By Jeremy Marks, Nov 17 2015 12:56PM
Or rather, the cost of putting our hope in a vengeful God - who our governments apparently believe is only able to resolve the world’s problems through perpetrating even greater horrors on an infinitely more massive scale . . .
The awful events of terrorist attacks on Paris last Friday in addition to an almost completely unpublicised, but hardly less devastating, attack the day before on Beirut, (see here) brought back to mind my visit to the 9/11 memorial museum in New York earlier this year. Here were my reflections afterwards:
On 5th May 2015, I visited the museum commemorating the 9/11 disaster in New York. In a deeply shocking tragic event that was immediately publicised the world over (made possible through the miracles of modern media), not far short of 3,000 lives were lost.
13.5 years later, a glittering new building has replaced the twin towers, known locally as The Freedom Tower. Also an amazing memorial park exuding a peaceful atmosphere has been created on the site of the twin towers. And a very impressive memorial museum has been built.
The events of 9/11 were truly terrible and rightly will never be forgotten. However, when I stand back to try and gain a sense of perspective, I have to ask myself whether we have ever stopped to soberly consider the catastrophe the western world has wrought upon the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq and further afield, and the ongoing terrible consequences of our taking retaliative action against the terrorists. The effects are likely to go on having devastating consequences for generations to come. Worst of all, in my view, is the way we have been “justifying” (in our own eyes) the staggering loss of life at our hands and the eye-watering cost of our endeavours in this surely spurious adventure, by supposedly pursuing a “war on terror”, whatever that means! It all sounds very grandiose, but it has surely turned out to be a meaningless justification for indiscriminate war-mongering against an undefined enemy, resulting in a staggering numbers of casualties. And far from our becoming the great victors who have ended a war against terrorism, we have merely escalated the conflict exponentially, as last week’s events only serve to illustrate.
Following 9/11, the cost of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are estimated at 225,000 lives, displacing a number of people equivalent to the entire population of London, and up to $4 trillion in U.S. spending alone, according to a new report (when I researched it last May) by scholars with the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.
Can we be surprised that many in the Muslim world believe our ‘Christian’ world to be ‘the great Satan’?!
No less extraordinary is the fact that we could have ever imagine our actions could be justified – in any way at all – according to so-called “Christian” principles. Where is the evidence of our belief in the message of the Prince of Peace? The One who brought Good News for all of mankind? When our actions have caused, in terms of loss of life alone, at a conservative estimate, not twice the number of casualties, not three times the number - but at least 75 times the loss of life on 9/11?!
And who is putting up the money for, and building, the memorials to the 225,000 people whose lives have been lost, with every person’s name reverently recorded? How many of us in the West are mourning the loss of life or the wrecked families and orphaned children in consequence? Who is paying compensation to the 7.8 million Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani refugees displaced by the wars, according to those International Studies?
If, as western nations, we were to stop and think about it, how could we ever begin to show our repentance for such atrocities perpetrated in the name of so-called Christian countries? Sadly there is little sign of there being any will (at government level anyway) to show repentance. Quite the contrary in fact: the sabre-rattling goes on and on; the manufacture and stockpiling of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, continue to escalate everywhere, with Saudi Arabia now determining to become a nuclear power.
To the Islamic world, I would want to confess that our so-called Christian nations have betrayed the teachings of Christ, in whom we profess to believe, to a degree so monstrous that I could not even begin to imagine them finding it in their hearts to forgive us.
Jesus taught (Matthew 5), “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, reward evil with good”. How could we ever imagine ourselves to remotely be in touch with this Christian teaching when we have behaved on an infinitely more monstrous scale than the 9/11 terrorists, through our own retaliative actions. And let us not delude ourselves further into fantasising that Osama Bin Laden’s plots against the West were somehow maliciously and capriciously motivated by our peaceful actions in the past. Or even our myopic indifference. 2000 years of Christian history right up to the present day is littered with violence, wars and war-mongering posturing, and many middle eastern countries have suffered at our hands especially.
