January 14, 2015

If you have ever wanted to learn practical steps for building bridges between the LGBTQ community and the church, now is the time!  If you read Love Is an Orientation and want to know, “Now what?” here is your answer. Whether you are a pastor, a parent, a youth worker, an LGBT individual, a professor, or someone who is simply interested in knowing how to elevate this conversation, this is for you!  We are offering a Chicago course covering our innovative Culture War Curriculum.


The Culture War Curriculum is designed to offer concrete and feasible methods of engagement between divided communities.  You will walk away with a better understanding of the “Other” and ways to connect in peaceful and productive dialogue.

The weekend will cover the following: 

Principles of Engagement: 7 best practices for constructive, peaceful dialogue. 
Practical Applications: Common conversations and how to navigate them.
Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: The why and how of hermeneutics. 
Old Testament references to same-sex relationships: The progressive and conservative views. 
 
New Testament references to same-sex relationships: The progressive and conservative views.
LGBTQ History: A brief study of the gay-rights movement.
Scientific Research: What we know about sexual orientation and gender identity, and what we don’t.
Living in the Tension gatherings: How to facilitate peaceful conversations in your own tension-filled spaces. 

Over the years, this Culture War Curriculum has been taught by The Marin Foundation at a number of LGBT organizations, conservative, faith-based and secular non-profits, government agencies, clinics, high schools, community centers, churches large and small, and Christian and secular universities.

 


The Year’s First Opportunity for the Course:

February 21 & 22: Two day weekend course (12-6pm on Saturday & 10am-5pm on Sunday). Join the Facebook event.

Registration fee is $75, which can be paid online: http://www.themarinfoundation.org/store/     Select “Culture War Course” (you can update your quantity on the next page to reflect the number in your party), and you’ll get a receipt sent to your email.

The class will take place at First Evangelical Free Church of Chicago:

5241 N. Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60640

Facilitators

TMF_0072_jason_bw_300x200d1ee87Jason Bilbrey

Jason serves as our Director of Education and Community Relations at The Marin Foundation. He completed his M.A. of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and was previously on staff with a multi-ethnic church plant in Los Angeles.

 

TMF_0328_michael_bw_300x200636948Michael KimpanMichael Kimpan serves as our Associate Director. He has a BA in Youth Ministry and Biblical Theology from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and is currently working on his Masters of Arts in Theology and Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.  You can check out his blog, The WayWard Follower at www.mjkimpan.comRegister soon at the link above to guarantee your spot! Or if you have any questions or concerns, please contact Jason: jason@themarinfoundation.org or 773-572-5983

Hope to see you there!

 

December 17, 2014

Many of you have been an important part of our life and work – thank you so much for your friendship, partnership and support along the way. It’s been an amazing 2014 – thank you for being a part of our journey and work!

As this year winds down to a close, this post is to remind you that there is still time to give an end of year donation.

The following is the text from The Marin Foundation’s End of the Year letter, which we sent out to all of those who have supported our work during this past year. It is written by our Executive Director, Michael Kimpan.

Season’s Greetings!

As 2014 comes to a close and we at The Marin Foundation prepare for the perpetuation of our bridge building work in 2015, we are reminded of the importance of individuals such as yourself, who have partnered with us to make this work possible.

We cannot do it without you.

We remain grateful for your past partnership with us in heart, mind and purpose as we create safe and sacred spaces for peaceful and productive conversation between opposing worldviews at the intersection of faith, sexuality and gender.

As our culture continues to seek better ways forward in these discussions and our national and global footprint grows, we know we need increased financial contributions at the end of this year to prepare us for 2015.

As you carefully contemplate where your ‘end of year’ donation dollars would be best utilized, we hope you’ll consider The Marin Foundation as an organization which can help make our world a better place – not just for folks who share a particular preferred perspective, but for all people – regardless of race, background, faith, gender, orientation or any other perceived difference in the midst of our common humanity.

In the midst of the polarizing, back-and-forth mentality which has previously shaped our culture’s engagement, The Marin Foundation remains committed to our cause to theologically, socially and politically see divided communities reconciled with one another through a faith in God and each other.

This next year is a critically important chapter in the history of The Marin Foundation. With the increased attention worldwide in recent years given to the spaces in which we work, our opportunities to engage faith leaders as well as non-faith-based LGBTQ advocacy groups, higher education institutions and even government agencies has increased exponentially. On a regular basis, The Marin Foundation is invited to participate in and influence discussions and decisions, such as the crafting and wording of legislation, policies and practice both in and outside of religious contexts.

As the recognition for over a decade of our experience and expertise rises, so too does our need to secure funding for daily operations, staff salaries, office expenses, and travel.

This too, we cannot do without you.

To make your end of the year donation to The Marin Foundation, please visit the giving tab on our website or send a check to ::

The Marin Foundation
5241 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

July 2, 2014


This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation. You can read more from Michael at his blog here – and his book, Love Never Fails :: Building Bridges Between the Church and the Gay Community will be available for pre-order soon (2015, IVP).

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my experience participating in The Marin Foundation’s I’m Sorry Campaign as we stood in front of these protestors during Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade.

<sidenote :: if you’re unfamiliar with the history of Gay Pride, I highly suggest watching this documentary which outlines the beginning of the LGBT equality movement at the Stonewall Inn in NYC – you can find other helpful documentaries on LGBT history and theology here>

I titled the post LOVE is louder.

In spite of the 20 foot tall signs and bullhorns used by the protestors spewing words of hate, our simple sings of love with slogans like I’m Sorry for how the church has treated you’ or ‘God loves you’ spoke volumes.

This year, we brought more people, with bigger signs – and the result was nothing short of extraordinary.

CNN picked up our story and published the photo above here – which is an honor; yet what stirred my soul even more than our little band of radical bridge builders having the publicity platform of one of the nation’s largest news organizations were the reactions I witnessed time and time again from our LGBT brothers and sisters marching in the parade.

To be fair, there were numerous folks who (quite understandably) flipped the protestors behind us the bird, cursed, screamed, or shook their heads and even laughed in the face of their blatant discrimination and hatred.

But far more of the folks marching took a different approach – one that reflects the life, teachings and example of Jesus – whether or not they actually claim to follow him.

but I say to you, love your enemies, 
and pray for those who persecute you

Time and time again I watched as those who were being told they weren’t loved by God, that they were going to hell – and worse – responded with these words ::

‘even though you hate us, we love you!’

‘we love you anyway!’

‘God loves you even if you don’t know him (or her)!’

I’m not making this stuff up.

In the midst of being shouted at through bullhorns and being called reprobates, abominations, disgusting and ‘not even human’ (a verbatim quote), these beautiful individuals stunned me with a love for all of humanity that I’m not certain even I possess – and I’ve devoted my life to preaching a message of LOVE.

On the back of our I’m Sorry t-shirts is the slogan ‘Love Is My Orientation’ – and yet as we were setting up our signs in front of the protestors early in the morning before the parade began, under the weight of accusations and the maniacal mocking of the street preachers I found myself muttering under my breath, ‘maybe these are the types of people christ went nuts on.’

