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Christians Gather in Kansas to Discuss Homosexuality

by Maria Sudekum
Friday Sep 20, 2013

A Kansas man whose online lecture about the Bible and same-sex relationships gained considerable attention has gathered about 50 Christians from around the country to delve into his belief that the Scriptures do not condemn homosexuality as a sexual orientation.

Matthew Vines, of Wichita, grew up attending a conservative evangelical Presbyterian church in the city and relies heavily on intensive study of the Bible for his presentations. He said liberal and moderate Christian churches have adopted more gay-friendly stances, but conservative churches remain steadfast in their opposition to homosexuality.

The 23-year-old Vines wants to bring change with his message that the Bible doesn't actually say same-sex orientation is a sin or condemn loving gay relationships. Out of 100 applicants, Vines selected 50 people with ties to conservative churches to participate in his three-day conference, which started Wednesday in Prairie Village and ends Saturday.

"This conference is important because it really represents the next frontier of the LGBT movement, which is working to change the minds of conservative Christians about same-sex relationships," Vines said. "Because I'm a gay Christian who grew up in a conservative church and still have a lot of friends and family in conservative churches, I'm trying to empower people to be able to stay in their churches that are not yet supportive."

Vines delivered an hourlong lecture on the topic at a Wichita church and posted it to YouTube in March 2012. Since then, the video has garnered more than 600,000 views and 15,000 responses. And it has been translated into several languages.

"A lot of conservative Christians are willing to listen, but they don’t want to do it with someone who isn’t educated about Scripture," said Vines, who has started a new organization, The Reformation Project, and written a book on the topic that will be published in March.

Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote an extensive rebuttal on his blog about Vines’ online lecture and said Wednesday in a phone interview that Vines’ take on the Bible is not a faithful reading of the text.

"It seems to me he is attempting to read Scripture through his presupposition that homosexuality is not a sin," Lenow said. "... Every time (Scripture) speaks of homosexuality it speaks of homosexuality in terms of sin."

Jane Clementi, whose son, Tyler, killed himself in 2010 after his roommate at Rutgers University made a webcast of him kissing another man, is among the conference participants. She’s giving a keynote address Friday evening.

Her family has started a foundation to increase acceptance of gays in communities and their schools and churches.

She said before Tyler died, the family attended a conservative Christian church that "was not affirming." She is no longer a member of that church, though she has friends who still go there and were supportive after Tyler’s death.

"But there is a discord, and I felt I couldn’t stay," said Clementi, who lives in Ridgewood, N.J. "Even though there wasn’t great amounts of time spent on preaching, the message was completely understood. ... Even within Christian communities if they’re preaching this, straight kids are hearing the message, too, that this group is worthless and broken and we have power over them. And that’s what a bullying situation is. ...

"So that’s one of the things we want to speak to to make sure that no other youth feels that, and also so no other straight youth feels that they can do that. And no other parent should have to grieve the senseless loss. It’s not a reason to lose a child."

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  • Wayne M., 2013-09-20 21:00:00

    If scripture is read and understood in the light of contexts that include culture, history and scientific knowledge of the times, then it is clear that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality in itself. It does clearly condemn sexual exploitation and abuse, but cannot be used to condemn homosexuality or faithful and loving same-sex relationships. As Augustine of Hippo made it clear, whenever our understandings of scripture do not match the evidence, then it is time to change our understandings. The religious right, although holding Augustine to be a model of conservative Christianity, ignores this warning.

  • fleebness, 2013-09-21 11:19:51

    My take on this is a tad different. Christians believe in an unchanging god. They also believe the bible to be the inspired word of this god, and many of them take it to be inviolate. When confronted with the realization that someone they know who is gay is actually a fairly decent person, for at least these people, it creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. They have to deal with that cognitive dissonance by ignoring it, or accepting that their faith is founded on flaws, or deciding that their interpretations have been wrong. If they accept their faith is founded on flaws, they start questioning their beliefs, and can turn away from Christianity altogether. Religious leaders like the power implicit in holding their followers thrall, and don’t want this to happen, so they have to convince followers dealing with this to either ignore it (’gays are evil, and it’s all part of a diabolical plot’), or that the interpretations were wrong (this article’s approach). Unfortunately, those two paths are much easier than rebuilding your faith, and most people will follow one or the other. Personally, I took the difficult path when I understood my own homosexuality. I had to rework my beliefs. Consequently, I probably have more in common with either atheists or Buddhists than Christians, despite a stronger background in Christianity.

  • GAG'EM, 2013-09-25 22:22:25

    I don’t give a shit what the Bible says or what Christians believe, but if someone can make them less hateful, it will benefit the rest of us. So more power to him.

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