Matthew Vines

Matthew Vines

Stephen Voss/Courtesy of Matthew Vines

In the days following the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, there’s no lack of public sentiments about thoughts and prayers to the victims’ families. But Christian LGBT activist Matthew Vines says the messages coming from his larger faith community have been mixed.

“On the whole, I think most Christians do want to show empathy, which is good,” Vines said, “but there’s a strong tendency not to want to name, that the people who were murdered were murdered because they are gay, because they are bisexual or transgender, because of their sexual or gender identity.”

He told Think Out Loud host Dave Miller that Orlando victims were attacked based on who they are, which reflects a culture that’s pervasive throughout Christian churches.

“LGBT people are not safe, are not valued, are not included and respected for who they are,” he said.

Vines said radical Islamist ideology has received a lot of focus over the last two days, and rightfully so. But he added people need to look at fundamentalist Christianity as well if they are going to root out dangerous and potentially violent sentiment.

Vines was invited to Portland to speak at an event about the Biblical interpretations of homosexuality and how a modern Christian theology can support monogamous same-sex relationships. Pastor Adam Phillips leads Christ Church Portland, which brought Vines to town. He’s straight, but has made inclusion integral to his congregation.

“We were actually kicked out of our denominations for LGBT inclusion,” Philips said. “And have since grown with gay folks, straight folks that are in solidarity with full inclusion.”

Vines said while there are some extremist religious elements who preach death to homosexuals, “the vast majority of Christians would never consider killing someone based on their sexual orientation.” And yet, he added, “the vast majority of Christians have still been complicit in causing profound harm and destruction in LGBT people’s lives.” 

The historic front entrance of the First Christian Church in downtown Portland.

The historic front entrance of the First Christian Church in downtown Portland.

Jerry Headley/OPB

That harm, he says comes from clinging to an interpretation of the Bible that says that “all same-sex relationships are sinful and therefore, to be gay should be a constant source of shame and repentance for gay Christians.”

“That does untold emotional, psychological, spiritual damage to millions and millions of LGBT people in the church,” Vines said.

The Wednesday night event at First Christian Church in downtown Portland will highlight some of what Vines emphasizes in his book,”God and the Gay Christian” — that there is a legitimate interpretation of scripture that supports gay and lesbian LGBT relationships. He says not everyone is open to this message but he’s finding more people everyday who are willing to listen.

“For people who are open to reasoned discourse, offering a cogent interpretation of scripture that allows for committed, monogamous same-sex relationships has and continues to change many, many people’s minds. I’m in regular dialogue and relationship with so many evangelical pastors and other pastors who have been in the process of changing their minds … For my father … what actually changed his mind, it required the types of arguments that I’m making.”

Phillips said his congregation has grown in the the last 18 months, in part, because of the theology that is deeply Christian and firmly inclusive. He hopes everyone who’s seeking a spiritual home knows there is a place for them.

“There are untold amount of gay and lesbian and transgender Christians in the Portland metro area that do not realize that God loves them for who they are and that they can be part of a church community that is radically inclusive and wants them to thrive,” he said.