If I could’ve made a whip of reeds and thrown some tables without being arrested, I would have.

These are the broods of vipers, the sons of the devil and liars who put burdens too hard to bear on the people – all things Jesus said about the legalistic religious elite of his own day.

Christ had harsh words for these play-actors who claimed to know God.

These protestors (and others like them) are the modern day Pharisees, those who claim to know the Law but struggle with the most important commandment – to love their neighbor.

So I found myself actually hating them, even creating violent fantasizes in my head to shut them up.

But LOVE is louder.

As I watched and listened to the reactions of my LGBT friends marching down the parade route, I found my own faith challenged to become more loving, more Christ-like – even toward those who are full of hate and animus.

Regardless of their orientation or faith tradition (or lack thereof), a great many of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* people who marched past provided a glimpse of the kingdom of God here, on earth.

With every tear-filled hug and ‘thank you for being here today’ I received, I responded with a genuine, ‘thank you for being here’ – because I found myself growing in my own faith, continuing on my own personal journey to actually act like the Jesus I so often claim to follow.

May we each find Christ in unexpected places and learn the same.


To learn more about our I’m Sorry Campaign and other resources and opportunities to participate in building bridges with The Marin Foundation, click here.

To support The Marin Foundation and our work, click here.

Connect with Michael through his thought provoking blog, hit him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

March 28, 2014

This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation. You can read more from Michael at his blog here – and his book, Love Never Fails :: Building Bridges Between the Church and the Gay Community will be available for pre-order soon (Fall 2014, IVP).

As many readers are now aware, the past few days have brought a firestorm of tweets, blogs and comments surrounding World Vision’s announcement the organization would hire gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages and the subsequent reversal of that decision under increasing pressure from many evangelicals, resulting in the dropped sponsorship of over 2,000 children.

Many have applauded the decision reversal, while others remain unimpressed by the flip-flopping of the billion dollar non-profit organization.

Yet in the midst of all the online noise, a dear friend of mine made a courageous decision – to come out as a gay Christian.

Tim has been involved in ministry in the evangelical Christian church for over 12 years. He’s worn many different hats and worked for a number of large churches and faith-based not-for-profits. His work has been primarily focused on church communication, which is how he and I first connected a couple years ago. His relationship with The Marin Foundation began when he moved to Chicago in 2007 and his story is one that is featured in Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation. He was also one of the first bloggers to cover our ‘I’m Sorry Campaign’ during Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade in 2010.

Yesterday over coffee, Tim and I had the opportunity to talk about his decision ::

M :: Yesterday you made a pretty big announcement online (tweet embedded). Why now? 

T :: I have carried the burden and conviction to share my story publicly for a while now. With the events that have unfolded over the past few days with World Vision, I knew it was the right time. I believe there are things about all of our personal lives that are meant to be personal, but with this specifically, I’ve known for a long time now that it was going to be my duty and obligation for others like me in the church to share my story.

This part of my life has not been a secret from my family, close friends, or churches/organizations I’ve worked with, but I finally felt the conviction to share it with everyone in light of the conversations I’ve seen happening this week. I think that many people see an issue and form an opinion about it, but being able to put a face to an issue changes things. When it’s about a  person,  things have new meaning. I hope that in stepping out, I can help show there are many LGBT people who can and do make significant contributions to the Church.

M :: When World Vision made their initial announcement of including openly gay and lesbian Christians in their hiring practices, how did you feel?

T :: Excited. Elated. Relieved. Hopeful. So many things, really. I left full-time ministry at end of 2010 because I was in a space that wouldn’t accommodate for LGBT staff members to be in committed, monogamous relationships. Since then, I’ve continued to work with churches but have struggled to find a place that would accept me fully as I am. Seeing that an organization like World Vision would make such a bold stance was encouraging and gave me great hope that there was a place for gay Christians to work within evangelical Christian churches and organizations. I even wanted to apply to work at World Vision! I think, too, for many of my gay friends and those outside of the church, it was a beacon of hope that the church was progressing and beginning to face what has been a very divisive issue head-on.

M :: And then, of course – the reversal of that decision. What then?

T :: I was with a friend when I heard the news on Wednesday and my heart sunk. I felt a flood of emotions from sorrow to rage. Mainly, it was a clue that signaled we still have a long way to go. I think the thing that hurt the most was seeing the reaction from my friends and those close to me. The Church has let down so many people in the past, and has caused irrevocable damage and hurt. Just when there was a glimmer of hope, it was extinguished.

M :: As a gay man working with many conservative churches, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve felt ‘Other-ed’ or marginalized. Was there ever a time you attempted to ‘change’ being gay?

T :: I’ve always felt like an inside outsider in the church. Even before I finally admitted to myself and owned this part of my identity, I always sensed and felt as if I didn’t fit in.

At the age of 18 I finally admitted to someone else that I was [at the time the words I used were] ‘struggling with my sexuality.’ I knew how the church responded to people like me and knew what was ahead for me if I chose to embrace that. I believed if I prayed all of the right prayers and did all of the right things God would intervene and change me. I was scared, alone, and so confused by the message I heard from the church regarding my sexuality. The loudest message I heard (and believed) was that I needed to change in order to be accepted by God.

For nearly a decade, I submitted myself to ‘ex gay’ ministries who promised that change was possible through the power of Jesus Christ. Mainly through Exodus International, I attended conferences, individual counseling, support groups and followed the path they set before me faithfully. For a period of time I did believe that I could change and that if I did all that God required I could be free from this ‘lifestyle’ and live the life I had envisioned – married to a woman and serving in a church faithfully with my family by my side.

Unfortunately, what those ministries perpetuated was self-hatred, behavior modification, depression, and a whole host of other unhealthy emotional and behavioral patterns.

Over the course of my time and involvement in these ministries, I saw how my friends and people I cared about deeply were being hurt and ostracized by the churches they so desperately wanted to belong to. It was a losing battle for all of us and one that sent me on my own downward spiral of depression and self-loathing.

All of this was happening while I was working for a church and doing ministry that I loved. I think for me, in a way, that ministry-related work was my means of seeking God’s approval or hoping that in doing everything I could for Him that He would do what I so desperately wanted Him to do in my own life.

Being a ‘Christian Celebrity’ is a toxic drug and one that oftentimes forces you to become something or someone you are not. As my professional profile in ministry began to grow, personally I began to embrace a lot of destructive habits to ease the inner pain and turmoil I was feeling. Finally, in 2009, I experienced an emotional breakdown that left me realizing that maybe God’s lack of an answer to my prayer to change me was indeed His answer. Maybe there wasn’t anything about me He wanted to change. Maybe I needed to rest in who I was and trust my future and this journey into His hands. And that, for me, is when healing truly began to happen in my life. The change God made in me wasn’t a change in my orientation, but a change in how I viewed myself and how God created me.

When Exodus International announced last summer that they did not see substantial results from their ministry and that they didn’t believe it was possible for people to change from gay to straight, I finally felt like I wasn’t the crazy one. Finally, we were able to see that what the evangelical church has prescribed for LGBT individuals wasn’t working, but it still leaves a much needed dialogue of what needs to happen now, and the place that LGBT individuals have in the church.

