Many Christians think they cannot believe in the full authority and inspiration of the Bible and at the same time support same-sex relationships, says Matthew Vines, though he hopes to convince them that isn’t the case. Vines says he’s received several hundred emails over the course of the last year-and-a-half from conservative-minded Christians who have changed their minds on the issue. Most of them were laypeople, he says, though he never expected conservative pastors to change their minds immediately.
Fifty hand-picked Christians were part of a seminal conference last week planned by Matthew Vines, a 23-year-old gay Christian who believes Scripture allows for monogamous homosexual activity, in an effort to spread the idea in the American church over the next decade.
Vines says he has had success in convincing lay members of churches over the last year that monogamous homosexual activity is allowed by Scripture, but is encountering resistance from Scriptural scholars. He is likely to encounter much more, say theologians.
More than 100 people applied to participate in the four-day conference, though only 50 were accepted, and the chosen were required to rigorously study throughout the summer before the conference even began. Vines sent them 1,100 pages of dense, academic reading material, for example, to make sure they understood both sides of the issue before the event began last Wednesday.
“The goal of the conference was to be training Christians who are in churches that don’t currently support LGBT people and to give them the biblical tools and knowledge that they need to go back to their churches and have constructive, persuasive conversations with other believers on these issues,” Vines told CP.
Some conference participants do attend LGBT-affirming churches, Vines told CP, though those who do so have other ties to conservative Christians.
The event was held last week at Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan., and was hosted by The Reformation Project, an effort started by Vines to re-educate the church concerning gay activity. The Reformation Project is a “Bible-based, Christian non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to the group’s website.
Event participants, who are simply being called “Reformers,” are required “to be willing to be a public, accessible, visible leader in their communities for the indefinite future going forward on these issues,” said Vines. Regardless of what each leaders’ strategy is for inspiring reform, the 23-year-old said it is important for them to be both “respectful and sensitive” when engaged in dialogue with others.
“Our primary goal is not to make the church pro-LGBT,” said Vines. “Our primary goal is to protect the integrity of the body of Christ as the witness to God’s love on earth.”