Synchroblog

A ministry in Canada, New Directions, has recently come out with a DVD called Bridging the Gap: Conversations on Befriending our Gay Neighbors. Today they are hosting a synchroblog, where about 60 bloggers/organizations are all speaking towards what it is to bridge the gap between the Church and the GLBT Community. They asked me to be a part of it, and I’m excited to help advance the dialogue.

Here is my contribution:

Question: I was recently asked by a large Christian magazine what if every Christian and every church bought into what I was saying—what will happen down the road; and what is the end goal to building a bridge?

My answer:

Here’s the exciting and scary part: I don’t know what it will look like because it’s never been done before, but what I do know, is that the Lord is showing us how to start this movement, and then sustain it for the long haul. Churches and Christians have been so concerned and paralyzed with the X, Y and Z; that they have never done A, B and C in the right way—the exact mission the Lord has placed on my heart through The Marin Foundation and my book Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.

Let this story sink in:

A young and successful Christian businessman I know has the all the money he needs and all the looks to back up his skyrocketing career. He has a girlfriend whom he’s attracted to but sexually chaste with. However, he has one small secret that he has been keeping from everyone: the anonymous sex with other males behind his girlfriend’s back.

Over the past year he has gone to the altar at his church on three separate occasions during the service to ask his pastor for help. Each time the pastor promised to follow up with him and never did, leaving him more depressed as he continued to sink further and further away. It took a lot of guts for him to turn to The Marin Foundation and tell me his story after how he had been forgotten. When I told him that I wasn’t going to leave, that I would follow through and that I would help him however he needs to be helped, tears started to fill his eyes and he smiled.

I thought he was happy because he finally found someone he could trust. Boy was I wrong. He looked at me and said, “Do you know how many times I’ve heard that before? I’m only telling you all of this so my conscious is clear. God knows how many of his people have given up, or not tried at all.” With that he paid for his meal, got up, thanked me for my time and promptly left.

What just happened? I had never had anything like that happen to me before, and I was really mad. Who was that guy to think I was like all the others? He just used me as a means to feel better, like I was some type of confessional he needed to justify what he was doing emotionally and physically to himself and his girlfriend. I just wasted an hour of my time. I got up and headed out.

No more than two steps out of the door I realized something myself: Who was I to think that he would believe me when I said those things? That exact situation has happened to him three other times that I know of, by a person who he trusted for help. He didn’t want words, he didn’t want a feeling; he wanted me to follow through.

And so that is what I did. As soon as I got back to my desk I emailed and called him to let him know I meant what I said. It’s been almost a year since that first encounter and he’s on a tough journey right now. But it’s sure a lot easier when you know someone isn’t going to give up on you.

When it comes to same-sex sexual attractions and behaviors, Christians just give up too easy. Therefore above anything else when it comes to the GLBT community, the most important thing Christians can do is make a commitment for the long haul. Without a genuine commitment on the Christian’s part there can be, and will be nothing other then meaningless talk and niceties. I hear the same thing again and again from GLBT youth and adults: “I would have rather had Christians never enter my life than to continue entering in and then leaving. It does more harm than good.”

Just read that statement again. Only through a real commitment without knowing what’s going to happen, can believers take the first step to restoring a bridge with the GLBT community.

When I first immersed myself in the GLBT community I had no idea what I was doing or what good could ever come out of my decision. The only thing I did know was that I was in it for the long haul because in my mind, there was no turning back. God will always be faithful to our commitments if we can only be faithful to our own.

I know that committing to something that most of us know nothing about is not easy. When we are walking into an unknown we need assurance that there is hope to one day pull us through the times that we know will come, the times we know we can’t handle. God will fill in those gaps if only we solidify in ourselves the commitment to stay. Remember that God gives the growth, Jesus causes us to stand and it is our job to obey—because God doesn’t only work when we know what the outcome is going to be!

Much love.
www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Andrew Marin

    WOW DJ – work it out brother!!! How profound is that: "So too do these commitments you speak of. In fact, I would actually admonish Christians NOT to commit to such things UNTIL they have decreased their knowledge gap a bit. All the more reason to immerse themselves into the community (like Jesus immersed himself into the community of the broken and wanting, not the safety of the religious bubble), and just listen and learn before committing to anything."I always appriciate your thoughtfulness as you continue to move this thing forward throughout culture. Thank you so much. Can't wait to read your post!

  • Guido

    Thanks Andrew for sharing more part of the story about the suppressed same-sex attraction. That is incredibly important part of the story to me. I retract my comments. Thanks.I work with sex addicts, so the language you told the story in was the language we use to tell the story. So, flags and my biases were brought to attention. Forgive me.I am totally with you on the later that we as Christians talk of a faithful God and we are called to be faithful to those who we engage in conversation, walk beside, minister to and with. keep working brother.

