Article at

Dr. John Corvino wrote an article at about LGBTs being defined by their sexuality instead of a number of other facets that make up a person’s fully identity. John contacted me before he published the article because in it he writes about The Marin Foundation and the infamous Chapter 2 of my book.

He and I have met in person and corresponded before, even hanging out for a few days earlier this year. He knows of my broadening perspective on what I’ve been told by my LGBT friends (and those on this blog too…who I consider friends as well 🙂 ). With that in mind he asked me to write some thoughts for him and the article regarding that process. Although I wrote too much and he didn’t have room to include all of my thoughts, he asked if I could post them here in full so he could link to them from his article. You can read his article here. And here are my full thoughts in response to his question:

It is sometimes difficult for people in the LGBT community to grasp the truth that what I wrote in that section came directly from what many of my LGBT friends and people I know in Boystown told me over the years. Since I wrote that chapter three years ago my thoughts have changed. I wish I would have added more qualifiers before and after I wrote that section; however, today, the reason my thoughts have changed are also directly related to my LGBT friends and people I know in Boystown and around the country describing their connection between their identity and sexual behavior in a different manner than they did even a few years earlier. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not gay. I’ve never had a same-sex attraction and far be it for me to sit from the outside and comment on matters that I have no personal experience with. What I write and speak about comes from the large LGBT community I have close relationships with – from all shades of the spectrum from the far left to the far right. Regarding LGBT identity, sexuality, thoughts and opinions, I very carefully make sure that when I’m in conservative evangelical circles I am doing or saying nothing more than an honest relaying of thoughts, stories and experiences from people in the LGBT community, and what they think important enough for me to communicate to conservatives about. Let’s be honest, if a gay Christian man in a committed relationship and I stood on the same platform and said the exact same words in the exact same manner with the exact same cadence, who would a conservative evangelical audience listen to? Because they would listen to me doesn’t make the situation or the institution right, it just makes it that I must humbly listen and learn more intently to the LGBT community and be responsible to put forth a message that is accurate and representative of as much of the community as I can communicate. One of my main checks and balances is that my inner circle consists of a number of LGBT people (Christian, non-Christian, partnered and single) who hold me accountable. But just as culture shifts, so do words, concepts, politics, perceptions, experiences and cultural norms. My role as a bridge builder is to try to keep up with the ever-moving and evolving times of the differing worldviews, experiences and filters of each community and the disconnect that follows those variations. Sometimes it proves right, sometimes it proves wrong. But the faithfulness to the fidelity of relationship never changes.

Much love.

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  • Eugene

    “It is sometimes difficult for people in the LGBT community to grasp the truth that what I wrote in that section came directly from what many of my LGBT friends and people I know in Boystown told me over the years.”

    As I was reading “Love is an Orientation”, I often wondered why nearly all gay people in your book were bitter, broken, celibate or confused. At some point I thought it was intentional – and malicious. But then I thought that some groups of gay people may be underrepresented among your friends and people you talk to. Why would happy, confident, possibly non-religious gay couples be as eager to talk to you? Why would they call you their friend? I mean, you’re a nice straight Evangelical who refuses to affirm gay relationships. Gay Christians harmed by conservative churches will see a “nice guy” and a bridge builder. But many gays will see an “anti-gay preacher in disguise” – and I can’t fault them for it. So do you believe “all shades of the spectrum” are adequately represented among your friends? If not, how does it affect your bridge building efforts?

  • Those are great questions Eugene! Let me answer:

    1. 8 out of every 10 stories I told in my book were people who are fully acculturated now. Many of those people I met who are in the book were 7-10 years ago (and that was the beginning of our friendship that lasts today) and they were going through some stuff. I’m sure at some point in your life as well, you went through some stuff too. The book was about my immersion experience, and coming from the Bible-banging homophobic place that I was coming from, those were the stories that I myself was drawn to. If I were to write another book about my experiences post-homophobe, the stories would look different. But the majority of people who will/or have read my book are coming from the exact same place I was coming from. So in that light those stories will resonate, like they did with me. But please don’t overlook the couple stories that I wrote about LGBT people who are perfectly ok with being LGBT/gay Christians. The important part for me in writing the book was to find the times/places that I could speak about those stories and do so in such a way that would push the conservative audience reading the book, but not push too far that I would lose their attention to continue reading.

