The Boston University School of Theology (a United Methodist institution) recently hosted a conference entitled “Queering the Church.” BU has removed its page on the event, but the UM Confessing Movement kept the details. Here’s how it was advertised:
Queering the Church Conference has as its main question, ‘Can the Church be Queered, and if it can, how?’ The conference’s format is panel discussion between pastoral and practical theologians, systematic theologians, and critical theorists.
Synopsis: The conference will raise several important questions in its panels.
What happens to the church when it is queered, where queering as a verb can denote a rethinking of sexual identities as well as a challenging of normative understandings of ecclesiology and liturgy?
Can a queering of theology do more than critique and deconstruct traditional church structures, practices, performances, and self-understandings by pointing the way forward to the renewal of the church by suggesting new, more liberating and truthful structures, practices, performances, and self-understandings?
Is ecclesiology a good meeting place for queer, practical, and classical theologies? [Emphases in original]
Sadly, I couldn’t make it to Boston for this, so I’ll depend on Ray Nothstine of the Institute on Religion and Democracy for the highlights:
Speakers at the event on the Boston University campus delved into discussions of “hardcore queer theology,” “triadic unions,” “erotic relation with the divine,” and the “queerness of God.”
The first speaker at “Queering the Church” was Professor Mark Jordan from the United Methodist-affiliated Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. Jordan, in his lecture on “Theater of Divine Bodies,” deconstructed traditional Christian teachings on sexuality in favor of a radical sexual liberation theology.
There is an urgent “need to lift the ban on queer love,” Jordan concluded. “The language of the queer church is a hot breath of desire.”
Responding to Jordan was Robert Goss, a former Jesuit priest, the current pastor of North Hollywood Metropolitan Community Church, and the author of Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto and Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up. Goss identified himself as a “queer theologian in a queer church.”
“I do not deny the presence of Jesus in institutional churches,” Goss commented, “but we have to widen the concept of church beyond institutions.” He dismissed the United Methodist Church as “a church of empty rhetoric,” because it denies ordination to practicing homosexuals.
Goss proclaimed enthusiastically that “hybrid spiritualities are the emerging spiritualities in our culture.” He noted his own personal mixing of Christianity and Buddhism within his spiritual journey.
Marcella Althaus Reid, a University of Edinburgh professor, focused on the “liberation of ecclesiology from heteroconstraints.” Althaus Reid said, “My reflection is that the church should become a space of dis/grace, in order to allow diversity and creation in its midst.”
There’s more, but the bile is rising, and I leave it to interested readers to look at the rest. Why mainline churches tolerate this kind of stuff at denominationally supported schools I can’t begin to guess, and that’s especially the case in United Methodism, where the Book of Discipline specifically states that “The practice of homosexuality is inconsistent with Christian teaching” and prohibits the any use of annual conference funds “to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.” (The only exceptions to this prohibition is that it “shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic” or apply to “dialogs or educational events where the Church’s official position is fairly and equally represented,” which certainly doesn’t seem to have been the case in Boston.) But what’s the rule of the church when there’s a Cause to be advocated?