An editorial published last Wednesday by Melodie Roschman, editor of Andrews University's student newspaper, has been shared and re-shared in the days since. In it, Roschman traces how her understanding of the gay community, and even the word "gay," has evolved from the time she was a young girl growing up in a conservative church to a college student with gay friends and the realization that they are "a group of people who are the precious, beautiful, wonderfully and fearfully made children of God."
Roschman presided over the first-ever LGBTQ-centered issue of Andrews' Student Movement, published on the same day as the General Conference leadership voted to adopt guidelines that would effectively deny church membership to the practicing LGBTQ population.
Daneen Akers (co-creator of the film Seventh-Gay Adventists), said in a letter to supporters that after hearing of the GC's decision, she nearly resigned her SDA church membership. But she listed a few things that still gave her hope, including Roschman's editorial and the entire issue of the Andrews' student newspaper. She noted that:
Andrews is the location of the Adventist Theological Seminary, and is sponsored by the General Conference. In this sense it is often regarded as the flagship Adventist institution of higher education. Their willingness to address this issue so openly and straightforwardly should help more fearful Adventist institutions start addressing the issue openly in various ways too.
The editorial by Melodie Roschman is one of the most beautiful and powerful pieces I've ever read. . . It's truth. It's vulnerability in the face of a complex topic. It's listening to the people in her life who matter. And it's the voice of the future leadership—one that gives me so much hope!
And another writer, Trudy J. Morgan-Cole, inspired by Roschman's editorial, blogged about her experience with the "underground gay subculture" at Andrews University in the 1980s:
And the touching editorial “Love Actually,” by Melodie Roschman, comes from the perspective of a young straight Adventist whose experience was much the same as mine — except that it happened in today’s world rather than in the early 80s, where society’s awareness and discussion of LGBT issues is far more open, and thus far more of an open challenge for the church.
Here is Roschman's editorial that everyone is talking about:
Until recently, I had never really thought about being straight—if you asked me who I was, I would tell you I was someone who adored books, talked a lot, wanted to move to Europe, and enjoyed gourmet cooking long before I even thought to mention that I liked boys. I experience straight privilege – I am allowed to have a life, not a “lifestyle.” People treat me as an individual, not a representative of an entire group of people. Perhaps most importantly, I am allowed to be complex instead of defined by one aspect of who I am. The journey to realizing that this is unfair has taken most of my life.
In elementary school, “gay” was an adjective mostly reserved for homework. “This assignment is so gay!” someone would complain, as if a math worksheet could have a sexual identity. Of course, even at eight years old, I knew that when they said “gay” they meant “stupid, irritating, wrong.” It wasn’t until much later that I realized that was a problem.
In 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize samesex marriage. I listened to the adults around me making disparaging comments and proclaiming this to be another “birth pang” of the End Times, but when no one was watching, I looked at pictures in the newspaper of couples celebrating the new legislation. They didn’t look freakish or depraved. They looked normal. They looked happy.
I think that was the beginning of my personal cognitive dissonance between what the church taught and what I was beginning to believe. Ever an observer and cataloguer of the world around me, I started collecting examples to support both sides of the rift forming in my mind. On the one hand—oft circulated stories of child abuse, sexual repression, and promiscuity. The message repeated again and again that if you were gay, there was something terribly wrong with you. On the other hand? When I was fifteen, I remember watching an episode of the medical TV show House where a lesbian woman donates a lobe of her liver to her partner after an accident even though she knows she cheated on her. The story moved me to tears, and I remember turning to my dad and asking, “Do you think that, in some way, gay people can really love each other? What she did was beautiful.”
The deciding factor in my struggle was my friend Tom. One sunny Sabbath afternoon while we sat on the grass joking around and peoplewatching, he told me he was gay. I wasn’t surprised, but I still felt the revelation subtly change the way I saw him. Before, he had been someone who always beat me at board games, who did hilarious impressions of teachers and celebrities, who would always offer me a ride when it was raining, even if it took him out of his way. Now, he was “Tom, my gay friend.”
The problem was that he hadn’t changed at all. I had, and it disturbed me to the core. Tom told me about how he wanted to get married and adopt kids from all over the world, so that they could learn that family is about more than just genetics. He wanted to go to Little League games and read his kids bedtime stories and take them to museums. He wanted to devote himself to someone and sacrifice for them, putting them above himself for the rest of his life. How could I tell him that his desire was wrong? How could it be wrong?
Tom is one of the most Christlike people I know. He is constantly asking questions and reaffirming his faith—and more importantly, he lives Jesus’s love. He is the one who has been there when I broke down crying over a failed relationship, when I was stressed over school, when I was questioning howGod could let my aunt die of cancer. Who am I to doubt his relationship with God? Who am I to tellhim that I see a speck in his eye when there is a veritable forest in my own?
I’ve spent a long time wrestling spiritually over this, and I don’t have an easy, simple answer. I don’t think there is one. All I know is that we see through a glass darkly, but we will someday see face to face. I have to believe that I worship a God who is loving and welcoming to all those who seek Him, because they are His creations. Even as I write this now, I’m torn in a different way—between recoiling at how ignorant I have been (and no doubt still continue to be), and being afraid of proclaiming publicly that I support LGBTQ people. Then I’m hit by another wave of guilt, because being an ally is nothing compared to the pressure, fear, and judgment that LGBTQ people face every day, in the church and outside of it.
For a long time after I started to question how I felt about the LGBTQ community, I figured this was something I could keep to myself. It wasn’t my business. I could stick to vague statements and modifiers like, “Regardless of how you feel about this issue…” and it would be fine. But this isn’t just an “issue.” It’s a group of people who are the precious, beautiful, wonderfully and fearfully made children of God.
When I became Student Movement editor, I realized that I had a power that few people on this campus do. I had the opportunity to be a megaphone to those who were quieted. I had a responsibility to the students of Andrews University–all of the students–to be their voice. With that in mind, we have created the first ever LGBTQ-centered issue of the Student Movement–and, I would suspect, one of the first of its kind in the entire church. These 12 pages are not here to start a debate. I am not asking you to change your theology. I am simply asking you to be willing to listen.
Furthermore, if you are part of the LGBTQ community, or you’re still discovering who you are—I want to dedicate this issue to you. You are a valuable and valiant person beloved by God, and I am inspired by your courage in being honest about your identity. I am so sorry for how you have been hurt in the past by people you should have been able to turn to. My prayer is that together we can grow in our understanding and worship of our everloving God—a God for whom “There is no fear in love, because perfect love expels all fear” (1 John 4:18).