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Who’s Not Welcome at the General Conference Session?

“Big Tent Adventism” describes what Adventist Forum dreams for Adventism—an open church where all members are welcome. So it is the concept around which the Spectrum booth is planned for the General Conference Exhibit Hall.

The centerpiece of the booth is a “Welcome Table,” to showcase that all are welcome. Around the table will be the place cards for representatives of several small Adventist organizations.

When the names of those organizations were submitted to the General Conference, it became clear that all are not welcome at the General Conference.

Someone to Talk to, the organization started by Carrol Grady to provide support to the families and friends of gay and lesbian Adventists was denied approval by the General Conference to sit at the Welcome Table in the Spectrum booth.

The ministry of Someone to Talk to is evident in the responses it receives. “As a marriage, family and child counselor working with university students, I have been saddened by the prejudice and misguided notions about homosexuality that have been passed on to kids,” Barbara Hernandez of Loma Linda University wrote to Grady.

It has caused me to wrestle with the issues of the nature of humanity, expectations of God, salvation, etc. I’ve been amazed by the attitude of church leaders in ignoring issues which they don’t fully understand. So when I was handed your newsletter today, I was so very pleased that you have begun to meet the needs of confused, hurting parents.

While Someone to Talk to was granted booth space at the 2000 General Conference session, it was denied space in 2005. When Spectrum asked for a review of decision this year, the General Conference personnel decided to stick with the 2005 decision. Exhibit Manager Dean Rogers explained, “we told her (in 2005) that we would not give her a booth because her ministry varies from the teaching of the Adventist church on some points.”

Adventist Forum requested that she be allowed a place at Spectrum’s Welcome Table this year, and was advised that the GC “would maintain the decision that was made for 2005 Session. That is, not to approve the ministry Someone To Talk To as an exhibitor. I would understand this to include removing the place setting at the table,” Rogers wrote to Adventist Forum.

Grady says that her organization “does not advocate for changing the church’s position, rather its primary purpose is to help other parents and family members understand, love, and accept their gay loved ones and to encourage the church to do the same.”

Preventing any association of Adventism with homosexuality, however seems to be a priority of some people at the church headquarters.

In May, independent filmmakers Stephen Eyer and Daneen Akers received a cease and desist letter for improper use of the Seventh-day Adventist name for their proposed documentary Seventh-Gay Adventists.

“Your use and modification of the SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST mark in this manner is without permission of the GCCSDA and/or the church, and is likely to cause dilution by blurring the distinctive qualities of the SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST mark and by tarnishing the reputation of the mark. Your use of the mark in this manner is also likely to cause confusion among consumers who may mistakenly believe that the Church has authorized or approved your use of the SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST mark,” the letter read.

Given that the General Conference lost its suit against Seventh-day Adventist [SDA] Kinship in 1991 when U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaeizer determined that the “terms “Seventh-day Adventist” and “SDA,” as used by SDA Kinship are generic,” it is surprising that the Church is pursuing these filmmakers over use of the name.

When the Adventist Forum Board of Directors was informed of the decision by the General Conference to exclude Someone To Talk To, Director Larry Geraty said while he applauded the GC for, in the spirit of Christ, welcoming the concept of Big Tent Adventism, he was disappointed that it did not extend that welcoming to those being helped by the increasingly vital ministry of Carrol Grady.

Director Ellen Brodersen responded with a question, “Will Doug Batchelor be allowed to have a booth given his recent sermon on women in ministry that expressed divergent views from the church?” she said reflecting the finding by the Southeastern California Conference that Batchelor’s presentation did not accurately represent the church’s position. She then spoke of the universal need for help by members whose families are stressed in dealing with homosexuality, and wished that church officials could value the ministry that graciously serves these people.

“I could not be more dismayed.,” said Charles Scriven, board chair of the Adventist Forum. “Jesus was suspicious of respectability.

He was the friend of outcasts. Some church leaders want to reverse this.”

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