As Christians we claim to put our faith and trust in the great Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, claiming him as our Lord and Saviour. Yet in real life we spurn his message, preferring to worship the same vengeful God that some Muslims apparently worship; we betray the reality, no doubt inadvertently, that we share the same core beliefs – that violent actions can only be “resolved” by employing the use of infinitely greater violence. We’ve heard of the way of the Cross and we claim that we are moved by the story of Jesus laying his life down for the world; we even claim we have been “converted” or “saved” by putting our trust in Jesus Christ as Lord. But in fact we have not put our trust in Jesus Christ at all. We have actually put our trust in a God of War who takes revenge without end.
Jesus also said, (Matt 5:13) “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
As things stand, we surely deserve what is coming to us.
Yet, as happened in most of the former communist bloc countries in the recent past (1989), and in India coming out from oppressive British rule, thanks to the visionary leadership and policy of Mahatma Gandhi of non-violent opposition, a ground-swell of non-violent resistance to government policies today might yet begin to change things for the better in the course of time.
In his book “The Bad Christian’s Manifesto”, author Dave Tomlinson records that “For more than forty years Gandhi spent two hours each day in meditation . . . Much of the time was spent in silence, but he always read from the Sermon on the Mount . . . For Gandhi, the Sermon on the Mount was the core of Christ’s teaching. He said it went straight to his heart, filling him with bliss, and quenching the agony of his soul. He also thought it held the keys for creating a better future for India and the world.”
We cannot afford to wait for another great visionary such as Mahatma Gandhi to be raised up. Nor do we need to. We’ve had Jesus’ teaching fro 2000 years now. Instead, let us get on with praying now – to the God of infinite grace and mercy, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace – that we can embrace Jesus’ teaching not merely in word but also in deed, and with all our hearts. Let us hope that our prayers and intercessions will not come too late.
16th November 2015
By Jeremy Marks, Jan 17 2013 10:03AM
“How are you finding retirement now?” . . . is a common question I hear, from people who know that we celebrated 25 years of Courage with a final service of celebration and thanksgiving on 15th September 2012. Their perception is, having finally drawn to a close more or less 25 years of active ministry under the name of Courage, that the time has come when I can sit back and take life a bit more easily! Well I‘ve come to the conclusion that retirement is a complete myth, because life has been so extraordinarily busy since then, that I have not even had a chance to keep my blog up to date! Perhaps it is also true that I imagined, somehow, that when I began to write, something definitive and conclusive, appropriate to the end of an era, would come out of my ruminations. The reader can judge that maybe when they get to the end of this entry. But since September, for me, life has carried on looking very much like it did before. Loads of new enquiries and requests for help have come, including a couple of interesting requests to go and speak—mainly through the old Courage website—so apart from the fact that I am not organising meetings, except for the monthly Bible Studies, life has continued pretty much as usual.
ENDINGS: A Wonderful Celebration: Saturday 15th September 2012
Our final service of celebration and thanksgiving for 25 years of Courage did not disappoint. We had a great turnout of people and heard some wonderful testimonies representing those 25 years. Dave Tomlinson presented us with a great address entitled, “Be proud of who God made you”, the text of which you can see on the Courage website
My wife Bren led the meeting; Steve Abley led us in worship; Mark Hutin sang a solo; seven people gave personal testimonies; the ‘Two:23 Network’ committee gave a presentation about what they are planning for the future; and the well-known organist, the Rev Rupert Jeffcoat, played a couple of magnificent voluntaries—on the organ of St Luke’s Church, Chelsea, which generously hosted our Celebration and provided tea and cake to follow.
Brian and Shelia Longman
In conclusion, Brian Longman (who has assisted me in the office most faithfully for 10 years) presented Bren with a wonderful bouquet of flowers and me with an amazing gift from grateful Courage members—a cheque for £4,268, which was incredibly generous of everybody, and a pretty overwhelming gift, for which I am immensely grateful!
