Queering Liturgy

Participants in the Queering Liturgy seminar share work at the intersection of LGBTQ religious studies, queer theory and liturgical studies. We seek to discern and develop the ways in which queer sensibilities shape and transform the theological performance of faith communities within the context of worship. Our work includes: criticism and/or deconstruction of normative traditions, especially in regards to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, class and their intersections; analysis of received liturgical theologies, practices and traditions with a “queer eye;” construction of liturgical theologies and practices based on the generative insights of queer theory; and the revision and creation of ritual practices in light of the particularities of LGBTQ lives.

Convener

Susan Blain
blains@ucc.org

Seminar Report 2020

 

Convener

Scott Haldeman (Convener pro tem standing in for Sharon Fenne- ma), Associate Professor of Worship, Chicago Theological Seminary

Members in Attendance

Susan Blain, Steph Budwey, Bryan Cones, Jill Crain- shaw, Scott Haldeman, Jason McFarland, Mike McMahon, Lis Valle-Ruiz, Janet Walton

Visitors in Attendance

Kat Olson, Terry Todd, Dan Schlorff

Description of Work

Always operating, fittingly, just outside of the normal within the academy, the seminar experimented with a new meeting schedule model in Atlanta. We held conversations all day Friday, had discussions over dinner on both Thursday and Friday evenings, and, then, dispersed to other seminars on Saturday. The experiment was successful, allowing, again, for those committed to other seminars to contribute to our on-going work.

After introducing ourselves at table on Thursday afternoon, we had a general orientation to the work of the group for new participants—exploring the ideas and practices that emerge at the intersection of liturgical theology, LGBTQIA+ lives, and queer theory. Then, Bryan Cones discussed his work on reading liturgies closely and comparatively to tease out how they structure gender dynamics in relation to LGBTQIA+ realities. We congratulate Bryan on his earning of the PhD from Melbourne University this past year and look forward to his future projects.

On Friday morning, we focused on Lis Valle-Ruiz’ recent and upcoming liturgical/performative explorations of identity, faith, and sexuality. As her alter-ego, Sophia Divinitrix; High Priestess Unrobed, Lis embodies (and so reveals) how we negotiate varieties of roles imposed by particular cultural contexts while holding on to our particularities of ethnicity, language, gender, sexuality and so forth. She is gearing up for a series of nine services of this type in April; we look forward to hearing of the insights and practices that emerge from these next year. In addition, Dan Schlorff also introduced us to his recent DMin project on confronting toxic masculinity within and without the church. Finally, we discussed the emergence of the new Book of Worship within the United Church of Christ and especially the revision of the ordination rite in which Sue Blain and others are attempting to queer the narrative of Christian religious leadership, by adding names of people from scripture who have not usually been recognized in such rites, such as Junia (Romans 16: 7), and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8: 21-40).

On Friday afternoon, we explored Melissa Wilcox’ remarkable ethnography, Queer Nuns: Religion, Activism, and Serious Parody, which involved a five-year long immersion in the life, thought and praxis of a queer male religious order of nuns, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. We posit (and will test) that her concept of “serious parody” is central to the task of queering liturgy. We then began to plan for 2021.

Over dinner, Steph Budwey and Mike McMahon gave us an update on the queer hymnal project, “Songs for the Holy Other” at https://thehymnsociety.org/hymn- search-holy-other/, which has been completed, is available as a downloadable pdf, and has been acquired by at least 3,000 pastors, congregations, and scholars. In sum, we had a rich, improvised meeting!

Other Work and Plans of the Seminar for the Future

In 2021, in Seattle, we   plan an agenda based on the following ideas:

  • sharing new work, especially Sharon Fennema’s developing manuscript of “A Primer on Queering Liturgy,” and a new article on sacramental theology and queer theory by Haldeman;
  • to discuss Steph Budwey’s developing book manuscript on intersex persons in Germany;
  • to explore Wilcox’ theory of “serious parody” in relation to “extraordinary form of the mass,” led by Jason McFarland;
  • to read a crucial queer theory text together (we are currently contemplating weather Marcella Althaus-Reid’s Indecent Theology and/or Ashon Crawley’s Black Pentecostal Breath); and,
  • to identify additional trajectories of inquiry at the intersection LGBTQ+ experience, queer theory, and liturgical theology/practice.

I also note, with deep gratitude, that Susan Blain, Minister for Worship and Gospel Arts in the United Church of Christ, has taken up the mantle of convener of our seminar.

Seminar Report 2019

 

Convener

Scott Haldeman, Associate Professor of Worship, Chicago Theo- logical Seminary

Members in Attendance

Steph Budwey, Scott Haldeman, Colleen Hartung, Clemens Leonard, Martin Luestraeten, Mike McMahon, and Lis Valle-Ruiz

Visitors in Attendance

Erik Christensen

Description of Work

Always operating, fittingly, just outside of the normal within the academy, the seminar experimented with a new meeting schedule model in Denver. We held conversations all day Friday, including the lunch-time sidebar slot, and then dispersed to other seminars on Saturday. The attempt seemed a success, allowing for those committed to other seminars to contribute to our on-going work. Discussions centered on four topics: a queering hymnody project, marriage equality in the US and Germany, questioning the presumption of “once only” baptism in light of transgender realities, and works in progress by Valle-Ruiz and Haldeman.

Because of the tenacity of Steph Budwey and the generous help of Mike McMahon and the Hymn Society, the dream of a collection of hymns contribute to the widening of the Body’s welcome and honor of LGBTQ+ persons is happening! See (and contribute to) the search for “Songs for the Holy Other” at https://the- hymnsociety.org/hymn-search-holy-other/, which will be launched later in 2019.

Participants from Muenster and Mainz shared stories of the fate of those who have simply asked to discuss so-called “marriage equality” in the German theological education context. This led to discussion of queer critiques of the marriage and the wedding. Scott Haldeman will share his research and published work on the topic as a follow-up and we will return to this next year.

While honoring the theological commitments behind the ecumenical consensus that baptism is to be administered only once, urgent pastoral questions now arise as those who claim a new body and a new name across the gender binary request re-baptism. Erik Christensen suggested pivoting the debate from asking what liturgical theology “allows” to how do we respect and revere those who, as an act of  great courage, share their faith journeys and request liturgical response? Lis Valle-Ruiz and Scott Haldeman each shared a recent article in workshop style—asking for critique to guide future work:

  • Valle-Ruiz, “Less Fear, More Joy: Queering Preaching Through Burlesque,” and, Haldeman, “The Queer Body at the Wedding”

Finally, we also joined the Feminist group in the hour following lunch for a discussion of the ritual process surrounding the election, installation, and subsequent ministry of the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church. Bishop Karen Oliveto and her wife, Robin Ridenour, were present. We are grateful for the hospitality and the rich discussion.

Other Work and Plans of the Seminar for the Future

In 2020, in Atlanta, we plan:

  • to share new work, especially Sharon Fennema’s developing manuscript of a Primer on Queering Liturgy,
  • to examine the growth of the “Songs for the Holy Other” database and the sung theology that undergirds it, and,
  • to identify additional trajectories of inquiry at the intersection LGBTQ+ experience, queer theory, and liturgical theology/practice.

We also note, with deep gratitude, that Sharon Fennema has taken up the mantle of convener of our seminar.