To the Seventh Day Adventist Church

To the Seventh Day Adventist Church,

My name is Claira Eastwood. I was dedicated when I was baby and baptized when I was twelve. I have gone to SDA schools and churches my entire life, and I currently attend an SDA university. My dad is a pastor and I grew up spending lots of time in churches. I went to an SDA summer camp from 2009-2013. I was the Religious Vice President my senior year of high school, and I have taught two sixth grade classes baptismal studies. I have spent countless hours, days, and weeks in churches and on retreats. Since birth, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has been part of my life. My name is Claira Eastwood, and I am angry.

This past week a committee got together on the east coast. I have done my best to understand what this committee was put together for and what decision they had to make, and this is what I’ve come up with- a committee got together to decide whether or not this church will allow it’s representatives to speak about and for those who have repeatedly been pushed away. This vote has given the people at the top of the church power to tell pastors what they can and cannot say. No one knows for sure how this will turn out, but I have my suspicions. The way I see it, this vote has taken away free speech and has told many, many people that the things they’ve gone through and even who they are as people are not things that can be talked about in the church. The way I see it, this vote is pushing away groups of people who “do not fit” a certain set of expections this church has tried to put on them. If this vote has hurt you, I am sorry. I am so sorry that a group of people have made a decision that will inevitably push people away from this church.

This morning I got up, got dressed, and went to church. My church is in the basement of the University church. My church serves coffee outside and has Christmas lights all year long. My church has drums. My church lets you wear jeans if you want to. My church talks about all the things we were told not to talk about. Today my church talked about the committee vote. On Tuesday there will be a meeting where a group of people (myself included) will attempt to figure out what to do next. Until then, this is what I have to say:

My God is a God of love. My God is a God of peace. My God is a God who loves the people this church* tends to push aside. My God is a God who will listen to you sing quiet hymns but will also dance for joy with the sound of drums. My God is a God who does not care what denomination you belong to. My God is a God who loves you no matter what your race, your sexual orientation, or gender identity may be. My God is a God who has loved everyone since before they took their first breath. My God is a God who is near to the brokenhearted, who is strong when I am weak, who has never left me and who never will. My God is a God who will leave the ninety-nine to go search for the one who has been voted out. My God is a God who has comforted those who were hurt by the vote. My God is a God who is bigger than this vote.

To those of you who have been hurt, I give you a quote from Kate DiCamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux: “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” Please keep sharing your stories. Remember your strength. Do not let yourself shrink away, because you are the one who has the most to say. I promise to listen to you. I promise to do what I can, because I am not going anywhere.

Today in my church one of the pastors told us “not to leave our home.” He told us that we were needed right now, and he’s right. At the end of the sermon, we all sang a song called Jesus at the Center of it All, and as we stood there, singing, I couldn’t help but believe that I was standing in a room of people who are going to change the world. We are a group of future teachers, doctors, engineers, artists, and yes, there are more than a few future pastors as well.

There were people in that room who were hurt by this vote, myself included. There were people in that room who will not rest until a solution has been found. There were people in that room who will still love, and love, and love, and love with all their hearts. I promise to be one of those people. Almost two years ago, I had a teacher tell me “don’t leave it, change it.” To the Seventh Day Adventist church, you have messed with the wrong generation. And we will not hesitate to let our voices be heard.

- Claira Eastwood

“Jesus at the center of it all.

Jesus be the center of your church.”
~ Jesus at the Center of it All

*I should make it clear that when I say “this church” I do not mean everyone in it. There are people in the SDA church who are kind, accepting, and welcoming people. In this letter, when I say “this church” I am talking about and to the people who made this vote happen.