Nathan Albert, the Director of Pastoral Care for the Marin Foundation, attended Chicago Pride wearing a shirt that read "I'm sorry." He and his fellow foundation members held signs apologizing to paraders for "how the church has treated you" and that "Christians judge you." Nathan writes about his experience on his blog.
The paraders' response to the group ranged from shock to kisses to hugs. For those in the crowd who had felt rejected by the church as a whole and Christians in particular, the message of the Marin Foundation is unexpected, welcome, and overdue. Thousands of people across the country--gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight--have been uplifted by this story.
I was excited and intrigued when I first linked to Nathan's blog and from there to other stories about the event. I wanted to know more about this foundation and its goals. But the more I read the more troubled I became. This story should be about God's love, but instead it's about deception and greed.
The Marin Foundation was started in 2003 by Andrew Marin, a straight conservative Christian who says that he is reaching out in unconditional love to the LGBT community. Marin relates the story that, stirred by the coming out of his three best friends in college, he eventually established the foundation to reconcile the divide between the LGBT and Christian communities.
I jumped into the website, combing it for details. The foundation offers classes on how to express the uncondtional love of God--but its theological statement declares
"The Marin Foundation believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, God breathed by the Holy Spirit through human authorship (2 Ti 3:16). Our organization does not attempt to rewrite scripture so as to either affirm, or declare judgment on the GLBT community."
While this second statement is bridging both communities, I want to know what Marin believes by "inerrant." This hot button word is so vast in its interpretations that without further clarification it means little.
The rhetoric on the foundation's site sounds reasonable, refusing to take sides that will divide or cease conversation. I like that Marin will not address the "sin" with a simple yes or no, but he has ample opportunity to discuss it and does not. I find it troubling that his theological background comes from Moody Bible Institute, a bastion of extremely conservative religious values. I looked at the course offerings of the foundation and the bibliographical sources. While I am not currently a seminary student, those authors whose names I recognized are very conservative in their theology. (Perhaps readers can find a more liberal name among them?)
Michelangelo Signorile's 2006 story about Marin is quite troubling, stating a number of conflicting stories about Marin from acquaintances who challenge his version of events. Marin was forced by HRC, GLAAD, and GMHC to take down false claims of support by those organizations. According to Signorile's sources, Marin apparently trained participants of the Love and Truth campaign in 2006, organized by the Illinois Family Institute, at which Peter LaBarbera presented. Several acquaintances who know Marin claim that his motivation is money. From Signorile's article:
"'He always said he would make a lot of money and his foundation would make him rich,' says Melissa Garvey, a former college classmate, talking about the months preceding the foundation's inception."
The two women friends whose coming-out story is integral to Marin's conversion claim that it never happened.
Signorile also found several sources who heard Marin declare that homosexuality is a sin. Looking through the foundation's website, I can find nothing to dispute that belief. Has Marin simply found a way to people's wallets through their hearts, like so many "Christian" shysters out there?
So much of what the foundation professes to believe is important to people who are LGBT and Christian. Marin claims that grace is the response called for by Christians and that the discussion of sin is divisive. I believe it, too, but it is a discussion that must be had. There are those who genuinely believe homosexuality is a sin and genuinely offer grace, because we are all sinners. This is not the same as the condescension of "love the sinner" hubris in which grace is offered from above. But there is one step further to take, and that is the recognition that this is more a cultural issue than biblical. We are all human beings; we are all equal; and we are all loved exactly as God made us to be.
This is so disheartening to everyone, especially to Christians who want genuinely to show an affirming welcome to everyone and to those LGBT persons who want to be an integral part of a faith community. Please take note of the overwhelmingly positive response around the country to what this appears to be. Christian leaders need to steer the momentum to established religious organizations that affirm and welcome. (You can find such a list on the Institute for Welcoming Resources, one of the most comprehensive sites I've found.)
I think the greatest moment in Chicago Pride was not from the members of the Marin Foundation, earnest though they might have been. It came from the young man in the parade who quietly stated, "I forgive you." Such genuine grace from one who has every right to withhold it. His is the example I seek to follow.
Photo credit: Michelle at maladjustedmedia.com