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HomeHomosexuality and monotheistic traditions

Homosexuality and monotheistic traditions

Homosexualité et traditions monothéistes

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Published on Thursday, March 06, 2014


This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together historians, theologians and sociologists working on homosexuality and one or several of the three great monotheistic traditions. The aim is to attain a broader understanding of the homosexuality issue in religious traditions at a time in which they are witnessing the rise of movements and theologies which advocate the full inclusion of gays and lesbians. The question can be approached from the point of view of religious institutions, LGBT confessional groups or gay and lesbian individual attitudes.



Some research has been done in recent decades about the relationships between homosexuality and religion in theology, history and sociology, but there has been little dialogue between the various disciplines. There have been even fewer attempts to bring together the studies of Christianity, Judaism and Islam either by those from within the traditions themselves or by those outside.

Observation of current developments in both Christianity and Judaism suggests many parallels and perhaps cross-influences as far as the question of homosexuality is concerned (this is at least partly the consequence of the fact that biblical scholarship has become, for the Hebrew Scripture, a broad Jewish-Christian ecumenical endeavour). And engagement with the question in Islam, although perhaps more timid, appears to echo at least some of the preoccupations and developments in Christianity and Judaism. This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together scholars working on homosexuality and one or several of the three great monotheistic traditions. The cross-fertilization resulting from bringing together different perspectives and disciplines on all three monotheistic traditions will be of great value in attaining a broader understanding than is currently available of homosexuality and religion. The question can be approached from the point of view of religious institutions, LGBT confessional groups or gay and lesbian individual attitudes.


From a sociological and historical perspective, we invite papers about the way in which religious institutions deal with homosexuality and are affected by the increasing acceptance of same-sex love in some parts of the world. In western society homosexuality is increasingly seen as a form of sexuality like any other and several countries, including France and the UK, have opened marriage to gays and lesbians. These developments challenge the way in which religious institutions function, in a context in which religion is increasingly pluralistic, moving away from its institutionalised patterns and making room for new forms of religious commitments. The following points call for more research:

  • The strategies developed by religious institutions faced with the increasing plurality of family models.
  • How the traditional sexual and family norms sanctioned by religious institutions have been undermined by the advent of an individualistic, relational conception of the family, which borrows its conceptual framework from democratic culture.
  • How the politicization of sexuality (the legalization of civil partnerships for gays and lesbians or of gay marriage in a number of countries, for example) has had an impact on the various strands of the three monotheistic religions.
  • The arguments developed by the three monotheistic traditions in the debates about gay and lesbian access to marriage, adoption and assisted human reproduction.

From a historical and theological point of view, we invite papers on the way in which religious institutions have conceptualised sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular and how this has led to varying ways in which institutions dealt with the reality of homosexuality.  In particular the following points are worthy of more study:

  • Which reading of religious and theological history has institutional discourse on homosexuality reflected?
  • What use is made of the sources of religious tradition, starting with the Bible and the Qu’ran? In Christianity and Judaism, for example, how does institutional discourse engage with developments in biblical scholarship and how do theological documents use Scripture?
  • How does the theological exploration of homosexuality interconnect with theological tradition about sexuality, marriage, family and human relationships in general?
  • How do religious institutions and members of the communities they represent relate to the increasing visibility of a gay and lesbian constituency within them, of same-sex couples and of gay and lesbian parenting, in particular with the emergence of openly gay ministers, rabbis and even imams.


From a sociological and historical perspective, we invite papers about the way in which LGBT religious groups/movements have developed and the strategies they have adopted in their interaction with religious institutions and/or in the political sphere. What role do they play in gay and lesbian militancy within religious communities and within society at large? How do confessional gay and lesbian movements, denominations (MCC church, for example) or local communities (gay synagogues in New York, for example) fit within and have an impact on their religious tradition at large?

From a theological and historical perspective, we invite contributions concerned with the gay and lesbian reading/reinventing of religious history and theological tradition in LGBT religious movements: how are the resources of tradition put to use to reinvent a religious imagination which opposes homophobia and/or advances the full inclusion of gay and lesbians within the religious community? Which identity readings of holy books emerge from this? What is the impact of the revisiting of religious history and tradition on the way individual gays and lesbians own and adapt their religious tradition? How is this revisiting received by religious institutions?

From all three perspectives, the question of how LGBT groups have owned religious rites in ways that may redefine or affirm what is “traditional” is an important question. In particular, a study of how gay and lesbian appropriation of the marriage rite relates to wider reflections on the meaning of marriage within the respective religious traditions is called for. Other rites also need to be researched, in particular the significance of adapting certain traditional rites and ceremonies to gay life (in some liberal constituencies of Judaism, the tentative use of a transformed Passover Seder to celebrate queer liberation on the Shabbat preceding Christopher Street Day is a case in point) or the creation of new rites, such as coming out ceremonies.


As the privatisation of religious practice and belief increases, individuals tend to favour the quest for personal fulfilment over conformity to religious norms validated by religious institutions. These norms, however, do not simply disappear and they continue to make sense, albeit differently, in a process of individual appropriation and reinterpretation, including in the clergy. How individuals manage the tensions between normative discourses, daily practice and their minority identity is an important area for investigation.

This includes examining the way individuals use their religious imagination to recreate tradition in a way that is no longer homophobic. In particular, literary scholars and theologians have a contribution to make by analysing the way in which some authors (since Oscar Wilde) have engaged with their holy scripture and more largely with the sources of their religious tradition.

Equally, the question of transmission is important. How do gays and lesbians relate their sexual identity to their religious tradition as it was handed down to them by their parents and religious leaders? What kind of religious “tradition” do they want to hand down to their children if they have any (especially in the context of a gay or lesbian couple with children)? What kind of religious heritage do gays and lesbians who have a leading role in their religious community (as rabbis, pastors, imams, theologians, Sunday school teachers, etc) hand down? Do they adapt or re-define traditional modes of transmission?

Organizing committee

  • Rémy Bethmont (Université Paris 8) 
  • Martine Gross (CNRS/EHESS)

A conference organised by Transferts critiques et dynamique des savoirs (EA1569, Université Paris 8), Centre d’études interdisciplinaires des faits religieux (UMR 8216, CNRS/EHESS), Centre d’études féminines et d’études de Genre (Université Paris 8)
Paris, 16-17 March 2015

Scientific committee

  • Céline Béraud (Université de Caen)
  • Rémy Bethmont (Université Paris 8)
  • Mark Chapman (Ripon College/Oxford University)
  • Martine Gross (CNRS/EHESS)
  • Danièle Hervieu-Léger (EHESS)
  • Andrew Mein (Westcott House/Cambridge University)
  • Philippe Portier (EPHE)
  • Florence Rochefort (CNRS)

Please send an abstract (about 500 words) together with a short biographical notice to gross@ehess.fr and remy.bethmont@univ-paris8.fr  by 30th June 2014. Acceptance of your proposal will be notified by 15th July 2014.


  • EHESS - 105 Boulevard Raspail
    Paris, France (75006)
  • Université Paris 8 - 2 rue de la Liberté
    Saint-Denis, France (93200)


  • Monday, June 30, 2014


  • homosexualité, christianisme, judaïsme, islam, mouvements LGBT


  • Martine Gross
    courriel : gross [at] ehess [dot] fr
  • Rémy Bethmont
    courriel : remy [dot] bethmont [at] univ-paris8 [dot] fr

Information source

  • Rémy Bethmont
    courriel : remy [dot] bethmont [at] univ-paris8 [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Homosexuality and monotheistic traditions », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, March 06, 2014, https://calenda.org/278681

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