The Reformation Project (TRP) announced on February 22nd that it doesn’t agree with or promote queer theology.

TRP was launched in 2013 by Matthew Vines, author of the popular book “God and the Gay Christian.” According to its mission statement, the goal of the organization is to “advance LGBTQ inclusion in the church.” 

In the years since it launched, TRP has dedicated itself to providing resources for non-affirming churches to help them learn how to affirm their LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ. So if it doesn’t promote queer theology, what does the organization believe? 

According to their recent article “Reform vs Revolution:  Distinguishing Affirming Theology from Queer Theology,” because queer theology relies heavily on queer theory, it deviates too far from the tenets of orthodox Christian values for them to endorse. 

A core practice of queer theory involves using “queer” not only as an adjective, but also as a verb. To “queer” something is to change it and to embrace what is “not traditional” or “anti-normative.” Queer theology, then, encourages people to challenge normative theological structures.

TRP instead promotes what it calls affirming theology, which assumes that the Bible is inerrant, but has simply been misinterpreted at the expense of LGBT people. Affirming theology holds that better Bible interpretation fixes the problem.

Based on that understanding of affirming theology, TRP believes “that the church should bless same-sex marriages and that gay, bisexual, and transgender people should be fully included in the church as equal members of the body of Christ.”

Vines voiced his misgivings about queer theology during a lecture at TRP’s annual conference this past October, stating “We don’t need to queer the Bible. We just need to interpret it more accurately and faithfully. We don’t need to queer the church. We just need the church to foster greater inclusion, love, embrace, and acceptance of LGBTQ people.”

The responses to TRP’s stance are varied, even within the niche world of LGBTQ+ Christians. 

After Vines shared the article on his social media page, some folks in the comments thanked Vines for how he distinguished queer theology from affirming theology.

Several folks also commented positively on the YouTube recording of Vines’ previously mentioned annual conference lecture on the same topic. Some comments voiced that his presentation made them feel seen as Christians who are gay but conservative in both their beliefs and their politics. 

Not all of the responses, though, have been positive. For many who have followed the organization over the past decade, the content of the article is disappointing, but not surprising. Several former TRP staff members and Leadership Development Cohort participants have taken to social media in the past week to voice their disappointment at the direction TRP is taking.

The most pointed criticisms of TRP’s recent article come from how the organization used the works of the queer theologians they referenced. Numerous people have accused the organization of “cherry-picking” only the most absurd soundbites from queer theologians who are women, nonbinary and/or people of color in an attempt to discredit the field. 

The Center for Prophetic Imagination (CPI) posted its thoughts about the announcement, highlighting the exclusionary nature of the stance:  “As much as TRP has been instrumental in many people’s journeys, including our own, this step is not only wrong, but harmful to many who do not find home in white, evangelical theology.”

The Our Bible app, a digital devotional resource for LGBTQ+ Christians, also shared a post referencing TRP’s article:  “LGB without the Q is so regressive. It’s like feminism without black women. It’s like gay rights without trans rights. It’s freedom for some and never freedom for all.”

CPI’s Director of Digital Outreach Kalie May Hargrove also penned her own personal response which Our Bible published, stating “The reason queer theology exists as an anti-normative movement is because the normative is harmful… Queer theory and theology are needed because the normative is not and will never be affirming of people.”

Good Faith Media contacted TRP to get their thoughts about both their article and the criticism it’s received since it went live last week. As of the publication of our article, TRP has yet to respond.

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More by Kali Cawthon-Freels
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