Gay evangelical Christian to speak at SF Pride
by Khaled Sayed
A young gay evangelical Christian will take the main stage at San Francisco Pride this weekend with a message he's hoping the throngs of people will hear.
Matthew Vines, who stopped attending Harvard University after two years, is an evangelical Christian from Kansas. He's on a mission to appeal to Christians who will listen to him about homosexuality and same-sex relationships.
Vines believes that he can be openly gay and hold on to his Christian community and tradition. The author of God and the Gay Christian , Vines will be speaking at the San Francisco Pride main stage Sunday, June 28 at noon despite never having been to such a large LGBT Pride event before.
Vines, 25, is aiming to open a dialogue about homosexuality and same-sex marriage that he hopes will result in acceptance by evangelical churches. Vines' book set out to answer some of the questions he posed like, Do biblical teachings on the marriage covenant preclude same-sex marriage or not? How should we apply the teachings of Jesus to the gay debate? What did Paul have in mind when he warned against same-sex relations?
His book convincingly counters the millennia old argument that homosexuality is a sin. Many Christians who oppose same-sex relationships cite six key biblical passages, which Vines deconstructs to reveal a theologically sound interpretation.
Acknowledging that there are passages condemning homosexuality in the Bible, Vines, who is single, said he believes that people still can learn about relationships from it.
"There are these passages in the Bible that refer to homosexual behavior," he told the Bay Area Reporter in an interview this week. "All of them are negative. The behavior that the Bible addresses is significantly different from the type of long-term committed relationship same-sex couples experience today."
According to Vines, the core of the Bible's teachings about marriage is about "keeping covenant with your spouse, about that commitment, the same way that same-sex couples can and do live out every day."
"The core of my argument in the book is that Christians can both fully affirm the authority of the Bible and fully affirm things like [same-sex] relationships," Vines said. "My book shows exactly how Christians can do that through the interpretation of the Bible."
Vines' book is geared to evangelical Christians who have more liberal views or are open to the idea of accepting LGBT people. When it was published last year, the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the most conservative religious denominations, released its own chapter-by-chapter rebuttal to Vines' central argument – that Christians who affirm the full authority of scripture can also affirm committed same-sex relationships.
"The target audience for my book is evangelical Christians who are at least more open to learning about LGBT people's issues, especially as they relate to the Bible," Vines said.
Vines, who lives in Wichita, Kansas, is no longer part of the church in which he grew up. After his own church rejected him for being gay, he is working on attracting new people to his message and creating a new community that would accept him as a gay Christian man.
"The church I grew up in is very far removed from where I would like them to be on this topic. But I attend a church now that is certainly more supportive of what I'm doing," he said, declining to name either congregation.
Responses to his book have been mixed, but Vines said that they were similar to what he expected.
"Some of the Christians are very much not open to learning more or having a conversation, and for these people, the responses were more like knee-jerk condemnation," Vines said. "However, there are many other Christians who may not be supportive of marriage equality but who are really receptive to having a conversation."
Even though many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Vines thinks that there are others who are interested in learning about LGBT people, but they are not saying it out loud.
"It is important to me to change people's minds for the same reason marriage equality is important to the LGBT community across the board," Vines said. "Because these are our communities, and for me the church I grew up in, the church I'm traditionally a part of, is a core part of my community and my support system. I don't want that to fade away just because I'm gay."
"For Christians in general it is important to have the family and the church to support them," Vines said, adding that he came out to his parents in 2010. "Otherwise that adds a tremendous amount of pain and rejection to their life which is unnecessary."
In 2013, Vines launched the Reformation Project to train and empower LGBT-supportive Christians in conservative churches.