Theologian to argue for close links between Christian theology, queer theory

The Rev. Patrick Cheng.

Christian theology and queer theory might strike many as mutually exclusive. But the two disciplines are in fact intimately related, as a Massachusetts theologian will argue in a Bates College lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Ave.

The Rev. Patrick Cheng offers the annual Zerby Lecture in Contemporary Religious Thought at Bates. The event is sponsored by the Multifaith Chaplaincy. For more information, please call 207-786-8272.

“Christian theology should listen and bridge different groups,” Cheng told the Swathmore College publication The Phoenix earlier this year. “In general, LGBT and Christian groups have a bad reputation for not listening and communicating.”

Cheng’s talk at Bates, Strange Bedfellows: On the Intersections of Christian Theology and Queer Theory, will make a case for a close relationship between the two and provide an overview of queer theology. Weaving together theology, philosophy, gender studies, and ethnic studies, Cheng will discuss issues of erasing boundaries, of race and sexuality, and of temporality.

Cheng is associate professor of historical and systematic theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. He is the author of the forthcoming Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit (Seabury Books, 2013), the first book-length treatment of theologies by LGBT people of color.

He also wrote From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ (Seabury, 2012) and Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (Seabury, 2011).

Cheng holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary, a law degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Yale. He is an ordained minister with the Metropolitan Community Churches and contributes to the Gay Voices sections of the Huffington Post.

The Rayborn Lindley Zerby Lectureship on Contemporary Religious Thought was established with a gift to Bates by the Campus Association in April 1965. The series was initiated the following year by the late Samuel Miller, dean of Harvard Divinity School.

The lectureship honors Zerby, a man who devoted many years to the growth of Bates College as a teacher and as dean of the faculty. As an instructor at Bates, he was promoted to assistant professor of religion in 1932, associate professor in 1935 and full professor in 1942.

Zerby chaired the Department of Religion and Philosophy from 1930 to 1945. He served as director of the College Chapel from 1945 until his retirement, in 1962, and was appointed dean of the faculty in 1958.