Bob Bouchard, a leader of Seventh Day Adventist Kinship International for over 40 years, was born in 1951 in New York City and raised in the Bronx along with an older sister. His father drove a NYC subway train. His mother was primarily a homemaker, finding employment from time to time to help cover family expenses. While Bob’s parents were not members of any religious denomination, his maternal grandmother had become Seventh Day Adventist and so Bob periodically attended worship and Sabbath School with her in a German-speaking church. The congregation nurtured Bob in the faith and arranged for him to go to an Adventist school starting in seventh grade and then to high school at Greater New York Academy. Bob was an excellent student and very involved in school activities—as class officer, singer in the choir and as the school newspaper editor. Bob’s development was unusual among his peers in that his parents did not follow Adventist religious practice, so at home he did not have to adhere to the restrictive Adventist lifestyle which was the norm. Bob believes this gave him a more detached view of the faith and a more objective view of the pros and cons of being Adventist.
Bob started his undergraduate studies at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in September 1969. While he was aware of an attraction to men in high school, it wasn’t until he got to university that he met and interacted with other gay men. He entered into a relationship with another man during his freshman year, but given that homosexuality was taboo at Andrews and could result in expulsion, he ended the relationship and focused his energies on school activities. He completed his bachelor’s degree with majors in math and history, and then earned a master’s degree in history at Andrews. He spent a year (1974-75) teaching English at an Adventist school in Taiwan. He then returned to Andrews to teach in the history department for a year, with the thought of then going on for a doctorate in history and teaching in the Adventist school system. However, he decided that, in light of his sexual orientation and a reluctance to having his salary paid by the denomination, he would change career paths and enrolled in New York University Law School in 1976. He completed a J.D. degree in 1979 and was admitted to the bar in New York and New Jersey.
In 1979, Bouchard began employment with a legal information and education company that eventually became Thomson Reuters. He became Vice President of Specialty Practice at Thomson Reuters until 2002. In 2003, he became head of educational and publishing activities at the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Choosing a career in legal information and education rather than the more time-intensive law firm practice gave him more time in his life for other activities, including his involvement and leadership in Kinship.
Kinship’s earliest beginnings began around 1976 when a group of LGBTQ Adventists in Los Angeles began meeting together, ultimately adopting the name Kinship. During the next four years a similar group came together in San Francisco. Ron Lawson, another of Kinship’s founders, placed ads in The Advocate and began corresponding with other LGBTQ Adventists. In 1980 Lawson organized a meeting of LGBTQ Adventists from different parts of the country with a number of representatives of the Adventist Church leadership with the hope of changing church doctrine which to this day condemns same sex intimate relationships and gay marriage. The summer meeting included a number of pastors and seminary professors to provide some theological, biblical and pastoral reflection to the gathering. The power of the personal stories and testimonies deeply touched those present and the LGBTQ participants agreed to meet a few months later to begin organizing more formally. That gathering in San Francisco decided to form a national organization that would be named Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Inc. and set in motion the legal steps to implement that decision. Bouchard was present at the meeting and was part of the organizing committee that wrote the bylaws, filed for incorporation and obtained 501( c ) ( 3 ) status for Kinship.
Vern Schlenker was elected the first president of the new national organization in 1980 and Bouchard became the newsletter editor. Bouchard became Kinship president in 1982 and served until 1988, seeking to maintain steady leadership and direction during this period of impassioned and spirited activity among the membership. The onset of HIV/AIDS led to the loss of a number of Kinship early leaders. The group grappled with issues of gender equity and inclusive language. Bouchard encouraged outreach and raising the visibility of the group. As a representative of Kinship, Bouchard played an ongoing role in the Lesbian & Gay Interfaith Alliance during this time.
In these early years Kinship found allies among some Adventists pastors and educators. However, some openness to dialogue soon hardened among the Adventist denomination leadership and in 1986, the denomination requested that Kinship cease using Seventh-day Adventist or SDA in its name. When Kinship refused, the church filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement in Federal District Court of Central California in December, 1987. Kinship defended itself in the court proceedings and in October, 1991, the court ruled in favor of Kinship. A documentary on Kinship’s founding and early decades has been been created and can be accessed HERE.
Following the completion of his term as president in 1988, Bouchard remained on Kinship’s board and served in other leadership positions, including Member-at-Large, another seven annual terms as president in the 2000’s, and his current role as the treasurer of the organization.
Bouchard met his husband Vince in 1994 and they lived together on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His partner was from southern California and in 2003 they bought a home in San Diego and moved there in 2005. Bouchard continued working at the AICPA and then at the Practising Law Institute, often commuting across country to offices on the east coast, until his retirement in 2016. Since that time he has maintained a part-time consulting practice.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman from an interview with Bob Bouchard and edited by Bouchard.)
Biography Date: October 2022
Seventh Day Adventist | Activist (religious institutions) | Kinship (Seventh Day Adventists) | New York City | New York
“Bob Bouchard | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed February 25, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/bob-bouchard.