Rudy Torres presents 2013 summer meeting

From “Don't ask, don't tell” to “Thanks for asking me to be an elder”— How One Congregation Moved from Exclusion to Inclusion of its LGBT Community

A room full of attendees listened intently as Rudy Torres, Pastor Emeritus of the Glendale City SDA Church, presented our summer meeting on September 9.  It is noteworthy that Rudy has pastored  several of the most progressive Adventist churches in the world—Sligo in Takoma Park, Maryland (where Rudy oversaw the ordination of the first three Adventist women pastors in 1995), Green Lake in Seattle (home church of UW Professor Alvin Kwiram, first president of the Association of Adventist Forums) and, most recently, Glendale City. "

When Torres arrived at Glendale, attendance had declined from 1100 to 175. Pondering this situation, he realized that the church, predominantly Caucasian, was surrounded by gays and lesbians, many of whom were “unchurched.”  During his tenure at Glendale Rudy advanced and established the policy of accepting women as equal to men in church positions such as deacons, elders, and associate pastors and moved the church from exclusive to inclusive, ordained women elders and introduced Women on Stage.

Pastor Torres began his presentation by exalting the “Power of the Story,” and went on to trace the resurrection of the Glendale Church from a terminal state to a thriving congregation. “I am here to tell the Glendale (City Church) story, not to argue morality.”

Torres observed that Glendale City’s theologically traditional Bible Worker, Mary Walsh, was not aware that about half of her 20+/- annual converts were gay young men with no Adventist background.  Eduardo Villa, member and regular Metropolitan opera singer, attracted many non-SDA singers/actors to the Glendale City church choir (~80% non-Adventist) and, along with its outstanding director, Robert Herr, helped establish it as the choir to belong to in the greater Los Angeles area.  The Southern California SDA Conference made Glendale a “pilot” church and it now conducts six to eight baptisms a year, attracting mostly atheists and agnostics.  

Rudy’s preaching and Glendale’s contemporary Sabbath School classes both attract liberal thinkers and its motto, “Revealing Christ, affirming all” aptly evokes its history of innovation and its open and inclusive policies. As Pastor Torres averred, “the degree to which a church fails to minister to a group, is the degree of its exclusivity.”

You are invited to enjoy the whole presentation; clicking the Lectures tab above will offer options to immediately download the mp3 file or order the CD.                                                                                                                                     by Mary Proctor-Dehn & Gordon M. Rick

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