The inaugural meeting of the Two:23 Network, 24th November 2012
If the final Courage service was a great event to remember, the first meeting of the new Two:23 Network was, if anything, even greater. The team who organised the event did a magnificent job and the speaker they had invited, the Rev David Ison, new Dean of St Paul’s, was great. You can find his talk at this link. Clearly the new ministry has captured people’s imagination, because the turnout was great. The undoubted popularity and overall success of the event certainly augurs well for its future development.
The next meeting will be held on 23rd February, again at St Mary Aldemary, and full details can be found on the Two 23 website.
THE JOURNEY ON . . .
With my diary filling up quickly each week with requests for appointments to meet, I am certainly keeping very busy still with the ongoing pastoral work, Post-Courage. It is really sad that the fastest growing sector of the Church—the evangelical wing, which I come from—continuously creates masses of work for me because, for the most part, the churches simply will not engage intelligently with the subject of homosexuality; they insist on holding to their outdated ideas about gay people, and enforce their medieval tradition of outright condemnation, based on a superficial understanding of the Bible. Yet whilst creating a great deal of work for me—picking up the pieces after they have seriously messed up their lesbian & gay church members—not a single church anywhere gives me one iota of support. The attitudes of many bring to mind Blaise Pascal’s famous observation: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
Therefore, my moral and financial support continues to come solely through the generosity of a few individuals. And the situation isn’t getting any easier.
I continue to work out of a small (and rather cluttered) office in Guildford—cluttered because I struggle to find the time and motivation to finish the task of going through everything, to get rid of as much as I possibly can, archiving what must be kept. A substantial library of 2000+ books, 500 + cassette tapes & CD’s of talks given, hundreds of files, plus office equipment, all built up over 25 years, is certainly not something one could house at home. Besides, it would not be appropriate to see clients at home with a ministry of this kind. But, continue to sort this all out I must, because with support dwindling month by month, I may soon have little choice but to move out of the office to save the cost of renting. If this is the case, then I shall just have to put much of the stuff into store somewhere, and work from home doing phone calls, e-mails etc. Then I shall go back to meeting people in cafes/restaurants etc., as I’ve done before in years gone by. God may have some other provision in mind, but I need to be prepared.
The Five-Year Plan?
For those who like to ask the sort of question, “Where do you want to be in 5 years time?” Or, “What do you want to be doing? What are your goals?”, I have to say at the moment that I do not know. The Holy Spirit has never worked in that way with me. Indeed I seldom feel I know with any great confidence what God might want me to be doing next month! All my life, whether working as a professional photographer having to cope with the uncertainties of British weather conditions, as I did 25 years ago, or living and working by faith in a full-time Christian ministry with no financial certainties, I have had to learn to be extremely flexible. I do know, however, that after 25 years in this somewhat rarefied kind of ministry, I need some time and space to wind down and, without wanting to sound negative, “detox” somewhat from the specific focus of ministry to gay Christian people in a hostile church scenario. And during that time, I think that sorting out all the office stuff (as and when I can find the time to do it) will be a cathartic part of the process, hopefully. My work in preparation for speaking at the forthcoming Evangelical Fellowship conference in April may well help with the process also . . .
Evangelical Fellowship Spring Conference: 12th—14th April 2013
For further details, or to book, see: www.eflgc.org.uk/events.asp
Conference theme: “What kind of Life, after death?”
‘23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’
John 12:23-26 TNIV
Here are the details of the conference theme:
“For 25 years, Jeremy Marks led Courage, a ministry that helped LGB Christians reconcile their faith and sexuality. Starting out as an ‘ex-gay’ ministry in 1987/88, it became clear by the late 1990's that this ‘hope’ was based on man’s thinking and had to die. By the year 2001, the ministry had a new vision, brought new life, and bore much good fruit in the lives of many gay Christian people. In August 2010, realising that by 2012 he would have been working in this area of ministry for 25 years, Jeremy sensed God speaking—to say that by September 2012 the time would have come for Courage to finish.
