An Interview with Colby Martin:

Colby, lots of people who stick their necks out for LGBTQ equality have “skin in the game,” meaning a friend or family member came out to them and so they are motivated by that personal relationship to take risks and speak out. But you strike me as someone who has become a public ally without that personal motivation. Tell me about that.
Not many things are more beautiful to me than when someone is willing to confront a deeply held belief or challenge a long held conviction because of someone they love. Because what they think in their minds, and what they actually experience in another human being, do not line up. In my book, I even point to a couple moments in the Bible where we see a person’s beliefs being challenged by a relationship, and the commitment to love within the relationship wins out. I am deeply moved by those stories.
However, as you say, that was not my story. I didn’t develop a friendship with a gay person until after I had come out as an ally and lost my job over it.
The motivation for me came, not from a commitment to a relationship with another person, but to a commitment to a relationship with myself, and with what I was reading in the Bible. Meaning this, I think often times the Spirit is at work in us when we experience an out of alignmentness between our head (what we believe) and our hearts (how we feel). For so long my heart was broken for how the church has discriminated against LGBTQ people, but my head was locked down in a particular way of understanding the Bible and homosexuality. I was committed to listening and following Spirit in a journey toward aligning those two, and I was also committed to being honest with what I was learning from studying the Clobber Passages.
So while my “skin in the game” didn’t come from the fact that I was gay, or had any gay friends or family, my “skin” came in the form of being open to what Spirit was doing in my life, and a commitment to what I was learning the Bible was really trying to say.
What do you think conservative Evangelical pastors would gain by having the courage to challenge that conventional interpretation of “clobber passages?”
There is a wholeness, a type of flourishing in life, that comes only when you are true and honest to what God’s Spirit is doing within you. In fact, I’m not sure one could over-state the gift that comes when someone chooses allegiance to what they know God is doing in their life over and above what the institution expects of them.
What do pastors have to gain? Their soul, Brian. They have their soul to gain.
If a conservative pastor has come to see the Bible differently on homosexuality, and yet remains in the Theological Closet for too long, they will eventually rupture themselves. They will be divided between their inner convictions and their outer reality, and there might not be a quicker path to harming the soul than this.

What do you think holds these pastors back from opening up this subject?

I think my answer lacks originality, but nonetheless, I think the simple answer is that it comes down to fear. But just because it’s easy to name, doesn’t mean it’s easy to overcome.
First is the fear of what will happen to them.
The fear of what you might lose (your job, your reputation, relationships with people you care about) is both real and powerful. I lost all of those things when I opened up on this subject. Most institutions—at the moment—are not designed to hold pastors in grace and compassion when they come out as an LGBTQ ally. And that’s scary.
But secondly, and maybe even more powerful than the fear of what you might lose on the outside, is the anxiety and fear that can rear its ugly head on the inside.
In other words, I remember thinking, “if I truly let myself change my belief on this, and follow where Spirit is taking me, then what else do I currently hold on to that I might be wrong about?” It can very disorienting to release our grip on long-held beliefs. There is a grounding that anchors us when we cling tightly to what we’ve always been taught. Being untethered—while beautifully liberating in its own way—is also incredibly scary.
There are costs for Evangelical leaders to changing their view on LGBTQ equality. But there are also costs to not changing. What do you think those costs will be?
Three things come to mind: People will continue to leave, people will keep getting hurt, and people will move on without them.
The PRRI released research the other day that identifies nearly 1/3rd of those who have left the religion of their youth have done so because of negative and harmful teaching about LGBTQ people. This number will only increase. People won’t change their mind and think, “oh nevermind, I guess I’ll go back to this church that preaches how sinful my gay friends and family are.”
Second, my heart not be able to take another story of Church Bait-and-Switch. This is what happens when a website loudly declares “all are welcome!” And so the lesbian moms with their two kids show up, excited to have found a local church that “welcomes” them, only to discover that they didn’t read the fine print (or, more likely, the church hides the fine print). So many churches that are not open-and-affirming appear to be so, and it continues to burn LGBTQ people who give church another chance but are eventually told something like, “oh, well, I’m sorry, you can’t serve here until you stop being gay.”
Finally, my kids, and my kids’ kids, will not understand what the fuss is about. The cost to not changing is that you are building a church on sifting sand, and there’s a good chance that your kids will grow up and wonder why you continue to discriminate against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, and queers.
This is your first book, and you know that I think you are a really gifted writer. Do you have any ideas for future writing projects?
Thanks, Brian! Yes, lots.
But right now I’m really fascinated by the liberating, yet also painful, journey of no longer seeing “faith” as a noun that describes what you believe, but more like a verb that describes how you believe it. That process, of waking up to the possibility that maybe what you believe is not actually the most important thing to God, is a really interesting process to me.
I’d love to take elements of the stages of faith, and parts of how Richard Rohr talks about faith as the “initial opening of the heart and mind space,” and some of what you talk about in your new book, and help people think about faith in a new way.
The majority of the people who find themselves at our church (Sojourn Grace Collective) are questioning all sorts of beliefs they’ve previously held or recently released, and they are asking questions like, “what happened to my faith?!”
And I want to say, “nothing happened to it! You still have it! And it’s functioning brilliantly.”
Where can people learn more about UnClobber?
I have a website,, that gives an overview of the book (don’t miss the incredible series of Trailer videos!). There’s also a page outlining where I’ll be traveling this fall, talking about UnClobber.
Get your copy today on Amazon.
Also, follow me on Facebook at:
Twitter: @colbymartin