2009 Ensign Lecture: “Do Church Debates over Homosexuality Make Progress?”

The 2009 Loring Sabin Ensign Lecture in Contemporary Interpretation of Religious Issues will be delivered by Mark D. Jordan, the Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. Jordan’s topic will be “Do Church Debates over Homosexuality Make Progress?” Jordan’s lecture is scheduled for 5:30 pm, Oct. 27, in Niebuhr Lecture Hall, followed by a reception in the Sarah Smith Gallery.

Jordan“American churches have actively debated homosexuality for half a century now, but with contradictory results,” Jordan contends. “On the one hand, church talk about same-sex desire has changed remarkably—in its detail and volume, in its citation of varieties of evidence, but above all in its tacit assumptions about identity. On the other hand, strident rhetorical patterns first deployed during the 1950s are still endlessly repeated. In this confusion of change and repetition, what might count as progress?”

With a strong background in medieval theology and textual studies, Jordan has in recent years focused on the field of sexual ethics, producing books that are widely regarded to have opened important new avenues of discourse, especially in regard to homosexuality and to ethical reflection on marriage.

Jordan’s books include The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (Chicago 1997), The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism (Chicago 2000), The Ethics of Sex (Blackwell 2001), Telling Truths in Church (Beacon 2002), Blessing Same-Sex Unions (Chicago 2005), and Authorizing Marriage? Canon, Tradition, and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions (Princeton 2006).

Before moving to Harvard, Jordan was the Asa Griggs Candler Professor at Emory University, where he also served as director of the Program in Comparative Literature and Religion and as chair of the Committee on LGBT Studies. Jordan also taught for many years at the University of Notre Dame. He was educated at St. John's College (in Annapolis and Santa Fe), the Universidad de Granada, and the University of Texas, where he received a doctorate in philosophy in 1977.