This year I will celebrate my birthday in Vienna. No, this is not a weekend-trip to a European city that I get as a birthday present. My wife and I are a few days in Vienna as guests of the Kinship organization, which this year holds its international congress in that city. I have been asked to give a number of presentations and to preach the sermon on Saturday morning. Kinship is an international organization of (mostly) Adventist people with an “alternative” sexual orientation—thus we nowadays tend to label as LHBTI or a variance of these letters.
In actual fact, I am “second choice” as the speaker, for the person who had in first instance been invited was told by his employing (Adventist) organization that his job would be at risk if he were to accept the invitation. How tragic. But, regardless of whether I am “second choice”, I have gladly accepted the invitation to be in Vienna with the LGBTI-particpants at this congress, and a group of “friends”. I hope the people will be blessed with what I have prepared.
Some twelve years ago a similar congress was held in a conference center in the South of the Netherlands. I had been invited by the Kinship-leaders to come and give a number of worships. They added that they would understand if I would decline the invitation. At the time I was the president of the Adventist Church in the Netherlands. I received the assurance that they did not require me to agree with all the Kindship standpoints. This meeting became a life-changing experience for me. I knew at that point very little about homosexuality and “alternative” sexual orientations. I had not studied the topic in any depth and my (rather negative) attitude was mostly shaped by the anti-homo climate that was quite general among Christians (and certainly among Adventists) in the Netherlands of previous decades. During the days of that congress I had the first real opportunity to listen to the stories of men and women (I do not think any transgenders were present) of how their orientation impacted upon their lives and how they, more often than not, were not welcome in the Adventist Church—let alone that they could play an active role in their church. At the end of those days I still had many questions, but I did have a very different picture of the challenges the LGBTI community in my church was facing.
Now, many years later, I know a lot more about the LGBTI subject. Recently I even wrote a brochure about it.I have given presentations in local churches and pastors’ meetings about the topic in a number of countries and participated in study conferences. I am still left with questions. As a heterosexual male I continue to find it very difficult to understand what it means te be attracted to another male. I still have some theological questions, but gradually I have become convinced that the Bible does not equate homosexuality with a loving, committed, permanent and exclusive relationship between two persons of the same gender, who are simply unable to enjoy a meaningful heterosexual relationship.
Unfortunately, I continue to see in my church a great lack of understanding and acceptance of “brothers” and “sisters” who are “different”. But I am happy to also see more and more positive signals. I hope to continue to make a small contribution towards a full integration of those who have an “alternative” sexual orientation. Gods fully accepts them. How can we do otherwise?