It’s been quite a journey over the last 5 years, but as I have walked honestly with those around me and embraced the things in me that I could not change, I’ve seen God do a transformational work in my life. I am gay. But I also love Jesus and hope that the Church can begin to embrace me and others like me and see the role we can play in God’s redemptive work in our world.

One of the great joys I’ve had over the last few years in walking in the freedom that I now have and being able to share about my journey with some of the churches and organizations that I’ve worked with. As I mentioned earlier, when people know a person, it changes how they view the issue – and I have had many productive conversations and dialogues with many people who otherwise may have had a different opinion about LGBT people.

M :: If you could sit down with the leadership of World Vision, or other organizations who have exclusionary practices and policies toward LGBT people, and they asked how they could love you well as a brother in Christ – how would you respond?

T :: I think that we all need to start with grace and compassion. Set the issues, beliefs and convictions aside and let’s see one another as we truly are : God’s children in need of His grace. I believe the church and other Christian ministries and organizations like World Vision are being robbed of the incredible contributions that LGBT people can make. There are so many incredible gifts, talents and abilities that were God-given that are being unused and de-valued because of the labels we place on one another. I would say to any church or para-church organization that none of us are qualified to do the work we do, but it is by God’s grace that we can serve Him and love others. So rather than rob the church and our world from the amazing contributions that can be made by LGBT people, let’s work together and do whatever it takes to – as brothers and sisters in Christ – work out our own salvation and do all we can to honor God with the life we’ve been given.

It’s all by His grace, and for His glory.


Connect with Michael through his thought provoking blog, hit him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.
You can also connect with Tim through his Twitter and blog.
January 22, 2014

As with every year, a lot happens! Some things, even what we think are of the utmost importance at the time, we don’t remember. I sure found that to be the case as I compiled this list. Here are some fun facts about the blog in 2013:

*People from 183 countries visited the blog this year (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Germany, South Africa, and Singapore were the top countries)

*The top cities who visited the blog are Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, London, San Francisco, Minneapolis, DC, Seattle, and Dallas.

*52% of you had previously visited the blog; thank you for your readership!

*The average length of stay on the site per visit is 2 minutes exactly…which in blog time is almost infinity

Aaaaaand, here are the 13 most viewed posts of 2013:

1.  My Response to Dan Savage’s Accusations about The Marin Foundation in the New York Times (April 14) *I would like to note that since, Dan and I have had an in-person conversation. It went really well. The content I will keep between him and I.

2.  When My Wife Came Out (October 28) *Written by Jason Bilbrey, The Marin Foundation’s Director of Pastoral Care

3.  Andrew Marin on Alan Chambers and the Closing of Exodus International (June 20)

4.  Huge Announcement by Famous UK Pastor Steve Chalke (January 15)

5.  I Wish People Would Keep It Real When Talking About Sex (April 12)

6.  Why Gabe Lyons and Others are Wrong about the Louie Giglio Aftermath (January 11)

7.  I Just Got Uninvited from Speaking at the United Nations (January 17)

8.  LOVE is louder. (July 10) *Written by Michael Kimpan, The Marin Foundation’s Associate Director

9.  On Coming Out as a Gay Christian (October 14) *Written by our good friend Warren Perry

10. Big Announcement and Transition at The Marin Foundation (July 12)

11. Open Letter to Closeted LGBT Christians (April 1) *Written by our good friend Ben Moberg

12. Reaction to Supreme Court’s Rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 (June 26)

13. Reflections on the Louie Giglio Situation (January 10)

Also, let me know if there are certain topics you would like to see on the blog this year.

Here’s to a great 2014!

Much love.

Check out Andrew’s new ebook, Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility Can Save the Public Square

September 20, 2013

We told you Wednesday about your invitation to see God Loves Uganda, and we linked to the trailer so you could check it out for yourself.

So today, briefly, here’s a bit more background:

What is the film about?

From the God Loves Uganda site:  God Loves Uganda explores the role of the American evangelical movement in Uganda, where American missionaries have been credited with both creating schools and hospitals and promoting dangerous religious bigotry. The film follows evangelical leaders in America and Uganda along with politicians and missionaries as they attempt the radical task of eliminating “sexual sin” and converting Ugandans to fundamentalist Christianity.
As an American influenced bill to make homosexuality punishable by death wins widespread support, tension in Uganda mounts and an atmosphere of murderous hatred takes hold. The film reveals the conflicting motives of faith and greed, ecstasy and egotism, among Ugandan ministers, American evangelical leaders and the foot soldiers of a theology that sees Uganda as a test case, ground zero in a battle not for millions,  but billions of souls.
(More here: http://www.godlovesuganda.com/film/story/)

 Why is The Marin Foundation bringing it to us?

As our TMF’s Associate Director Michael Kimpan posted recently in his blog, we’re showing the film and providing space for a discussion afterward to ask, in what ways can evangelicals who do not support the criminalization of homosexuality abroad – regardless of their theological perspectives on issues surrounding faith and sexuality – encourage their leaders and faith communities to not create and foster environments ripe for the exportation of this type of ideology?

therefore, our purpose in showing the film is twofold :: first, to educate individuals unaware of the broad picture of the situation in uganda (and by extension, russia, zambia and elsewhere); and second, to prompt a thoughtful and christlike response which does indeed distance conservative evangelicals from the extreme position taken by those presented in the film.


When do I meet up with you all for the screening?  

Great question.  As we mentioned on Wednesday, our private screening (to which you have just been invited) takes place next week Friday, September 27 at 7:15 pm at Chicago Filmmakers, located 5243 N Clark, Chicago

 Tickets can be purchased at the door– suggested donation: $10.

For more details or to RSVP, contact Melinda:  melinda@themarinfoundation.org

And if you’re going to be around beforehand and want to join us for dinner, please do:  Jerry’s Sandwiches on 5419 N Clark St.   at 5:15 pm — we’d be happy to save you a seat!

 

Much love!

September 9, 2013

If you have ever wanted to learn practical steps for building bridges between the LGBT community and the church, now is the time!  If you read Love Is an Orientation and want to know, “Now what?” here is your answer. Whether you are a pastor, a parent, a youth worker, an LGBT individual, a professor, or someone who is simply interested in knowing how to elevate this conversation, this is for you! This Fall, The Marin Foundation will be offering a continuing education course based on our innovative Culture War Curriculum.

The Culture War Curriculum is designed to offer concrete and feasible methods of engagement between divided communities.  You will walk away with a better understanding of the “Other” and ways to connect in peaceful and productive dialogue.

The Marin Foundation’s Culture War Curriculum includes the following sections:

Historical Identity: Politics, Sex, Religion and the LGBT Community

Practical Applications for Building Bridges and Elevating the Conversation between Divided Communities

Faith and Life Acculturation: Discovering an Ideal Existence apart from Mainstream Norms

Our Town to Their Town: Understanding the Art of Biblical Interpretation

Theology of Sex and Sexuality

Scientific Research and Homosexuality: What is it? What does it conclude? How does that impact the divide? and Where do we go from here?

