Saturday 24 April 2010

The LGBT Anglican Coalition met in London today for the third time

The LGBT Anglican Coalition met in London today for the third time
The eight groups who form the Coalition have agreed to meet every six months with the objective of providing UK-based Christian LGBT organisations an opportunity to share resources for the Anglican community and develop resources for the full acceptance of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion.

We spent the morning focussed on organisational details – media releases, website content and management, how we deal with email enquiries, the purpose of the group (which inevitably provoked a complex discussion), the creation of a welcoming and open churches register and who might participate in ‘A Conversation Waiting to Begin’.

Andrew Marin, author of ‘Love is an Orientation’, had been invited to join us for the day. In the afternoon he told the story of how, when he was 19, each of his best (and only friends) came out to him as lesbian and gay, and how he inadvertently outed them to each other.

Andrew has been in the UK at the invitation of Spring Harvest where he addressed 1,000-strong audiences on multiples occasions in Skegness and Minehead. His experience there reinforced what I have been learning from conversations with young people in Africa and the Caribbean and from the Barna Group research published in ‘unchristian’ and anecdotally in the UK. Young Christians attending Spring Harvest don’t share their elders’ conservative evangelical attitudes to homosexuality. It isn’t an issue for them, they have been longing to be given space to talk about it, it isn’t an issue for them and the judgmental stance of older people leaves them baffled.

A dramatic change took place this year at Spring Harvest. Homosexuality was discussed openly, Andrew’s sessions were attended by huge crowds longing to engage (something the leadership hadn’t been prepared for) and many young LGBT people came out for the first time at Spring Harvest. Andrew is continuing to work with the team, exploring new initiatives based on the ‘Living in the Tension’ gatherings which form a key part of his work with the Marin Foundation in the USA.

Groups in Chicago and elsewhere meet twice a month for 90 minutes, people coming together from a diverse spectrum, LGBT and straight,, ex-gay, conservative, orthodox, liberal, radical, Christian, agnostic, atheist, where openness is expected, pat answers are challenged and all are expected to engage and contribute.

Andrew sowed the seeds for a number of practical ideas with the Coalition. We are already committed to a conversation with a number of conservative evangelicals and a group was authorised to take this forward. With Andrew’s help, we hope to find other ways in which we can live into the tension with those who hold a range of views about sexuality and faith.

Conversations in the Anglican Communion about human sexuality are plagued by the polarised views of extremists at either end of the spectrum – those who place their faith in the ex-gay movement at one end and those committed to human rights at the other. It is a struggle to find people willing to engage in conversations which can live into the tension.

Andrew Marin has been led by God into a ministry which is achieving something of a revolution in the USA, from Boy’s Town, Chicago to the White House in Washington. The work of his foundation is successfully bridging differences in people’s attitudes and bringing them together in a journey to mutual respect. I hope and pray that something similar can happen here, in communities across the UK.

Colin Coward


  1. Great article, Colin - it all sounds very positive and hopeful. But can you really describe Christians "committed to human rights" as extremists? I hope not!

  2. Andrew Marin has been led by God into a ministry which is achieving something of a revolution in the USA, from Boy’s Town, Chicago to the White House in Washington. The work of his foundation is successfully bridging differences in people’s attitudes and bringing them together in a journey to mutual respect. I hope and pray that something similar can happen here, in communities across the UK.

    That is strange, because that is not what Erika reports was her experience when she tried to engage through Andrew's website.

    As a practicing psychologist, who is also a gay Anglican, I do not believe that Andrew Marin is leading a ministry led by God. I believe that he has a hidden agenda, namely to convince GLBTQ folks of the error of their way by engaging them in a friendly environment, instead of the vitriol to which they are used to interacting with conservative Christians. And when plainly questioned about his personal beliefs about the holiness of a non-heterosexual orientation, he evades the issue and accuses you of asking the wrong questions.

    Utimately he is a wolf in sheep's clothes, for his goal is to lull folks into a sense of security where he eventually has the opportunity to convince you of the error of a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender life.

    I am sorry to disagree with you so strongly Colin. I hope that there does not come the day you are sorry you placed any trust in him.

