by Jessica Wode.
Being a Seventh-Day Adventist means being part of a close-knit community: Observing a Sabbath—a true day of rest—together on Saturday and attending Sabbath School. Leading children in “Adventurer Club” and “Pathfinders” instead of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Following certain dietary guidelines and sharing dishes that non-Adventists are unfamiliar with. Visiting only church-affiliated hospitals. This can mean having very few friends outside the Adventist church.
Those Adventists who are drawn to a relationship with someone of the same sex, then—something that is contrary to church teaching—are not only faced with personally reconciling their faith and sexuality, but also with deciding whether to walk away from an entire community, their way of life, and possibly their families.
Is it possible to reconcile being gay and being Adventist?
This is the question addressed by the documentary film Seventh-Gay Adventists, which follows three gay and lesbian Adventists—David, Marcos, and Sherri—as they try to navigate life as committed Adventists in same-sex relationships.
I had the opportunity to see this film at the Gay Christian Network conference a few months ago, and what I found most powerful about it is how it draws the audience into the life stories of the people profiled. It is not about theology or political issues, and it doesn’t try to resolve anything; it’s a story about real people.
And yet the typical Christian lines of condemnation must fall away in the face of such stories. It’s difficult to argue that there’s some sort of singular, morally depraved “gay lifestyle” after watching Sherri and her partner, Jill, raise their two daughters—helping with homework, gardening in their yard, sewing patches on Adventurer uniforms. And you’d be hard-pressed to say that Marcos, who was fired from his position as a pastor, has turned his back on God after watching his daily ritual of reading the Bible and praying with his partner, Obed.
The absurdity of condemnation also becomes apparent when Jill volunteers to lead the Adventurer Club that no one else has stepped up to lead. This puts their church in the position of either having no Adventurer Club at all or having it led by someone whose family does not fit the mold of church teaching.
Perhaps the most moving scene is when David’s brother, who is an Adventist pastor, agrees to officiate David’s marriage even though he does not personally believe their relationship is approved by God. He consciously chooses to put people above doctrine in order to continue living out love.
The film is gentle; it neither tries to convert anyone to Adventism nor tries to argue point-by-point theology with Adventists who want to condemn same-sex relationships. What it does is open up room for discussion and the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
And it does appear to be opening eyes and changing minds. I love the story that was recently posted on the Seventh-Gay Adventists film’s Facebook page about a woman who went over to her 82-year-old uncle’s house the morning after he’d seen the film. The man, whom she described as “Argentinian, very conservative, never wrong, and quite judgmental” had already been on the phone for an hour with friends telling them they needed to see the movie. He told them, “I was wrong! I’ve been wrong my whole life. We gotta love the gays! We gotta love the gays!”
The film has been screened in select locations around the world since being released last year. If you’re interested in seeing it, you can attend the upcoming Portland screening this Saturday, April 6, at 8:00 p.m. at the Century Theatre at the Clackamas Town Center Mall. The filmmakers, Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer, will be at the screening to answer questions, as will David and Colin, the couple whose wedding is in the film. More information is available on the film’s website.
Watch the trailer:
Jessica Wode writes a monthly column for the Q Center blog on issues of faith and the LGBTQ community. She also runs a site for sharing coming out stories, at WhenICameOut.com
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