Over the years, this Culture War Curriculum has been taught by The Marin Foundation at a number of LGBT organizations, conservative, faith-based and secular non-profits, government agencies, clinics, high schools, community centers, churches large and small, and Christian and secular universities.

This Fall’s Opportunity for the Course:

October 26 & 27: Two day weekend course (12-6pm on Saturday & 10am-5pm on Sunday).

Registration fee is $75

The class will take place at First Evangelical Free Church of Chicago:

5255 N. Ashland Ave

Chicago, IL 60640

Facilitators

Jason Bilbrey

  Jason serves as our Director of Pastoral Care at The Marin Foundation. He completed his M.A. of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and was previously on staff with a multi-ethnic church plant in Los Angeles.
Michael Kimpan

Michael Kimpan serves as our Associate Director. He has a BA in Youth Ministry and Biblical Theology from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and is currently working on his Masters of Arts in Theology and Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.  You can check out his blog, The WayWard Follower at www.mjkimpan.com

 

Please contact Melinda to register for the course or for more information: melinda@themarinfoundation.org or 773-572-5983

Register soon to guarantee your spot!

www.themarinfoundation.org

July 24, 2013

Taylor Culver is a recent graduate of Northwestern College, interning with us this summer in Chicago.

One of the greatest challenges for me in reconciling the components of faith and sexuality was finding a balance between having a concrete answer and living despite the questions I had and still have. As our associate director, Michael Kimpan says, “We are a culture obsessed with answers.” This need for certainty can quickly become consuming, and we open ourselves up to the possibility of drowning in our own desire to figure out what the right answer is to questions that we may never know the answer to.

I found this happening in my own life when I began the hard work of reconciliation. I just assumed that the right answer was out there, and I just had to find it. But if there were a right answer, why would the country and everyone around me be so divided? If there were a clear answer, wouldn’t it be easy to convince people, to convince myself? This is true for a number of politically charged questions. There is no simple answer. So what do we do? How do we be so sure about things that seem so gray? Do we need to be sure about these things?

In my last blog post I mentioned a quote by a professor from Northwestern College, and I’m going to mention another quote that I heard from a different professor that I think fits this context well. I heard it first in my capstone faith integration course for my Psychology major.

The professor said, “The only thing we can be absolutely certain of is that we are wrong about most things.”

I remember being so humbled after I heard that for the first time. Can you imagine if we started living by this quote as a culture? As a country? As a Christian community? If our attitude could shift from one of intellectual and moral superiority to one of humility and acknowledgement that we may be wrong, our interactions with others who are different from us would look drastically different. If we approached the questions of the world not with conquest in mind but with humility, we might discover that this search for answering questions in a right and wrong way has, in fact, led to the many divisions we have today.

Maybe if we lived in this humility we could recognize that the most important thing about being a human being, a politician, a Christian, etc. isn’t that we have the right answer or the best answer. If our pursuit of an answer or our answer itself drives us away from the two greatest commandments: loving God and loving others, then maybe we should reconsider whether or not this answer is so important. Maybe when we stop being consumed with having right answers, we can finally love others where they are at, we can love without having an agenda, we can love because we share the identity of being created in the image of God.

I’m not suggesting that we should not or cannot have answers. We need some framework and foundation for living, but maybe we shouldn’t determine the character or quality of an individual by the answer they give or don’t give to big controversial questions. In my short life, I have realized that people’s experiences hold more meaning than the concrete answers we find in the news, books, and other sources.

Samantha Bender, an intern at To Write Love on Her Arms, says this in her recent blog post:

“Sometimes, people deserve something other than my carefully crafted explanations can provide. Sometimes, circumstances are more profound, more intricate, than we could imagine.

“Because the world and all its complexities—its wars, famines, genocides, tragic events, and natural disasters—deserve more than simple explanations.

“Because humanity, in all its beauty and devastation, deserves more than concrete answers. Our lives call us to cast aside our simple answers and to look for the stars behind the dark clouds, even if that means we have to sit there for a while.”

– Samantha Bender, TWLOHA intern 2013

So let’s rest and be okay with not knowing, with living in the gray; it just might be in this space that we can finally find peace. Maybe this reformation away from having concrete answers will be a space where we can all, as a united body, experience the fruits of the spirit.

When I found this peace, when I lived the questions, when I lived despite not having an answer, I found something new and beautiful about God that I never knew I was looking for. I found that God did not require that I have all the answers, but rather God was inviting me to trust and love God and God’s people despite uncertainties. I discovered that these two things were more important than any answer.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

July 12, 2013

 

Dear Friends,

It is with great excitement, and some trepidation, that I want to share an exciting change here at The Marin Foundation.

My wife Brenda and I, along with the Foundation team about a year ago, began discussing the requests and needs we were receiving from our friends across the pond (the United Kingdom) and throughout Europe. As my involvement with the United Nations has increased over the past three years there were many organizations, people, institutions and churches asking for the assistance of The Marin Foundation. We have had the privilege of doing some work throughout the UK and Europe and have seen incredible responses—including the launch of almost ten Living in the Tension groups abroad. It is humbling to see this work spread across the globe.

It was last summer when I was approached by the University of St. Andrews (in St. Andrews, Scotland) with an opportunity to complete my PhD in Divinity; studying under some of the world’s foremost living theologians—including Steve Holmes, NT Wright and John Webster.

Brenda and I, along with our team at the Foundation began prayerfully reflecting and discussing if this was an opportunity that would be appropriate for both me, and for the sustainability of The Marin Foundation. During this discernment time we met with, among many others, our dear friend and pastor Michael Kimpan, and his fiancée Katie. Together we discussed and dreamed about what it would look like if Michael came on board with the Foundation to be my right hand man. Brenda and I also shared with them the potential opportunity of us going to Scotland and what that would mean for Michael’s future responsibilities for The Marin Foundation.

After a quick few discussions Michael’s excitement overflowed for this opportunity, and we hired him as The Marin Foundation’s Associate Director. Michael was a very successful businessperson who left for the pastorate, and now we are fortunate enough to have him in Chicago since January. Michael has been an incredible asset and is already showing to be not only very capable, but a compassionate and productive leader for our team. He has seamlessly transitioned into Boystown, living just a few blocks away from where I live. I have enjoyed introducing him to all of our neighborhood’s leadership and he has already done multiple speaking engagements for us across the country, to rave reviews.

For the next three years I will split time between St. Andrews, Scotland and Boystown, focusing on my PhD and handling all of the international work. We have an opportunity to uniquely concentrate on spreading this bridge building message more thoroughly across the globe. Our new situation will not only enhance our impact as cutting-edge practitioners, but also our credibility as thought leaders via this educational opportunity.

I will be a major part in our new live interactive video lectures, called The Tension Series. Stay tuned for more information regarding this next-level continuing education launching this Fall!

Finally, it is important that each of you know that my commitment is to reconciliation, bringing Kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven. As I follow the example of Jesus my goal is to continue to learn how to live and love in real time. My prayer is that this time investing in my PhD will only enhance our reach and ability to bring reconciliation to contentious areas at home and around the world.