  3. An interesting experience to be discussing LGBT issues at Spring Harvest In former years he would have been burnt at the stake. However, times they area-changing, and as the article shows there is a generational divide among evangelicals of many traditions regarding attitudes to human sexuality.

  4. Phil, I said extremists at either end - those committed to an extreme view of human rights, who push to extremes that then conflict with the space others occupy in society. I'm not into the government's rights and responsibilities agenda, but I think there is an unceratian interface between the call of God to justice, and the call from secular society. The two are not the same.

  5. David, I've met Andrew Marin twice now. I'd like to know what evidence you have, apart from the annecdotal, to acuse him of having a hidden agenda, being a wolf in sheeps clothing and waiting for the opportunity to convince me of the error of my ways.

    For what it's worth, which isn't much, I'm a gay Anglican priest and a non-practicing psychotherapist, and my assessment of Andrew is that he is 100% genuine and committed to creating bridges within the Christian communities. I asked him questions yesterday exploring his inner experience and his responses never suggest that he has an ulterior motive.

    I want to nuance what you said about conswervative Christians - I absolutely do not receive vitriol from all conservative Christians, quite the contrary, I freceive a lot of respect and warmth, and even the David Virtue's of the church usually contain their vitriol and often leave those who post comments on their blogs to express the posion.

    It isn't true to our Christian vocation and certainly doesn't help to change attitudes if we falsely characterise those with differning opinions in the church. I try as much as possible not to name call them - we have to model a different way of being Christian, and offer equal or more generous love and respect.

  6. I'd like to know what evidence you have, apart from the annecdotal, to acuse him of having a hidden agenda, being a wolf in sheeps clothing and waiting for the opportunity to convince me of the error of my ways.

    Colin, your evidence is anecdotal from 2 face to face encounters. My evidence is anecdotal from an internet encounter where he behaved as I report.

    Apart from my studies, 46 years of life experience inform me that when I politely ask questions of someone that have a direct bearing and relevance upon the relationship they seek with me and they not only evade the questions but turn the situation on its head and accuse me of fogging the issue by asking the wrong questions, then they have a hidden agenda. And then he ran away from the conversation.

    (Erika, please correct me if I overstate the case.) Erika participated in that conversation and was led to seek out Andrew's website where she participated in a number of encounters. She later sought me out and confirmed that I was correct in my warnings of a hidden agenda. She had an unhappy experience with these Andrew Marin conservative Christians.

    BTW, I did not say all conservative Christians were vitriolic. I said instead of the vitriol to which they are used to interacting with conservative Christians. That is by far the temper of the majority of encounters with which I have personally experienced conservative Christians. It is the most common experience reported to me by others. (I wonder what David V says about you behind your back; )

    Colin, you can live with difference of opinion. You would not seek to do more than exchange ideas with conservative Christians. You would not think them Hell bound for their beliefs. You would not seek their conversion to your understanding of Christianity. And you would not break table fellowship because of the differences. I am not convinced that the same can be said of your conservative Christian friends. That is not the nature of conservative Christian theology.

  7. David - This is Andrew Marin. I would love to have the opportunity to talk to you all about these issues you might have with me. I actually don't remember ever talking to an Erika, and I would love to hear more about these "internet encounters." I don't have anything to hide, and I also don't hide the fact that I have a conservative leaning theological belief system. Just because I believe something different than you might, doesn't mean I'm a wolf because I work and partner with LGBT organizations and I'm a conservative Christian. Thanks.

  8. Andrew, you blew off the opportunity that you had to talk about these issues with me. It was obviously not to your advantage to do so. So now I find this comment offering to do so disingenuous.

    As for Erika's experience, I must correct myself having found and reread the post. She did not seek me out, we were commenting on a post at the same blog. She brought up the experience in a comment to someone else and I asked her for more information.

