Part 6: United Kingdom

You’ve already mentioned some conservative concerns about your approach and your response to them but, given the debates in the Church of England, the wider Anglican Communion and other denominations, what do you say to those who are concerned you are undermining a traditional conservative stance on this topic?

I do not hide the fact that, theologically, I believe in a traditional interpretation of Scripture. The difference that ultimately leads to others being ‘concerned that I am undermining a traditional conservative stance on this topic’ is because I live out my conservative beliefs differently. I live them out incarnationally with my wife in the gay community, though I am straight and have always been such.

As I explained, I intentionally moved into the gay neighbourhood to learn from and listen to the same GLBT people that I wanted nothing to do with, that I didn’t agree with socially or theologically and that I repeatedly hurt and thought not worthy of my Christ.

It is very difficult for me to respond to such accusations from my own brothers and sisters in Christ. Not because I can’t put together an air-tight missiology that completely aligns with a conservative paradigm but rather because I am confused why my actions threaten so many people, why they feel the need to resort to knee-jerk reactions that question my belief system, a belief system no different than theirs. Maybe it’s because I use Jesus’ example and I won’t answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to ‘yes or no?’ questions? Maybe it’s because I use Jesus’ example that I didn’t come to preach and live among already saved Christians but rather came to those who are well acculturated with a great life and don’t feel the need to know Him? Maybe it’s because I use Jesus’ example of not being the first one to cast a stone as I concentrate more intently on the plank in my own eye before the speck in my brother’s? Maybe it’s because I use Jesus’ example of a humble servant, one that relentlessly serves those on the outside while asking nothing in return? Maybe it’s because I use the biblical model of knowing my Kingdom Job Description: it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love? Or maybe it’s because I use all of these examples with gays and lesbians and that just flat out frightens a lot of people who are already threatened by a God that longs to see a simple and pure faith lived out on earth as it is in heaven.

I have to admit that, in their fear, they hurt me. I have great pain when brothers and sisters call me names because of their own fear. I have great pain when the publication Anglican Mainstream prints that I am more dangerous to Christianity than the openly gay bishop Gene Robinson. I am still yet to figure out what is dangerous about me. Is it my conservative belief in Scripture or is it that I model my life after Jesus? At the end of the day, if how I am living my faith is dangerous then, Lord willing, might there be more dangerous believers around the corner to keep relentlessly working toward a biblical reconciliation between two warring factions no matter who or what, from either community, tries to tear us from God and from each other.

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).

  • http://petegoebel.blogspot.com Peter

    Andrew, I think you are viewed as “dangerous” because you are flat-out contradicting the traditional Biblical belief that homosexual behavior is sinful. Or if you aren’t, you’re disguising it very well (unless I’m reading too much into your statement about your job vs. the Holy Spirit’s job). What I would like to see, and what I think could really help your case, is an examination of the theology of this issue, and specifically how you reconcile the Bible with the reality of inborn homosexuality. Unless you’ve already done that in your book, in which case you can disregard this completely, ha ha.

  • http://mattnightingale.blogspot.com Matt Nightingale

    I thought it would be appropriate to pray for you today out of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

    A Prayer for the Mission of the Church:

    Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you
    through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him,
    that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the
    Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

    A Prayer for the Unity of the Church:

    O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior,
    the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the
    great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away
    all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us
    from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body
    and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith,
    one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all
    of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth
    and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and
    one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    Amen.

    A Prayer for Peace:

    Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
    but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
    strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
    all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
    Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
    glory, now and for ever. Amen.

    A Prayer for Our Enemies:

    O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
    our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
    deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
    your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
    through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  • Kurt Duggleby

    Andrew,
    You are dangerous! But to the Enemy (which has a strong foothold in many churches), not to Jesus or true biblical Christianity. Be encouraged that everyone who stands up to live in the uncomfortable middle tension that Jesus inhabited while He was on Earth, get double rocks thrown at them. But know that you are not standing alone… We support and applaud your courageous work to bring love to those who rarely feel it from those in the church. Stand firm to your convictions, the truth of the Scriptures, and the relentless love of the Savior.

    From one former-bigot to another…

    Kurt

  • http://wordthunder.com SarahM

    Andrew, I think it comes down to following Christ vs following religion.

    Following Christ means going where we may not feel comfortable going, extending a hand to those who may make us most uncomfortable. This is true no matter where one is at along the conservative-liberal thoughtline, true no matter what makes one uncomfortable.

    I have long accepted that there is natural variation in human sexuality. Having spent most of my adult life as a disinterested agnostic I never gave these issues much thought. Then a short time after coming to Christ, I learned that my son is gay. I saw him as the very same person he has always been. If this is who he is, then this is who he is.

