Recently, Brett Hadley, a Bible teacher, pastor and drama coach at Highland View Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Maryland, was forced to resign. The reason: he participated in the wedding of his step-daughter, who entered into a same-sex marriage.
When the family planned this event as a family dinner, no one guessed it would result in this beloved teacher losing his job.
The wedding was planned as a family get-together with members of both families and a simple civil ceremony, but someone had to sign the document. When Pastor Hadley signed his step-daughter’s marriage certificate, his involvement was reported to his superiors.
It is my understanding that Pastor Hadley’s theological convictions about same-sex relationships do not differ from the official Adventist position. While I’m sure some will see it differently, it appears that the conflict here is between a father’s love, based on his understanding of Adventist family values, and making sure that all employees adhere to the current church position regarding homosexuality.
By participating in his step-daughter’s wedding, Pastor Hadley was being a father, even if he did not fully agree with his step-daughter. His participation was a simple act of unconditional love.
This kind of unconditional love is exactly how Jesus said Christians would be known.
In his leadership, Jesus was continually expanding our human understanding of God’s love and grace, especially in the face of the religious authorities of His day who had deemed certain groups of people as “outsiders” and “unworthy.”
In John 13:35, Jesus offers his disciples a new commandment: “ By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As a fully affirming organization, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International works to extend this unconditional love to LGBT people who are current and former Adventists and their families. Kinship provides a “city of refuge” by ministering to the spiritual, emotional, social, and physical well-being of LGBT people who have been made to feel unwelcome in their churches and schools.
Although not being viewed favorably by the Church, Kinship feels a strong sense of mission to follow the example of Jesus in ministering to those who have been marginalized because of a sexual orientation they did not choose, and we appreciate the family members who support them as allies.
I hope and pray that someday soon my Church will be willing to have a conversation with God’s children who have a different orientation or gender identity.
While some continue to question my faith and loyalty to the Church simply because of my sexual orientation, I do not question that school officials seek to do what is best. But I do hope that the lives of the young people at Highland View Academy will continue to have a higher priority than political pressure and denominational fears of being “too easy on sin.”
As a former pastor, I have seen an increasing number of our members leave the Church, especially young adults, because they believe it is more interested in upholding a position than in caring for and extending unconditional love to members of the church family.
This is reinforced when such harsh actions are taken against beloved pastors and spiritual leaders like Pastor Hadley, whose only transgression was extending unconditional love to his step-daughter.
Showing up to love each other unconditionally seems like the very epitome of what Jesus said we’d be known for.
It would be wonderful if that was the goal for every pastor and church administrator.
Black or African American