“For all Christians, the experience of ‘dying’ before discovering life is a core theme for our lives, and brings very real challenges. For many gay Christians, in accepting one’s sexuality, you die to the kind of expectations that most people have for their life—marriage, heterosexual family life, etc. which means dying to the perceived ‘normal’ way of life most of us aspired to. In coming out publicly as gay, we die to our reputation in the eyes of many people and we face all kinds of hostility and ostracism that follows, often losing the support of the community we grew up in. All our lives are finite. And whether our lives are long or short, we have a limited time to make sense of what we are here for, and what kind of future we are preparing ourselves for. Is the Christian promise of life after death just ‘pie in the sky when you die’? At some point in life, we all have to face our own mortality. So does the sum of all the heartache and challenges, plus some joys and fulfilled hopes, amount to something worthwhile, even eternal, as we look to the future?
“This weekend, we shall discuss the themes of death and resurrection in our spiritual journey, themes that are taken for granted as being part of the life of every Christian, yet are seldom talked about.”
The conference will be centred around three sessions which are:-
Session 1: What does it mean to die to one’s self and find life?
Session 2: What does a life surrendered into God’s hands look like?
Session 3: Resurrection? What comes after this life?
I hope maybe I will see some of you there at the conference, if I don’t see you before then, at the next Two:23 Network meeting in London—on Saturday 23rd February.
The Lord bless you.
11th January 2013
By Jeremy Marks, Sep 13 2012 7:44AM
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun”
So wrote quoheleth (Hebrew for “Teacher”), opening the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
The Teacher declares that there is a time for a beginning and ending to everything. Well this Saturday—15th September, will mark a very significant milestone in my life. My wife Bren & I, with many friends, will be holding a special service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for 25 years of the Courage ministry. (All are welcome.) This will also be the occasion to mark the end of Courage as it now stands.
I shall not be retiring as such, because the ongoing need for the pastoral care of LGBT Christians is immense, and not many people are available to offer that care, who have the kind of experience I have. As an evangelical Christian, but one who has moved from a strictly conservative view of homosexuality to a position where I can fully affirm committed same-sex relationships, with a good conscience before God, there remains a great deal of pastoral work for me to do. However, this Saturday’s service will be the final Courage meeting, as such.
In August 1987, when I gave up my job working as senior photographer (latterly as director) for Woodmansterne Ltd., I knew then that a new season of my life was starting that September. But I was taking a huge step of faith, as I had no idea where my few months working with Love in Action would lead me. (LiA was an “ex-gay” ministry, then based in San Rafael California.) After four months working with LiA, I returned to the UK and with the encouragement of my local church fellowship (the New Life Church Harrow), I founded the Courage ministry, based on the Love in Action ministry model. This was in February 1988. So whilst Courage itself is in its 25th year, I have been working in this area of ministry for exactly 25 years now. Through the past quarter of a century, changes in society and even the church, regarding homosexuality, have been immense. Who could have imagined in 1988 that by 2012, the conservative government of the UK would seriously be promising to bring gay marriage into being before the end of this parliamentary session?!
The story of how this ministry moved from a very traditional, conservative evangelical Christian view on homosexuality, to a fully affirming position, is well documented. More relevant to this month’s blog entry is to note that, probably, about halfway through this period I came across a fascinating little book called “The Jesus Style” by Gayle D Erwin. It is still one of my favourite books. In it, the author speaks wonderfully of the fresh moves of the Holy Spirit in every generation and says, in his chapter “Prisoners of History”:
“Here is a drastic proposal. Every religious organisation should have in its first constitution the irrevocable provision that it be disbanded and dispersed at the end of 50 years. For some this limit should be 25 years. This would free the constituency to be more constantly in touch with God . . . Such an approach would simply be recognising the manner in which the Holy Spirit works anyway. He keeps raising movements that are alive and in touch with him, while the older structures get huffy and kick the new movement out. . .”
