A new PhD student, and serendipity

An update: I have been accepted into a PhD program in theology (not history, as I initially planned) at the University of Divinity, on the topic of ‘Identity and belonging in queer Christian autobiographies’. In the same month that the Australian government has initiated a public opinion poll on marriage equality, I have committed to three to six years of reading and writing about the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Christians, whose voices are frequently suppressed by both homophobic faith communities and by secular LGBTIQ communities. This thesis isn’t primarily about LGBTIQ themes in scripture, or arguments about marriage, ordination or any other kind of inclusion – it’s about real people’s real lives.

From the conclusion to my research proposal:

Discussions of LGBTIQ Christians in the context of church unity and division frequently conclude that theologians and church leaders need to listen to the people they are discussing. This thesis aims to facilitate such listening. As a systematic study of the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Christians as reported in their own words, it will demonstrate the breadth of voices that have already asserted themselves in these debates. More hopefully, it may show future generations of LGBTIQ Christians that they are not alone, and encourage them to make their voices heard in their own contexts.

I’m not an expert (yet?) on queer theology or on the scriptural arguments for or against inclusion, but I’ve spent twenty years learning about these issues and developing my own identity as a gay Christian. As my proposal hopefully suggests, this project is not meant to just end up on a bookshelf or a digital repository and make no impact on church and society. The Australian marriage equality debate, and the theological muddiness associated with it, is perhaps an opportunity for me to put my research to practical use in real time. So I’m open to working with researchers and activists on the campaign for marriage equality, in particular by adding depth to theological discourse. More broadly, I would welcome any recommendations for expanding my bibliography.