The Reformation the Church Doesn’t Need

by Alan Shelmon

The Church has always been under attack. From its inception, it’s faced persecution from murderous dictators like Nero to worldview challenges from naturalism and Islam. Although many threats are external, some come from within.

Last month, I attended the national conference of The Reformation Project in Washington, D.C. Its founder, Matthew Vines, calls himself a gay Christian. Their mission statement says they are “dedicated to training LGBT Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity through the teaching of the Bible.” In other words, they want to change the Church to affirm practicing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people by reinterpreting the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality.

This isn’t a minor project, either. They use the term “reformation” because they believe their mission is in line with the noble reform efforts of Martin Luther. They intend the Church’s transformation to be just as significant as it was post-Luther. They have a two-pronged approach to accomplishing their goal.

First, they want every Christian who believes homosexual behavior is sin to encounter a gay person in their life. They believe these personal relationships will deconstruct stereotypes about homosexuality. That way conservative Christians will be more willing to accept gay-affirming interpretations of Scripture.

Second, they are training Christians to argue for a revisionist understanding of the biblical texts on homosexuality. They want believers to return to their conservative congregations, reform their church teaching, and make it gay affirming.

While at the conference, I experienced two days of hermeneutics and apologetics training. They systematically taught gay-affirming interpretations of the six biblical texts that deal directly with homosexuality. They also had us role-play their talking points so people became comfortable using the arguments.

It might be tempting to dismiss Vines and others like him. Past efforts at church reform, like the Emergent Church, gained little long-term traction. Couldn’t this amount to another flash-in-the-pan movement that’s gone tomorrow? Possibly, but there are at least three reasons to think it will gain momentum…


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