LGBT religion

Against All Odds: Meet The Marin Foundation

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 Joshua Beck

Religion can be a tricky subject to discuss. People’s passion and sometimes distaste for it can generate heated debates. It can tear families apart and many times the flaws of man can utilize it in a way that is oppressive and defeating. Yet, the idea of faith in of itself can truly build bridges. Halfstack understands that our readers come from many different backgrounds and cultures and in no way is selecting one idea, faith or religion over another. Simply, we are showcasing an organization, doing wonderful work for the LGBTQ community in Chicago that just so-happens to have a Christian association. The Marin foundation truly establishes that their belief in Christianity is all about preaching the gospel of love and love, dear readers is something our world is in dire need of. Their mantra “Love is my orientation,” is a resounding battle cry in their crusade to help bring awareness to Chicago about the struggles many LGBTQ youth and individuals face along their journey.

The Marin Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church through scientific research, biblical and social education, and diverse community gatherings. The organization opens up the opportunities for people of different and often opposing viewpoints. The Marin Foundation was founded by Andrew Marin, author of “Love is an Orientation” and an avid protector of LGBTQ rights in the Chicago community and nationwide. During the time of this interview, Andrew was abroad studying at St. Andrews and Halfstack had the opportunity to speak with Michael Kimpan, the Associate Director of The Marin Foundation. His insights and experiences truly help to establish his success leading this Chicago based organization.

Michael’s journey into this calling begins with a messy story, but has culminated into a beautiful opportunity to make a difference in many people’s lives. Michael grew up in an incredibly conservative family, having attended Moody Bible Institute and fully committed to the secular teachings that surrounded him. He eventually graduated and pursued a career in the church. The cracks in the walls began to appear at one of his first positions post-college at a Church based in Michigan.

Sex scandals are frequently highlighted in the media, yet it is so rare that one hits so close to home. Michael wasn’t aware, but prior to his taking on a youth pastor role, there were accusations of sexual abuse against the person who held the role before him. The scandal was swept under the rug by the senior pastor and Michael discovered this atrocity due to his role as a mentor to the youth affected. It was at this moment that Michael made a decision that would forever change his life. He did what he felt was right and contacted the proper authorities, filed a report and forever changed the path of his career.

Needless to say, Michael didn’t see eye to eye with the Church and he was fired for the route of action he took. It was in this trying time that the theology he developed began to falter. The things he thought to be true were not panning out as expected and ultimately he had to do some soul searching.
Not much longer after losing his job, Michael found himself back in Chicago, attending graduate school at Fuller Theological Seminary and working as a Barista. He saw a tremendous amount of success during this time frame, but his relationship with his wife was slowly falling apart due to him not working in ministry. This was an issue that they could not overcome and ultimately led to their divorce. These were some of his darkest moments and a time where he was beginning to abandon his faith.

During his time slinging coffee, moving up the corporate management ladder at “The Buck” Michael developed his first friendship with an openly gay individual, Eric. Eric was the first gay man that Michael was ever close with and Michael was the first Evangelical Pastor Eric ever connected with. Needless to say, the pairing couldn’t have been any more unlikely. Yet, they each taught each other a tremendous amount in regards to their beliefs and experiences within each of their cultures and communities. Overtime, this relationship began to breakdown the false stereotypes and negative connotations that Michael had about the gay community.

During his struggles, Michael eventually came to the realization that despite what he believed, he wanted to be able to work out those issues within a community faith. He wanted to work in a community that could help him decide whether or not he wanted to work as a pastor and decide what kind of work to dedicate his life to. It was during this time he asked difficult questions such as, “could I be a divorced man working as a pastor?” and “What about my friends in the gay and lesbian community who were hurt by people who had the same beliefs I did?”

After working in a church in Peoria for 3 years, Michael connected with Andrew Marin and shared his goals to work more closely on examining how the Evangelical Christian community could better the conversations between themselves and the gay community. It was at this point that Andrew had shared that he was interested in bringing Michael aboard as the Executive Director of his foundation while he studied abroad. This role was just the direction Michael needed as his desire to, “live out [his] faith in Jesus was in line with the vision and mission behind The Marin Foundation,”

The Marin Foundation truly works to bridge the gap between two seemingly opposing communities. When asked about the disconnect between the communities, Michael poses a great point. Typically in media we “see a split screen type debate when religion is discussed in conjunction with being gay, there is no real engagement, no real respect or dignity given to someone who holds an opposing view point.” Creating a new category of cultural engagement in conversations of faith, sexuality and beyond is the true goal of The Marin Foundation.

During our conversation, Michael highlighted that there are great books that help with this dialogue and transition including his own book, “Love Never Fails” set to release Andrew’s published book: “Love is an Orientation” and a book by Matthew Vines called “God and the Gay Christian”. These books truly get to the heart of the responsibility that leaders, churches and pastors have within this type of conversation.

These types of book help to shed light on the idea that Michael suggests that as a culture, we are addicted to wanting and finding clear-cut answers. People want to know who you are, what you believe, what your orientation is which are questions that lead to a biased direction on how to treat one another; typically, as an outsider depending on which side the person is coming from in terms of a religious standpoint. Yet, Michael highlights, “when one fully explores the gospel, Jesus engages with the so-called other, those most marginalized in society standing in solidarity with them and he crosses all kinds of religious and cultural boundaries in order to do so.” And he even points out that if one truly searches, the only people Jesus actually spoke out against were the religious elite who kept people out of their community.

From this comes his belief that as a Christian, no matter if he has a more progressive or conservative opinion on sexuality, same sex marriage and other politically charged subjects, it is his duty to engage with people in a respectful and kind manner. Ultimately, organizations such as The Marin Foundation are all about sharing and spreading the love. Rather than, attempting to make those of faith conform to a specific mold, the organization is there to help, guide and accept people as they are. Michael notes that the organization is often met with suspicion from both sides of the bridge.

Due to this, the organization has adopted a “come-and-see” approach to how they interact with both the Christian and Gay communities. This has helped those questioning see first hand the amazing work they do right in the community of Boys Town including the “I’m Sorry Campaign” during Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade or the Living with Intention Workshops. Many a person has had a change of heart after experiencing such an opportunity and it is those moments that make what the team does feel so fulfilling. When they can facilitate more than just understanding, but also deep friendships, it makes the hard work worth it. To Michael, “that is the equivalent of God and Heaven occurring here on Earth.”

As the Marin Foundation continues to develop and grow, the team has many plans and projects to undertake. The most recent project that the group is most excited about is “The Parent Resource Initiative.” It is a resource for conservative Christian parents of LBGTQ children that helps parents and youth work through the misunderstanding they may have. Michael states that, “for so long these relationships have been hijacked by misunderstanding on how to engage one another,” and this program provides them with the tools they need to better work together and love one another. Statistics show that LGBTQ youth are more likely to runaway from home than heterosexual youth and, among youth who experience homelessness, LGBTQ youth are more likely to stay with a stranger and less likely to stay in a shelter than heterosexual youth. This information paints a scary picture, but The Marin Foundation saw an opportunity to make a change in their community and empower both parents and youth to do better, be better and love better.

Interested in The Marin Foundation?
Check them out here!

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