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The Reformation Project Visits Atlanta

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The Reformation Project, started by author of “God and The Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines, recently came to Atlanta for a conference. This project was started in 2013 in Kansas, reaching people in Missouri and California. The eponymous conference in Atlanta lasted June 11-13, covering a vast amount of topics. Those who were able to attend or watch the live feed heard discussion on topics such as LGBT 101, the biblical case for inclusion, gender identity, and transgender issues. With a mission statement of, “We are dedicated to training LGBT Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity through the identity through the teaching of the Bible,” the Reformation Project yearns to make great strides. This nonprofit has adopted a new way of uniting the LGBT and Christian communities.

I stumbled upon the organization when I was in line for lunch. I saw a copious amount of people with badges who were eager to tell me about the event. After lunch, I trekked to the Sheraton Hotel downtown. The panel by Rob and Linda Robertson was titled “Learning to Love Our Gay Son Just Because He Breathes.”

The couple had three children they raised in the Christian faith, but a situation arose when, at age of 12, their eldest son Ryan stated that he had an interest in men. As his parents they told him repeatedly they loved him and prayed God would extract this situation from his life. It was their perspective that homosexuality was wrong, therefore they worked patiently with their son. Ryan faced the juxtaposition of being attracted toward men or following the words of God.

For the first six years Ryan was heavily devoted to being faithful to God. He did this by engaging in youth programs, creating meaningful friendships with hetersexual males, and even got baptized. Like others, he continued to pray that God would provide him assistance with being attracted towards girls. According to Rob and Linda, God did not answer their prayers because their son continued to have these feelings. They had unintentionally taught Ryan to hate his sexuality, which was a part of him, therefore he began to hate himself. He acted on this by experimenting with an assortment of drugs. After radio silence and acceptance from his parents, Ryan tried drugs again and unfortunately passed away July 16, 2009. Since then the Robertson couple has been an advocate for gay Christians in the Seattle area, helping those with HIV, and working with Christian mothers who have LGBTQ children. Their main goal is that parents love their children simply because they breathe and leave the rest up to God.

While I was at the conference, I was able to speak to a few people about their thoughts on the Reformation Project. Those who I interviewed did not favor the idea of their names being public due to the fear of bigotry from people around them. The anonymous sources gave the following quotes:

Person One

Orientation: Lesbian Female in early 20s

The first person found information about the Reformation Project through a person who she attended college with (who just so happens to be on staff). For the past year, she has been working very hard towards reconstructing her theology. For three or four years, she was out and celibate. Her community and everyone in the church all knew that she was attracted to girls, but was not dating at all. She then shared with me that “it was the decision I came to because I did not know how to reconcile it with the bible. I dedicated my life towards not wanting to date and I am okay with that. That was fine for a while, but then I felt like I worked through a lot of my own personal shit. I got to a point where working through my sexuality was next. This past year I have been looking through scriptures and studying what the character of God really is when it comes to loving and accepting people. I still go back and forth because I think that scripture is very gray about the topic.”

Person Two

Orientation: Gay man in upper 30s

The second person discovered this program when he conversed with a friend who attended a Matthew Vine session. Mr. Vine is the founder of the Reformation Project and an activist for LGBT right.  When being approached by those who are homophobic, he tells them that it is his rightful opinion that he was born this way. “God made me the way I am and I can’t change that. Honestly, I do not think the LGBT movement is pushed enough on children. I think there needs to be more education from adults to learn about transgender and being gay. Then they can educate the children to make them feel better. We can see that there are too many kids committing suicide because they don’t feel like they fit in or things of that nature.”

Person Three

Orientation: Straight trans man in early 20s

“I follow a bunch of LGBT Christians on FaceBook and Tumblr. I saw that it was going on, so I signed up. I have tried to space myself away from them in terms of making different friends. I have even been testing out churches that I know that are going to be affirming. Then on top of that, I come to conferences like this where people are just accepting of the LGBT community. In terms of a tradition standpoint, I think the educating of children on LGBT concepts is not touched on enough in a positive aspect. This happens especially in church because there tends to be a very conservative attitude. Kids grow up thinking that it is bad, and if one of them feels different, a lot of negative harm is created.”

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