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Matthew Vines: Reforming the Gay Christian Debate

Sunday, September 23, 2012
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“What does the Bible say about loving, same-sex relationships?”

Nothing. Not a thing.

And in that absence of Biblical direction of support for or condemnation of these relationships, Christians need to follow the general principles of the Bible: love, justice and kindness.

This was the point Matthew Vines wanted to emphasize at his recent presentation at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan.

Kathy Baldock

Matthew Vines

Matthew’s story is intriguing; he began to understand and accept that he was gay while in his first semesters at Harvard. The Wichita native knew, that by accepting his sexual orientation, he was risking his long time status in the Presbyterian church in which he had been raised, as well as relationships with family and friends.

“You realize how alone you might be when you come out,” recalled Matthew. He resolved to take a leave of absence from Harvard to embark on a scholarly study of the subject of homosexuality in the Bible.

What most people see and know of Matthew is his excellent 67-minute video, “The Gay Debate.” The presentation in itself is quite remarkable; the young man is even more impressive.

I visited Matthew and his family in Wichita. Over dinner, I asked his Dad, Monte, if he was surprised at the notice Matthew was getting from the video.

“No, not really. We are delighted, but not surprised. What Matthew sets out to do, he accomplishes.”

Monte and his wife, Kim, then told us about Matthew’s work when he was a high school junior to influence the investments of the state’s largest pension fund. The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System had $38 million invested in companies with ties to Sudan. If Kansas and other states divested funds in Sudan, there would be increasing pressure on Sudan to end the violence in Darfur.

“A college student was heading it up, but he had abandoned the effort, so I decided to take the lead,” said Matthew.

“I drove him all over Kansas that year and he personally spoke with half the legislators,” Kim said.

At the end of the effort and ten days in Topeka working in the capitol, a bill forbidding Kansas pension investments in Sudan was passed and signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2007.

Matthew is a delightful young man who is serious about his own relationship with God; he makes an excellent spokesman for the issue.

I was in New York City on the night of Matthew’s presentation at Marble Church, co-sponsored by GLAAD and Marble Church. He outlined his story and took questions from the predominantly older gay Christian audience.

The assembly was filled with people who had struggled, not so much with their sexual orientation, but with the treatment they had received in families, communities and churches just for being gay. They had been outside the margins of acceptance when they were Matthew’s age.

“Twenty years ago”, Matthew said, “I would have been expected to marry a woman. Enough work has been done so that I am now on the margins of the conversation and not outside of the conversation.”

And that is exactly where the dialogue is — on the margins in most churches. The vast majority of people in the pews are not intentionally motivated to be unkind or hurtful; they simply have not heard another valid interpretation of the verses used to condemn the gay community.

The beauty of what Matthew has done in “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality” is that he has created an accessible, scholarly, easy-to-understand one hour video.

Matthew is helping to move the informed, thoughtful, compassionate conversation about gay Christians from the edge to the center, where it needs to be, now.

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