    2. I’ve been on a journey with a number of my friends, from places of brokenness to places of comfort. Many of them are in relationships now…some have had marriage ceremonies….some of them have chosen to be celibate. The book captures a moment in time, a process of discovery; it was not intended to be a beginning/middle/end.

    3. My LGBT inner circle, today, is very representative. “All shades” equals one non-Christian gay man, two older gay couples who both have adopted kids (1 couple Christian 1 couple not), two gay men and one lesbian woman who are celibate (all Christian), one lesbian in a relationship (not Christian) and one Christian post-op transgender.

    4. Unless LGBT people know me personally, many will still think I’m an “anti-gay preacher in disguise.” It is what it is. But I can call on any number of LGBT people who have no problem publicly coming to my defense. And, who do people believe? Those that actually know me, or those that don’t know me at all but form opinions based on rumors? The sad part is that people mostly believe the latter because it’s easier to believe rumors that struggle to believe people in their own community who actively defend me.

    5. Perceptions do affect the bridge building work on a larger scale, but that’s going to happen either way. Just based on anyone’s work as a “bridge” such negativity and certian perceptions will happen for any topic. The good part is that outside negative perceptions don’t really affect our actual, tangible work, especially here in Chicago. Not one LGBT (no matter how progressive) Chicago person, organization, club, group, center, clinic, anything, has ever said one negative thing about us, me, or our work. Not one! That says something profound about my credibility, the work, and who we are as an organization. In fact, the only Chicago-based anything that has ever spoken negativley about us are two very conservative Christian activist organizations. Interesting, huh?

    • Eugene

      Thanks for your answers, Andrew. The point about the immersion experience surely makes sense, considering the audience of your book – when you say “we” you usually mean “straight Christians”. And it’s OK because a more “inclusive” approach (“we” = “gay and straight, Christians and non-Christians”) would probably look arrogant.

      “And, who do people believe? Those that actually know me, or those that don’t know me at all but form opinions based on rumors?”

      It’s not about rumors, Andrew. It’s about the things you actually say – and don’t say. I think your stance is not affirming enough for many gay people. So if they aren’t interested in conservative Christianity, why would they want to build bridges? You don’t give them a reason. From their perspective, it’s a bridge to a bad place with a bridge builder who isn’t firmly on their side. I think it’s the main reason why they pay any attention to rumors.

      Yes, local gay organizations and people don’t say negative things about you. But why would they say them about you when there’s the Catholic church and other explicitly anti-gay organizations. 🙂 The lack of negativity isn’t a sign of positive involvement. Skeptics can simply ignore you.

      You know that the “spectrum” is quite wide and there are thousands and thousands of gay people, so even if you’re building a bridge to only one or two colors of the rainbow, you’ll meet many gay people and do a lot of “actual, tangible work”. But is it a bridge to the entire community?

      Even non-Christians in your inner circle likely don’t represent the negative attitude towards religion that is shared by many gay people. So how do you get feedback from skeptical/disinterested people?

      • pm

        Eugene, I do not appreciate your comments.
        You’re sounding crass in your never-ending
        diatribe of accussations against this ministry.

        Your wrote:
        “So if they aren’t interested in conservative
        Christianity, why would they want to build
        bridges? You don’t give them a reason.”

        What? Are you kidding? Obviously, you’re
        not kidding but you are definately disrespecting
        the ministry here. Actually, reasons have
        been clearly established for many years.

        Your dark feelings of distrust regarding
        his credibility, reliability and transparency
        in bringing the culture wars into a loving,
        unpretensious and trusting relationship has
        not been done in secret.

        Your comments indicate you are neither able
        nor willing to embrace civil dignity towards
        Andrew. Your continuing perceptions of some
        sort of social encroachment on your comfort
        zone is overplayed at this point.

        Just because you’re constantly expressing an
        inherient emotional suspiciousness, it doesn’t
        translate into a reasonable and well-balanced
        thought process. You’re missing the point
        on purpose.

        Your misgivings have been listened to, openly
        discussed and reasonably answered. I don’t find
        your comments are logical, reasonable or balanced.
        Who’s in your ‘inner circle’ of friends and how do
        they represent your attitudes toward the love of
        the LORD?

        • Eugene

          If you choose to ignore distrust and discontent, will they end?

