The “culture war is, finally, at long last, coming to a close,” declared the male-to-female transgender Baptist minister Allyson Robinson on November 6 in Washington, DC’s National City Christian Church (NCCC). West Point graduate Robinson’s declaration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) victory, surprising in more ways than one, introduced an astonishingly assertive conference rejecting millennia-old Christian sexual ethics.
Robinson, a former Patriot missile battery commander who made a 2006 “gender transition” to “health and…wholeness,” opened the November 6-8 conference with about 150 attendees of the “bible-based, Gospel-centered” pro-LGBT Reformation Project (RP). Allyson wanted to share “this historic moment when…that which seemed impossible just a few short years ago looks…inevitable” concerning same-sex “marriage” (SSM) and other LGBT agendas. Why remain in a church that “still refuses to acknowledge” LGBT “truths,” Robinson questioned, for such churches “are dying” and will “rot in their own graves,” as if LGBT affirmation had not led to past church decline.
“We each have a very visceral reaction” to “gender norms,” Robinson stated the next day while discussing “her” life in a plenary session with RP founder Matthew Vines and pro-LGBT theologian James Brownson. “Transgender people,” concurred on a later panel Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly homosexual bishop, “present all of us with an opportunity to go much deeper than we have ever gone before.” “All of us are going to be uncomfortable.”
The line from Galatians that “There is neither…male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” had suggested to Allyson Robinson that gender boundaries are not “impermeable.” “I could think about transgressing the boundary” and acknowledge “who God made me to be” with a “life in Christ.”
In an “incredible parallel” praised by Vines, Christian ethicist David Gushee closed the conference on November 8 with an address comparing LGBT individuals and Jews, thereby adding another moral analogy to the common “homophobia”/racism equation. Each “small minority group…was for almost 2000 years the object of a tragically destructive…unchristlike body of Christian tradition,” Gushee analyzed. LGBT individuals, he however conceded, had not faced genocide.
LGBT “sexual minorities” have faced a “teaching of contempt…grounded in…a relatively small number of biblical texts,” now “in the process of being discredited.” This teaching “ascribed particular vices to LGBT people, including sexual degeneracy, especially against children,” Gushee stated while ignoring documented homosexuality-child abuse links. Gushee, however, somewhat contradictorily noted that this teaching also comes from the “very center of Christianity: scripture, tradition, and the leaders of the church, generation after generation.”
“I truly apologize that it took me twenty years to figure out” the “very simple truth” concerning LGBT approval, Gushee stated. Gushee’s lesbian sister had recently prompted his abandonment of Christian orthodoxy concerning homosexuality. “Celibacy outside of lifetime covenantal marriage” should apply to all Christians, he now concluded, and “is…essential to the well-being of adults and children.” How homosexual couple parenting lacking a biological parent/gender role model or the transgenderism of Robinson, a still-married father of four, affected child “well-being,” Gushee did not say.
Between Robinson and Gushee, Vines held two plenary sessions with his mentor Brownson on ten arguments favoring Christian LGBT acceptance. Vines had introduced himself at the conference as the “first openly gay Christian” known by many in his Kansas “conservative church in the Bible belt.” Brownson noted in the opening plenary session, meanwhile, that a gay son had “sent him on a journey” on LGBT matters.
Examining the Biblical text, Vines described Romans 1 as applicable merely to Paul’s observation of “lust gone wild…desire gone amok.” The “modern concept of sexual orientation” as something fixed is “unique.” “Most gay and lesbian Christians” today, Brownson argued contrary to documented homosexual promiscuity, are “willing to sacrifice their lives for each other” in “loving, long term relationships.”
Brownson rejected a male-female “exclusively normative pattern” for sexuality because he saw no Biblical discussion of genital complementarity. Yet when discussing Leviticus 18:22, a text concerning “patriarchal gender roles” according to the conference booklet, Vines appeared to recognize natural human reservations towards anal sex. “Sorry if that makes some people uncomfortable,” Vines said in the church nave.
Vines rejected theories that Ruth and Naomi in the Bible were lesbian, for “that would have been incestuous. Maybe that’s not where we want to go.” “There is even less complementary otherness to a same-sex union,” however, “than in an adult incestuous union,” a leading Christian opponent of homosexual revisionism, theologian Robert Gagnon, has noted.