This inspired writing was partly responsible for leading me to the conviction that, whilst the doors should close on Courage as it is now, it could be possible that God wanted to prepare the way for a “new” Courage. With this in mind, 18 months ago, I invited a small group of friends who have been an outstanding support over the years—men and women who share the same core values and the same sense of mission—to come together to discuss the future. Our purpose was to seek a fresh sense of the Holy Spirit’s direction and to develop a work with an appropriate mandate for the 21st Century. The result is the new “Two:23 Network” - see www.two23.net which I am so excited about. You can read all about the origin and significance of the name on their website. Their first meeting will be on Saturday 24th November in London, just two months away.
(For the time being, our mid-month Sunday afternoon Bible studies, held in Clapham, South London, will continue for as long as its members are still keen to meet up. If anyone reading this blog is interested in joining that group, please let me know. )
In John 12:24, Jesus taught his disciples this important principle: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
My hope is that in laying down the Courage ministry, the long term fruit will multiply to become something far greater than anything I could ever have achieved on my own. Not that I have been entirely alone because I have had many friends supporting me over the years. In particular, I must acknowledge and give thanks for Brian Longman’s tireless and faithful support in the Courage office—for 10 years now. But I have never succeeded in enabling the ministry to grow beyond what I could manage to do myself. I’ve often felt that this is a big failure on my part, but I sensed God reassuring me recently that for the years since I began Courage, it was only possible to steer the work through such major changes by keeping it small in size; being in a position where I have personally been so dependent upon God for all the twists and turns on the journey, has forced me to be flexible in a way that would have been much more difficult if we had been a bigger organisation with staff to pay.
Having established a new understanding as to what the Christian approach to homosexuality should be, perhaps now is the time for a wider network to begin and a greater harvest as a result.
For me personally, I must admit to having found myself feeling a little ambivalent about this Saturday’s event. Whilst I know this is the time to finish running Courage, and I am thrilled about the Two:23 Network (www.two23.net), this will nevertheless be the end of an era in my own life. And whilst I shall continue working in this field of ministry for the foreseeable future, there is no doubt that things will feel different. I am hoping and praying that I can comfortably readjust to the change in my role and also be open to whatever God might have for me in the future.
There is a right time for everything, in God’s plan of things, and even though we may have no idea what comes next, our lives and our hopes are in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.
12th September 2012
By Jeremy Marks, Jun 21 2012 7:11AM
The Courage ministry just held its final retreat last weekend (15th - 17th June) reflecting on 25 years of Courage and the journey from being an ex-gay ministry to a fully affirming one—of gay Christian people and committed same-sex partnerships. I shall say more about this wonderful event in my next blog. But here I wanted to reflect on the journey which, for me, owed much in my early days to Frank Worthen, founder of Love in Action (originally in northern California). I just discovered a new YouTube interview, in which Frank spells out his ethos—still convinced that you can change from gay to straight—based on his own personal story. It is a fascinating video that you can find
As I approach my 60th birthday, I am old enough to realise that staggering changes have taken place in the past half century. We live in a world that takes a very different world view to that of my father and men of his generation, such as Frank Worthen. In the world they grew up in, ordinary daily life was unimaginably tough. They knew what it was like to live through the Great Depression of the 1930's and then the Second World War. Life was all about survival; getting enough to eat, living through worldwide conflict through war, bombings, scarcity and great dangers. One of the secrets of survival was strict self-discipline and an attitude of being thankful for what you had; if you had enough to eat, a home to live in, and were reasonably healthy, you were fortunate indeed. Getting married was your social duty—to keep society going in a world where survival was pretty uncertain. And whilst you might aspire to having a relationship of lifelong romantic love, as everyone did, few found it (except vicariously through the movies), as the soaring divorce rate from the 1960's onwards revealed. Before then, you counted yourself fortunate indeed if you just found a companion who was reasonable to live with.
Life was simple in those days; books and films were full of stories of conflict between the goodies and the baddies, in which “good” always won! And after a century with some very real-life and truly terrible baddies around such as Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot and many others, the sense that ALL of life was a battle between good and evil was very real indeed. And the kind of God people believed in was a holy but angry God who would punish sinners by sending them to eternal fire, which seemed a fitting destiny for those 20th Century monsters and their followers—the creators of gulags and gas chambers! So society’s values, especially for Christians trying to make sense out of life, was simple—you had to beat the devil to stay out of hell and, by being good, hope to make it to heaven and a better future! People didn’t have much time or interest in considering a more nuanced view!
