Pioneers of Gay & Lesbian Theology: Reversing the Discourse.

Obama’s  officially designated “Pride Month” of June has come and gone, but the season of Pride continues – especially here in the UK, where the major Pride celebrations are in any case held later: in July (London) and August (Brighton). I have no compunction continuing my exploration of pride in church, which was in any case my primary motive in starting here at QTC eighteen months ago. Since then, my concerns have tended to wander, but I now want to return to my primary concern, which I do with a major series,  introducing our notable gay and lesbian theologians

One of the useful developments over the 40 years since Stonewall, has been the emergence of a wide range of writing and scholarship, across many fields, from an explicitly gay, lesbian or trans perspective  – or more generally, a “queer” perspective, or GLBT or GLBTQI , or…. Academics and activists may quibble over terminology, but the bottom line is simple. We no longer have to take all our knowledge straining through a hetero-normative filter.

I still remember the awe, the sense of shock I experienced the first time I saw a range of books displayed which included titles such as “Gay and Lesbian Theology”. The very idea at the time appeared to me welcome, but disorienting. If it was true that “theology” totally disapproved of “homosexuals”, how could it be that there could be “Gay” theology? The simple truth of course is that theology is more than just the official stuff propagated by the Vatican. It is more even, than just the formal, academic material churned out by the professional theologians. At its most basic, “doing theology” is no more than speaking about, and asking questions about, God and God’s place in our lives. This obviously includes consideration of the work that is collectively known as the “Magisterium”, but also a great deal more.

“Formal” (i.e. written by “professionals” ) gay and lesbian theology, queer theology, and even indecent theology has come in many forms, with many emphases and concerns. To guide us through the thicket, I shall begin with a summary of its unfolding by the lesbian Catholic theologian, Elizabeth Stuart, as presented in her book “Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Differences“, which I have been re-reading.  Paradoxically, in spite of her title, Stuart in this book is not promoting but critiquing “gay and lesbian” theology, as she argues that gay and lesbian theology has failed, and needs to give way to queer theology. (Yes, there is a difference). Still, in critiquing the earlier work, she offers a most useful commentary on its historical development and sources, before introducing the newer ideas from queer and indecent theology.

The Pioneers.

It may come as a surprise that books on gay and lesbian theology have been around for over three decades, ever since a trio of titles appeared in the 1970’s. Read the rest of this entry »

“How The Catholic Church Made Me Into a Lesbian Feminist”: Elizabeth Stuart

When people ask me how I can possible remain a practicing Catholic while also being an extremely out lesbian feminist, my answer is that it was from the Catholic Church that I learn that God was a God of liberation who takes the side of the poor and oppressed. It was from the Catholic Church that I learnt that God is a god of equality and mutuality. It was from the Catholic Church that I learnt that love knows know boundaries. It was from the Catholic Church that I learnt that the church was not the pope, bishops or priests but the whole people of God, including me. It was at the Mass that I learnt that bodies are indispensable in the praise of God and that they matter. It was at the Mass that I learnt that it was quite alright for men to wear lavish frocks. At convent school I learnt that marriage and family life were not the only options for a Christian. I was introduced to a whole tradition of saints that defied the social conventions of their day and told not only that God loved them for it but that they were my friends.  It was among my Catholic friends that I first encountered liberation and feminist theology. Of course, I also learnt that the church did not live up to what it taught me, there was a slip between vision and reality and this scandalized me and still does. But the vision gave me permission to be lesbian and feminist and actually it was more than permission, in a sense it made me into those things.

Elizabeth Stuart, “Why Bother With Christianity Anyway?

in “Religion Is a Queer Thing: A Guide to the Christian Faith for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Persons

(Elizabeth Stuart, ed.)