Matthew Vines loves God and happens to be gay. When reality won out during his sophomore year and he finally admitted to himself that he was gay, he was both relieved and crushed — relieved because everything that hadn’t made sense about his life finally did, and because love no longer seemed like an impossibility for him, but crushed because of the likelihood that he would be rejected and lose the community he had always called home.
So three years ago, he took a leave of absence from Harvard and committed himself to research and study about the Bible and homosexuality, setting out on a quest to confront homophobia in his conservative Wichita church and find acceptance there as a gay Christian. Months of grueling, emotionally draining conversations with church leaders and members produced next to nothing in terms of progress. Eventually he left, dejected and depressed, but also determined to make change.
Several months later, Matthew found a church in town that was brave enough to offer him a public platform to speak about the issue. Matthew Vines spoke at the church in Kansas about the Bible and homosexuality, posting a video of his address on YouTube.
The video has been seen nearly 500,000 times now. Matthew says he is worlds apart from the shattered soul who sat crying in the parking lot of a church that raised and then rejected him less than two years ago. He hasn’t forgotten that pain. His inbox serves as a daily reminder of the countless people who are still struggling, and who still feel voiceless and powerless in the face of overwhelming opposition.
This month Matthew is launching The Reformation Project, a Bible-based, Christian non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In September the first leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform is being held at Asbury United Methodist Church in Kansas City. They will be equipped with the tools and training they need to go back to their communities and make lasting changes to beliefs and interpretations that marginalize LGBT people.
The Bible is not anti-gay. It never addresses the issues of same-sex orientation or loving same-sex relationships, and the few verses that some cite to support homophobia have nothing to do with LGB&T people. Careful, persistent arguments about those passages have the power to change every Christian church worldwide, no matter how conservative their theology. The mission of The Reformation Project is to train a new generation of Christians to streamline that process and accelerate the demise of homophobia in the church.
The Reformation Project then plans to host more conferences, both in the U.S. and abroad. The dream is that gay kids in Jackson, Mississippi and Kingston, Jamaica, won’t just have to hear on YouTube that it gets better—they will have the personal support of outspoken, influential Christian allies in their communities who can ensure that it does. Homophobia is on life support, says Matthew
Changing Attitude England is already talking with Matthew who is aware of our work. We think The Reformation Project goal of advancing the kingdom in parallel with advancing equality by reforming church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity enhances Changing Attitude’s campaign within the Anglican Communion. I hope we can partner with the Project and help CA Nigeria and CA Kenya host conferences both at home and in and other parts of the Anglican Communion where CA has a strong presence.