There is a difference between concentrating on a “correct set of beliefs” and concentrating on how to live like Jesus, and love even one’s estranged family, within one’s orthodox theological framework.
Andrew Marin knew that God was calling him to work in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community when his three best friends shared with him in three consecutive months that they were gay or lesbian. Marin was straight and an evangelical. How could he reconcile what his friends shared with his faith?
Marin observed that there is fear and distrust from both the GLBT community and evangelicals. It became his life’s work to help both groups learn to communicate with each other. He founded an organization, the Marin Foundation that “works to build bridges between the LGBTQ community and conservatives through scientific research, biblical and social education, and diverse community gatherings.”
In order to help conservative Christians understand how they can relate to and minister to the GLBT community Marin wrote, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community. Andrew explains that building the bridge between the GLBT community and conservative evangelicals requires a strong dialog between the two. Both sides need to “renew their thinking” and be willing to change their presuppositions and stereotypes of the other side.
Marin sees five main questions coming from both the conservative and GLBT communities:
- Do you think that gays and lesbians are born that way?
- Do you think homosexuality is a sin?
- Can GLBT people change?
- Do you think that someone can be gay and Christian?
- Are GLBT people going to hell?
Marin makes the case that these questions are terrible conversation starters because they are close-ended questions. Unless one side takes the initiative and engages the issue more deeply the subject will be dismissed. The quote at the beginning of this review came from Andrew Marin in response to a public objection made by Al Mohler (a signer of the Nashville Statement) that Andy Stanley did not stress homosexuality as a sin in a sermon Stanley gave. This is truly an example of how NOT to begin a conversation with anybody. No matter what a person’s theological beliefs are there will be no chance to build a bridge unless the conversation can be elevated beyond the typical behaviors of fear or silence or condemnation.
Andrew points out that Jesus often did not respond to close-ended questions with a simple “yes” or “no”. Jesus took the conversation where He wanted it to go.
Looking to the example of Jesus, Andrew gives five principles for elevating the conversation:
- Learn to shift your own mind frame from earthly issues to God;
- Make a willful, knowledgeable and cognizant decision to live distinctly for God;
- Do everything possible to allow for a clear path to be made to God;
- Love and grace must both persist even when two believers don’t agree; and
- Trust God by standing firm and persevere in one’s calling “because each person has until their very last breath to accomplish what God has set forth for their life.”
Andrew’s book is about elevating conversation on a community level. I found that I have been putting the same principles into practice in my personal life.
My mother was a lesbian. When she left my dad he was very ill as a diabetic. He loved her so much and was so grieved at her parting that he let himself go when she left. He was dead within 2 years. I can honestly say that I was angry with my mother not because she had a female partner but because she broke her commitment to my dad. My mother knew that the family did not approve of her lifestyle so she and her partner moved to Arizona where my mother passed away in 2009. (Before she left I attempted a reconciliation with her that I am so thankful for to this day.)
In our families I also have a second cousin who is gay; Steve has a second cousin who is gay and a second cousin who is lesbian. These are our family members. We love them. We think of them as cousins, not gay people.
When we have a family reunion we begin conversations with “How’s your family?” “Do you still live on Orcas Island?” Steve’s cousin and her partner build boats up there on the San Juan Islands. We love looking at the pictures. That’s what our conversations are about.
It is because all of our family and friends are people who are made in the image of God. They have the same human experiences that we do. I honestly would like to see the day when people’s identity as a child of God is more important than any other identity.
Yes, we would love to share Christ with them since as far as I know none of them has a personal relationship with Christ. But just as we would for anyone else we would share with, we will wait until there is enough love and trust and a genuine leading of the Spirit.
 Andrew Marin. “Andy Stanley, Al Mohler, and Homosexuality”. Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/may-online-only/andy-stanley-al-mohler-and-homosexuality.html
From the Mission Statement, http://www.themarinfoundation.org/about-us/mission/
 Andrew Marin. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009. 134.