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Seventh Gay Adventists

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 4, 2013
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We’ve heard plenty about the Mormon Church and its stance on gays; and we’ve heard more than enough about the Catholic Church and its inability to view gays as participating in natural, normal human relationships, calling gay sexuality "disordered" and "intrinsically evil" despite its own quite glaring shortfalls in the area of proper sexual conduct.

But what about Seventh-Day Adventists? This is a faith that encourages active participation from its membership, and it is the nation’s fastest-growing denomination, according to Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer’s documentary "Seventh-Gay Adventists."

Like people from other faiths, Seventh-Day Adventists view their faith as an essential part of who they are. It’s not easy for the denomination’s gay members to contemplate setting aside their religious convictions even when their church condemns who they are and sets out unrealistic, and potentially damaging, expectations that they should somehow change themselves into heterosexuals.

This film looks into the lives of several Seventh-Day Adventists who have wrestled with their faith, their families, and their sexuality. David is a young man who has put himself through a spiritual and emotional wringer in a completely useless quest to become straight. Sherri and her same-sex life partner want to provide their two young daughters with the same spiritual home that they enjoy themselves in the church, but when they lose their old pastor and their congregation begins a search for a replacement, they worry that "the welcome mat [will] be rescinded" if a fire-and-brimstone type fills the vacancy at the pulpit. And Marcos was a pastor in his native Brazil, until a male lover outed him and destroyed his career; Marcos has forged a new life in the United States with his male partner and a church support group created for the GLBT faithful, but DOMA and the immigration system hang over his head with a threat of tearing his family and his life apart for a second time.

The filmmakers spare us voiceover narration and cheesy graphics, letting the subjects of their documentary speak for themselves. The result is a powerful film that follows each of these three people and their families through good times and bad--though mostly good: Sherri’s church takes proactive steps to ensure that their gay families will remain welcomed and supported, Marcos starts his own pastoral project after the group he belongs to shuts down due to a lack of funding, and David lets go of his fears about where he will spend the afterlife in order to enjoy his time on earth with Colin. (Now all he has to worry about is how well their long-distance relationship will work.)

This is an inspirational film, but it also reminds us of how very far we have to go. GLBT equality is not simply a legal matter to be hard fought and won on a state by state basis; it’s also a spiritual concern, and churches have been riven from within over the question of whether to accept or reject gays and their families. Signs of progress are everywhere, though: As David’s older brother, who is himself a pastor, puts it, he would rather accept and support David and risk punishment from God than turn his back on his own brother. One suspects that it’s not God the pastor has to worry about in any case, but his demonstration of Christian compassion and family values give one a sense of hope.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

This article is part of our "Out On Film Atlanta" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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