Seventh-day Adventist Students Sharing Stories

by Eliel Cruz

“We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced.” -Malala Yousafzai

A person’s story is one of the most sacred pieces of themselves. To share is to be made vulnerable. It takes a lot of courage to be transparent and honest about one’s story. Yet it is only through stories that we can begin to talk about topics such as race, gender, sexuality, and other minority groups on a humanistic level.

It is through stories that we begin to bridge gaps. 

As the civil rights movement of the LGBT community continues, we have seen that stories have shifted people’s paradigm, which often hinges on religion. But regardless of anyone’s religious interpretations, we have seen that churches all around the world usually talk about LGBT folk on a theoretical level, instead of taking a humanistic approach.

A little over a year ago I wrote the first blog piece entitled “I’m a Seventh-Gay Adventist.” The response was overwhelming, as the story was liked 1.3k times and emails flooded my inbox. The stories, although unique and different than mine, all had common themes.

Something about the message being produced by the Seventh-day Adventist church had allowed these LGBT folk to have mental illness, attempt suicide, or be cast out of their homes. I was thanked for being their voice, for sharing my story.

Since then, I’ve continued blogging on what it means when religion, sexual, and gender identities intersect in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Two years ago I helped start the first unofficial gay-straight alliance support group at Andrews University. In the spring of 2012, I co-founded the Intercollegiate Adventist GSA Coalition (IAGC), a student-led organization working to bridge the gap between our Seventh-day Adventist faith-based institutions and the LGBTQ students who are in attendance.

Currently, the IAGC has members from Pacific Union College, Andrews University, Walla Walla University, La Sierra University, Southern Adventist University, and Washington Adventist University with more campuses soon to follow.

Together, we are creating a network of unofficial gay-straight alliances from different Adventist campuses to provide resources, programs, and support for each campus individually as well to the higher education system itself. Plans include yearly programs and events including educational scholarships, educational tools and resources, and projects for awareness.

This month we have begun agthering support for our latest campaign, Share the Story. This campaign is the Intercollegiate Adventist GSA Coalition’s first official print series. We are collecting stories of current and former Seventh-day Adventist students who have shared vulnerable, honest pieces of their lives.

By creating personalized packets of each individual’s story, “Share The Story” will humanize a topic the Seventh-day Adventist church has continually spoken about in a theoretical fashion. 

I’ve seen the power of stories in films such as Seventh-Gay Adventists and God Loves Uganda. Both deal with religion, sexual and gender identities, and the damage a single narrative message has caused in the Seventh-day Adventist church and internationally in Uganda. Stories are powerful, and their tools for change.

We are creating a space for Seventh-day Adventist queer students to share their stories on whatever theological, sexual, or gender identity spectrum they may be on. We’re not out to change anyone’s theology—we have no “agenda” other than to share stories. This is a no-strings-attached campaign to put faces behind the conversations being had so carelessly in our churches, homes, and schools.

We work with hundreds of queer Seventh-day Adventist LGBT students. Ironically, on these 7 universities, our unofficial GSA’s have become, for some, the only safe spaces they have at their disposable. We’ve recently seen the power of an LGBT student’s story at Calvin College through features of LGBT students.

We’re trying to change campus cultures that have become the frontlines of the gay debates.

Our stories will create a paradigm shift. Change is happening within our religious communities, and it all starts with a story. Click here to learn more.

Photo via Seventh-Gay Adventists