I am very excited to see how Michael, his forthcoming book and his ability to teach will be used to not only sustain The Marin Foundation, but significantly contribute to its growth in a variety of manners! I am without a doubt confident that he will prove his incredible leadership, while producing quality resources and messages for not only The Marin Foundation, but also for this bridge building movement.

If you have any further questions or concerns please feel free to contact us at info@themarinfoundation.org. I am looking forward to keeping you all up to date and involved in our transition and continued work both here in the States and abroad.

Much Love.

Andrew

July 4, 2013

I first started blogging September 13, 2008. This was the first post I ever wrote. My blog was originally hosted on Blogger from 2008-2009, then on my own hosted site from 2010-2012. Since 2013 it has been hosted here at Patheos. Note that I linked all of the posts to my current Patheos blog, which is why all of the pre-2013 posts have little to no “Shares.”

I will periodically update this list, whenever there is a shift in rankings, or new posts make the Top 20. Each post was written by Andrew, unless otherwise noted.

Here are the Top 20 All Time Most Viewed Posts:

1. I Couldn’t Be More Proud at Pride, You Know, In a Humble Way of Course (June 29, 2010) After going viral in 2010 and again in 2012, this post currently has been viewed 3.17 million times.

2. My Quick Thought on Chick-Fil-A (August 3, 2012)

3. My Response to Dan Savage’s Accusations about The Marin Foundation in the New York Times (April 14, 2013)

4. Gay Marriage (October 30, 2008)

5. Would Jesus Fight a Legal Battle Against Same-Sex Marriage? (December 27, 2012)

6. Andrew Marin on Alan Chambers and the Closing of Exodus International (June 20, 2013)

7. The Government and Money: I Don’t Get It (July 28, 2011)

8. When My Wife Came Out (October 28, 2013) *Written by Jason Bilbrey, The Marin Foundation’s Director of Pastoral Care

9. Huge Announcement by Famous UK Pastor Steve Chalke (January 15, 2013)

10. In Case You’re Not 1 of the 7.6 Million Viewers… (June 29, 2012)

11. I Wish People Would Keep It Real When Talking About Sex (April 12, 2013)

12. Why Gabe Lyons and Others are Wrong about the Louie Giglio Aftermath (January 11, 2013)

13. Go and Sin No More (November 29, 2010) *Written by Kevin Harris, The Marin Foundation’s Director of Community Relations

14. I Just Got Uninvited from Speaking at the United Nations (January 17, 2013)

15. Ugandan Anti-Homosexual Bill (October 30, 2009)

16. Here are the Old Testament Scripture References that Jesus Quoted more than Anything Else (November 16, 2010)

17. When Your Child “Comes Out” (February 24, 2012) *Written by Nathan Albert, The Marin Foundation’s former Director of Pastoral Care

18. LOVE is louder. (July 10, 2013) *Written by Michael Kimpan, The Marin Foundation’s Associate Director

19. The Marin Foundation Featured on BBC World News (September 28, 2011)

20. Conservative theologian REALLY doesn’t like me, or anyone ASSOCIATED with me (September 3, 2010)

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

[Updated October 30, 2013]

April 24, 2013



This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation.

I’m not crazy about baseball. I never have been.

Yet living in Chicago, just blocks away from Wrigley Field, means that I’m bound to become a Cubs fan. Working with Andrew at The Marin Foundation makes this transition all the more likely, as his support of the Cubbies borders on obsession.

In an effort to embrace my pending inevitable affection for America’s favorite pastime, I went with Andrew to an opening series game against the Milwaukee Brewers. We sat in the bleachers out in left center field, hoping to catch anything that screamed past the wall.

All you need to know is if you catch a home run hit by the Brewers, throw it back.’ a friend said. Easy enough.

I must admit the atmosphere was indeed incredible. Smells of hot dogs, nachos and beer filled the nighttime air. The roar of the crowd at each crack of the bat was reminiscent of something out of baseball films like ‘The Natural‘ or ‘Field of Dreams.’ Every play was analyzed by the faithful, desperate to snap a 104 year long championship drought.

Maybe this year.

Fans took turns yelling encouragement or mockery at the players during batting practice (depending on the color of their uniforms) and occasionally engaged in somewhat friendly banter with one another.

There was one particularly brave group of Brewers supporters a few rows behind us in our section – decked out with full Brewers swag – who received the brunt of criticism from the majority of fairly intoxicated Cubs fans in our section.

It all seemed to be done in good fun, until about the 3rd inning.

One of the Brewers bunch was a late teens/early twenties male who had clearly suffered from terrible acne for years. His face was scarred – almost assumedly from extensive laser treatments and declaring a dermatology war on his face. His lips were dry and chapped with the tell-tale sign of medication meant to decrease oil production in the body.

I know, because I also had horrible acne as an adolescent.

Yet this young man’s skin was worse than anything I’d ever seen. His face looked more like a burn victim – a fact not lost on even some of the more inebriated folks in our section. A verbal altercation proved this point at the bottom of the third.

‘The Brewers suck!’  one drunken frat boy decked out in Cubs gear declared.

You suck!‘ the facially-scarred Brewers fan responded.

Oh yeah? Well…well, you’re a PIZZA FACE!

Andrew and I winced. A woman behind us muttered, ‘That was low.‘ She was right.

This perspective was not shared by everyone, however. Several companions of the drunken frat boy joined in on the rhythmic chorus, as if on cue ::

‘PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE!’

Laughing, pointing, mocking.

The fans from Milwaukee defended their friend, complete with bravado, foul language and empty threats. Any physical altercation would end badly for them, as they were initially outnumbered at least 20 to 1. This fact too was not missed by the drunken frat boy and his friends, as they reacted with even more vitriol – and encouraged the rest of the crowd to join in on their chant.

‘PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE!’

More laughter. More pointing. More mocking.

Andrew and I sat in a silent state of shock, then began to process out loud with one another what role we could play in standing up for these Brewers fan while simultaneously avoiding escalating the situation.

‘If we invited him to come sit down here with us, they’ll start throwing things at him from behind us.’

‘If we turn around and yell at them to stop, it’s not going stop. It may only get worse.’

‘But we can’t just sit here and do nothing.’

The crowd behind us had multiplied in its verbal cacophony, which now included the entire section. Quite literally nearly all the left center field fans had joined in on the vocal assault of this young kid from Milwaukee, chanting and pointing and laughing and mocking.

‘PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE!’

At one point ‘Pizza Face’ passionately pleaded with his oppressors. Through teary eyes he hollered, ‘I just want to watch a baseball game! You want to talk about the game? Watch the game. Stop calling me names – you’re being stupid. Let’s just talk about baseball.’

For a brief and holy moment, there was silence.

Then, one fan hollered, ‘Or…we could talk about…PIZZAAAAAAA!’ he wagged his tongue and shook his body for dramatic effect.

The fans went ballistic.

PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE!