    However, I soon learned this was a much bigger issue for many Christians.

    This is when I began to understand that many people are devoted to religion, not necessarily to following Christ. Many people want safe comfortable churches undisrupted by anything that seems different or challenging. For those that prefer a safe cocoon of familiarity, both in the Christian community and in the gay community, your work will be frightening.

    To experience Christ one must follow Christ. To follow Christ one must first crawl out of that safe cocoon of familiarity. It may even mean going to that place or that person that makes us most uncomfortable. And the very act of doing this can make others very uncomfortable.

    My dilemma is that as I saw these things, it became increasingly difficult not to feel resentment toward the safe suburban churches in my community. Let me put it this way: when I stopped attending a local church, not one person called or came to see me or made any other effort to find out why. I suspect there was a collective sense of relief.

    Of course I shouldn’t feel resentment. But I do. I am angry when I hear preachers talk about kingdom building when they so clearly mean church building. And because these things make me angry I know I must not retreat into my own safe cocoon of avoidance. I must find ways to extend a hand – No matter how much I would rather not.

  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    Brilliant stuff Andrew.

  • Sam

    At the end of the day, will hate prevail or love? Reformers have always been considered dangerous. Lots of people think they have lots to lose if the status quo is questioned. Religion particularly excels at this.

    I question those who try to make loving people a sinister, unChristian thing. They really wouldn’t like Jesus in the flesh would they?

  • Hihopes

    You MUST be doing something right or they wouldn’t bother with you.

    I applaud you and wish there were more than you willing to lay it on the line in the interest of love and unity.

  • Iphimedia

    Hello, all. Please forgive the length of this post; in future I will not post this long. I am a bisexual woman. I don’t see many comments from self-identified bisexual people on here. I know both some in gay and straight communities say we (bisexual people) don’t exist (meaning many people believe we’re liars, confused, scared or in transition and can’t or won’t come out as either one) but I assure you my ability to love and be in love with men and women is long-lasting, real, deep and true. It is hurtful to be told you don’t exist. This ability to love both genders bings me more joy than I can say and it was only when I admitted to myself this truth that I became a whole person. The more I came out to myself as bi the more joy and peace I have experienced, and the more able I was to be a true friend to people of both genders instead of seeing one strictly as a mate and the other as strictly friend-or-coworker. I exist!

    More on topic: Andrew, you have been so beautifully, tenderly and eloquently vulnerable in your agony and discouragement when others disparage you that I want you to know what your mission has meant to me. I read this column often and I love and admire your work, writings, prayers, stance toward God and Jesus’ teachings and choices in life. I admire all who work with you at the Marin Foundation as truly living out Jesus’ greatest commandment and his teachings in general. My gratitude for your work has nothing to do with whether or not we would “believe” the same things or not but to paraphrase your book the specific actions you and the people who work with you take to welcome and understand, if not affirm (and I understand the difference you make between validation and affirmation) my lcommunity and my loves. Yours is one of the most Christlike lives I’ve observed in my life. I’ve read your book and it has deeply inspired me to try and ask myself, what is my true ministry and vocation? I am a liberal Christian, brought up Roman Catholic, and attend a liberal, welcoming Quaker meeting where I recently came out as a bi woman and was warmly welcomed. This worship community does not adopt what is termed “gay theology”; it is a Religious Society of Friends congregation and has no set doctrines or dogma (or sacrements or clergy); we gather in attentive silence to experience the Holy Spirit and people rise to speak a message as led by the Spirit. This is our mode of worship. In fact, I attended a Quaker seminary and have served as a chaplain through hospice. Through this work I have seen how many bisexual and transgendered, gay and lesbian people at end of life long for a meaningful relationship with God. Your work is courageously and generously working to fill a hurting gap in the life cycle of the church and people’s lives, and I honor that in you.

    I wrote the poem below as part of a bi women’s discussion forum; I was trying to imagine what it must be like not to have a spiritual home as I do and to have to try and feel around for one. I thought I would share this with you. I hope with your bridge building work maybe one day bisexual people and gay people will find faith communities more readily. One sad note: the women on the site weren’t too interested in this poem or spirituality as a discussion topic because they felt dismissed by Christianity and therefore dismissed it as a topic.

    Untitled

    Welcome
    The greeter beams
    wizened, bent,
    smiling in good faith
    his good face weathered
    like good strong bark

    Like a good congregation
    They’ve delegated welcoming duties
    for God’s children just inside the doors
    Explaining all about the church mission
    and good groups for folks my age,
    Couples and families with children mostly
    He’s pegged me as married
    as I kind of am
    as much as I can be
    but my love isn’t here beside me
    just inside my heart.