  • Guido

    Andrew, I think your story of the man who has anonymous sex is not a helpful story.

    The man sounds like a sex addict not a homosexual. I think that is where we get confused, same-sex behvavior is not always homosexuality. I know of folks who are straight as an error, but they medicate pain through sexuality. The weireder the better leading them to same-sex encounters. They are no bi, they are just addicts. Upon the cure of sex addiction, they move to a recovered life. It is not Exodus ministry, it is 12 step. SAA, SA, SLAA, RCA.

    I think the principle of your statement is true, though your supporting data is faulty. How many times do we Christians build wells or do mission trips. Make ourselves very good at how generous we are and then leave. We lack commitment to a cause.

    It is painful when we do that to the GLBT community. As one who for the last 13 months has been walking with GLBT community…I sometimes want to give up. You remind me that I am here, because God called me to it. God is faithful, so should I be.

  • Mark Petersen

    I agree Andrew. What you are proposing is for people to be in relationship with each other, sharing life together. I admire your stance and what you are doing with your book and foundation.

    I hope we can meet one day… I am also a friend of Chris Heuertz', but am located in Toronto. Look me up if you ever come north.

  • D.J. Free!

    Thanks for posting, Andy! I, too, joined in the synchroblog (www.xanga.com/djfree).

    You bring up an interesting point when you say that it can be difficult to commit to something you know so little about.

    This is a problem in our culture as a whole. I'm sure it has something to do with our skyrocketing divorce rate: people committing to something they know very little about. Because the reality is, good marriages take lots and lots of communication, vulnerability, and work.

    So too do these commitments you speak of. In fact, I would actually admonish Christians NOT to commit to such things UNTIL they have decreased their knowledge gap a bit. All the more reason to immerse themselves into the community (like Jesus immersed himself into the community of the broken and wanting, not the safety of the religious bubble), and just listen and learn before committing to anything.

  • Andrew Marin

    Guido: The thrust of the story is not to focus on the anonymous sex, but rather the Church's lack of tangible expressions of unconditional love and commitment to not only this man, but the whole of the GLBT community as well – highlighted by the pastor ignoring him and by my assumption that he would take my words of commitment at face value.

    I ask that you please read it through that lens, as there is an extensive background story of his that I didn't add because it would be too long. But the jist is that he grew up w/same-sex attractions in a very conservative Christian home and with no outlet, he tortured himself for years in an oppresive closet, and thought the only way to release this torture was to sneak behind everyone's back. And when he finally got up enough courage to tell someone of his double life, he got spit on by his pastor 3 times! And that is our (the Church's) fault! This post is to highlight the need for straight folks to never walk away from being a true, come-as-you-are-culture. And I hope that realization encourages some folks.

    Mark: Thanks for the love and encouragment! Any friend of Chris' is a best friend of mine – and I'll definetly hit you up if I'm in the great city of Toronto.

    Much love.

  • Debbie Thurman

    The most difficult thing to cultivate when walking alongside the same-sex-attracted women who are seeking my help is trust. Genuine, sticky, ain't-going-anywhere trust.

    After nine months of working with a small group of women (I know we "wimen" have slightly different issues from yous guys), I still get looks of incredulity and off-the-wall comments from one of them who is still learning to do the trusting. It's as if she is almost daring me to give up on her. Another one pushes the envelope with her insistence on walking on the edge in an improper relationship.

    But I am determined to stick with them until they don't need the training wheels. Only God knows how long that will take. I won't give up, but I will come to a point where I may have to determine I won't enable them. They still are fragile in so many ways.

    It's an adventure that would rival those found in other missionary jungles.

  • Jon Trouten

    As a gay man and a Christian, I am pretty leery around other Christians. I am a married gay man with a husband and kids and a relationship with Christ. Too often, other Christians attempt to cultivate relationships with me with the intent to fix me. And fixing means breaking up my family, which isn't going to happen. So instead of worshipping together or strengthening our mutual Christ journey, I'm dealing with another's agenda to disrupt my marriage. So that's my lens.But I'm curious about others' lenses here, specifically those who speak of reaching out to GLBT folks and find it difficult and find themselves tempted to give up. What limits are being pushed for you?

  • YellArose

    As pastor of a reconciling church, I find great joy in welcoming gay persons to worship and work for God in the church. Through building friendships with both straight and gay Christians on the journey, many find sanctuary for processing their faith and identity. I long for the day when every church will be a place of safety — not silence nor condemnation — a place where ALL people can seek God's help for the living of these days. So may it be!