  9. David
    thank you for finding those links - I stand by every word I wrote.

  10. Erika and Dahveed -

    I am confused. I have read all the comments and back and forth conversations between the two of you with regards to Andrew Marin-on this blog, and on the two posted links. I have met and actually attended some of the events with the Marin Foundation. Erika part of your issue on the second post was people who did the old I like you what you got tired of and had to stop posting. Yes, there are people within his blog posts and during his live chats that make me cringe and I can't believe they believe and make the comments that they do, but in no way to I hold Andrew responsible for those comments. This is the first time some of these conversations are even being allowed to happen. Yes, they are uncomfortable and maybe even tension filled but at least Andrew lets and gives space for us to put all those "dirty laundry" issues and a place where we can share. I know I have been able to find a different place for my faith and sexuality to live again through some of these conversations and reading his book. No I do not agree with everything, but no one else is trying. No one else gives validation to all experiences. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be slandered from all sides. It must be exhausting.

    As for Dahveed - Are you fishing for ways to discredit Andrew Marin and his work - I mean I think we all get it from all the posts you have linked to both on this blog and the links you give that you simply don't even want a conversation. I do believe Andrew validates our experiences, I do think he genuinely loves me within my partner relationship. I have never felt from any of his blogs, speeches, and/or book that his message is covered by some type of mysterious cloak. Maybe we have can't even imagine anymore that some one may simply love because love is what we are asked to do. Maybe it annoys us that he has made this conversation and our journeys a little more simpler because I am convinced he believes we are all children of God made in his perfect image.

    All I know whether niave or not is that I want to be part of a conversation that may at times make me uncomfortable but I get to grow, be respected, challenge others, and maybe change attitudes. I will fight and stand with Andrew Marin...

    Nalai (sorry I couldn't get the anonymous off)

  11. a ministry which is achieving something of a revolution in the USA, from Boy’s Town, Chicago to the White House in Washington

    Colin, could you explain this statement? What involvement does the Marin Foundation have at Boys Town or the US White House?

  12. Nalai
    If you have read all the posts on the threads David quoted you will have seen that I still believe that Andrew Marin is genuine (although I do sense that his comment that we have to accept that he is conservative in his theology is an admission of not quite accepting us fully - he has yet to confirm or deny this and David is right to push him on this question).
    But I now also full-heartedly agree with David that Andrew is having a conversation with fellow evangelicals that do not include us and do not need us.

    You are saying that people on his blog are having conversations they have never "been allowed to have" before - well, that's nice for them. As David says, many of us have been having these conversations for 30-40 years. Where were you all? I'm not an evangelical but there have been pro-gay evangelical fellowships for years and years and years. Read about Brenda Harrison on the main page of this blog to meet one of them. In the US the debate has been going on for as long, the theology has been done – there was no prohibition on getting to think and getting to talk to people.

    All our arguments are published in some form or another. And we are, as people, here to offer friendship and genuine conversation to those who are genuinely seeking.

    Apart from that, we have moved on and many of us are recovering our dignity. My biggest point had been that I will no longer speak to people who demand that I justify myself and my life and who, somehow, believe that I have to answer questions while they get to judge.

    Once Andrew has done his work with these people and they have emerged as being able to engage in a genuinely equal conversation with me, I will be happy to talk.

    Until then - good luck to Andrew, but it's his debate with his people, not mine.

  13. David, you asked me to explain the statement: What involvement does the Marin Foundation have at Boys Town or the US White House?

    Andrew explained his involvement to those of us whom he met in London on Saturday and I'm sure he'd be willing to explain to you, time permitting. It isn't for me to explain his involvement.

  14. Colin
    Andrew seems to have dropped out of this conversation.
    And it was you who mentioned the Foundation and who hoped that we could have something similar in the UK.
    Are you not able to tell us what you meant by that?

  15. Erika,
    Andrew may have dropped out of the conversation because he's flying back to the States, and will have family and work to reconnect with on his return. I'd rather he described the work the Foundation is doing because his description on Saturday was inevitably brief.

    Also, I don't want to publicise things that he talked about that are part of his work with other groups in the UK, but I think I'm safe in saying that work modelled on what has been happening in the USA is being proposed here, initially in Brighton, London and Manchester. That's what I meant by hoping for something similar in the UK.

    I am glad that Andrew was invited to Greenbelt and that something is happening in more conservative evengelical circles that is an answer to the prayers of many of us. There is a readyness to start to explore LGBT sexuality in places where it has been totally avoided until now. I want to express huge gratitude that this is happening. Why should we in Changing Attitude not welcome this development?