After WW2, life gradually got better. WW2 was the “war to end all wars” (though actually people were saying that after WW1!). Certainly the nuclear deterrent has played a big part in preventing war on such a scale since. Medical science, especially since the advent of antibiotics to fight disease, has transformed our life expectancy. Before then, if you survived your initial entry into the world, you were fortunate to live into your mid- sixties; I would expect to be in my very last few years by now, counting my days. Today, with society enjoying prosperity and life-expectancy on a scale unimaginable to our forbears, finding enough to eat is no longer our raison d'être; eating too much is the concern of our day! And world war is the subject of documentaries and remembrance days, and we have found time to discover that life is not so black and white as we thought.
It has taken an era such as ours today to have the luxury of discovering that some people truly ARE gay because we have been made that way, and we will never settle happily into a lifelong heterosexual romantic relationship. Moreover, gay people have an enormous amount to contribute to society—and bringing more babies into the world just isn’t the No 1 priority for the survival of the human race right now!
To help society and especially the Christian church, to move out of the dualistic pattern of thinking—that all gays will go to hell and only good straight people will make it to heaven, took enlightened women of their day, and men like Frank Worthen. The growing social credibility of pop-psychology in which people began to realise that we are (to some extent) what our upbringing has taught us to be, was quite revolutionary to former generations—who saw society simply in terms of good and bad people, who will be rewarded or punished.
I can easily remember those days of dualistic Christian theology which taught that if you were gay, you were simply one of those people whom God had turned his back on, therefore hell was a certainty for you—Romans 1:24 explains that. You could not truly be a Christian if you were gay; you must, by default, be a child of the devil. Frank and his generation fought hard against the tide of that kind of ignorance and bigotry, and brought to light the fact that there are many gay people IN the church—men & women who have sincerely placed their hope in Jesus Christ as Lord. But because the Franks’ of this world grew up in a day and age where you have a simple choice—you choose the side of right, or you default to the side of evil—his role was to help persuade the church and gay Christian people that God really loves you and therefore you must do what is right—which in those days had to mean not being gay. Because being gay was the hedonistic way of the world. The way you thought about yourself and the consequent way you behaved would determine your eternal future. Simple! Such theology made perfect sense to his generation.
But those of us of the next generation have needed to follow the inspired example—of the Frank Worthen’s, the St Paul’s, the Moses’ of our past—which is TO GO ON SEEKING GOD for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in OUR generation. A new world with very different challenges requires us all to seek God again and learn what the Holy Spirit has to say to the churches today.
Personally, I still cannot help but admire Frank enormously for what he did in his day. As I watch his video story and remember the enormous sacrifices he made personally, to stick his head above the parapet in churches, fight for the dignity of gay Christians, provide a home and a place to stay for homeless gay people who had been thrown out of their parents’ homes or churches, he literally saved the lives of thousands of people from despair and suicide. And living in the LiA community as I did for 4 months, helped me to shed my fears about declaring openly that I am gay and Christian. For the first time in my life I met others like me who were on the same journey. And with people like Frank’s wife Anita around (mother of a gay son), whose acerbic wit and highly original humour had me splitting my sides with laughter—every day—was the start of a very healing process for me, a journey out of my chronically internalised homophobia that originated not in the ex-gay movement, but in my fundamentalist church background (i.e. Christian life without the fun!). Who cared in those days whether Frank had REALLY changed his orientation? He gave a living example of “doing the right thing”! And with his wife giving such superb entertainment value, she surely beat the blues out of any ex-gay depression we might have felt, when the two of them were around.
Personally, I believe I owe an enormous debt to Frank, and Anita too; because even though I now believe that the ex-gay ethos is seriously misguided, and therefore that their views seem rather quaint today, I also recognise that in its day, it was the means God used to loosen and begin to break down the hateful anti-gay attitudes of the church. But in my ministry, I then had to move on, because the Holy Spirit showed my generation new things—thanks to our having a more modern world view than Frank’s generation. And in turn, we have paid a heavy price for following our convictions, as Frank did.
