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We Surveyed Adventists in Brazil on LGBTQ Issues: A Report

LGBTQ Adventists in Brazil Surveyed

In 2020, Zelota, an online magazine created by Brazilian Seventh-day Adventists, conducted a survey of LGBTQ Brazilians who had official or emotional ties to the church. The survey received 499 anonymous responses that demonstrated diversity of belief and revealed the widespread pain felt by members of this community.

The Survey’s Findings

Just over 46 percent of respondents said they were active members while 31 percent no longer had official ties to the church. Among the active members, 54 percent had been associated with the Adventist church for over 20 years. Among former members, 81 percent cited sexual orientation issues as their reason for leaving. 

About 60 percent of respondents identified as “cis men,” and 35 percent identified as “cis women.” One percent described themselves as “trans men” and 1.4 percent as “trans women.” Regarding sexual orientation, 57 percent said they were “homosexual,” and 43 percent “bisexual.” 91 percent of respondents indicated that they suffered in some way as an LGBTQ person in an Adventist institution.

Most respondents (83.7%) stated that homosexuality is a trait that cannot be changed; 9 percent said it is reversible, and 7 percent believed it to be a choice. Nevertheless, 84 percent of respondents tried to “defeat” divergent sexual orientations with religious practices suggested by the Adventist Church. Of those, 88 percent tried prayer, 71 percent tried sexual abstinence, and 70 percent tried Bible reading. About 8 percent of respondents hope they can “defeat” their sexuality, about 6 percent practice celibacy, 34 percent seek acceptance as LGBTQ Adventists, and 35 percent would like to join affirming groups like Seventh-day Adventist Kinship that support and advocate for LGBTQ people. 

Statements of Mission and Message

Regarding the Bible, 27 percent “completely agree” that scripture opposes homosexual practices, while 15 percent “completely disagree.” Most respondents have questions around hermeneutics, culture, and science. 

On theology and human sexuality, 38.5 percent of respondents completely disagree and 15 percent completely agree with the General Conference’s statement (2012) on sexuality. This differs in notable ways from other official denominational entities like the North American Division (2015), or officially prioritized speakers on the topic like Mark Finley (2023). 

Finally, 7 percent of respondents frequently experienced verbal harassment due to their sexual orientation. Just over one percent experienced frequent (ongoing or not) physical violence; Almost four percent experienced it occasionally, and two percent experienced it rarely. Additionally, two percent experienced frequent or ongoing sexual harassment from a church member, and 12 percent did occasionally. 

Pastoral and Church Repression

Despite the presence of LGBTQ people in Adventist communities, some denominational leaders used the pulpit to oppose LGBTQ people. For instance, while pastoring at the Adventist University Center of São Paulo (UNASP) church on the São Paulo campus (whose live Sabbath services are among the most viewed Adventist programming on YouTube), pastor-evangelist Gilson Grüdtner repeatedly demonized homosexuals from the pulpit, calling an LGBTQ Adventist a “son of the devil,” violating pastoral ethics, Adventist Working Policy, and the Church Manual. Zelota questioned local conference and union administrators on the matter, and found that Grüdtner had not faced discipline but was instead transferred to a smaller church in the countryside. His sermons at UNASP have been removed from the church’s YouTube channel.

Conference leaders like North Rio Grande do Sul Conference (ANRS) president Apolo Streicher Abrascio, have also publicly disparaged the LGBTQ community. During a Sabbath sermon celebrating a baptism, Abrascio said “same-sex practices should remain illegal,” condemned left-wing political parties who defend LGBTQ people, and claimed that his sermon “could put him in jail.” Frequently politically vocal on social media, Abrascio has not yet faced discipline.

On the other hand, pastors who contradict anti-LGBTQ talking points have received the church’s ire. The Adventist Community of University Students (CAJU) was attacked on social media and accused of being a “gay church” after inviting Felipe Maciel (the leader of Seventh-day Adventist Kinship Brazil at the time) to conduct a discussion. The event was canceled after the São Paulo Conference president threatened CAJU’s pastor, who was forced to surrender his ministerial credentials in a pastoral council shortly after.

This intolerance has appeared in official Adventist publications like the Brazilian adult Sabbath school study guide, which in April 2021 included homophobic language absent from other translated versions of the study guide. The discriminatory language was actively inserted into the lesson by the Brazilian Publishing House.

Reversion (Conversion) Therapy

In 2015 biologist Flavio Krzyzanowski Júnior created True Friendships Ministry (MAV) to combat homosexuality in Brazil. The independent ministry acts as a de facto arm of the Brazilian Adventist church to deal with same-sex attraction, offering lectures, training and support to Brazilians inside and outside Adventism who hope to “correct” or “revert” their sexual orientation.

True Friendships offers interventions to homosexual people whom the organization says “suffer of same-sex attraction,” defining them as bearers of same-sex “tendencies” caused by a “gender void” (distance from people of the same gender due to sexual abuse, bullying, disfunctional families, and so on). They claim to heal emotional wounds by filling the “void,” and thereby reversing aberrant sexual tendencies. The healing of these wounds, the organization says, is accomplished through same-sex “true friendships.”

Zelota magazine accessed screenshots from a Whatsapp group named “MAV 4: Men,” that revealed True Friendships’ interactions with subjects of the organization’s interventions. Zelota also spoke with former MAV group members who reported emotional manipulation, disclosure of personal and confidential information, and psychological scars from the organization’s actions.

True Friendships’ approach may sound familiar to the Adventist church in the United States, whose LGBTQ members have experienced ostracism, mistreatment, and conversion therapy scandals. The South-American Division has expressed support for True Friendships, whose methods resemble conversion therapy ministries in the US—it is structured around an “expert” who purportedly achieved heterosexuality and created a ministry based on their experience and perspective. 

Fighting Anti-LGBTQ Violence

One of the best known Brazilian Adventist combatants against LGBTQ violence is Zelota editor Jonathan Monteiro, known as “the Gay Adventist” for his social media activism since 2017. Monteiro was an active member of his local church, but his public affirmation of his sexuality created a rift between him and the congregation; he was eventually disfellowshipped before finding acceptance in a progressive Adventist church. 

Seventh-day Adventist Kinship was vital to Monteiro’s journey. The Brazilian chapter is currently led by Fábio Siniscarchio. In November 2022, SDA Kinship Brazil held its first Mini Kampmeeting with approximately 40 attendees. The event featured Pastor Marcos Apolônio, who has volunteered in the organization since 2003.

On November 11, 2023, SDA Kinship Brazil, Zelota, and the Evangelicals for Diversity collective gathered in protest of True Friendships’ fifth national meeting, held at the Brooklin Adventist church in São Paulo. The protestors distributed flyers and pamphlets to advocate LGBTQ faith and spirituality that extends beyond a life of celibacy, and precludes mandatory public disclosures of their marital or sexual status. 

As Brazilian Adventism, led by younger generations, grows increasingly supportive of LGBTQ social and religious normalization, eyes will be on South American Division leaders to see how they articulate the gospel in terms of mission and message.

André Kanasiro

About the author

André Kanasiro is editor-in-chief and creator of Zelota magazine, where he writes on the Bible, politics and Adventism. He is a biologist and has a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the University of São Paulo. More from André Kanasiro.
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