on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

An Open Letter

Dear Friends,

In the coming days and weeks I am going to write an ongoing series on my blog about my journey in my 30 years of ministry on why I believe all persons (more specifically persons who are gay–GLBT) are children of God and should also have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone in our society including marriage, healthcare insurance, role in the church, etc.

I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and for whatever reason I feel led to do so now.

Of course, I can only speak from my personal life experience including:

  1. Being a former Baptist and UCC minister, and now a lay person in the Episcopal Church
  2. Being a Chaplain at The 1917 Clinic since 1994 and hearing the thousands of stories from patients, colleagues, and parents
  3. My understanding of a Biblical response that is often left out of the traditional church argument
  4. Being a straight, married, bald, white guy

I understand that trust is critical in this request. I also know that the primary way true change comes about in our lives is through personal story and relationships, not through a proof-text of the Bible or an hypothetical argument. I see this as part of my responsibility as a Chaplain in an HIV clinic and as a minister being faithful to the Christian faith as I understand it.

I do not take this issue lightly as it impacts persons I see everyday in my life.

My request is twofold (one, both, or neither):

  1. Write a sentence, paragraph, or more of your own personal story, perspective, or experience in being gay or having friends or family members who are gay. It can be an experience with the church or not, with God or not, or an experience with discrimination or issues you believe to be important in this discussion. Email it to me.
  2. Please tell other persons you know who may want to share the above with me.

I give you my word that I will:

  1. Protect all written responses with utmost confidentiality.
  2. If I use any part of your story on my blog, I will protect your identity unless you tell me otherwise.

What do I hope will happen as a result of this writing?

I do not have any expectations of grandiose change. I simply want to add my view and the stories of others to the discussion. I am open to hearing from others from both sides of the issue.

If you have any questions, please email me at mmarler@uab.edu.

Thank you for being my teacher,


  1. Anonymous

    The issue crystallized and reached a turning point for me when a passing motorist rescued one of our students, a 15 year old boy, “Jimmy”, dangling over the edge of Gold Star Bridge, the span across the Thames River in Connecticut between New London and Groton. This was about 10 years ago. I was aware that Jimmy was struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and was enduring a fair amount of peer discrimination and verbal “bashing’ that was then more common than now. I guess I assumed that there was a fair amount of not so covert non-acceptance at home, especially from his father, regarding his lack of taking up traditionally masculine behaviors, like contact sports, interest in girls, etc.

    This would have been the first student suicide I would have had to deal with; I had to deal with it anyway.

    Thinking about Jimmy’s predicament over a long period of time, it finally occurred to me that it was, among other things, an example of how the larger culture and its institutions work on our individual psyches. Like how some advertising and the glorification of thinness feeds into the pathology of anorexia. Or, in a more positive way, how a team’s spirit can make boost the confidence of its individual players. And how burdening the social psychology of the larger culture adds to the weight that individual efforts must try to lift when the influence is negative.

    Jimmy’s father’s disapproval, and his peers calling anything and everything they didn’t like “that is so gay”, was a part of and reinforced by systems that would dishonorably discharge Jimmy from military, deny him the comfort of a hospital visit of a loved one who was not a legal family member, etc. etc. I don’t need to go on and on here; but you can see how hard it is for Jimmy’s dad and peers not to make it harder for Jimmy, however unintentionally. It is not enough just to change our own minds and hearts.

    It is still a chore to distinguish in my own mind what are my own values and which ones I willingly or unwillingly inherent from these same systems we tend to share and live within. Whether one views marriage as fundamentally part of religion, a human response to God, or as something regulated by the state, it is an aspect of a system we are part of. When we embed gay 15 year olds in a system that tells everybody that gay people are unworthy of marriage, we place them at risk.

    I think about Jimmy often. I know he and his dad arrived at some kind of peace with each other. He graduated and went to college. I hope he is well. I am still learning from his crisis.

  2. Malcolm Lewis Marler

    Thank you for sharing Jimmy’s important story and lessons for all of us!

  3. Richie

    I did not come out to my parents until last year(I’m in my mid 40s). They are wonderful parents (you couldn’t ask for better), but I knew they would hurt and somehow blame themselves and wonder what they did wrong. We come from that conservative Baptist heritage, and I knew we were all raised in the “Homosexuality is a choice and a sin” church atmosphere. We still don’t discuss it; but they are coming to terms with it (70 years of religious teaching/sermons to combat). Most importantly, they let me know I was always their son, and they always will love me.

    I am not completely out yet. Being in a rural area makes things far more difficult I think. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who can share their experience with being “out” in the country.

    I just came upon your website today while searching for more information about the 1917 Clinic. I am a new patient there, just learning to deal with the HIV that entered my life recently. The staff there has been wonderful; I can see why it was so hard for you to leave it for your new job.

    I have not shared my diagnosis with my parents yet; I think I will keep that private until my health or some situation necessitates it. They have their own health problems they are dealing with, and I just don’t want to add to that at the moment.

    Keep sharing people’s stories – and your own faith. I know your job has taken you into a broader arena now – but the message that God loves us all and we are to follow his example is an important one.

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