    We know that once conversations begin, all sorts of discoveries are made and unexpected changes begin to happen. I wish we were not at this point in the conversation, but we are, and the only place we can live and engage from is the reality of the present moment.

    I often find myself in 'old paradigm' conversations, and I believe that as Director of Changing Attitude, I must honour the conversations and respect those who think differently from me. It may look like a game of 'catch up' to some, but to me it looks like the inescapable steps that have to be taken in the process of a radical change in church teaching and practice which is about far more than human sexuality.

    Because we know that it's possible to get instant responses to online messages, sometimes we forget that people may be occupied with other things, and even that space to reflect before responding might be more helpful than the instant reply.

  16. Colin
    I'm sorry if you felt my post to be critical. I merely stated that Andrew was not participating in this conversation any longer so it seemed appropriate to ask you instead about the foundation.
    I understand that, although you have written about it, you are not in a position to say much about it and I hope Andrew will be able to tell us a little more about it later.

    I admire you for remaining in this conversation with more conservative evangelicals. I am no longer able to do this and I am grateful that there are people like you who still have the energy, the stamina and the patience.

    Maybe we need to accept that some of us can do this for longer than others. And just as we have to accept that conservative Christians are in various stages of this conversation, so are we.
    I cannot go back to unequal conversations and relationships.
    To my mind, we have crossed the line where it is still acceptable and reasonable to have anti-gay opinions and we are in a situation where they are as inacceptible as not wanting to grant women or back people equal rights. My real difficulty is that, in my heart of hearts, I no longer respect those on the other side, and I cannot expect respect from them if I am not able to give it in return.
    Like it or not, I cannot go back.

    I am glad that there are many others like you and like Nalai who can still have these conversations with integrity.

  17. (Good morning. Just so folks unaware will understand, you lot in the UK are 6 hours ahead of me here in Mexico, in what is the same as the US Central Time Zone.)

    Colin, let me ask you an important question. As a preface, I read through every page of the Marin Foundation's website. I followed every link within the website.

    Colin, would you knowingly encourage GLBT folks, those with no church background, as well as those who had bad previous experiences of the church and are estranged from it, to enter into a dialog with Conservative/Evangelical (ConEvo) Christians if you knew that what you were encouraging them to do was enter into a kinder and gentler version of Exodus International and reparative therapy?

    Because that is what the Marin Foundation in Chicago is. They offer two tracks of bridge building. One is toward the "Christian Community" where Andrew & Co try to enlighten the ConEvo brand of Christian to understand that the vitriolic, often hate and violence filled exchange that they have had with the "GLBT Community" up until this point has not worked for making friends and winning souls from within the "GLBT Community" to Christ. But, to the contrary, has pushed the "GLBT Community" farther away from the "Christian Community," filling GLBT folks with fear and mistrust.

    The second bridge is directed toward the "GLBT Community" designed to take the individual through the most unique and comprehensive curriculums ever created on the topic of homosexuality, religion, the Bible, scientific research, historical politics and current day social provide tools to learn how to fully know and discover oneself in a one-on-one relationship with the Creator.

    This second project is the one I find most dangerous to our GLBT brothers and sisters, especially those who may be most spiritually vulnerable. Colin, do you really intend to encourage GLBT to entrust themselves to an environment where they learn the above subject matter from someone who admits, "I also don't hide the fact that I have a conservative leaning theological belief system."

    As I read through the Foundation's website I was struck by the imagery used. None of it is GLBT affirming. There are no images of loving GLBT couples. Although most of the imagery is of individuals, the few photos that show any affection are of a guy and a girl.

    The whole premise is a false dichotomy of the "Christian Community" and the "GLBT Community," as if until this moment these two groups have never overlapped and been part of the same. As has been pointed out before, folks in North America, where the Foundation is located, have been having dialog and interaction for 30+ years. Where it is new is with the ConEvo Christian Community. And importantly, they are not "The Christian Community," to the exclusion of the rest of us, as they often tend to think.