  • Anonymous

    Andrew,

    You are suggesting that we not concern ourselves with the X,Y,Z and just try to get through the A,B,C. But at some point in that young man's life others had attempted the A,B,C and were not able to follow through to successfully get to X,Y,V.

    Nothing happens in isolation; it is always a series of events that lead up to it. It was actually the letters following A,B,C that caused the young man to mistrust you. It is because the other individuals had no real foresight to look down the road ahead and to the final outcome.

    So yes it is very important that we do look beyond the A,B,C. Otherwise it's like going into battle without a plan. Is that really fair to anyone–homosexuals or the church in general? Who wins, who loses in the end?

    The magazine asked you a valid and important question that should not be shrugged off with an "I don't know."

    And I question whether dealing with homosexuals is "really" such uncharted territory. Does not the Bible provide adequate guidance for all things pertaining to life and Godliness?

    One of the things I have a deep concern about is not so much about staying in the game with those who sincerely want to change their lifestyle however difficult and long, as that young man seems to have, but with those who do not and never will.

    How do you befriend a homosexual (I'm referring to within a church environment, not at work, in social circles, etc.) and then handle the fact that they decide to remain in their lifestyle and wish to affirm homosexuality within the church community?

    Isn't this is going to come up a lot when you build bridges with the gay community? What do you do with this? I have not seen it discussed or addressed in the conversation about bridging the gap.

    –K

  • Anonymous

    typo…I meant X,Y,Z not "X,Y,V

  • Anonymous

    I think that will be a 'problem' that Andrew will be delighted to have. It will be great to have gays of all kinds in the church so they can learn about God & the Word. Maybe it's time to trust the Holy Spirit, that He will lead these folks.
    Some may change; some may choose to be celibate; some may leave; & some may feel it is OK to 'live the lifestyle' while attending church. We certainly don't know who will do what. I'd love to have more GLBTs attend our church & I'd love to have them as friends. The issue is so complex that there are no simple answers. Thankfully, Andrew is doing something!
    Mrs "T"

  • Anonymous

    Very good answer Mrs T. And yes it is complicated. But it would be better to see movement's such as Marin's balancing these worthwhile efforts with an expression of concern about the integrety of doctrine.

    Certainly the holy spirit will not manage everything for us. We have lovingly been given free will, and a responsibility of stewardship.

    Christians have already been lead astray in too many areas. I am concerned that the attempt to build bridges, while losing sight of doctrine, will mostly lead to more of an "anything goes" mentality.

    I would like to see some focus on the the actual Word of God, which should be front and central in these discussions. (And I'm NOT talking about bashing people around with a Bible!)

    –K

  • D.J. Free!

    "I would like to see some focus on the the actual Word of God, which should be front and central in these discussions. (And I'm NOT talking about bashing people around with a Bible!)–K"K, how exactly would you propose doing that? It seems that the very method you're describing is pretty much what EVERY church is patting itself on the back for already doing. And yet our problems remain, the gap has gotten wider. Do you have some idea what it would look like to make the Word "front and central" in this without widening the gap (after all, the widening of the gap is quite antithetical to the Word itself.)

  • Andrew Marin

    K: I'm not trying to sound like a jerk here, but I thoroughly answer all of your questions in my book. And as for the A,B,C thing – there is a time and a place for X,Y,Z, and that time and place do not occur until much time has been spent immersed in uncomfortable places of tension that don't have an "outcome" already in place. I know this is a big shift in understanding after what many have been told there whole life about what encompasses being a good Christian – but it's the only way to move forward in my opinion.

  • Audrey

    I’ve got some pretty simple ideas:

    If you are the pastor of a conservative church, or maybe would like to welcome gays and lesbians to your normal regular church (not the hell fire bible bashing, women submit to husbands type of church :-)
    Here’s what might work.

    1. Say in your bulletin and announce from the pulpit every week that lesbians and gays are welcome to worship.

    2. Say everyone is welcome to communion.

    3. Hire lesbian and gay staff to help in this process– pay the women equal wages to men!! Heck pay the women double to attone for the sin of economic exploitation of women in churches :-) Pay double, wow, that would get my attention!!!
    4. Set up small groups with half straight church members and half lesbian members, and work on a series… 4-6 week series on gay and lesbian theology, or lesbian and gay life as it is.
    5. Have straight men in the church host dinners for lesbians, where they cook the dinner, serve and wash the dishes, while their straight wives participate in the discussions. Remember Mary and Martha

    6. Have a lesbian christian Sunday, where lesbians sit on the altar and are celebrated and sung to. We have lots of great songs to share.

