The I’m Sorry Campaign – 2011 Memphis Gay Pride

The I’m Sorry Campaign – 2011 Memphis Gay Pride

An Introduction to Andrew Marin

Three years ago I learned that an acquaintance of mine was asking for support and prayer about his desire to work with a ministry in Chicago. I did some research on what he was pursuing and found it was a ministry that somehow was connected to the gay community.


As I thought about his desire and knowing he had wrestled with homosexuality, I was hesitant to any positive feelings about what he was pursuing. At that time in my life I was absolutely not open to anyone being aligned with any ministry with the gay community. Since I had known many men and women who had come to embrace their homosexuality I feared he was doing the same thing. Instead of just shutting his request out, I decided to write him and ask for more clarity on what he wanted to do.


He sent me a letter and a book written by the man who led the ministry he was pursuing. It was called “Love is An Orientation” by Andrew Marin. I sat down and read his book and found a very interesting story and testimonies of those who had come into great conflict with their sexuality and Christianity. This is how Andrew describes his ministry:


The Marin Foundation is working to build bridges between the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community and the Church -through education, research, and diverse community gatherings. The President of the foundation, Andrew Marin, seeks to elevate the conversation between these two groups so that true healing can occur.


Andrew and his wife made the decision to live in Boystown, a gay community in Chicago. He wanted desperately to better understand the feelings and life experience of the gay community. The outcome of his experience was finding that there are many lost children of the faith and those who completely resist thoughts of Christianity because of the rejection of gay folks by church communities all around the country.


love-orientationLove Is An Orientation

Andrew’s book seemed a close parallel to what I had written in my book draft, “A Journey of Grace”. It seemed that Andrew had found it in his heart to be honest about his own life experience, listen to those he began to care deeply about, and to respect them as people.


At a conference two years ago, I met Andrew in person. He has experienced a tremendous amount of rejection himself. Many within the church communities he has connected with have rejected his message of listening to and respecting gay people. Learning to see the greater picture of Jesus’ message of Loving one another, Andrew has begun to span the globe with his challenge to the church to practice what Jesus taught about love and respect.


I had an opportunity to have a lengthy conversation with Andrew about a year ago. He was delightful, insightful, and certainly carried much passion for those who are really hurting who live in the tension of their sexuality and their faith.


One day a provocative picture showed up all over the internet. It was dubbed “hugging the man in the white underwear.” It was taken at a “gay pride parade” where Andrew and his folks held signs that said “I’m sorry” referring to their apology for how the church communities had treated homosexuals wrongly. Basically, “I’m sorry for how the church has treated you.”


This is Andrew’s report on the story: (click here for original article)


I hugged a man in his underwear. I think Jesus would have too.


Some friends and I, with The Marin Foundation, spent the day at Chicago’s (Gay) Pride Parade. We wore shirts that said “I’m Sorry,” and carried signs that said, “I’m sorry that Christians judge you,” and “I’m sorry the way churches have treated you.” Amidst religious protesters screaming hateful rhetoric into megaphones at participants, we wanted to share a different message.


I loved watching people’s faces as they saw our shirts, read the signs, and looked back at us. Responses were incredible. Some people blew us kisses, some hugged us, some screamed thank you. A couple ladies walked up and said we were the best thing they had seen all day. I wish I had counted how many people hugged me. One guy in particular softly said, “Well, I forgive you.”


man in white underwearWatching people recognize our apology brought me to tears many times. It was reconciliation personified. My favorite though, was a gentleman dancing on a float. He was dressed only in white underwear and had a pack of abs like no one else. As he was dancing he noticed us and jokingly yelled, “What are you sorry for? It’s pride!” I pointed to our signs and watched him read them. Then it clicked. Then he got it. He stopped dancing, became very serious, and jumped off of the float to run towards us. He and his beautiful sweat drenched abs hugged me and whispered, “thank you.”


