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Does the General Conference Want You To Leave?

Two pride flags waving with crowd

A General Conference employee named Sam Neves, associate director of the communication department, told Seventh-day Adventists who actively advocate for LGBTQ equality to leave the church. This was communicated using his personal Twitter account, which creates a confusing message because it also boasts an official Seventh-day Adventist logo badge and the words “this account is affiliated with Adventist Church.” Whatever one thinks about his “love it or leave it” argument, this blurring of the personal and the corporate stands outside best professional communication practices.

Telling Adventists who actively advocate for equality that they don’t belong echoes how the religious leaders treated Jesus for breaking the Sabbath. It wasn’t what Jesus thought privately that triggered them, it was his action. But those Pharisees, at least, were trying to uphold the Ten Commandments. 

One could argue that the General Conference leadership appears hyperfocused on a much smaller moral and biblical matter. Whatever one believes about LGBTQ Adventists and how deserving they are to advocate for their own equality, it certainly doesn’t warrant the current obsession of the General Conference. Mark Finley’s Friday YouTube presentation, “A Biblical View on Homosexuality,” was embarrassing in its dated style, use of a tabloid source, and overall parroting of political paranoia. The GC must be more professional. Statements, special meetings, media presentations, Twitter threads—it’s like they don’t have anything better to do. 

All this while the actual organization we trust—and pay—them to run is being found liable in case after case of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse stemming from the Miracle Meadows school lawsuits. This lack of moral and professional oversight has already led to the church losing $51.9 million dollars. Tens of millions more in lawsuits are potentially coming. 

We’ve seen this over and over. The religious leaders on a moral crusade against the liberal activists often turn out to be committing worse acts in secret.

Spectrum has stood in solidarity with our Adventist LGBTQ family and friends for decades. We will not stop. We will not leave. The activist LGBTQ Adventist community belongs in our pews and pulpits, in our classrooms and our conference office buildings—in our spiritual family. We want to worship with them, celebrate their marriages, pray together through the hard times, and in unity, lift our voices and sing, “We Have This Hope.” Because we do.

That hope leads us to seek justice and create community through conversations about truth and God and the Bible. Spectrum has followed these principles for over 50 years as we supported Seventh-day Adventists who stood up for civil rights, women’s ordination, chilling out about jewelry, decolonization of mission work, focusing on God’s grace, changes in official Adventist beliefs around divorce and remarriage—the list goes on. There are people working in the GC right now who have benefited from this activism. 

Almost 50 years ago, a church entity refused a woman’s request to be paid equally as her male colleagues. The church leaders said no, because it was only for the head of the household, which they believed could only be a man. One could almost imagine a GC leader in the 1970s telling that woman to shut up and stop being an activist—or leave. In reality, there are significant parallels documented by Spectrum and in her book, Betrayal: The Shattering Sex Discrimination Case of Silver vs. Pacific Press Publishing Association (1985).

Then, as now, the church resisted change until it found itself losing in a court of law. Just like the atavists who marshaled biblical arguments against activists for democracy, against activists for abolition, against activists for modern science, against activists for treating animals humanely, against activists for universal voting rights, now the General Conference seems to be going all in on an issue that really just requires a little deeper reading, critical thinking, and a bit more empathy. 

Adventist activists offer a helpful inside-the-community warning: create internal processes for change or outside forces will grow, forcing more chaotic adaptation—probably in the courts again. We need historically informed leaders with a vision for an active, inclusive Adventism. It will require a little more listening and a lot less GC pontificating about who can be an Adventist. After all, it’s our church too!


Alexander Carpenter is the executive editor of Spectrum.

Title image by y y on Unsplash.

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