When Andrew Marin's three best friends "came out" to him in three consecutive months, the self-proclaimed "Bible-banging homophobe" wanted desperately to understand his friends' experience. So he moved to Boystown, a Chicago neighborhood populated primarily by GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) folks. He founded The Marin Foundation in 2003, to build bridges between the GLBT and Christian communities. Leadership assistant editor Brandon O'Brien asked Andrew what his experience might mean for the local church.

Why should the average pastor care about improving the conversation between his or her church and the GLBT community?

We are currently running the largest national scientific research study ever conducted about in the GLBT community. Preliminary data reveals a statistic that stands out above all the others: eighty-six percent of the GLBT community was raised in a denominationally based religion. This tells me that the Christian community's mindset about gays and lesbians is often flawed. It's not an "us versus them" issue; it's actually "us versus us." Up to age 18, 86 percent of the GLBT community is in our churches, sharing our pews. And who knows how many future GLBT people are still in the "closet." We need to be asking, How can the church be a safe place for them to talk about their struggles and attractions.

Where is the best place for the church to address this issue?

The best way to keep these young people in the church is to address the issues on the home-front. Parents must learn how to talk about same-sex attraction and homosexuality and how to live in the tension that creates as a representative of Jesus Christ in their kids' lives.

The next best person is the youth pastor. I know hundreds of "out-and-proud" ...

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