    7. Don’t just be male centric, be aware that lesbian culture is NOT gay male culture, and that lesbians are often really underrepresnted in everything.

    8. Don’t ask lesbians to do all this work for free. We are overburdened and under served, and let the men do the clean-up for once.

    9. Have a book group to read lesbian and gay christian writers and theologians.

    10. Call up lesbian pastors and ask for advice, invite lesbian pastors in town and have them do guest sermons. Remember, if your church is too male dominated, lesbians will just drift away. Have lesbian only groups, and make them fun and inviting.

    11. Have a gay pride Sunday, and then sign up to march as a church group in the parade. Have fun with this, make fun of yourselves and parody bible bashers, we love parody!!!

    12. Have healing services so that straight people can actually apologize for the sins they have committed against lesbians. Wow, I’d love to see straight men actually ask for forgiveness!! And don’t expect us to grant it quickly guys. You’ve done so much damage and are so ignorant and so sexist, that this is going to take time. We may be mean in response, take it!! Keep apologizing 100 times! Maybe 1,000,000 times. Don’t lie to us and say you don’t watching degrading womanhating literature known as Internet porn.

    13. If you want to be allies with lesbians and gays in your church, then it will take a long time to win trust. Honor us for who we are, and don’t make us conform to hetero norms. We are a culture, we have traditions, lesbians don’t all act “feminine” nor do many of us value those gender roles to begin with.

    14. Be daring. In time, your church will grow with lesbian and gay members, and you might find so many lesbians and gays joining your church that the old time straight members are going to be threatened.

    15. NEVER and I mean NEVER treat us as tokens. I don’t want to be the token out lesbian anywhere, and often get stuck in this role. Recognize that many lesbians and gays are still very closeted, and might stay closeted in your church. It’s ok, they were so terrorized by you, that they might not be able to come out. That’s how straights act as terrorists, and you conservatives are afraid of little muslim countries? We’ve had to deal with your hate terror all our lives!

    16. Be prepared to have right wing idiots attack you for doing this. Our church was actually firebombed in 1990. Many MCC churches have been firebombed or burned to the ground, some of our pastors have been murdered. This is serious business folks, mess with the hetero straight male god, and people are going to HATE you for being our allies.

    17. Men, stop your sexism NOW! Stop it completely and utterly, and SHUT up and listen. Just sit there straight men and listen to lesbians talk to you!! Don’t defend yourselves because we are going to CONDEMN your behavior, and it ain’t gonna be nice. If you want to be authentic then you’re going to have to know the truth.

    18. Make sure all events have gay and straight staff working together.
    Make sure all events are co-gender equal –50-50. That’s right guys 50-50 means 50-50. It’s going to be quite a challenge to create groups with 50% lesbians in them! We had a very hard time having 50-50 in our MCC churches with men and women.

    19. Always remember, we are dealing with straight people everyday, who make us invisible, or who don’t know or care who we are. Lesbian invisibility is huge, so don’t make the word “gay” about men.

    20. And have fun. We are a fun loving clever people. We like to have a good time, and those of us who don’t have kids love our dogs and cats.
    Have a lesbian and gay dog contest, have a contest to name all the lesbians and gays in the bible.

    21. Have a gay and lesbian saints Sunday.

    22. Put a big sign out in front of your church saying” “God loves lesbian feminists!” Would love to see that :-)

    It will be hard work. Remember, every lesbian person you meet has been grosely insulted almost every day of her lesbian life. Lesbians struggle with alcohol and low self-esteem. Lesbians don’t often defend themselves.
    And lesbians often hate men, fear them or were abused in some way by men. So don’t make us be with straight men if we don’t want to be with them. Allow lesbians to tell men off in the church. And don’t grab the microphone and “doll” out the questions at an event, because that is male supremacy.

    Anyway, I have many ideas for how churches can specifically reach out to lesbians and gays in effective and tangible ways. Follow the instructions, and you’ll have us in your churches, Don’t do any of this stuff and we won’t feel welcome and won’t show up.

    Remember, lesbians and gays tend to be far to the left politically. We are pretty much anti-war, and most of us are anti-military. If you are politically conservative, you’ll have a real challenge with us. But I believe that you could rise to this challenge if you wanted to.

    Hey surprise us by being nice, and being well educated in our issues. Men, learn to speak the language of lesbians! Sure it may seem difficult to learn, like Chinese, but we have to deal with your white male selves all day long in corporate America. We get exhausted just listening to you talk and dominate! Gets old real fast :-)


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