    The greeter’s
    kindness overflows
    the cup of eagerness to share
    with me the good message of love

    I want to drink from that good cup
    and I smile into his good sweet eyes

    I want to drink simply and sweetly
    and yet my stomach burns
    with the truth of my loves
    past and the one I love now

    and the questions all begin
    working from stomach
    to throat to mouth and the sour taste
    would ruin that good cool wine

    is it treason to my love
    to leave her out of my life story
    when this good man
    asks me if I am single
    so he can channel me into
    the right church group?

    Is it sin to feel so suspicious and distrustful
    of this good man
    suspect that that good face would harden
    crumple
    twist into revulsion, judgment
    if I said the truth about my loves
    that I love men
    and I love women

    my truth leaps up inside me
    licking at me calling me hyp-o-crite

    saying test him
    no matter his bent back
    tell him you love women
    you love men

    because I think he wouldn’t beam
    but catch fire with rage
    or turn his bent back on me

    if this child of God
    told that child of God who how when where she loved
    and my loves and I would be back out on the street
    looking for a home where we could lay down our heads.

    ——————–

    DO I DARE DISTURB THE UNIVERSE?

    The greatest thing
    You’ll ever learn
    Is just to love
    And be loved
    In return

  • http://www.livingitout.com Rachel

    Andrew you’ve you’ve illuminated another painful fault-line around the ‘gay-issue’ – that between Christians who think same-sex relationships are wrong but who are willing to engage with gay people, and Christians who think same-sex relationships are wrong and think you need to follow 1 Cor 5 and stay as far away from gay people as possible.

    And there are all sorts of positions in between – eg you should engage with gay people but shouldn’t see them as Christians, you should engage with them and see them as Christians but mustn’t let them have a leadership position in a church…

    More bridges that need building…

  • http://www.livingitout.com Rachel

    PS I should have clarified – I don’t think we all need to agree with each other. But somehow when it comes to ‘the gay issue’, people with differing views seem to hate and distrust each other. Maybe it’s the case for other issues too, but somehow the feelings don’t seem so violent about other stuff.

  • Christine

    Andrew, I hope you were able to catch some of the talks at Urbana, or maybe have had the chance to watch them online. Ramez talked about people like you, people who followed their calling, who were ahead of their time, and whom the church didn’t really “get.” They were vindicated – in time – but obedience to their calling meant they had to wade through waters of … well, it sure didn’t feel like success. I hope that you may find comfort in knowing that JESUS knows how you feel (rejected by those who should’ve welcomed him), and that his acceptance and love must be at your centre, you can’t be torn down when other people reject you. Your solid rock is Jesus approval, not theirs! :)

  • Sue

    Iphemedia,

    I identify as bi also, although my same sex attractions are, I think, more significant. I am also married and faithful to my fantastic husband.

    Brought up in an evangelical setting, I believed same sex activity was wrong and suppressed my feelings. I came out to my husband some years ago and he has been wonderfully supportive in a situation which cannot have been easy for him and having to hear things which must have been painful.
    His response of, “I love you anyway” and “I don’t think you are sinful, you are one of the best and most beautiful people I know”, took away all the last vestiges of pain, grief, shame and self rejection I felt. Yes, loving people and really respecting people is much harder often than hating or condemning them, but it does help others to be the best people they are able to be. That is what Christ saw in people, their beauty and potential.

    Thanks Iphemedia for that description of the ability to fall in love with both men and women as a source of joy. I hate the way it is seen as “kinky” or people doubt it is possible.

  • Iphimedia

    Love and peace to all here (traditional Quaker greeting when Friends were being arrested, fined, and imprisoned in their natal England for refusing to use rank and title designations in greeting their “betters” because they saw all as equal before God, and for refusing to support the state-run church, which they saw as corrupt.) Sue, thank you for those affirming and validating words. I wanted to clarify for readers of this poem, that when I say “loves,” it does not mean that the narrator of the poem has multiple lovers. Some people who acknowledge bi people’s existence promote the idea that we cannot be faithful because we always want the gender we are “missing” and/or we must have a lover of each gender at the same time and cannot be monagomous. Not true at all. True and one-to-one love is what I seek though I am and have been celibate now for a long time. By “loves” I mean her “abilities to love persons of either gender” which isn’t nearly so poetic…and by “love” I mean her partner in life which in the poem is a woman. Sorry to get so off topic. Again peace and love to all here.