Before I had even let go, another guy ran up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and gave me a bear hug that nearly knocked the wind out of me. This is why I do what I do. This is why I will continue to do what I do.


I think a lot of people would stop at the whole “man in his underwear dancing” part. That seems to be the most controversial. It’s what makes the evening news. It’s the stereotype most people have in their minds about Pride.


Sadly, a lot of religious groups want to run from such a sight rather than engage it. Most people won’t even learn if that person dancing in his underwear has a name. Well, he does. His name is Tristan.


However, I think Jesus would have hugged him too. There are churches that say they accept all. There are businesses that say they accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is. And when there isn’t reconciliation, there isn’t full acceptance.


Reconciliation is more painful; it’s more difficult. Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness and unity.


What I saw and experienced at Pride 2010 was the beginning of reconciliation. It was in the shocked faces of gay men and women who did not ever think they’d receive an apology from a Christian.


I hugged a man in his underwear. I hugged him tightly. And I am proud.


I’ve Heard Their Tears

I have pondered this all through the months and recognize that I have also heard the pain, experienced those who have felt the very same way. I had a meeting with some local leaders in our own Memphis gay community. In the meeting we connected on how often teens struggle deeply with being gay. Their hearts are so alone and far too often, the church community doesn’t understand and therefore become antagonistic with their experiences. Far too many young people who are wrestling with something so very confusing have nowhere to go where they feel heard, understood, and accepted.


Amazingly, these leaders and I connected at a very deep level of understanding. We could agree that something had to be done to bridge the gap, to open our ears to listen.


Memphis Gay Pride and the “I’m Sorry Campaign”.


Two weeks ago I received an invitation through FaceBook to a speaking engagement coming up in Memphis. Andrew Marin will be speaking at Rhodes College on Thursday, October 13th. He will continue through the weekend while attending our own local Memphis Gay Pride parade. The “I’m Sorry” campaign will be represented right here in the middle of the “Bible Belt” of Tennessee.


I contacted the coordinators of the event and was invited to attend a planning meeting for the “I’m Sorry” Campaign. I was curious as to who, in Memphis, would be interested in such an outreach. I pondered in my mind picturing some parents of gay children being motivated but thought it would be a small meeting attendance. It was being led by a gay man which brought up some other pictures in my mind as to whom might be there.


As I drove into the driveway of a home in middle Memphis I found two young men sitting on the porch and asked them if this was the place for the meeting and they greeted me with an affirmative response.


As I entered, I was the first person there and engaged in some introductory small talk with the man in charge. He was quite friendly and said he expected their might be 15 to twenty people coming. In just a few minutes a flood of energetic younger folks came into the room. They were married couples and singles most of which were under 35 years old. They were straight, Christian, conservative, and clearly developed a very affectionate relationship with each other as well as the gay man leading this endeavor.


I came to find out that they were primarily a part of a missional community to reach the inner city with the love of Christ. They were curious and desirous of learning more about how to love those in the gay community.


The leader asked me to share my story with the group. Afterwards we walked through some practice scenarios in preparation for the event. Then someone approached me with some heartfelt words.


“John, I have known of you and your former ministry for many years. I judged you as being legalistic, and at times maybe even hateful. I had no use for you or your ministry. After hearing your heart tonight, I want to ask you for forgiveness for the way I had judged you without even knowing you. I deeply appreciate what you have shared tonight and am thankful to know you as a person now.”


I was shocked, and caught off guard. This man was so forthright, and humble. What is amazing is that I experienced firsthand and up front and personal the spirit of the “I’m Sorry” campaign.


I was thrilled that in this energetic community of believers they had found fellowship with one another and included a gay man into their lives as Christians. The gathering of Christ followers felt so normal, so congruent!  There were no awkward feelings even though we were discussing homosexuality, the gay community, and Christ’s love for all people. I felt very much at ease and free. This will be an awesome group of people to meet the gay community through Andrew’s ministry efforts.


