Joining an open and inclusive church in San Francisco inspired Stephen Eyer and Daneen Akers to examine their Seventh-day Adventist faith and to take a closer look at the theology they had accepted their whole lives.
As progressive Christians, the couple now “strives to find and tell authentic stories that foster an awareness of our shared humanity and reinforce our connections to each other.” Creating a video for the It Gets Better Project was a next step.
The nine-minute short version (a longer, more in-depth version is also available) shares the stories of gay, lesbian, and transgender people, as well as allies, raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They speak to the fear of rejection that prevents many religious LGBT people from coming out to those closest to them and note that LGBT youth who experience familial rejection are over eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families are accepting. Family rejection that comes from a religious perspective has been found to be particularly devastating to LGBT youth.
In addition to creating an It Gets Better video, Eyer and Akers are in the process of producing a film called “Seventh-Gay Adventists” (teaser below) aimed at addressing the struggles LGBT Adventists face when coming to understand themselves within the culture and close-knit community that defines the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The film is still in production and Eyer and Akers are fundraising so that they can finish it.
Ryan J. Bell, senior pastor at Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hollywood, Calif., recently wrote a piece in the religion section of the Huffington Post. In it, he talks about the need for his denomination to love and accept all members, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Although Bell recognizes that the acceptance shown in his writing and the It Gets Better (for Adventists too) video does not represent all Adventists, he thinks that “it does represent a trend toward the love and compassion of Jesus being more fully displayed in Adventist congregations.” He argues that this love and compassion is the only way to create truly safe and welcoming churches.
At GLAAD we are always pleased to recognize religious individuals and communities that take steps toward becoming more welcoming of LGBT people. We commend Pastor Bell, Stephen Eyer, Daneen Akers, and everyone who has participated in the It Gets Better (for Adventists too) and “Seventh-Gay Adventists” films for their commitment to making the Seventh-day Adventist Church a more open and welcoming place for all people.