    Another falsehood you will encounter is the definition of homosexual, which you encounter on the website's glossary page. Homosexual: A religious term stemming from the Bible that many in the GLBT community look at as a derogatory term used to describe ones GLBT sexual orientation. Homosexual is not found in the Bible. Nor is any word equivalent to it. The word was coined in Germany in the late 19th Century at the same time as the word heterosexual, first used in political pamphlets and later in medical and clinical terminology. And although many of us do find its use a bit clinical, I have not met anyone who feel it derogatory.

    Reading through this website did not encourage me in any way, but set off many warning flags. This organization is designed to offer educational courses about homosexuality and Christianity, as well as offer counseling and psychotherapy to GLBT folks, all to their peril.

  18. David, I’m sorry, but I don’t see it the way you see it. Nothing I wrote on the Saturday blog approved of everything Andrew or the Marin Foundation believes in and does. I have differed radically sometimes with other pro-gay Christian groups, but I don’t need to go forensically through their web sites or denigrate them in public.

    Andrew, in his own sphere, is doing something and achieving something which may be a mixed bag, but those who have met him and those who experienced him at Spring Harvest are positive about what he is doing.
    I’d rather focus on the positive gifts and achievements of people rather than investigating how to attack and undermine them. Our attitudes are different.

    I know what I would and wouldn’t encourage LGBT to become involved with, but if someone wants to engage with what the Marin Foundation in the USA I am not going to stop them or advise against it. In conversation I might assess privately why they are attracted to x, y or z course of action in dealing with being gay and Christian, and I might offer a caution or explore alternatives.

    Andrews work is what it is – it doesn’t represent the position I have adopted towards being a gay Christian, but I don’t come from the conservative evangelical wing of the church. For others, it clearly offers something which is helpful. I’m not policing the world.

    You’ve been very clear about how you disagree with much that the Marin Foundation does. I value the way in which they are attracting a wide cross-section of people to their ‘Living in the Tension’ gatherings. Nothing remotely like them is happening in the UK. Nor is any group here actively engaged in taking the Christian Gospel to non-church affiliated LGBT people.

    I don’t have to agree with everything an individual or a group does to be able to value some of the things they do.

  19. Hi Erika, I have felt somewhat under attack by David and criticised by you, but that’s part of my role.

    I accept totally that each of us is called to different tasks and has different levels of stamina. I feel defensive when people seem to want all of us to fit into the same mould, or, as with David, want me to collude in thinking the worst of Andrew Marin and the Foundation.

    All of us are at different stages of growth in our journey towards integration and holiness, and there’s something almost fascist when no space is allowed. We start from different places and grow at different rates (or, in some cases, regress). LGBT people are no different from the rest of humanity.

    What’s important to recognize is where we are on our own journey, and to honour our own needs and abilities and capacities. You are doing just that, and I value your clarity and determination to honour your integrity. I get annoyed when Changing Attitude is expected to take sides and refuse to engage across difference, and welcome work with individuals and groups that we are never going to reach, or at least, not in the near future.

  20. Colin
    Apologies - I really did not mean to attack you or push you in a corner.

    It's strange - in your last post answering my question of how we can remain involved in the debate when we can no longer cope with where the debate is, you said that it was ok to "just be". And I posted a comment saying that I'd want to do more than that but didn't know how.

    This current thread has made me realise that I value everything Changing Attitude does and I wish I do it to, but I can't do it any longer. It is a great regret because I'm becoming the kind of polarised person I don't want to be and I don't like much.
    But I find myself getting so exasperated with the debate that I'm no longer an effective participant.

    Maybe some time out will clarify things....
    In the meantime - I'm glad there are people like you who manage to keep going.

  21. There is a readyness to start to explore LGBT sexuality in places where it has been totally avoided until now. I want to express huge gratitude that this is happening. Why should we in Changing Attitude not welcome this development?

    I suppose that this thread is dead by now. Let me state up front that I have been in many conversations with both David and Erika. I don't intend to address the discussion between you and them.

    I'm rather startled that you express gratitude that people who never addressed LGTBQ sexuality are now beginning the conversation. Gratitude seems a strange word to use. It seems to me that the word puts the grateful person somewhat in the position of previously having been a supplicant regarding discussions of sexual identity, in other words speaking from an unequal position.

