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Living in the Tension Gatherings


Want to start a Living in the Tension gathering? Check out our  Living in the Tension Gathering Guide PDF

Living in the Tension gatherings are an opportunity for anyone who is interested in the intersection of faith, culture, gender and sexuality to come together and safely discuss these divisive topics. In these meetings you will find members of the LGBTQ community, Christian community, and other communities. Partnered and married LGBTQ individuals attend as well as those pursuing celibacy and those who identify as ex-gay. Liberal, moderate, and conservative Christians come to these gatherings as well as those who practice other faith traditions and those who do not practice a faith tradition. Parents, pastors, friends and family are welcome. We all willfully enter into a place of constructive tension, intentionally forming a community that struggles through difficult topics in a peaceful and productive manner. It’s what we call our “Holy Uncomfortableness”.

These gatherings are held twice a month in Chicago at The Marin Foundation’s offices, as well as around the country. We also hold occasional Large Group LITT gatherings at other locations such as Roscoe’s Bar—the oldest and most well-known gay bar in Boystown. Past speakers for the Large Group LITT gatherings have included PD Williams, Tony Campolo, Matthew Vines, members of The Trevor Project, Jennifer Knapp, and Julie Rodgers.

In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. was locked up in a jail in Birmingham, Alabama. In a letter to confront the white clergymen that had him locked up MLK reflected on his life’s work to that point and said:

“I must confess that I am not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly opposed violent tension my whole life, but there is a type of constructive, non-violent tension which is necessary for growth.”

The problem is that in today’s culture there is no such thing as ‘constructive tension.’ All tension is projected as bad tension; a tension that is too political and therefore too divisive to know what it means to engage in ways that tangibly bring redemption and reconciliation. Unfortunately, our culture is focused so heavily on assimilation that it has forgotten what progress looks like.

Yet if we are able to understand the significance of constructive tension, settling ourselves in the middle of places that others just run from, the growth that MLK was talking about will always come. But it will only come retrospectively after much time has been spent immersed in the tension-filled areas that we are, and culture is, most uneasy about. Those tension-filled areas are uncomfortable, challenging, confusing, overbearing, uneasy, oft-criticized, oft-rebuked and don’t always come with a simple answer—if an answer is ever involved. And it’s worth every minute.

Our slogan is to Commit. Stay. Reconcile. Grow.

For more information please email us at info@themarinfoundation.org.


Why These Gatherings Are Needed:

Individuals throughout our culture today need to start making conscious commitments to counterculturally live in different ways than what mainstream (secular and religious) currently deems as the only acceptable medium of engagement. Such decisions must become a reality no matter what anyone else’s outcome might be. As Chris Heuertz, author of Friendship at the Margins, says,

“The outcome to any relationship is secondary to the fidelity of the faithfulness in that relationship.”

A new example must be set for the rest of our society to see a new vision of what bold reconciliation looks like between LGBTQs, liberals, conservatives and the faith world. So many have been working off of a paradigm of reconciliation based on a mainstream worldview of strength in numbers that either forces ‘the other’ to conform or be ostracized. But reconciliation based on a love of God giving us the strength to relentlessly pursue those that are thought to be most unlike ourselves will ultimately connect humanity on new levels of faith, relationship, action and sustainable impact.

The point of committing to experience this type of reconciliation is to then turn around and affect other individual spheres of influence to faithfully live in the same manner. A bridge cannot be built from only one side, and a Movement cannot continue if only lived in one area.

Culture wants to resolve conflict. Living in the Tension Gatherings want to use each of the different communities’ filtration systems to elevate the conversation through the tension. Get past the stereotypes. Practice what it means to listen to and dignify your political or theological enemy. Actively learn to live and love in real-time. Seek reconciliation not based on a change of belief system but rather living out your current beliefs differently.

Living in the Tension Gatherings are intentional spaces created to shift our paradigms away from the pervasively dominant success or failure model of life and faith to one that turns hearts, souls and minds onto what it means to establish Kingdom.

Ground Rules:

Participants must know that the goal of these gatherings is not for people to convince others that they are right and ‘the other’ is wrong, but rather work off of a worldview enhancement model. Living in the Tension Gatherings build a community where individuals can feel safe to not only share their experiences and beliefs with ‘the other’ but also learn to excel in constructive tension with those they disagree with. The point is not a debate that ends up turning into a competition. It’s an active engagement in learning what relationship with ‘the other’ tangibly looks like.

The group should seek to validate everyone’s stories and experiences regardless if people see other’s conclusions as right or wrong. Dignifying another person’s humanity and validating their stories as a legitimate part of their journey does not mean that they’re affirming or agreeing with everything another believes or states.

The following link is a blog post from a visitor to a Living in the Tension Gathering the summer of 2010. She drove to Chicago from Michigan with two other people; and that gathering we were delving into ‘What Personally Impacts our Faith and Sexuality.’ Read her thoughts here.


If your university, church, organization or group would like The Marin Foundation to give an in-person one day seminar to extrapolate on how to build and sustain a Living in the Tension Gathering in your own community, please contact us at speaking@themarinfoundation.org.