Demonstration Held at Sonrise in Response to New Adventist Church Guidelines


One of the signs used during demonstration. (Photo credit: Colby Knecht)

When Lindsey Crumley, a sophomore, first saw a small group of people holding signs at Sonrise, she was surprised at the sight of protesters in Collegedale.

“When I first saw the protesters, I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” Crumley says. She worried they would distract the crowds, but after noting their calm demeanors, she “was no longer concerned.”

Other spectators wondered about the scene as well. Sophomore Isabelle Kaneza says, “I was mostly just curious about what the group would protest.”

“I’m hesitant to use the word protest. I’d call it along the lines of the word ‘demonstration,’” says Colby Knecht, a Collegedale Academy alumnus and student at UTC who was part of the group.

They arrived early on the morning of April 19th on public land but visible to all who were at Southern for the Sonrise pageant. Their aim was to be as respectful as possible so that they would not distract from their core message.

“The director of Sonrise and the police came up to us and thanked us for being respectful; we had people even say that they support us,” says Knecht.

The demonstration was in response to new guidelines passed by the Executive Committee for the Seventh-day Adventist Church during their biannual leadership meeting called “Responding to Changing Cultural Attitudes Regarding Homosexual and Other Alternative Sexual Practice,” in particular the part of the document under the heading “The Moral and Religious Freedoms of the Church” that says:

 These teachings and faith-based practices, built upon the Bible’s instructions about human sexuality, are equally applicable to heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It is inconsistent with the Church’s understanding of scriptural teaching to admit into or maintain in membership persons practicing sexual behaviors incompatible with biblical teachings. Neither is it acceptable for Adventist pastors or churches to provide wedding services or facilities for same-sex couples.

“We weren’t there to open up a fiery debate on whether or not homosexuality is a sin,” says Knecht, “We were there to make sure that people understand that there are good people who want to be in the church, but the church is saying, ‘you don’t meet our criteria.’ The guidelines refer to sexual misconduct in general, but then singles out homosexuality.”

Along with Knecht at the demonstration was Dylan Padgett, also a CA alumnus, and Dylan’s parents. When Colby read about the new guidelines, he thought of his friend Dylan, who identifies himself as gay. Padgett is and has been an Adventist his whole life, was baptized at 10, and was a pathfinder.

“We didn’t want to provoke anyone with this demonstration,” says Knecht, “but we wanted people to know about [the guidelines] and the kind of individual and family this affects.”

“At the end of the day,” continues Knecht, “it matters who you’re getting into the house of God where the Holy Spirit can work. It doesn’t matter who we consider as sinful; why don’t we welcome them with open arms? I think I have a lot of shortcomings myself….We just wanted to open up a dialogue, and I think that’s what the church should be doing.”