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I Attended “The Rainbow In The Room.” Here’s What Happened

The Rainbow in the Room

There are many topics that the Seventh-day Adventist community treats as taboo. While avoiding difficult conversations might delay confrontation, it also results in a lack of education about a topic and reinforces ignorance toward other points of view. LGBTQ+ issues are high on the list of Adventist taboos.

Recently, though, there have been many discussions regarding the LGBTQ+ community in the Berrien Springs, Michigan area, especially after the announcement that covert conversion therapy organization Coming Together (formerly Coming Out Ministries) plans to create headquarters directly across from the Andrews University campus. But while discussions took place both quietly and loudly, Andrews University took no official action to address the discussions, and the administration limited their statements to neutrality. On its face, neutrality might seem like a reasonable approach given the political climate surrounding the church’s flagship institution, but it also took away avenues to objectively speak about LGBTQ+ issues. 

Concern over Coming Together’s arrival extended beyond university students and local Adventists. In March, I attended a local town hall meeting with over thirty community members present, and many expressed concerns about the organization. Ultimately, the answer these community members received from the local board was vague and only promised general safety to the township’s citizens. Again, this makes sense considering the local jurisdiction and leaders’ political leanings. In any case, it was evident that community members wanted further conversation about the wellbeing of all Berrien residents, including LGBTQ+ individuals. 

With a lack of substantive action from the university and local leaders, concerned community members and people on campus have continued to seek ways to educate the public about the LGBTQ+ community’s safety. 

On Sunday, April 21, I was happy to attend a Berrien Springs-area event called The Rainbow in the Room, organized by AU students Erin Beers and Chris Ngugi. The event addressed LGBTQ+ issues in a round-table “Participant Idea Exchange” format. 

The event featured five topics at five tables, each facilitated by a professional in that area. Participants had the opportunity to visit each table for 30 minutes and engage in productive, open conversation. Because each facilitator was an expert in their field, participants had the opportunity to learn about each topic with qualitative and quantitative data and current statistics. 

The event lasted around 2 ½ hours, and around 80 university students, community members, and university employees attended. 

When I first heard about this event, I worried that it would address LGBTQ+ topics in a subjective way with subconscious biases showing simply due to the nature of the issue. I was delighted to discover that I was wrong. 

The Rainbow in the Room organizers and presenters approached topics in an incredibly objective manner, making room for viewpoints to be voiced and discussed—all viewpoints! The facilitators were friendly and eager to hear community voices, and I left the event feeling seen and heard. However, I also left cognizant that it was only one event. 

The Seventh-day Adventist church does not engage enough in conversations surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, and when the topic is discussed, it is usually through a biased lens. A lack of proper education gives way to an absence of understanding that results in further discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. That milieu perpetuates ignorance that even church leaders espouse. In contrast, greater access to knowledge can lead to constructive action and advocacy that can influence populations that might not otherwise consider aligning with LGBTQ+ communities. 

I hope many more people will put biases aside and have thoughtful, educational discussions on this topic, just like The Rainbow in the Room did.

About the author

Bella Hamann is an undergraduate at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. More from Bella Hamann.
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