A commentary by Loren Seibold for Adventist Today, “My Church Supports the Killing of LGBTQ People in Uganda,” horrified yet did not surprise me. Adventism has a record of racism and intolerance. In the 1890s, a young mixed-race woman was not permitted in the same classrooms as white students. More recently, there is the story of a student at Southern Adventist University who came out as transgender in 2022 and immediately left the university. My own story dates to the early 1980s, when I attended what was then Southern Missionary College, where I was discriminated against for being gay. (You can read about my story in an article I wrote for Adventist Today). There is a persistent effort to punish and abolish diversity by many past and current Seventh-day Adventist administrators.
The fact that General Conference leadership will not answer the questions asked by the independent press and will not engage in productive dialog with LGBT+ Seventh-day Adventists points to their callousness. In my experience, when someone refuses to answer questions or to participate in dialogue about a topic of concern, it’s because they have something to hide or their stance is indefensible. This pattern of leaders separating themselves from dialogue with hurting members is alarming. Do they believe they are superior to, and exist outside of, the world in which the rest of us live?
Why do church leaders refuse to explain how Moses Maka Ndimukika, a member of the General Conference Executive Committee, can partner with the state to make it legal to imprison or possibly kill people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?
Fundamentalist Christians, Adventist leadership included, have become political actors in the evolving war against diversity and democracy, focusing their efforts on a complete rejection of LGBTQ+ people, an easy target for hate. Like some post-apocalypse survival strategy, fundamentalists go after the weakest members of their communities with the fear-stoked idea of purifying themselves by eliminating the Other.
In the United States, Congress now attacks not only LGBTQ+ citizens but also women, the press, and books—through fear, misinformation, and undemocratic legislation—all at the behest of fundamentalists or other groups who are involved in politics.
In the Adventist Church, hypocrisy abounds. Adventist leadership historically has ignored biblical instruction to not wear clothing made of two different fabric sources (Leviticus 19:19). GC leadership should employ a religious police force to inspect all churchgoers’ refrigerators to make sure that everyone is eating fish (Leviticus 11:9). Similarly, GC leadership ignores the instructions from Jesus in John 8:7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” In their treatment of the LGBTQ+ community, Adventist leaders have become, through their self-proclaimed authority, gatekeepers to God’s kingdom—they only admit those they wish to include (the ingroup: heteronormative, who do not question authority), and exclude those who they see as unworthy. In my view, GC leadership has sinned in placing themselves above God. Doesn’t that act, then, make them illegitimate leaders?
To all thoughtful, open-minded Adventists, please call on pastors and leaders to answer these questions. And if leadership refuses to hear your call, you have the power of your own feet and your wallet. The questions still stand. And the questions need answers.
James Baran is a designer, fine-art photographer, and writer. He graduated from Broadview Academy and attended Southern Missionary College from 1980 until 1981. He received his undergraduate degree in music from the College of Fine Arts, Illinois State University, and went on to complete a master’s degree in English literature from the Graduate School, Illinois State University, in 1986. James is a former Adventist, now a member of the Episcopal Church. He works in photography and has completed a memoir that includes a narrative of his coming out of the Adventist Church. He lives in Chicago and Southern California.
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