By now the increased intensity of the verbal onslaught on the out of town guests had caught the attention of a few Chicago Cubs security guards, who had come over – presumably to put an end to the inhospitable and entirely inappropriate chant. But what happened next showed instead of a desire for peace, a prejudice – the guard participated with the crowd in alienating these young Brewers fans.

He approached the friends around ‘Pizza Face’ and scolded, ‘You all stop instigating this, or we’ll have to kick you out.

I stood there flabbergasted. The security guard was threatening to kick these kids out? Protecting the oppressors? Standing up for the bully-ers rather than the bullied?

The crowd erupted in a frenzy ::

PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE!

 

Some of the Cubs fans had bought pizza to use as visual props. They held up slices next to their heads, smearing pepperoni onto their faces in some sort of show of support for the weak-minded security guard.

HE’S A PIZZA FACE! A PIZZA FACE! A PIZZA FACE!’

 

It felt like a lynch mob.

I could hardly believe it. Neither could Andrew.

I put my head down and shook it…I didn’t know what to do, but it was clear something needed to be done. In those few short seconds, Andrew had already bolted from his seat and made his way over to the security guard.

I’ve never seen anything like this before,’ he declared. ‘This is ridiculous, your security is ridiculous, and you need to make this stop. The poor kid can’t help the fact that he has acne.’

He brought it on himself,’ the security guard half-heartedly explained, defending his friends donning Cub apparel. ‘He’s wearing a Brewer’s jersey in the bleachers at Wrigley.’

This isn’t about baseball!’ Andrew exclaimed. ‘They’re making fun of him for something he has no control over and attacking him as a person! This is wrong!

The kid was crying. The crowd was screaming. I made my way past the few seats between Andrew and I.

No sooner had I arrived at Andrew’s side when the man in front of our conversation with the security guard spun around, pointing his finger within inches of Andrew’s nose. ‘You’re the pizza face!‘ The crowd grew louder.

PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE!

It was clear that Andrew’s newfound antagonist had been boozing as his breath was laden with both bratwurst and beer. He and his friend were enjoying playing the part of the oppressor, as it was likely not their modus operandi in high school. The frail frames and bottle-cap-thick glasses suggested they had been on the receiving side of harsh words before, and this was their chance to be the bully. Armed with liquid courage, he threatened to use force to remove Andrew – not the smartest move he’d ever made.

Both of us screamed at the guy to turn around and watch the game. Andrew added, ‘I’m not even freaking talking to you, so you shut your mouth!‘ Things were heating up fast.

PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE! PIZZA FACE!

Andrew and I both took verbal abuse from the crowd as we left the section to talk with the Chicago Cubs security team. Several security guards and their supervisor came discussed with us the reality of the dangerous situation, which was quickly spiraling out of control.

Our complaint against the mob mentality of the crowd, their inappropriate and offensive treatment of the Brewers fan and the ineffectiveness of the first security guard to protect them was initially met with resistance. ‘They shouldn’t be sitting in the bleachers anyway – not if they’re wearing Brewers jerseys.’

Andrew about lost his salvation.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!?!’ We went on to explain the complaint had nothing to do with baseball, but that the crowd was personally attacking this poor kid for what he looked like. ‘This is something he can’t control – his physical appearance. How would you feel if someone was attacking you for what you look like?’

One security guard was severely overweight.

Another was an African American.

They couldn’t make fun of us – there’s nothing to make fun of.’

It was as if we were in the Twilight Zone. We carefully explored the possibility of their physical appearance – the color of their skin or the size of their waistline – being used as a catalyst for a verbal assault.

Finally one of the guards ‘got it.”Yeah, I guess that would be offensive.’

No sooner had the light gone off in his head than over a dozen Cubs fans had made their way to the top of the stairs where our pow-wow with the security team was taking place. ‘Thanks for finally standing up for that kid,‘ one said. ‘I’m embarrassed to be a Cubs fan today,‘ said another. ‘I really appreciate what you said – it is ridiculous, and it needs to stop.‘ ‘These guys are right.’

And on. And on.

The guards encouraged Andrew and I to sit in a different section, hoping to diffuse the increased intensity with which we had made our exit. I asked if I could retrieve our belongings, and did so. As I made my way down to our seats, several fans thanked me, stating they were all hoping someone would say something.

They all wanted to. But none of them had. Not until Andrew did.

We settled into our seats across the field and watched as one by one the instigators were escorted out by security. Initially some of the crowd still joined the juvenile chants about the Brewers fan’s appearance, but with the lack of buy-in from the rest of the fans, they eventually settled down.

As we sat there in amazement at the preceding events, Andrew and I chuckled at our seeming ability to instigate near riots in everyday situations. We just wanted to go to a Cubs game! How did we get ourselves into these kinds of situations?

It’s because we insert ourselves,’ Andrew said. ‘For us, this isn’t just something we talk about. It’s something we live every day. People are waiting for someone to speak up – they’re just afraid to be the first one.

And having inserted ourselves, we saw the power of the voice of ‘the first.’ When the first person refuses to sit in silence, but instead calls out oppression for what it is, being willing to stand in solidarity with those being pushed to the margins and mistreated, others follow suit. Courage is contagious, and boldness is infectious.

The question each of us face is whether or not we possess the conviction to be willing to risk our reputations and even our physical safety in an effort to stand in solidarity with those being marginalized and oppressed (one well-known example of Jesus doing that is found here).

Are we willing to be the first? On that day, we were – and at least for one Brewers fan, it made a difference. Though he heard the insufferable statements lobbed in his direction from a group of immature and insolent sports fans, he also saw that there are people who are willing to take a stand against the masses and be the first – even for a Brewers fan.

Oh – and the Cubs won.

Maybe this year indeed.


Connect with Michael through his thought provoking blog, hit him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

April 17, 2013

trueorfalse
This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation.

It strikes me as odd that in an increasingly pluralistic and post-modern society, there is still a seeming addiction to closed-ended, one-word, YES or NO answers that sum up an entire worldview and perspective that tells me if you’re one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’ – if I can trust you or if I should despise you, if you’re for me or against me — and all that I stand for.

I’ve written about that herehere and here  and The Marin Foundation has written about the reasons we avoid engaging in the polarizing, back-and-forth rhetoric responses repeatedly – and yet once again Andrew and The Marin Foundation has been placed onto the chopping block – a place we’re growing increasingly accustomed to and comfortable with – from both sides of the conversation.

It certainly is an interesting place to be.

 

Here we go again.

One person wrote in the comments section of Andrew’s latest post ::

He could [answer in terms of yes or no] but then lose all credibility with evangelicals. At that point he would just be one more blogger in favor of gay rights. Instead of  just swelling our numbers by one, he is one of the few people I know… who can stand in the middle and I think has value. Obviously there will still be people on either side who don’t trust him because he isn’t really ‘on their side.’

This only further illustrates why he needs to keep up what he is doing. If you will only listen to people you completely agree with then there will be no true dialogue.

This is why, as Andrew stated in his post, ‘The Marin Foundation works to live in the tension of these disagreements by building bridges (e.g. peacemaking). And when a bridge building/peacemaking organization takes a side, it loses the right to standing in the middle to facilitate a new medium of engagement with each opposing worldview.’

