After a two-year hiatus due to the outbreak of COVID-19, SDA Kinship International’s Kampmeeting returned in person July 14–17 in Orlando, Florida. Like a conference camp meeting, Kampmeeting featured keynote speakers, live music, and food. However, a key distinction is that Kampmeeting emphasizes diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of queer church members.
Since 1980, Kinship has held 43 Kampmeetings. This year’s event had a peak attendance of roughly 60 people on Sabbath, and there was an online option for those who could not attend in person. Meetings lasted throughout the course of the second and third days, keeping attendees engaged from 8:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night. The presentations ranged in topic from education on contemporary LGBTQ+ issues to examining questions about Ellen White’s sexuality.
Though Kampmeeting is specifically designed for Adventists, the week’s talks were not limited to solely spiritual topics. Speakers also covered topics such as mental health and self-care.
To fully understand Kampmeeting, the history of Kinship provides essential context. Kinship is an international community-focused organization dedicated to supporting queer Seventh-day Adventists. It was founded in the early 1970s after a young gay Adventist put a note in a magazine asking if other queer Adventists wanted to get in touch.
Over the next decade, Kinship increased in membership. In 1980, national Kinship members wanted to meet together. According to Floyd Poenitz, current president of Kinship, the meeting took place with the attendance of Adventist scholars and clergy, though under the requirement that Colin Cook—director of the Quest Learning Center, a conversion therapy organization then supported by the Adventist Church—had to attend as well. The meeting was a success. “All the clergy, except for Colin Cook, became loyal advocates and allies to Kinship, and the ones that are alive still are today,” Poenitz said.
Today, clergy like Kumar Dixit, an ordained Adventist pastor, current hospital chaplain, and keynote speaker for Kampmeeting, continue to carry on the legacy of standing in solidarity with Kinship. In an interview with Spectrum, Dixit shared his personal experience with the event. “One of the things that always surprises me, especially as a straight person, is how culturally Adventist the attendees still are,” he said. “Despite many of them being rejected by the church, they are still fervent believers in the Adventist message.”
Dixit spoke twice throughout the week. The first presentation detailed Dixit’s relationship with his father and his journey to forgiving him. “He had been a very destructive force in my life,” Dixit said. “There came a point in my life that if I don’t reconcile with him, I’m going to carry these issues for the rest of my life and pass them down to my kids.”
Dixit explained how in families, there is almost always a fractured relationship. Whether from a parent, grandparent, child, or another relative, some form of trauma tends to reside in the family. “What we often don’t realize is that we often see God through the way we see that broken relationship,” he said.
Dixit’s second talk echoed the life of abundance God desires for people. Each morning at eight, Dixit also led the practice of lectio divina, which he described as listening to God’s voice through Scripture. Rather than spending time reading the Bible and trying to think about what they read, there was a silent period after reading Scripture for attendees to try and listen to what God was telling them.
Reflecting on the week, Dixit emphasized that events like Kampmeeting go beyond the presentations. Rather than simply speaking and “disappearing into the abyss,” there is a conscious effort among speakers and members to connect, share, and grow with each other in a more intimate way. Though Kampmeeting is less than a week long, the time is oriented toward fostering a long-lasting community.
Floyd Poenitz also appreciated the connection at this Kampmeeting. After a two-year break, being able to connect in person, give hugs, and take pictures with one another became even more valued among the attendees.
Though Kampmeeting has ended, Kinship’s work is far from over. Poenitz shared that Kinship is working to train pastors around the world on LGBTQ issues, and the next training will be given to over 150 pastors in Kenya. Kinship is also looking for ways to assist gay-straight alliances on Seventh-day Adventist college campuses.
In September, Kinship will hold its 2022 European meeting at Lake Thun, Switzerland.
Matthew Peinado is an intern for Spectrum and a communications major with a focus in journalism and film/television at Walla Walla University.
Image courtesy of SDA Kinship International.
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