Helping Our Faith to Understand and Love
As we watch our top faith leaders react and respond to genuine modern human situations, we see exposed many weaknesses, misunderstandings, and argumentative behaviors. Strong words; but we feel many of the top leaders understand and desire supporting modern loving decisions but are too “weak” to oppose narrow old-fashioned beliefs, which clearly reflect “misunderstandings” in the education and interpretations of biblical translations. “Argumentative” behaviors occur when one or more high-level leaders independently create one-sided committees with targeted purposes without listening and considering valuable and accurate modern information.
Over the past decades, these activities have occurred with many subjects and situations. For us, SDA Kinship, many decisions have been issued and committees have been formed to reject our family “rainbow” members and their families, too. Fortunately, our local church and our friends accepted our gay son, and we never encountered some of the mean and hurtful behaviors that are occurring today.
Sleep well, looking forward to meeting again
Recently, our Adventist faith and SDA Kinship community lost a brave and loving member. Carrol Grady and her husband were lifelong missionaries and worldwide leaders and supporters of the Adventist faith. Carrol often shared about her firm beliefs in the basic teachings of our faith. Then, many years ago, their youngest son came out of the closet and Carrol and her husband went into their own faith closet—a common journey for all “rainbow” families.
But Carrol’s love for her son would not be quenched by their personal beliefs. She started researching and exploring all available articles, books, and biological studies regarding sexuality and sexual attractions. Her strong maternal love for her family helped her shift from earlier learned black-and-white decisions to slowly accepting broader and real information. Yes, it was a challenging journey since her husband was employed at the General Conference level of Seventh-day Adventists. She respected their situation, but her intense motherly love for her family continued to grow and explore.
Carolyn and I like the term “tenacious: holding firmly, persistent, stubborn”—that was Carrol! A few years after going into their closet, she wrote and published their family journey, My Son, Beloved Stranger. For protection and safety, the first edition used pseudonyms for everyone. But as folks started reading and connecting with their family journey, she started supporting LGBTQ+ issues at public events; and, in 2005, she republished their story under her name. It is a powerful, very well-written family life story.
Carrol joined SDA Kinship many years ago and started the “Family and Friends” ministry. She realized families and friends need to connect for support and understanding of their family “rainbow” member. She was often seen at major Adventist conferences in booths discussing and supporting “rainbow” families and situations. She was tenacious; her strong motherly instincts rallied many other mothers and families.
In closing, we want to share her final epilogue statement from My Son, Beloved Stranger.
“One of my greatest sorrows is realizing how many Christians have failed to show Jesus’ love and have driven our sons and daughters out of the church and away from God. I am thankful for the ministry of Kinship, which has provided what my church has not: a place of compassion and support for those who have been rejected. I believe that someday in the future many of us will look back in shame at our lack of love. I’m just thankful that God knows the hearts of our children and will judge them with mercy and true justice.”
Thank you, loving, tenacious Carrol. It was an honor and joy to know you and work with you. Rest in peace from your final painful days. Soon all of our “rainbow” families will gather—what a potluck that will be!
— John and Carolyn Wilt, Families and Friends Directors
The Eleventh Commandment: Be Kind!
Recently we discovered this new publication, The Eleventh Commandment: Why Kindness Matters, written by Rich DuBose, Michael Temple, and Karen Spruill, with added support from her husband Timothy. The book is available from AdventSource. This authorship team is an amazing tapestry of Adventist pastoring, writing and sharing personal songs, publishing books, magazine editor, video film director and editor, legal advocate, and licensed psychologist with many years focused on suicidal situations.
ENJOY THE KINSHIP “SPIRIT”
We’ve been re-reading an excellent book by Loma Linda theology professor, Richard Rice, Believing, Behaving, Belonging: finding a new love for the church. Early in the second chapter, a section is titled “The Spirit Creates Community...the spirit not only works within us, but it also works among us, or between us. It gives spiritual life to the community and the individual.”
Kinship Families & Friends Zoom Roundtable
The SDA Kinship Families & Friends group desires to support all families working their way through emotional and, possibly, confusing times. We (Carolyn and John) conducted two Sabbath school evaluations. In one class, 42% shared that they had an LGBTQ+ family member, and in the other class, it was 45%. We also estimate that 5-10% don’t know if they have an LGBTQ+ family member, while an additional 5-10% don’t care to admit it.
Focusing and Refocusing, Adjusting and Readjusting
Focusing is a complex process. How many times a day do you stop and focus on something? Maybe you need to see a special store sign or read an email message. Maybe the room is noisy, and you need to focus your ears to hear an important announcement. Or how about focusing your emotional support on an activity or a dear friend? Our human brains and emotions are constantly being challenged and refocused to experience our daily lives, and our reactions and behaviors also need to readjust to new situations.
LOOKING BACK INTO 2020
Carolyn and I hope this finds you enjoying the Christmas and New Year’s holidays despite the virus. We pray you could connect in person or through digital media with your special family members. We also hope you all created some positive and beneficial memories as you traveled the unpredictable paths of 2020.
Reinder Bruinsma has been a Seventh-day Adventist conference president for the Netherlands and for Belgium, General Conference administrator, pastor, and author - among several other things. In what he loosely calls his "retirement" he continues to write, speak to Adventist leadership and laity conferences and, attend other meetings around the world.
On the weekend of April 20, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division (NAD) hosted a workshop that included a select group of church leaders and lay members. The purpose of the workshop was to “participate and preview a new resource (booklet) titled Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones: Adventist Edition.”
When my oldest child informed me that she was transgender, I cried. I was confused. I didn’t even know where to turn to talk to anyone, because I knew my church wasn’t prepared to touch the issue. So I started praying and reading.
It’s been a couple of years now. My daughter Amy is happier than she ever was during her years of living as a boy. Her teenage siblings accepted her without question; their oldest sibling was simply "regenerating" like in Dr. Who—the same person inside with a different outside.
Here we are in the baseball post season again. It is amazing to watch teams make their final out...the out that sends them home. There's the cheering and high-fiving from the winning team. Then there's the downcast faces of the losing team. No matter what, one team moves on and one team goes home.
by Debbie Widmer, Family and Friends Coordinator
It’s been a busy couple of weeks and it’s not over yet. First was preschool graduation, with those adorable children in miniature caps and gowns waving their hands, unashamedly, at their parents. Next came eighth-grade graduation a week later. These young people tried out their adult looks—awkwardly child-like one moment and boldly confident the next. Today was an academy graduation. These graduates are on the brink of adulthood, making adult decisions about their futures.
From: Kris and Debbie Widmer.
Recently and ongoingly (Kris is a poet and wordsmith so occasionally he forges odd words), transgender people have been in the news. The world and national news and the internal news that Adventists hear through their social media and other communication channels.