Why I'm Saying Sorry at This Year's Gay Pride Parade

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At Sunday's Gay Pride Parade here in Chicago, I'll be standing on the sidewalk with my Marin Foundation friends and colleagues, apologizing. With our shirts and signs, we hope to represent the growing number of Christians who regret the way the Church has demonized the LGBTQ community for centuries. 

The Marin Foundation does the I'm Sorry Campaign every year, and it's been humbling to watch it become something of a movement, with greater numbers here in Chicago and more groups in cities throughout the country. I feel very privileged to be a part of this unfolding story. 

I was asked recently what in particular I'm apologizing for this year: "What does this mean to you personally?" 

Last year, my answer to that question was very clear, yet very personal: I had recently worked through some deeply-rooted homophobia after my wife came out to me as bisexual. It was a painful and formative experience, and I had totally mishandled it. (Here's the full story). In short, I had a lot to say sorry about. 

This year, my reason for contrition is not quite so clearly defined, nor so personal. Here's my best attempt to articulate it: I'm sorry for not doing more to find practical expressions of love and acceptance toward the broader LGBTQ community.

I think the seeds for this sentiment were planted in me during previous years. While the vast majority of paraders react to us with simply a hug or a "thank you," there are some who respond with some form of this question: "So you're sorry...but what are you going to do about it?" When I first encountered this reaction, I mistook it for antagonism. "You don't get it," I wanted to respond. "I'm saying I was wrong to treat you that way."

I now understand that an apology is as much about admitting to wrongdoing in the past as it is about making up for it in the future. If the only manifestation of my repentance is saying the words, "I'm sorry," it's not worth much. 

I'm proud of the work I do for The Marin Foundation, but I'm resolving this year to be more creative in my efforts to foster reconciliation. Words are cheap. This blog, regardless of my best efforts be thoughtful and helpful, is cheap. It takes some moral resolve and a bit of courage to apologize for the Church's systematic oppression of the LGBTQ community. It takes more moral resolve and more than a little imagination to try to change that system altogether.