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Viewpoint: A Response to the Adventist Review on the NFL’s First Openly Gay Player


In this month’s Adventist Review, Jimmy Phillips writes about the NFL’s draft – specifically on the historical moment of the first openly gay player (Michael Sam) being drafted. Using Sam as a straw man, Phillips uses “scare quotes” to describe Michael’s coming out. The piece doesn’t actually discuss Michael Sam but rather, the author’s own personal views on homosexuality or really, on same sex-sex. He even takes a jab at Seventh-Gay Adventists (as if Seventh-Gay Adventists is the only organization working with the LGBT community in the church).

For speaking on a mainstream subject, Phillips is quite out of touch with the LGBT community, even within our own church. Here are the inaccuracies within Phillips’ piece: 

1. Michael Sam deserved to be drafted. Phillips makes it seem that Sam shouldn’t have been drafted. It’s almost as if Phillips doesn’t believe Sam is a good player. What he fails to mention is that Sam was named the SEC defensive player of the year and multiple outlets predicted him getting drafted earlier than the spot. 

2. Coming out is brave. Phillips uses “scare quotes” to describe Sam’s coming out, obviously not understanding that coming out is a brave thing to do. Especially on such a large platform. The closet kills, and statistics show that closeted individuals go through a much higher suicide rate and struggle with mental illnesses. Seeing celebrities come out is extremely important for LGBT youth. Sam coming out shows all the young LGBT football players that one day they too could be a part of the NFL. He is a hero in the eyes of thousands of young athletes. 

3. LGBT people are created in His image. Philips attempts to say that homosexuality is not in God’s image. But homosexuality isn’t a sex act. Homosexuality is an identity, a sexual orientation. Perhaps unintentionally, (showing his lack of fluency on this subject), Phillips says that those who are same-sex attracted are not reflective of God’s image. Here’s a bit of a conundrum for Phillips: The General Conference named the Cape Town LGBT summit “In God’s Image.” They emphasized the entire time that all of God’s children are reflective of His image. 

4. Reparative therapy doesn’t work. As many have in the past, Phillips believes that through prayer God will change our sexualities. Here is the problem with Phillips’ assertion: he assumes that LGBT people don’t have enough faith or haven’t prayed hard enough. That’s just not the case. There is story after story of LGBT people sharing how we have prayed all night asking for God to change us. 

The individuals from Coming out Ministries will testify that they tried to change their orientations with no success. They no longer engage in same-sex relationships but still have same-sex attractions.  They even speak at SDA churches, and spoke at the In God’s Image summit. While they don’t identify as gay and lesbians, they do have same-sex attractions. The presentation at the General Conference summit on this subject even discussed how reparative therapy isn’t a viable option. That in fact, many individuals do not change and it shouldn’t be pressed upon the community. Exodus International, the largest ex-gay organization, shut its doors in 2012 saying that after decades they have caused irrevocable harm and haven’t actually successfully changed anyone’s sexuality. Exodus poster children have re-come out as gay and lesbian, and have apologized for lying. 

5. LGBT people should be members of the church. Phillips doesn’t think LGBT people should be members of our churches. He should talk to this union, this church, and this church about that.

In my experience we can’t seem to talk about anything related to LGBT individuals without talking about sin, sex, and marriage. Phillips wasn’t actually talking about Michael Sam – he was talking about same-sex sex. This conversation is much more nuanced than many give it credit for. It would perhaps be helpful if Phillips kept up with the conversation, as he seems to be missing memos, even from the SDA church itself.

Eliel Cruz is the president and co-founder of the Intercollegiate Adventist Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition. He is pursuing a dual degree in International Business and French studies at Andrews University.  

Image: Michael Sam in the New York Times.

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