History teaches us that the pioneers of one generation so often become the persecutors of the next. It just seems to be human nature! So really it is worthless for us to carp and cavil about the “lies and deceit” of the old ex-gay ministry order; we can just as easily be deceived ourselves—and the next generation will soon tell us, with their youthful zeal, if they haven’t already started to do so. The question is, will we be humble enough to realise we haven’t got it all right either?
There is good reason for retirement! Old dogs like us find it harder and harder to adapt to change. The younger generation will show us the way forwards for the rest of the 21st Century. But if we are able to be humble, we still have a very useful role to play, as we get older—which is to give the younger generation an example of what it means to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as we did in our younger days. We can still have a vital place as elders, fathers & mothers to a younger generation. But the future in this world is theirs, not ours.
Thanks be to God,
By Jeremy Marks, May 14 2012 7:01AM
The past month has seen a vast amount of news coverage and debate about the topic of equal marriage for gay people. I must admit that whilst I was fully in favour of Civil Partnerships, which we have had in the UK since 2004, for a long time I could not see the need for gay marriage. On the contrary, knowing that this could cause offense in some quarters, I felt that it would be better to keep the name “marriage” for heterosexual partners. I did feel strongly, however, that it was very important for the government to end the prohibition against having a Christian celebration of Civil Partnerships in those churches that were open to offering such a service.
However, the fundamentalist rant against gay marriage in recent weeks has changed my mind! None of them have presented any rational, coherent reason for explaining their opposition to the commitment of same-sex couples in marriage. And I have never heard of a single heterosexual marriage that has in any way ever been upset or undermined by the knowledge that a loving committed same-sex partnership could also be called “marriage”. On the contrary, I do not believe that any couples who have experienced true heterosexual love would hesitate to recognise the love and commitment that can exist between two men or two women. It is the total lack of understanding, lack of Christian love and overarching bigotry on the part of the fundamentalists that has convinced me that my sensitivity towards the feelings of heterosexual people about the use of the term marriage has been entirely unwarranted. Nor can I see any biblical reason whatever for opposing gay marriage, unless you oppose gay relationships based on a traditional and, I believe, deeply flawed interpretation of scripture.
So thanks to the fundamentalists, I am now fully in support of gay marriage and especially commend the Coalition for Equal Marriage campaign; indeed I highly recommend you watch and pass on their moving short video.
Personal media exposure:
Over the years, I have usually done my best to keep out of the media whenever possible, as I have never known it do any good for Courage. However, I took a risk in agreeing to be interviewed recently by Leise Spencer, who wanted to write my story for an article in The Guardian Weekend magazine. Many people have written to say how much they appreciated it. The story, published on the 21st April, can be found at The Guardian website.
The appearance of this article prompted another lady called Liz Ray, who made a video-taped interview with me at my office in April 2011, to put up her interview on a new website about Spiritual Journeys. This is especially useful as it describes in my own words the journey that Courage has made, from “ex-gay” to gay affirming, and why. There are 3 excerpts on the website making up just over half an hour’s interview.
As “Courage” draws to a close (this September), I hope that I shall have many more opportunities—not only in the media, but more especially in churches and to Christian groups—to be able to share the journey we have been on. Whilst there remain many church leaders who resist change, I also know there are many evangelical Christians at grass-roots level, who are less than convinced by the traditional views and are genuinely much more open than ever before to hear the stories of LGBT people and understand the issues better.
If anyone reading this knows that their church or leadership team would be interested in hearing a short talk and helping to create the opportunity to discuss the issues raised, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01483 301411 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or through the Courage website which is still active at the present time, and will be until the “new Courage” has set up their new website.
And if there is anyone who would like to join us for the final Courage Retreat on the weekend of 15th – 17th June in Suffolk, please contact me: email@example.com.
13th May 2012
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