Gagnon’s “approach and tone…admittedly needs improvement,” Vines in a plenary session criticized this central opponent, whose appearance in conference materials and discussions made him conspicuous by absence. Brownson “thoroughly dismantled” Gagnon’s scriptural arguments, Vines said in an exchange with Gagnon on Christian writer Preston Sprinkle’s Facebook page. Brownson and Vines, Gagnon countered, “terrified at the prospect of folding like a house of cards,” have “repeatedly refused” and are “ducking” a “real-time public debate, filmed, and available for others.”
“Gushee, like Vines,” Gagnon has written, “is an intellectual coward” who “deliberately ignores the array of counterarguments.” The “‘gay Christian’ activists and theologians…consistently refuse public dialogue,” Michael Brown, Gagnon’s like-minded colleague, notes. Vines and others have “studiously avoided” Gagnon.
Asked about debating Gagnon at the conference, Brownson suggested that Gagnon, once a fellow graduate school student, first write a response to Brownson’s book Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. Vines in an interview likewise criticized Gagnon for having “not responded in a substantive way to Brownson’s book” while deferring to Brownson as a more knowledgeable debate partner for Gagnon. These arguments have left Gagnon, whose website contains copious materials refuting the contentions raised by Brownson, Vines, and others, unconvinced.
Vines’ was equally unpersuasive elsewhere in his interview. Vines on the conference opening night, for example, had given a “big shout out to our sponsors,” thanked as well in the conference booklet and various placards. These included Daniel Negreanu, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Furnishings, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and the COIL, Gill, and Arcus Foundations.
As noted to Vines, Negreanu is a world championship poker player, divorced in 2007 after two years of marriage. Gold and Williams, meanwhile, have continued to run a successful furniture company after their 14 year homosexual relationship ended in 2002. Gold along with Williams founded Faith in America, an organization that works “to end the harm to LGBT youth and their families from misguided religious teaching.”
The George Soros-funded HRC is also easily recognizable as America’s premier LGBT advocacy organization. Described by Vines as a “gay evangelical Christian,” Peter Drake, meanwhile, founded the pro-LGBT COIL or Coming Out in the Light Foundation. Drake’s biography describes a “born-again Christian” with two children whose “faithful straight marriage ended amicably” after “fighting a slow, losing battle with my sexual orientation.” The LGBT-supporting Gill and Arcus Foundations are also the creations of two homosexual businessmen, Quark founder Tim Gill and Jon Stryker, respectively.
What interest do such organizations have in Christianity? Vines responded that “their interests are all different,” with some sponsors having “LGBT equality” as a main concern.” Asked about increasingly common legal repercussions for Christian opponents of LGBT behavior like SSM, in contrast, Vines declared them to be “not my focus.”
Vines’ Christian family values seemed unusual, to say the least. Vines’ own expressed desires for children included not just the possibility of a same-sex adoption, but also the morally troublesome use of a surrogate mother. Vines claimed to “know people who are perfectly well-adjusted” with their artificial reproductive origins. Also “pretty well adjusted” were supposedly Allyson Robinson’s children, whose father had adopted a female identity, and Robinson’s wife, who, after a “healing process,” has remained married for 20 years.
Vines conceded that RP is “primarily Protestant,” yet seeks to be ecumenical with all Christians, including Catholics, whose catechism declares that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” Vines declared, however, that “sexuality is not one of those things” covered by infallible Catholic teachings. “Sacred Scripture and the entirety of Sacred Tradition,” a Catholic priest has nonetheless written, are “definitive, irreformable and conclusive” concerning the “intrinsically evil nature of homosexual acts.”
Supported by groups with dubious Christian credentials, RP sounds no uncertain trumpet when proclaiming the righteousness of the LGBT cause. Bishop Robinson, for example, claimed he had “come to know God better” in his pro-LGBT “justice work,” receiving thereby through his sufferings a “tiny window” onto the sufferings of a handicapped or black person. Tribulations notwithstanding, “I’m going to Heaven,” Robinson asserted without concern for unrepentant homosexuality, “because God is just so damn good” to save sinners.
RP, though, could not conceal that LGBT agendas have theological feet of clay in Christianity. Robinson himself unwittingly indicated that the RP’s inspiration might not be divine. Sometimes he questions whether he is following “God’s voice or my own ego doing a magnificent impression of God’s voice.”