          I was just trying to explain why Andrew’s stance isn’t good enough for some and how it may affect his image of gay people and bridge building work. It’s easier to ignore the skeptics – but it won’t end the culture wars. Meaningful dialog isn’t necessarily pleasant – and Andrew knows this (e.g. Christopher’s story in his book). More importantly, I’m trying to keep it as constructive and respectful as I can. But if it’s not good enough – one word from Andrew and I’ll disappear.

          • pm

            What steps has this ministry taken to ‘ignor the skeptics?’ Instead, I read how you wrote: ‘skeptics can simply ignor you.’

            While that may be a factual statement in general, as anyone can ignor anything, it still remains disingenious of you to write:
            ‘…“anti-gay preacher in disguise” – and I can’t fault them for it.’

            Your comments that you’re being respectful appear in stark contrast with the faults you’ve already assigned to this ministry in general as well as to Andrew specifically.

            I find it irrational. Your level of emotional distrust is a repetitive deconstruction of the very basic tenants of faith in God. You assail what you can not believe and you resent the place at the table for a reasonable dialogue about such beliefs.

            If you can’t seek a higher power greater than your own negative emotions, then at least seek help from those you do trust. Might I suggest a starting point at:

            • Eugene

              I think I made it clear that “anti-gay preacher in disguise” is what other people may think about Andrew. I can’t fault them for it because it was my first impression, too. You may mistakenly attribute it to “dark feelings” and – thankyouverymuch – “paranoia”. But Andrew specifically mentioned a very appropriate concept – “filters”. When even the vilest, most homophobic preachers say they “love” you, general phrases about God and love get filtered out. And it’s a reasonable reaction – they aren’t “missing the point on purpose”. So I wonder how well Andrew knows the gay community’s “filters”. In order to build a good bridge you need a good map.

              What steps has this ministry taken to ignore the skeptics? As far as I can tell, the ministry is in such a position that it doesn’t need to take any steps to ignore the skeptics. Andrew can keep doing the same thing: peaceful – perhaps too peaceful – dialog, elevating the conversation, etc. And, hey, it kinda works – “actual, tangible work” gets done, not a single LGBT person says negative things about him, bridges get built… Protesters? What protesters? 🙂 The ones outside the church? Hateful donkeys, all of them! 🙂

              Jokes aside, we need to engage the skeptics to end the culture wars. And this is why I criticize Andrew’s work. It’s a “filter” that can make bridge building more productive.

  • Andrew, I read John’s article. I love the fact that you are evolving, maturing, listening into a deeper understanding. John’s acknowledgement of your bridge-building is huge. Keep it up, bro!

  • Sam

    Even though I know nothing of what you tell your closest friends regarding what you think on these issues, in the public presentations I have heard you give before conservative evangelicals, I sense that your views are evolving. I especially sensed that in the Q & A session at the end of your presentation at Lumen (Mariner’s in OC at the end of January), as much in what you did not say as in what you did say.

    Naturally the people on both sides of these issues think you should side with them, but would that work for building bridges to the other side? Studying the demographics tells what the inevitable outcome of the ongoing struggle for (at the very least) equal civil rights for LGBTs will be. The youngest segments of our population overwhelmingly support this, and often more. Every day some of these people are registering to vote, and every day some of the members of the oldest segment of the population, those generally most opposed to these rights, are dying. Every day the balance is tipping more and more in favor of at least equal civil rights for LGBTs.

    Conservative evangelicals, already marginalized in an increasingly secular society, are becoming more so daily. The handwriting is on the wall. DOMA is doomed. Marriage equality and equality of other civil rights is waiting in the wings. Conservative evangelicals can choose to build bridges and show love to LGBTs or can choose to become increasingly marginalized. Conservative evangelicalism is on the verge of imploding. Political activism, commonly referred to as the culture wars, does not work long term. Following the way of Jesus does.

    • “Conservative evangelicalism is on the verge of imploding.”

      I think you meant to say politicized conservative evangelicalism, Sam. There is, to be clear, a liberal wing of evangelicalism that is politicized, as well.

      Evangelicals will go right on doing what they do best that flies mostly under the radar (the right hand doesn’t self-consciously announce to the left what it is doing for the kingdom): Meeting physical and spiritual needs for many groups of people around the world and spreading the gospel until the Church Age winds down. And then Christ will return and separate the sheep from the goats.