I’m Sorry

This week is flooded with meetings and events surrounding Andrew’s arrival in Memphis. I am going to as many of these events as I can attend. I will be at the Gay Pride Parade with the “I’m Sorry” folks. I want to say to the gay community in a very public way:


“I’m sorry for the way I have been a part of the rejection, the confusion and the judgment that has come into your life.”


I am thankful that my friend introduced me to Andrew Marin. He was successful in his desire to work with Andrew and is making a difference in Chicago. I am proud of his pursuit of Christ’s message of Love!


If you have interest in further pursuing Andrew’s ministry please check out his website:


http://www.loveisanorientation.com/


If you want to read more of my writing on homosexuality, click here.


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9 Responses to “The I’m Sorry Campaign – 2011 Memphis Gay Pride”

  1. Lee-Pierre says:

    John~

    Excellent blog! Thank you so much for sharing. I am thousands of miles away, but will be praying for you and the others as you reach out through the I’m Sorry campaign during the Memphis Gay Pride activities. May God bless you and protect you from those who would not want you involved in this ministry. Most importantly… the world is watching… may they see the love of Jesus through you and may many be reconciled!

  2. Box Turtle Bulletin » Ex-Gay Survivor To Former Leader: “This Is What An Apology Looks Like” says:

    [...] slogan, “Change Is Possible!” Smid has followed up his previous post with a new one expressing his gratitude for the response and announcing that he will be undergoing an “I’m Sorry [...]

  3. Eric says:

    You did too much harm to deserve forgiveness. You are not a member of this community and you are a discredit to the human race.

  4. Dan says:

    I am praying for your activities during the Memphis Gay Pride events.
    God bless y’all!!

  5. Lance Willinger II says:

    All I can say is that I did not expect the men and women dressed in the I’m sorry shirts to be Christians. That blew my mind, i didn’t know how to react for a minute, that was probably the coolest thing that happened there. i was not being judged by Christians i was being said sorry too. Still at this very moment every time i think about that i want to cry. i have a lot to say about that moment, but to keep it short and simple ill remember that moment of acceptance forever, its all i ever really wanted, and it made my day 100x better. Thank you thank you thank you for doing that.

  6. Jon Trouten says:

    Actually, Andrew didn’t write the “I Hugged a Man in his Underwear…” post. Nathan Albert, also of The Marin Foundation, did.

    (Thank you for the clarification, Jon.)

  7. A MEMPHIS WEEKEND GETAWAY « Our Waco Life says:

    Wes was actually in Memphis for about a week and a half, assisting with the I’m Sorry Campaign at Pride Week.  The I’m Sorry Campaign is something that one of our very close friends headed up in Memphis as an extension of The Marin Foundation.  Wes was so thankful to be a part of this monumental experience of Christians showing up at the Gay Pride Parade in Memphis with t-shirts and signs that basically said “I’m sorry for the way the church has treated you.”  It’s such a beautiful campaign and I’m so proud of our friend for following his heart and being brave enough to work towards bridging the gap between the LGBT community and the Christian community.  For more information on the campaign that happened in Memphis.

  8. Andrea says:

    I was totally inspired by this. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of compassion and true love. I am intertwined and advocate for the lgbtq community here in Cincinnati, OH and this story truly makes my heart feel so warm.

    Please share this with other and continue to share. This truly inspires hope in me.

    Namaste and wellness to you and all those around you. This is such a beautiful thing and we must continue this!

  9. Raphaela Matias says:

    Hi dear. I found this because someone posted the picture of the beautiful hug on 9GAG and I just HAD to Google the picture and see what was up with that. It sure was a great and pleasent surprise to find this website and this much information. After I read and cried a lot by myself I shared this with my partner and she as well felt deeply emotional by the article and the campaing.

    I guess I just wanna say that we both forgive you :)

    Love and cheers from Brazil.

    Raphaela and Celina

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