That is why, as we state on our website ::

A new example must be set for the rest of our society to see a new vision of what bold reconciliation looks like between LGBTs, liberals, conservatives and the faith world. So many have been working off of a paradigm of reconciliation based on a mainstream worldview of strength in numbers that either forces ‘the Other’ to conform or be ostracized.

But reconciliation based on a love of God giving us the strength to relentlessly pursue those that are thought to be most unlike ourselves will ultimately connect humanity on new levels of faith, relationship, action and sustainable impact.

In our bi-weekly gatherings called ‘Living In The Tension‘, participants know that the goal of these gatherings is not for folks to convince others sitting across the table that they are right and ‘the Other’ is wrong, but rather to build a community where individuals can feel safe not only to share their experiences and beliefs with those with whom they may not agree, but to learn to excel in constructive tension by engaging in peaceful and productive conversation with them.

We do not exist to facilitate a debate that converts one side to the opposite worldview or perspective; rather, we create safe and sacred spaces to provide active engagement in learning what relationship with ‘the Other’ tangibly looks like.

In. Real. Life. 

With. Real. People. 

It amazes me that advocating for a theology of unconditional love toward all people – gay or straight – brings with it such vitriolic and hateful rhetoric as has littered the Internet, with false accusations and name-calling being lobbed across Twitter feeds and the blogosphere toward Andrew and The Marin Foundation.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Just this weekend I was in a conversation with a gay friend of mine who has expressed reservations about The Marin Foundation.

In response to the idea that many folks in the LGBT community don’t benefit from the fact that Andrew and I (two straight white dudes) get invited into conservative evangelical churches to talk about a better way of engaging the gay community – oftentimes churches that otherwise wouldn’t engage in the conversation (as our friend Tony Jones pointed out in his post here), I communicated the following ::

It’s true that many LGBT folks don’t benefit from these conversations inside the walls of the church, at least not directly – and that perspective may be aggravated by the fact that certain evangelical folks continually say it’s great to have The Marin Foundation come and speak. Many within the gay community have experienced tremendous ostracization and pain at the hands of similar communities of faith – who themselves are enslaved to communicating their conservative doctrines through the same addiction to answers which is at the core of this conversation. Ask a biblical literalist the same question Dan Savage posted above and you’re likely to get an unfavorable answer.

But it is equally true that for the LGBT individuals who are a part of those churches – or for their family and friends who attend them and have not yet wrestled through the tension of their conservative theologies  and the reality of living in relationship with their gay friends or family – it’s been extremely helpful.

There are countless stories – quite literally from across the globe – that have ended well as a result of an introduction to a different type of dialogue rather than the ironically dogmatic cultural mandate to ‘change what you believe.‘ Perhaps as a result of living in relationship with and proximity to their LGBT neighbors, people may potentially alter their perspective and adopt a more progressive theological hermeneutic.

That happens.

But it doesn’t always happen.

And it doesn’t need to.

What does need to happen is a paradigm shift in the way we have these conversations.

Many (most? nearly all?) Christians believe they have a corner on theological and doctrinal truth. At the crux and center of our faith is the concept that God is best reflected, seen and known in the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Not the Buddha. Not Moses. Not the Prophet Mohammed. Not crystals or reincarnated animals or even the Pope. Jesus.

And we think we’re right.

Yet, as Brian McLaren so eloquently pointed out in his most recent book, that belief does not necessitate an inherent hostility toward the Other. It does not dictate nor demand disrespecting those who believe differently.

It is possible – necessary, even – to disagree in generous and hospitable ways.

The demand for conservative evangelicals to engage the gay community differently are well founded, even overdue. yet the demands to change their theology are unrealistic.

I would agree that in many cases, the outworking of that theology is problematic – from fighting a legal battle against gay rights and protesting marriage equality (which I’ve written about here and Andrew has written about here), to arguing against anti-bullying campaigns (which I’ve written about here and Andrew has spoken about here) and defending violence against the LGBT community (which I’ve written about here) :: each of these are deplorable. Un-Christlike. Embarrassing. Unacceptable.

Yet if both sides of the faith and sexuality debate could take their cues from Jesus – standing in solidarity with the Other, regardless of their perspectives, beliefs, or opinions – there would be an opportunity to elevate the conversation.

And folks, it works. We do it all the time.


Connect with Michael through his thought provoking blog, hit him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

April 5, 2013

This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation.

There’s credibility and power in proximity and relationship.

It is impossible to advance the message of reconciliation without being in proximity to and relationship with those who’ve been marginalized. Proximity to and relationship with the marginalized instills in us an ability to see beyond the misinformation which has too often led to the dehumanization and lessening of those known as ‘the Other.’

It’s easy to speak out of a position of ignorance and intolerance when we’re dealing with unknown faces and unheard stories.

It becomes much more difficult – impossible, in fact – when we’re speaking of our friends.

Proximity and relationship means everything.

Before landing in the gay neighborhood of Chicago, I’ve been a bit of a nomad. While I was growing up our family moved around quite a bit – Ohio, Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Scotland and elsewhere. In each of these communities I have actively participated in worship as a regular attender, member and even served on staff at various denominations of evangelical Christianity – Baptists of all types, shades and sizes, FourSquare, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian, Methodist, Reformed, neo-Reformed, Nazarene and multiple non-denominational churches

One might say I’m a little bit of a Christian mutt. In the midst of my eclectic evangelical upbringing and until only quite recently, I have systematically found my home in the context of predominantly conservative evangelical faith communities.

They’re my people. And I love them.

Yet for all of the good things I learned from being a part of these conservative faith communities, I also inherited some negative sweeping generalizations and unfair stereotypes toward my LGBT neighbors (along with one or two other theological quirks). Without relationship with any openly gay people, for years I continued to perpetuate the ignorance and intolerance preserved by those insistent upon making declarations of ‘Truth’ (emphasized with a capital ‘t’) regarding a handful of bible verses and unhelpful bumper-sticker slogans like, ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin,’ or ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’

And then I met Eric.

I had been desperately searching for a job to coincide with my full-time load of seminary classes. My last ministry position hadn’t ended well, which made a positive reference from my former employer hard to come by. I finally bit the bullet and decided to once again don the green apron at Starbucks Coffee Company. I introduced myself to the Store Manager and divulged how much coffee I consumed on a daily basis.

He gave me the job.

Eric and I became fast friends – though we were an unlikely pair, to be sure. I was a former pastor at a conservative evangelical church and attending a prestigious evangelical seminary in pursuit of an MDiv. with an emphasis on Reformation Church History. Eric was an openly gay man who had been rejected by his church and had no patience for religious folk, nor any desire to engage in any sort of theological conversation. On the surface, we didn’t have much in common beyond our love for coffee and could have found endless areas of disagreement.

Instead, we simply got to know one another.

We spent countless hours together – at work, after work, during breaks and on weekends. My part time job turned into a full time one, and Eric became my mentor as I furthered my career with the company. For a season, it wasn’t uncommon for Eric and I to be working together for 12-16 hours a day. We would regularly go to the local pub after work to debrief our day and discuss upcoming company initiatives. We became inseparable, known in our district as the Dynamic Duo of Batman and Boy Wonder.

