For many, ‘Christianity’ and ‘queerness’ are seemingly incompatible. There is a certain section of Christians who are very vocal about condemning homosexuality, same-sex and same-gender loving folks, and a misunderstanding of queerness is present in many churches. But there are queer theologians who have blazed trails and forged open doors for their faith and their gender identity & sexuality to be known as not only compatible, but a holy combination. These writers and activists allow the broader Christian community to read Scripture and understand our shared traditions in new ways that show the vibrant, rich spectrum of human sexuality and gender expression.
Though by no means exhaustive, below is a list of six influential Queer theologians who have impacted the world for good.
The Rev. Dr. Patrick S. Cheng is an Episcopal priest, attorney, and theologian. He serves as the theologian in residence at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and as an Associate Priest at The Church of the Transfiguration, the historic Anglo-Catholic parish in Midtown Manhattan also known as "The Little Church Around the Corner”. Cheng is the author of Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (2011), which has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. He is also the author of From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ (2012) and Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit (2013). Cheng has contributed to a number of other works on the intersections of theology and sexuality, including The Queer Bible Commentary (2006), Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection, Second Edition (2010), and The Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender (2014).
Recommended Reading: Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology
The Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey is the first out Black lesbian elder in The United Methodist Church. From her position in academia, Lightsey has become a prominent activist, educator, author and blogger on a range of social justice issues. Lightsey has advocated within the LGBTQ community for the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy and to ensure marriage equality. As a board member of the Reconciling Ministries Network she has critiqued Christian churches for their homophobic policies and practices. Among other activist work, she traveled to the 2012 and 2016 United Methodist General Conferences to speak out strongly for justice for LGBTQ persons.
Recommended Reading: Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology
Known for her work in liberation, feminist, and queer theology, bi-sexual Argentinian theologian Dr. Marcella Althaus-Reid sparked controversy with her works. She was influenced by the liberative pedagogies of Paulo Freire, and became the first woman appointed to a chair in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. Her book, The Queer God, aims to liberate God from the closet of sex-negative Christian thought and embraces God’s role in the lives of LGBTQIA+ people. She argued that an embodied spirituality must also be sexual and pushed people of faith to honor their sexuality as a path to holiness.
Recommended Reading: The Queer God
John J. McNeill
Father John McNeill was an openly gay Roman Catholic priest whose scholarly writings helped galvanize Catholic LGBTQIA+ folks. He devoted his life to spreading the good news of God’s deep abiding love for gay and lesbian Christians. The public nature of his work brought chastisement from the Vatican and he was expelled from the Jesuit order in 1987 for challenging the church’s teachings on queer Christians, gender identity, and sexuality. He carried on a psychotherapy practice and taught extensively on the connections between mental health and spirituality. He was awarded the National Human Rights Award in 1984 for his contributions to lesbian and gay rights.
Bishop Yvette Flunder is an American womanist, preacher, pastor, activist, and singer from San Francisco, CA. She is the senior pastor of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland, California and Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. While she grew up in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), she experienced a self-imposed exile when she realized that being same-gender loving and an active member of that denomination would cause conflict. She eventually found her way to the United Church of Christ (UCC) and has been active in the AIDS and transgender communities while advocating for marriage equality. Her writings explore radical inclusivity, leading from the margins, and centering those typically excluded from society.
Recommended Reading: Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion
Kelly Brown Douglas
The Very Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is an African-American Episcopal priest, womanist theologian, and the inaugural Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary. She is also the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral. She has written five books, including The Black Christ (1994), Black Bodies and Black Church: A Blues Slant (2012) and Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (2015). Her book Sexuality in the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective was groundbreaking for openly addressing homophobia within the black church. She is a pioneering voice addressing sexual issues in relation to the black religious community and has been very active in advocating equal rights for LGBTQ persons.
Recommended Reading: Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective
Any theologians left out that you thought should make the list? Let us know below!