A church for others? Queering the ecclesiology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Ashwin, Thyssen (2020-04)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis is a study of the ecclesiology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906‒1945). It employs the insights of queer theology and queer theory as a hermeneutical lens. Presently, Bonhoeffer’s theology is interpreted in light of contemporary issues; however, not much research has been produced linking his thought with queer theology. This thesis, then, contributes to this discourse focus; that is, it asserts to present queer theology as helpful hermeneutic within the theological mainstream in a transgressive manner. As such, this study queers the theology of Bonhoeffer; unearthing themes that may be dismissed by the present discourse. Queering the ecclesiology of Bonhoeffer, this thesis is divided into five chapters. Chapter one presents the logic of the study. It discusses the background; it articulates the problem statement; it presents the research questions and the hypothesis. The methodology the study employs is literary, interpretive and constructive. Therefore, it offers a close reading of primary texts by utilising queer theory and queer theology as a hermeneutical lens. The chapter does so by noting the importance of ‘reading from the underside.’ Chapter two provides an overview of both queer theory and queer theology as academic disciplines. Queer theory is argued to be discursive opposition to pervasive heteronormative epistemologies. By highlighting the critical contributions of Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler, the chapter presents queer theory as discursively helpful. Following this, attention is afforded to queer theology; understood to be religious reflection on the experiences of those who are LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and sexual minorities). Moreover, queer theology is conceptualised as radical love; which destabilises traditional forms of theologising. The insights of Marcella Althaus-Reid, Gerard Loughlin and Elizabeth Stuart are quite helpful by articulating the need for considering queer theology as a valuable hermeneutic. In chapter three Bonhoeffer’s Sanctorum Communio and Life Together are discussed as primary texts informed by a queer theological reading. Using a queer theological hermeneutic, the chapter explores questions that are present in these works that may be worth considering for our contemporary ecclesiological conceptions, as they concern those who are LGBTI+. Chapter four explores the reception of Bonhoeffer’s theology by South Africa’s theological community. The influence of Bonhoeffer is discussed in two sections: first, his ecumenically diverse and intergenerational reception from the 1960s until the present; second, the realisation of his othered ecclesiology in South African social and religious life, paying attention to the developments in the Dutch Reformed Church’s sexuality discussions. In chapter five a proposal for ecclesial queering is presented for the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa; by focusing on the discursive possibilities in its discussion of human sexuality. The chapter also reviews the research questions presented; it also offers recommendations for future research regarding Bonhoeffer studies and queer theology.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis is ‘n studie van die ekklesiologie van Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). Dit gebruik die insigte van queer teologie en queer teorie as ‘n hermeneutiese lens. Die teologie van Bonhoeffer word tans interpreteer in die lig van kontemporêre kwessies; daar is egter nie veel navorsing gelewer wat sy denke met queer teologie verbind nie. Hierdie tesis dra dus by tot hierdie diskoersfokus; dit wil sê, dit voer queer teologie aan as behulpsame hermeneutiek vir teologiese diskoers. Hierdie studie queer die teologie van Bonhoeffer deur die onthulling van temas wat deur die huidige diskoers van die hand gewys word. Die tesis word verdeel in vyf hoofstukke. Hoofstuk een bied die logika van die studie aan. Dit bespreek die agtergrond; dit artikuleer die probleemstelling; dit bied die navorsingsvrae en die hipotese aan. Die metodologie wat die studie gebruik, is literêr, interpretatief en konstruktief. Daarom bied dit ‘n noukeurige lees van primêre tekste deur die gebruik van queer teorie en queer teologie as ‘n hermeneutiese lens. Die hoofstuk doen dit deur die diskursiewe gebruik van ‘n ‘lees van die onderkant.’ Hoofstuk twee bied ‘n oorsig van queer teorie as die queer teologie as akademiese dissiplines. Dit word aangevoer dat ‘n queer teorie diskursiewe teenkanting teen heteronormatiewe epistemologieë bied. Deur kennis te neem van die die kritiese bydraes van Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick en Judith Butler, bied die hoofstuk queer teorie as behulpsaam vir die diskoers. Hierna word aandag geskenk aan queer teologie; wat verstaan word as godsdienstige besinning oor die ervarings van diegene wie LGBTI+ (lesbiese, gay, biseksuele, transendente, interseksuele en seksuele minderhede) is. Queer teologie word gekonseptualiseer as radikale liefde; wat tradisionele vorme van teologisering destabiliseer. Die insigte van Marcella Althaus-Reid, Gerard Loughlin en Elizabeth Stuart is baie nuttig deurdat dit queer teologie as waardevolle hermeneutiese lens uiteensit. In hoofstuk drie word Bonhoeffer se Sanctorum Communio en Life Together as primêre tekste bespreek, ingelig deur ‘n queer teologiese lesing. Deur die gebruik van 'n queer teologiese hermeneutiek, ondersoek die hoofstuk vrae wat in hierdie werke aanwesig is, wat behulpsaam is vir ons eietydse ekklesiologiese opvattings, en hoe dit betrekking het op diegene wie LGBTI+ is. In hoofstuk vier word die resepsie van Bonhoeffer se teologie deur die Suid-Afrikaanse se teologiese gemeenskap ondersoek. Die invloed van Bonhoeffer word in twee afdelings bespreek: eerstens sy ekumeniese en intergenerasie ontvangs vanaf die 1960s tot die hede; tweedens, die verwesenliking van sy andersoortige ekklesiologie in die Suid-Afrikaanse sosiale en godsdienstige lewe, met aandag op die ontwikkelinge in die Nederduise Gereformeerde Kerk se seksualiteitsgesprekke. In hoofstuk vyf word ‘n voorstel vir kerklike queering vir die Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk in Suider-Afrika aangebied; deur te fokus op die diskursiewe moontlikhede in die bespreking van menslike seksualiteit. Die hoofstuk hersien ook die navorsingsvrae wat aangebied is; dit bied ook aanbevelings vir toekomstige navorsing met betrekking tot Bonhoeffer-studies en queer teologie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107896
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