"I always fought for a better version of Adventism, for what I knew the church could be, and maybe what it was on its best days. Everything changed when I realized I was going to have to come out publicly as a bisexual woman, but also as someone who believes that the church has it totally wrong when it comes to LGBT people and the legitimacy of the way we experience love, family, and gender.
I used to believe I could change the church from the inside, but now I see that the problems of the church are so deep that only certain people even have the privilege of such an approach. Now it feels like the blinders are off when it comes to the church. I don't avoid the ugly parts and just choose to look at the good ones.
It's been hard for me to see the people who have refused to re-examine their scriptural interpretations. I've always been taught and believed that we were a church that was rooted in a willingness to be faithful to scripture. I do believe we started out that way. But seeing pastors and scholars who are unwilling to look at this issue with integrity and a willingness to follow wherever the scriptures may lead- that's been very discouraging to me. The more I see that, the less Adventist I even feel, because I begin to wonder if the Adventism I was raised with was really about scripture, or whether it was about maintaining the organization all along. I can't think of a single doctrine that the church holds which is threatening to the institution. Somehow on every single issue they land solidly on the side that keeps the older, traditional tithe-payers happy and avoids any type of existential conflict.
Facing the reality that that's what the Adventist church is has been hard for me, it's a continual process of disillusionment. But at the same time, it's opened me up to so many new and exciting experiences in life. I'm getting opportunities to speak at places I never expected, and I'm experiencing faith communities that are so different from the one I was raised in.
I still think the Adventist church could be the greatest force for good on this planet if it would stop worrying about it's own perpetuation and start worrying about faithfulness to God. I see so much good in local expressions of faith. There are many, many excellent local Adventist churches, but those churches have limitations placed on them by an organization that takes way too much money from the local church and instead of returning value, places limitations on how those churches function.
So what does it mean to be Adventist in the context of total disillusionment with the institution? I think a lot of us are asking that question. Even if I wanted to get away from my Adventism, I don't think I could. It's rooted so deeply in me. I read the scriptures like an Adventist, experience the Sabbath like an Adventist, and will probably always identify as Adventist. But because of the sins of the institution, I've lost legitimacy in the church I love, and that is true of most of the people in the LGBT community.
How can we maintain loyalty to an organization that does not maintain loyalty to the lives of its own members when our existence as sexual minorities is inconvenient to the institution? I can't. So I suppose I see myself as a disloyal Adventist, but still very Adventist. Sometimes the most important change comes from the outside."
📸: Stephen Eyer