Historians will cite a few transformational gatherings as defining the shape and future of any given justice movement. The Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 was such a gathering for women’s suffrage and we believe that HRC’s Summer Institute for Religious and Theological Study will create its own lasting impact on the future of religious studies.
Under the searing heat of a Nashville summer in the last week of July, the Summer Institute brought together 14 graduate students from seminaries and universities around the country engaged in LGBTQ scholarship. These students were taught and mentored by some of the most renowned scholars and religious opinion leaders in the country. Along with their instructors and mentors, they bonded over the nexus of theology, religion and queer identities; they navigated collectively the pitfalls of an often harsh and unwelcoming profession; they even tackled media training; and through it all they came away envisioning a new framework for LGBTQ religious scholarship.
Theirs is a vision that begins with the premise that LGBTQ studies cannot succeed if it does not embrace the diversity of all of us in the LGBTQ and allied communities. As one of the instructors, Dr. Rebecca Alpert points out in her powerful forthcoming essay for Religious Dispatches, these students created “a coalition on the axes of race and sexuality” that was nothing short of extraordinary. The students, predominantly women and people of color, theorized the relationship between race and sexuality in ways that will have lasting influence on our understanding of LGBTQ studies and religion. Our work in the Religion and Faith program was transformed by this gathering and we know our movement will be as well. We could not be more proud of this gathering.
Sharon Groves is deputy director, HRC Religion and Faith Program and convener for the first Summer Institute for HRC’s Scholarship and Mentorship Program for Religious and Theological Study.