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Marcella Althaus-Reid: Queer theology pioneer
Marcella Althaus-Reid was a queer theologian whose controversial books include “Indecent Theology” and “The Queer God.” Born in Argentina, she became the first woman appointed to a chair in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2006. She held that post when she died at age 56 on this date (Feb. 20) in 2009.
Althaus-Reid (May 11, 1952- Feb. 20, 2009) was baptized as a Roman Catholic and grew up in Buenos Aires. She earned her first theological degree there from ISEDET (Instituto Superior Evangelico de Estudios Teologicos), Latin America’s renowned center for studying liberation theology, which emphasizes God’s “preferential option for the poor.”
Next she gained recognition for working on social and community projects in the slums of Buenos Aires. As she continued her studies, Althaus-Reid applied the principles of liberation theology to women and sexual minorities, including LGBT people.
Her first book, “Indecent Theology,” was published in 2000 and established her international reputation as a self-proclaimed “indecent, Latina, bisexual theologian.” The book challenges the sexual oppression behind traditional Christian concepts of decency and introduces theology rooted in the context of people whose sexual freedom has been limited. In 2003 she wrote “The Queer God,” in which she aims to liberate God from the closet of sex-negative Christian thought and embrace God’s role in the lives of LGBTQ people.
According to her obituary in the Herald Scotland, Althaus-Reid was a member of Moderator Nancy Wilson’s advisory theological team in Metropolitan Community Churches and felt at home in MCC’s Edinburgh congregation although she was formally a member of the Quakers and the Church of Scotland.
Her writing style is dense and her books continue to be controversial, even among LGBT people of faith. But nobody denies that Althaus-Reid took risks to raise important issues based on queer life and spirituality.
Her originality and flashes of insight are expressed in the following quotation from “The Queer God”:
“Our task and our joy is to find or simply recognise God sitting amongst us, at any time, in any gay bar or in the home of a camp friend who decorates her living room as a chapel and doesn’t leave her rosary at home when going to a salsa bar.”
Links to books by or about Marcella Althaus-Reid:
Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics
The Queer God
From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology
Liberation Theology and Sexuality
Dancing theology in fetish boots: Essays in honour of Marcella Althaus Reid
More books by Marcella Althaus-Reid
La teología indecente: Perversiones teológicas en sexo, género y política
Il Dio queer
"Marcella Althaus-Reid: Saint of a sexually embodied spirituality" by Hugo Córdova Quero (Jesus in Love)
Prof Marcella Althaus-Reid obituary and memorial page: Light a candle or add your own tribute
Remembering Marcella Althaus-Reid, “Indecent theologian” (Queer Saints and Martyrs - And Others)
“En La Caminata: Remembering Marcella Althaus-Reid” by Alejandro Escalante (Indecent Theology blog)
This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.
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