Coming Out’s newsletters “have featured instructions for having ‘true and complete victory over homosexuality’ and affirmations that ‘gays can become completely straight.’”
The RNS report cites objections from Andrews students to Coming Out’s having access to the university’s students. Senior psychology student at Andrews Erin Beers has been strident in her opposition to Coming Out and its potential to harm LGBTQ+ youth.
Beers told RNS Coming Out poses danger to a population already at risk for self-harm and suicidal ideation. RNS writer Kathryn Post reported Beers’ objection:
“They’re going to hurt people, and they’re going to do it in the name of the Adventist church and God,” she said, describing the group’s tactics as manipulative. “Students looking for a safe space to process their sexuality will instead be met by a group with a clear agenda.”
RNS noted Coming Out has been disinvited from Adventist camp meetings and conferences due to concerns that the group promotes conversion therapy, a claim Coming Out denies.
Four Andrews students RNS contacted for their story expressed negative views of the organization. One speaking anonymously said he met with Coming Out in spring 2021, after which “my depression got worse. I started hating who I was even more, fixating even more on this very narrow sliver of who I am as a person, and ultimately, I think it took a lot longer for me to accept myself because I have gone to these meetings.”
A university spokesperson told RNS that discussions of sexuality with students “occur in-house, utilizing the counselors and ministers on our campus.” The statement affirmed the university’s commitment to “the Biblical definition of marriage and relationships.”Jared Wright |
Maury Jackson at Sligo: Sacralizing the Social
On Saturday, February 24, guest speaker and La Sierra University professor of practical theology Maury Jackson preached at the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church a sermon titled “Sacralizing the Social”.
Jackson drew from a biblical passage not often preached from Adventist pulpits, Leviticus 24:23 (New International Version), “…and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him.”
“Today’s reader experiences the strangeness of the world that produced the Book of Leviticus,” Jackson said.Jared Wright |
Oakwood University Holds Vigil for Sophomore Jeavonn Barracks
On Friday, February 24, Oakwood University held a vigil for 20-year-old sophomore Jeavonn Barracks, who died after a swimming incident at the university Natatorium.
Oakwood University vice president for student life and mission David Richardson said in an Instagram post that Barracks was hospitalized on Thursday, February 15, following the on-campus incident. “Over the past seven days, the Oakwood University community has been praying relentlessly for one of our bright lights,” the social media message said. University officials told numerous media outlets Barracks died one week later. “Today, it is with deep sadness and heartfelt sympathy that we announce the death of Jeavonn Barracks,” Richardson wrote.
The message offered “deepest sympathies to Jeavonn’s family, friends, and classmates,” and solicited prayers on their behalf.
The university offered several forms of support:
“Several resources have been mobilized to help and support our campus and community cope with this time of grief. OU Health and Counseling Services are providing counseling services to those in need. Additionally, the Office of Spiritual Life and Mission is providing prayer and spiritual support to all those who need it.”
If you would like to speak with a counselor, please call: Atonte Myers…A Touch of Peace…To speak with a licensed counselor 24/7, please call Crisis Services of North Alabama – Grief and Loss Hotline.”
The university also announced an open Zoom call with university chaplains Friday, February 23.
“On Friday evening at 6 PM, there will be a prayer vigil at the Eternal Flame” Richardson said. Afterward, condolence cards were made available for signing in the Oakwood University Church lobby to be sent to Barracks’ family “to show our love and support.”Jared Wright |
This week’s Sabbath school lesson asks the questions regarding God testing us, and what that means for us. What do we do with the time God has given us? (Commentary on the Adult Bible Study Guide for February 17–23.)
In this 2023 film, protagonist Monk (Jeffrey Wright) is an established professor and novelist disillusioned by Black people’s relegation to offensive tropes and stereotypes. Wanting to prove a point and frustrated by lack of support for his published work that stays true to his voice, Monk pens a satirical, disingenuous novel “based on a true story” that directly feeds the Black stereotypes he despises.
Many Christians take the words of the Bible extremely literally. Some sayings in the Bible were relevant at the time, but how relevant are they to us today?
The ink of pain patiently tattoos, the permanent image of the dreams worth our pursuit. The ink of pain deeply engraves, the unforgettable imprint of a path to be paved.
Adventism, despite its global reach, notoriously retains strong North American sensibilities in liturgy, eschatology, and polity. Given the church’s history—how and where it started—this may be understandable. Considering denominational leaders’ emphasis on homogeneity coupled with respect for church pioneers bordering on deification, Adventism’s bent toward Americanness makes sense. It is often joked that the Adventist in Africa has the double burden of trying to fit into another culture first before being Christlike.
In 1895, an American farmer and Methodist-turned-Seventh-day-Adventist named Melvin C. Sturdevant, his wife, Margaret Jane, and their son walked off their Illinois farm and set out on a lifelong journey. The first leg of their trip took them south for several years.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a denomination predictably and consistently hostile to any hint of hip-hop culture, it would seem unlikely that a young crop of passionate, self-motivated independent rappers would pop up across the landscape. But it is happening, and it’s time for the Adventist Church not only to take notice, but also to reckon with how much of a resource it is wasting.
We seem to refuse to learn from our mistakes. We cling to that which no longer works and wonder why young adults leave. We lose integrity when we fail to address problems because it is not expedient, or doing so would deviate from tradition.
This week’s Sabbath school lesson gives examples of God’s mercy throughout the Psalms and how God calls us his beloved. (Commentary on the Adult Bible Study Guide for February 10–16.)
This Valentine’s Day we begin a three-episode conversation about the history, theology, and personal impact of purity culture. Although rooted in socioreligious mores that pre-date the term, purity culture emerged in the 1990s as an evangelical Christian cultural movement. It continues to influence Seventh-day Adventist understandings of dating and marriage, sexual expression and gender identity…