    I can think of several other responses:

    It's about time.
    I'm glad it's happening.

    But gratitude as an attitude?

    By the way, I'm straight.

  22. Mimi
    I like this definition of gratitude from Wikipedia, which does not imply that there had been a supplicant or any kind of unequal relationship at all:

    Gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation is a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. According to University of California-Davis researcher, Robert Davis, gratitude requires three conditions: a gracious individual must behave in a way that was 1) costly to him or her, 2) valuable to the recipient, and 3) intentionally rendered.[1] The term Gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia which is associated with the terms grace, gratefulness, and graciousness.[2] This Latin root suggests the ideas of “Kindness, generousness, and gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving”

  23. When I read things like this about Andrew Marin, and look extensively at his website, I am not at all convinced that he's not engaged in "kindly" attempting to convert us queer folk to what he considers a "proper" state of heterosexuality. Quite the opposite, in fact. However, I am open to his elaboration on his true intent for us.

    The best thing that I can say about the Marin Foundation so far, is that perhaps when our homophobic brothers and sisters start actually seeing us as real human beings rather than filthy perverts, they might realize how wrong they are about non-heterosexuals. In Christ, my hope tends to spring eternal. ;-)

    As to working with the LGBT community and the pain they feel at religious rejection, we queer Christians and our straight allies have been doing this for years. I heartily welcome Andrew Marin if his intent to embrace us all honestly.

  24. Yes, Rachel, I have written to many of the organizations that are mentioned in the article to which you link and the emails are coming back that Andrew Marin is dishonest and not to be trusted in just about anything that he has to say about his work, or his foundation.

    I have visited the Changing Attitude blog three times a day to see if Andrew Marin has responded. I do not think that he will now that he realizes that many of us are on to him and what he is really about.

    Colin, I am deeply disappointed that you have accused me of attacking you. I politely disagreed with you a number of times throughout this thread. As a Mexican Anglican I knew nothing of Andrew Marin until last summer when you posted regarding a review of his book. Reading the review set off many red flags for me. I have only asked that you know Andrew better and perhaps do some homework about the backstory he has given to you before you promote him and his work.

    Many GLBT Christian and civil rights organizations in the US have written me back and strongly disassociated themselves from him and the Marin Foundation. Perhaps that is why he is now in the UK, because folks know the truth about him at home in the US.

  25. Colin,

    I remember when Andrew Marin was first mentioned around LGBT Christian blogs in the UK last year - I did some checking out, and found, for instance, this article:

    which seems to show that a) his backstory doesn't hold water; b) he advocates reparative therapy and other ways of 'changing' LGBT people and has strong links to organisations that try to do just that; c) after initially buying his line, large American gay organisations including the Human Rights Commission have broken all links with him.

    While I approve of any initiative to get people who disagree talking to one another, I'm with Erika in that I feel that we LGBT Christians have suffered enough with people who simply refuse to accept our view of ourselves, our view of our relationship with God. I can find smily sympathetic evangelicals who will listen to me and say something along the lines of, oh well, we love you and want to reach out to you, but you're deluded/evil if you think that you can be both gay and Christian, on any street corner. What's Marin offering that's different to the tired, and abusive, old 'loving the sinner and hating the sin'?

    Really, while I can feel pity for those who refuse to accept that same-sex relationships are part of God's plan, and while I'll remain in communion with them til the day I die, I don't feel that they have anything to teach me about my feelings and relationships, sorry. Again, I'm with Erika - when they've made the small step to seeing God in all love (how difficult is that, really?), then I'm happy to talk to them about it. Many evangelicals have made that step, and I'm happy for them. But there's so much info already out there, including from an evangelical perspective, on why the earth is round - sorry, why loving people of the same sex is OK - that I don't see what I've got to add by having conversations with people who refuse to see this. And I know from experience that we've got a lot to lose.

  26. Erika, "huge gratitude" when folks exhibit "a readyness to start to explore LGBT sexuality in places where it has been totally avoided until now" seems a disproportionate response to such a small movement. But that's just my opinion.