has taken decades for the most liberal of religious groups in the
United States to open their arms and welcome gay and lesbian believers
as full participants in their congregations or as their pastors.
Much of the rest of the religious world remains far from the
adoption of an open and affirming position toward homosexuality and
even the faithful gay and lesbian members in their own congregations.
Controversy over this issue divides many denominational groups.
Yet within this context many lesbian and gay persons of faith
have created thriving independent and innovative counter-institutional
forms of religious life as alternatives to the forms that excluded
them. This online course will touch on the theology and history of the
tension between homosexuality and religious organizations and will
more fully explore the innovative organizations created by and the
multifaceted methods adopted by gays and lesbians to meet their
spiritual needs in modern American society.
gain a better understanding of the diversity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender (LGBT) religious
life in the U.S.
explore the actual and future potential alterations these religious
expressions can make to the American religious context.
understand how LGBT religious expressions and organizations are
affected by and respond to contemporary cultures pressures and
societal shifts that are taking place.
gain a appreciation of one LGBT religious group through firsthand
majority of the course will be conducted through online reading and
conversation on a web-based discussion board.
We use a web site service called Blackboard as our online
classroom. There will be a participant/observation direct
research component to the course which will include visiting an actual
LGBT religious organization or expression such as an Open &
Affirming church, a MCC congregation, or some other LGBT religious
reality. The course is somewhat lighter on required readings,
but will heavily emphasize student interaction and participation in
the weekly class discussion. There
will be short book review paper for a chosen book, a class
presentation on one’s research project and a final 15 page research
paper. There may be some live chat - through the Blackboard
software - but it will not be mandatory to attend. Technologically,
students will only need a connection to the Internet and email, and
probably Adobe reader and other common Internet add-ons.
course will be oriented toward an affirming gay liberationist
perspective but as with all Hartford Seminary courses, open to a
diversity of opinions, nevertheless the conversation in the course
must be strictly non-offensive. This course will not engage in
ethical or theological debate, but rather sociologically and
culturally explore the diverse ways that the LGBT persons and groups
are religious, even given the relative unwillingness of US religious
organizations to allow them to participate fully. Differing
opinions are absolutely acceptable; however, personal attacks and a
lack of consideration of the feelings of others (whether on the right
or the left) will not be tolerated.
Each student is required to complete the weekly reading assignments
that will include both the assigned texts for that week and also the
professor’s written introduction to the topic (lecture) and the
postings of fellow students (see next requirement).
Each student is required to post at least one substantive response to
the weekly discussion topic and one substantive response to another
student’s posting for that week.
This is considered the participation criteria, much as coming
to class and being engaged in the conversation would be in a
face-to-face course. It is absolutely crucial that students take these posts
seriously if they want to receive full credit for the participation
component of the course, and a good grade!
Each student will write a two to three page review of a book they
choose to read from the course bibliography that will be available the
first week of class. This
review will be due in late October.
Details of this assignment will be posted on the course web
site after class begins.
Each student will be required to choose a local expression of a LGBT
religious life to examine and research firsthand (such as an Open
& Affirming church, a MCC congregation, a LGBT play with spiritual
implications, or some other LGBT religious reality – students are
encouraged to be creative in thinking about this research).
Material will be presented in class about how to do participant
observation and interviews with this group, its leader if any and
members. If it is
impossible to engage in firsthand research, an online religious
reality may be substituted but only with the permission of the
this experience and research, each student will write a “class
presentation” (an informal reflection and summary of their research
A final 15 page research paper on an issue arising from the course
will be due several weeks after the end of class.
The topic for this paper must receive prior approval by the
professor. It can be
somewhat theological, ethical or historical in nature but it also must
show relevance to the aims of the course and the material covered, as
well as have a sociological/cultural theoretical sensitivity.
I would suggest that students consider using their observations
and research, as material for their final paper but this isn’t a
requirement. It may be
possible for students to have their papers posted to the Hartford
Institute web site if the professor and student negotiate this after
the course ends.
participation – reading, posting and responding to others’ posts
review – 10%
presentation of research experience and findings – 10%
paper – worth 40%
Introduction to the topic, the professor and the course format
Scripture and Theology
History of Gays in Religious Organizations and questions of
gender and religion
and other such groups
Conflicted – debates and tensions within certain religious
Hostile religious groups and the Ex-gay and Ex-Ex-gay movements
7 --- Metropolitan
Community Church movement
Other Sectarian Religious Groups – Unity, Radical Faeries,
Catch up/ reading/ research week – no reading assignments or
A Sect of One’s Own – Individualism and spiritual seeking
Diverse LGBT cultural expressions – Are they religion?
Online Chats, Support groups and the role of the Internet
The Implications of LGBT spirituality and the future of
weekly class format:
Tuesday of each week I will post a mini-lecture of my introduction to
that week’s topic along with one or two discussion questions related
to the readings assigned for that week.
The assigned readings and my posting should be read by Thursday
or Friday of that week. A
student’s response to the reading and my discussion question should
be posted by Friday or Saturday at the latest. The student’s reply
to another student(s)’ posts should be on the discussion board by
Sunday or Monday of the following week.
It will be inevitable that the conversation from one week will
carry over into the next week, but we will try to keep that to a
readings will be available online except for the two books all
students are required to purchase.
Also, students can get remote access to Hartford Seminary’s
library holdings and use of internally licensed resource material.
All seminary administrative staff and the course professor are
available by email and phone. More
information about distance education courses at Hartford Seminary can
be found at http://www.hartsem.edu/academic/distance.htm
Language and terminology:
This course, like the larger LGBT community, will struggle with
terms. I will attempt to
use as inclusive LGBT language as possible in our course.
However I realize that homosexual, gay, orientation, queer,
LGBT, GLBT, hir, etc. are as contested politically as they are
difficult to work easily into writing and the spoken word.
I am sensitive to these issues but it will also be an issue
that we will continue to deal with throughout the course.