My name is Konnie Prohaska. I went to Andrews University from 2017 to 2021. In that time, I was vice president, and eventually president, of Aull4One, the unofficial group for LGBTQ+ individuals.
I first heard about Coming out Ministries in 2016 when they put up posters around campus to advertise. The Office of Student Life removed the posters because Coming Out hadn’t received permission to put them up. Undaunted, they continued reaching out to LGBTQ+ students for months afterwards. Even though Aull4One and the queer folk on campus made it clear that Coming Out was unwelcome, they persisted.
The few students that met Coming Out had decidedly negative experiences. An anonymous student who met with them in 2016 said, “I met with [Coming Out] for a 4-hour meeting last semester. To be completely honest, I felt depressed after meeting them.” Another student who preferred not to be named said, “I do not trust them at all… they speak in religious cliches that are so layered it’s hard to know exactly what they mean.”
Aull4One’s official view was united opposition to Coming Out Ministries. We felt uncomfortable talking to them, going to their presentations, and reading their literature. Some members felt worse than uncomfortable. They felt scared.
Months after the posters were taken down, they finally stopped harassing us. We assumed that was the end of their presence on the Andrews University campus. But now they’re back.
Coming Out is currently fundraising to buy a house directly across the street from the Andrews University – less than a rainbow’s length from the front gate.
I have a question for anyone at Coming Out. If the current members of Haven do not want you here, and if the former members of Aull4One didn’t feel comfortable interacting with you, what exactly does your “ministry” think it will accomplish?
To minister means to serve and help, but the very people you claim to help are stressed out because of you. Buying the building across the street will not help us at all. Instead, it will add to our discomfort and fear for personal safety.
During the pandemic, Haven was exactly what the name suggests – a haven where I could go to feel loved. I was taking classes virtually, but I still went to Haven meetings in person because of how much they meant to me. Aull4One was just as important. We had Christmas parties, social events, and discussions about campus happenings. Seminary students even came to our meetings, and they learned more about LGBTQ+ people. Administrators sometimes came to ask if we felt safe on campus and how they could help. My time with Aull4One taught me about family, equality, and advocacy. I miss it very much.
A Tale of Two Ministries
Compare Coming Out Ministries and Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International – two Adventist nonprofits that focus on LGBTQ+ individuals.
In contrast with Coming Out, Kinship is affirming and accepting. I have worked for them in the past as the youth director, and what struck me most was their desire to help Queer individuals. Kinship hosts virtual Sabbath schools each week, in-person camp meetings, and more. The board members all work for free, none of them get paid.
What of their use of funds?
Starting with their publicly available 2021 tax returns, let’s compare the organizations’ financials. (This information is viewable both at the IRS website and ProPublica online). Kinship’s total revenue was $110,766. Coming Out’s total revenue was $240,000.
At Kinship, none of the board members or employees get paid. But at Coming Out, co-founders and principal employees Michael Carducci and Ron Woolsey paid themselves $49,440 each in 2021. Nearly half of what Coming Out made went into the pockets of the men running the organization.
Worse, Coming Out’s stated mission is “…To ignite an unquenchable movement restoring all men and women back to the image of their Creator God through presentations and sale of DVD’s and books.”
The books they sell include “Navigating the Storms – of Contemporary Sexuality, Identity, and Love” and “That Kind Can Never change… Can They?” Those titles are among the books Ron Woolsey wrote himself. He also sells his Marimba music CD’s on the Coming Out website. Carducci and Woolsey spend donations on traveling the world and they sell their own materials to make themselves money.
Coming Out is a grift, not a ministry. It is an organization concerned with making money for those who run it.
In contrast, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship does not sell books by board members. Kinship president Floyd Poenitz does not sell self-published materials at Kinship events. He doesn’t get paid a salary.
Thousands of Queer Adventists worldwide have benefitted from Kinship’s events, prayers, and network-building. It operates in every continent except Antarctica. Since Kinship became an official tax-exempt nonprofit in 1983, they have made a clear difference for countless LGBTQ+ people.
Coming out Ministries received tax-exempt status in July of 2017. If the organization is to continue as a nonprofit, the message for those in charge is clear:
Please stop using the organization for personal gain! Please start listening to LGBTQ+ students! And please don’t buy that house. Andrews University doesn’t want you.