Praised and critiqued, lauded and contested – John Boswell’s scholarship continues to provoke questions, inspire new academic work, and, in many ways, set the bar high for LGBTQ religious scholarship. In February, 2006, CLGS brought together some of the leading voices in both academic and activist circles to consider the legacy of Boswell’s scholarship and the path it continues to chart for so much work that still needs to be done. CLGS was pleased to make that conference the occasion for establishing a special endowment fund to honor John Boswell’s life and scholarship by creating the annual CLGS John E. Boswell Lecture, which brings leading scholars in LGBTQ religious studies to the PSR campus each spring semester.
In 1980 John Boswell published a book that historian of sexuality Michel Foucault called “a truly groundbreaking work.” Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century charted bold territory in both historical and religious scholarship, setting a new benchmark of academic excellence for gay and lesbian studies. Equally significant, if not more controversial, was his 1993 book, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, in which he tried to show historical precedence for the religious blessing of same-sex relationships.
In 1975 Dr. Boswell joined the Yale University faculty as an assistant professor after studying at the College of William and Mary and Harvard University. In 1990 he was named the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History at Yale where he later served a two-year term as the chair of the history department. In 1987 he also helped organize the Lesbian and Gay Studies Center at Yale.
Martin Duberman, founder of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York, considered Dr. Boswell “one of the major innovative figures in gay and lesbian scholarship. John was very brave and pioneering. And very brilliant.”
Although John Boswell died from AIDS-related illnesses in 1994, his trail-blazing efforts in historical scholarship continue to shape and inspire academic, activist and faith communities of all traditions. The annual John E. Boswell Lecture honors that pioneering legacy.
Upcoming Boswell Lecture:
Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey: “The Big Lie and Its Old Hatred.”
Past Boswell Lectures:
Prof. Rolf Nolasco: “Queer Bodies: Colliding, Expanding, Flourishing.”
Lama Rod Owens: “Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation Through Anger.”
Thirteenth Annual Boswell Lecture: 2020
Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson: “Enfleshing Eros, Healing Earth: A Queerly Christian Performance of Ecological Renewal in Three Acts.”
Dr. Johari Jabir: “Peace Be Still: Rev. James Cleveland and The Paradox of Peace in the Modern Civil Rights Movement.”
Dr. Sean Burke, Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College: “Reading The Bible with the Eunuchs.”
Jose Antonio Vargas: “Borders and Identity.”
Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School: “The Dancing Mind/Queer Black Bodies.” Click for video.
Kate Kendell, Esq.: “Liberating Religious Liberty”. Click for video
Professor Lisa Isherwood, Director of Theological Partnerships at the University of Winchester (UK): “How Does a Queer Feminist Remain a Christian?” Click for video
Orlando Espín, Th.D., Professor of Systematic Theology in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego: “Who is Human? – The Subversive Question at the Heart of Christianity.” Click for video
Patrick S. Cheng, Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Episcopal Divinity School: “The Rainbow Connection: Bridging Asian American and Queer Theologies.” Click for video, part 1 and part 2
Virginia Burrus, Professor of Early Christianity at Drew University’s Theological School: “What’s Queer About Christian Couples? Engaging Augustine’s Theology of Marriage.” Click for video
Dale B. Martin, Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University: “A Gay, Male, Christian, Sexual Ethic.” Click for video