Christianity has often centered togetherness—the privilege of worshipping and fellowshipping with other believers. For LGBTQIA+ Adventists it isn't always easy to be genuine and true to one's self while feeling welcome in Adventist churches. Kinship Kampmeeting has been an annual highlight for SDA Kinship International for 43 years now. This is an event where all attendees can be themselves just as God sees them without feeling the need to pretend to be something they aren't.
Kinship Europe picked up this tradition a couple of decades ago to make this annual fellowship more accessible for all members. So with much anticipation I looked forward to the 21st annual European Kinship Meeting (EKM) being held this year high above Lake Thun near Bern, Switzerland. The location usually moves around Europe to make it more convenient for members in various countries. The rich blessing that attendees receive by attending has spread and now members from the US and other countries outside of Europe also attend.
This year was a bit different and even more intense. Over a year ago, SDA Kinship received a letter from an Adventist congregation near Lake Thun advising us that the membership had studied the topic of sexual orientation and gender diversity. After taking a membership vote 100% voted in favor to be a partner congregation with SDA Kinship.
Of course Kinship was thrilled and the relationship has grown. After last year's EKM in Holland, our new partner congregation volunteered to play a significant role in organizing this year's EKM and I must say, they did a fantastic job. A perfect conference center and hotel nestled in Aeschiried above the town of Speiz on Lake Thun was selected. As is the case in most of Switzerland, the views were breathtaking. The meetings started with breaking bread together on Thursday evening with time to get to know the over 65 attendees. The meetings were in German with English translations available via headsets thanks to a team of translators.
Friday was a packed day with Barbara Witzig and Ruedi Brodbeck presenting the results of their master studies about LGBT statistics, suicide rates, depression and how to apply the NEWSTART-PLUS philosophy to achieve wellness.
Sabbath was a very special day. We carpooled to a nearby reformed church in Kirchenthurnen/Bern built in 1673 where Kinship attendees were joined by members from our local partner church. It was a beautiful service and as we assembled for a group photo, one of the members played a Swiss Alphorn for us. Quite a treat. After the photo we all drove to the farmhouse of one of the members who hosted a potluck for the 100+ attendees.
Afterwards we were blessed by witnessing the baptism of two men. This was a special event since in many Adventist churches an LGBTQ person would not be allowed to be baptized if they are open. The Bible story of Phillip and the Eunuch was the text used to set the stage for the baptism.
In the evening we convened back at the conference center where Daniel Zwiker, a professional Adventist counselor shared his experiences with LGBT clients, focusing on the importance for the church to provide a healthy environment for these members as well as the dangers of change ministries such as Coming Out Ministries that advocate for celibacy and “praying away the gay.”
On Sunday we divided into groups and explored the local areas of Switzerland while getting to know those in our group a bit better. Comments of appreciation were shared widely with many wishing that every Sabbath for all could be this meaningful. A blessing and by product of Kinship meetings are that the speakers for the meetings get to know Kinship members in person, creating deeper understanding. There is still so much misinformation in our churches surrounding LGBTQ members. Along with the well-known speakers, several church leaders joined us and agreed to be more openly supportive of SDA Kinship. One such action is to report on the event in official Seventh-day Adventist denominational media: the German Adventist Presse Dienst (APD).
This was a giant leap forward in continuing the conversation that SDA Kinship supports. We look forward to more opportunities to commune with our Adventist family, talking about what it means to be LGBTQIA+ Adventist and how to be a faithful ally.
Floyd Pönitz is President of Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International.
Photo: Jeremias Peier (Publikation mit Zustimmung der Teilnehmenden)/Adventist Presse Dienst (APD).