While we often spoke about work, our conversation inevitably turned to the vulnerable unfolding of each of our own stories. The intricate details of what drove our life decisions became common conversation, and the transparent telling of the fears we held of each other became unveiled.

‘You’re the first gay guy I’ve ever really spent time with.’

‘You’re the first evangelical pastor I’ve ever spent time with.’

With a mutual respect for one another as co-workers and friends, we allowed ourselves room for questions and disagreement. We shared our stories and voluntarily re-opened old wounds in an effort to understand each other, feeling the freedom to challenge the other’s beliefs within the context of a safe and sacred friendship. Rather than causing a division, this practice of honest dialogue in the midst of the tension-filled conversations regarding faith and sexuality strengthened our friendship and respect for one another. Secondary theological and political issues became just that as the primary value of elevating the conversation and deepening the bonds of relationship became our priority.

And then my life fell apart.

My marriage dissolved under immense pressure from multiple angles. Counseling proved futile. A DUI ensued. Then a separation. Bible college buddies took sides, most often against me as I wasn’t ‘in ministry’ any longer. After experiencing the unparalleled heartache and frustration of watching my well-formed theologies crumble under the reality of real life, I unwittingly and unfortunately continually encountered a less-than-Christian version of Christianity. I felt alone. Abandoned. Ostracized. Judged. Marginalized. Other-ed.

But not by Eric.

Throughout even the darkest of times, my friend stood by my side. He offered grace and forgiveness, providing unconditional support in ways that reflected the Divine welcoming of the lost son.  Our friendship has continued, surviving transformations and career changes and theological evolutions, geographical relocations and more. Fidelity to the process of reconciliation has enabled our relationship to surpass the polarizing, win-lose, back-and-forth rhetoric which so often shapes the conservative and LGBT disconnect.

Our friendship was framed differently.

When we choose to sit down and hear the stories of those pushed to the margins, we encounter in them the very humanity we had previously either overlooked or ignored. As we commit to friendship and live out their experiences alongside them as fellow travelers in their journey – sitting with them in their pain and allowing it to grow into our own heartache – there is a very natural shift in our response :: from aggression or apathy to one of grace and hope.

This follows the example set before us in the incarnation.

The very doctrine of the incarnation contains at its heart the divine welcoming of the Other; embodying that same welcome is at the heart of our own obedience to God’s grace.

We must be committed to the ongoing pursuit of those who’ve been marginalized and treated as outcasts. This is the mission and art of reconciliation – the pursuit of that which is disconnected.

Connecting with others in proximity and relationship allows us to see injustice through God’s eyes – to recognize when people we love are being treated poorly, even by other people we love. It creates in us the courage to stand up for the oppressed; to lend a voice to the voiceless; to defend the defenseless.

I am convinced that relationship and proximity castrates our ability to continue to treat Others unjustly, and forces us into the reality of the process of reconciliation.

The question is – are we willing to live incarnationally? Are we willing to set aside our agendas and ideals, instead seeking reconciliation through the power and credibility of proximity and relationship? Could it be that the way forward as bridge builders is indeed following the example of Jesus, who consistently stood in solidarity with the Other?

What do you think?

Connect with Michael through his thought provoking blog, hit him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

 

March 29, 2013

This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation.

Particularly in a week like this one, the importance of our work at The Marin Foundation as bridge builders and peacemakers is highlighted. Amidst the tension-filled spaces that took up nearly every corner of the internet and social media due to the SCOTUS hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA, the false choice of being one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’ was again presented passionately along with the name-calling and win/lose rhetoric that so often shapes the conversations of the LGBT and conservative disconnect.

Earlier this past month one of our interns, Brent Bailey, wrote an insightful post here on patheos in which he prompted each of us to ‘Think Ahead‘ to avoid the type of painful division that was so clearly evident during the Chick-fil-A debacle.

About the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, Brent wrote ::

Did you spend much time browsing social media on August 1 last year? If you’re like me – if the majority of your contacts are either Christian, gay, or both, and if you just couldn’t stop yourself from clicking ‘Refresh’ throughout the day – you probably read many, many comments about Chick-fil-A, gay marriage, and free speech. To be sure, many of them were considerate and meaningful and powerful, effectively communicating compassion and reason in the midst of a tumultuous day. But many of them were also insensitive, imprecise, and childish, stereotyping everyone from Christians to sexual minorities to Republicans to meat eaters, all contributing to an atmosphere of discord. I’d be genuinely surprised if anyone said there views on business ethics or marriage changed on August 1 due to a tweet or Facebook status they skimmed, but I know for a fact that more than a handful of my friends wound up  more critical of Christians or more suspicious of the LGBT community based on what they read that day.

Brent went on to encourage us to take advantage of knowing that such a potentially polarizing and divisive conversation was forthcoming with the Supreme Court cases which began this week, and to think through the implications and ramifications of our own words before wading into conversations surrounding the controversy.

A quick glimpse over my own social media feeds shows that we would do well to be reminded of Brent’s words.

Our Facebook feeds filled with changed profile pictures and folks combating one another on the validity of such an action. Other folks used their status to decry the ‘unholy contempt being shown for God’s ways‘ (a literal quote from a friend’s status) and more than a few posts were made with some political, religious or moral rant for or against homosexuality.

While many of my friends took the opportunity to elevate the conversation in their discussions, still others seemed to be trapped in the tired back-and-forth of the same old arguments within the context of this dialogue – boiling down their beliefs to simple one word, yes/no answers to questions much more rich and nuanced than we often care to admit.

And people are being hurt by our ignorance.

It seems to me, as I daily inhabit these spaces of the tremendously painful juxtapositions of the philosophical, legal and moral arguments that are contained within the tension-filled spaces of this cultural disconnect, that the church has an opportunity and responsibility to enter into fresh dialogue with humility and respect to those on both sides of the aisle.

We need to be committed anew to becoming known not what we stand against, but being defined by the uniquely divine grace and love of Christ.

There is an ever-increasing need for peaceful and productive dialogue with those with whom we disagree, without declaring them to be anathema. But when disputes dissolve to name-calling or include demonizing and polarizing language, these disagreements unintentionally lead people of opposing worldviews toward hatred and disrespect, further perpetuating the cycle creating an atmosphere described by so many as a ‘culture war.’

Both conservatives and progressives are guilty of this collapse in conversation. To be sure, this discourse goes both ways. There are angry birds on both the right and the left. Yet we would be better served seeking ways to create reconciliation rather than division. How we communicate matters nearly as much (perhaps sometimes even more than?) what we communicate.

During this Holy Week, we are reminded of Christ’s ultimate submission and humility – his divine and loving act of service and suffering on behalf of humanity as he took our sin upon himself in order that we might be reconciled to God – and one another.

And so I ask, as Brent did earlier ::

How have you seen people communicate compassion in the midst of the contentious current events of SCOTUS? How might we use all the noise surrounding these hearings to build bridges of respect and empathy – reconciliation – with one another?

What do you think?

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