Courage was founded by Jeremy Marks in February 1988, to offer support to those who wish to follow Christ and who are especially in need of encouragement and understanding, because of an inner conflict between their faith and same-sex sexual orientation. Courage has always endeavoured to offer some help and support for families, partners, friends and anyone else in close contact with gay people.
In accordance with main-line evangelical thinking on the issue, during the early 1990s, Courage ran a succession of discipleship programmes with a view to helping people ‘come out’ of homosexuality. However, practical experience proved this to be a counter-productive approach. Through our years of pastoral experience, it became increasingly imperative to listen to the Holy Spirit afresh and pursue further scriptural study on the issues. The result is that we have come to recognise that God supports and blesses sincere committed relationships between gay people (for whom a heterosexual relationship is inappropriate).
During the early years of the Courage ministry, in common with many other evangelicals, Jeremy was unable to reconcile his own homosexuality and Christian faith, believing that you must shun the one to pursue the other. In those days, the way ahead for gay Christians seemed limited to celibacy or marriage. Therefore, for some, to consider marriage was to pursue a welcome alternative to the probability of lifelong celibacy.
So, Jeremy married his wife Bren in October 1991 not as a triumphal statement of a gay man becoming straight but rather providing, above all, mutual love and companionship. For many years, they had enjoyed a long-standing friendship, Bren also having been a pioneer in Christian ministry for women in leadership. It is a great tribute to Bren’s personal courage that not only was she willing to marry a gay man (whose story was a very public one), but that she has also been able to recognise the need for a change of approach for Courage and endorse the importance of this organisation becoming a place of affirmation for gay and lesbian people and recognise their need for committed partnership.
Courage activities are now centred around providing Christian friendship for all touched by gay issues, who want to give Jesus Christ first place in their lives as Lord and Saviour.
Needless to say, this ‘new approach’ for Courage, raises difficult issues for Christians both pastorally and theologically. With many years of pastoral experience with Christians coming to terms with their homosexuality, Courage is in a good position to understand the issues and to offer support to all those in the churches and outside them who are involved in pastoral care. Speakers can be provided for Christian groups seeking better understanding.
Courage discipleship group meetings focus on worship, Bible study, prayer and fellowship over a meal, giving ample opportunity for friendship in a Christ-centred environment.
Having married in 1991, Jeremy is very much aware of the issues for married gay and lesbian people and their spouses. A significant part of the Courage work today seeks to provide help and support for those gay people who are married-to honour their marriage vows and remain faithful to their partners. Courage is also concerned to assist the partners of gay people who sometimes feel very isolated in their situation.
On 15th September 2012, we held a special service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for 25 years of Courage in London. This event marked the end of the Courage ministry as it formerly operated. In practice, this means that my role in organising regular meetings, retreats etc. (except for our mid-monthly Bible study which will continue for the time being) has finished. However, I still retain a small Guildford-based office where I am available to offer people a listening ear by phone, e-mail, Skype or one-to-one meetings—for consultations, spiritual direction and whatever support enquirers may need. I also continue to be available for speaking engagements and to help churches/individuals with Courage-related pastoral issues.
All the same contact details will remain here for the foreseeable future.