  • http://www.thisischurch.net Mikey

    Just so you know, I really like you a lot. You are not a threat to me and I think you’re a fascinating person who deserves to be known and understood.

  • Iphimedia

    Hi, Mikey. If that’s a comment directed at Iphimedia, that’s nice of you to say. We all do, all being children of God. That’s what Andrew’s work is teaching me more each day, and more people each day hopefully!

  • Matt

    Hi Andrew,

    I don’t think you’re dangerous at all, but there are things that I still don’t understand about how your ideas and practice work – you might say, how the Gospel and the Church work together? I know that they should go entirely together, both as essential parts of God’s mission to the world.

    Your determination to live with, to refuse to separate from, to be patient with your friends seems entirely right – justified by the Son of God’s incarnational actions.

    Rachel mentioned 1 Cor. 5 and that seems to get to the heart of some of the things I don’t understand. I don’t have your book, I’m afraid at the moment – I’ve given it someone else – so I can’t check what you’ve said about it.

    The point is, it seems to me, that there’s a difference between being in and out of the Church. Outside of the Church, what you do makes sense. Perhaps it should make sense inside of the Church too, but there it at least has to interact with the question of Church discipline … doesn’t it?

    You say that you have a traditional interpretation of Scripture with regard to sexuality – how and where does that position get expressed – or does it never get expressed? I suppose you’ve just done it on the web-site! Again, Rachel hinted at whether you expect conformity to certain behaviour at Church membership, access to communion, leadership …

    In many churches, people are finding it difficult to preserve the traditional interpretation of Scripture that you agree with. Would that bother you, if your church started to hold a position which affirmed unconditionally, committed sexual relationships outside of marriage? What would you do in that situation? Leave – join a more conservative church? Avoid the issue, get on with mission, trusting God to deal with mission?

    How does someone live in a situation where you have a friend, whose sexual behaviour is not moral – according to your own definitions, but who wants to join a church? You know, that as soon as you introduce them to the body of Christ that they are going to come up against challenge. If they want to be actively involved in church, the church at some point is going to challenge them. It may be on the first day they come through the door. It may be six months down the line, but its going to happen! Do you end up having to advise people to keep away from the church … ?

    Sorry to draw you into questions of ecclesiology. Perhaps I’m guilty of drawing you into ‘yes, no’ questions again. I’m happy to be corrected though. I don’t want this to be a distraction, but I do think that some progress in working through these confusing issues would help … me at least!

  • http://dwhwar.wordpress.com/ Joe S

    Matt,

    Are you gay or straight? Perhaps you don’t want to answer that question.

    I’m gay and I will preach gay [sex] is not an option for Christians. I’ve been ‘single’ ever since I became a Christian. I’ve done what the conservative Church expects (although Christ has been my only motivation).

    Andrew is doing something different. I’m not sure what it is at times. It’s kinda bewildering when a conservative straight Christian sounds a lot like an affirming gay Christian. But hey, that’s only my perspective.

    I guess there are other ‘layers’ to this whole debate that are more important to him – cultural and political layers that don’t really interest me (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt). Your questions are the kind of questions I have always wanted Andrew to answer. I haven’t asked him them myself because I don’t think he believes they are the kind of questions that relate to what he is doing.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Peter – Please read my book, it will give you a great insight into your questions.

    Matt – Thanks for your touching prayers! I prayed them this morning as part of my devotional and feel quite encouraged and ready to roll.

    Kurt – From one former bigot to another, you bless my soul brother. Thank you.

    SarahM – My heart breaks to read your words; however I know they are unfortunately so true. One of my friends says:

    “The church needs to realize that it’s relevance and power does not come from a denomination or a structure but from Christ’s incarnation.”

    I hope you take those words to heart as you cling on to the saving Christ that came to forgive and take burden from our resentful ways. Your boldness and maturity in which you still pursue the church in forgiveness is amazing to me. Thanks for sharing!

    Sam – Preach it! :)

    Christine – I was able to catch some talks, but not Ramez…but now I’m going to hit it up online and watch it. Thanks for the heads up!

    Iphimedia – No need to apologize. I am learning so much from your comments and life experiences. I really appreciate your much needed input as we must also here ‘bi’ voices. Thank you.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Matt and Joe S – Ask and you shall receive! I’m not trying to hide anything. Sorry for any confusion that I might have been causing. You both bring up great questions, and they each deserve a well thought out response. So what I am going to do is respond to each of them individually in blog posts because I don’t want to short-change either of you, or anyone else who reads this blog who might have those same questions/confusion. I will be posting them very soon. Thank you for your boldness to ask, and I look forward to engaging with you all in my responses. Much love!


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