Queering Wesley, Queering the Church: Toward an Ecclesial Circumcision of the Heart

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is my paper presentation from the 2017 meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society.

Abstract: Holiness churches find their name and identity in their understanding and practice of holiness, that is, a certain flavor of Christian living in which the ultimate focus and goal is the perfect love of God and neighbor, exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. In so doing, these churches often look to the margins, where Jesus would be most likely to dwell—with the poor, the sick, the outcast. John Wesley himself emphasized the importance of being in community and solidarity with the marginalized, not only to help them in their need, but also to engage with and learn from them as the locus of God’s presence in the world.

This paper will offer a queer feminist reading of John Wesley’s 1733 sermon “The Circumcision of the Heart,” in an effort to show that the perspective of LGBTQ+ people has vital contributions to make within the holiness church that so often marginalizes them. Reading John Wesley queerly offers unique insights for thinking holiness—the core aspect of our faith—as an expansive openness to the grace of God rather than a limiting and restrictive legalism. Indeed such a reading will not be “a setter forth of new doctrines,” but will preach only “Jesus and the resurrection.” That which may sound queer to our ears will reflect only “the most essential duties of Christianity”: to love God with one’s whole heart, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

The paper will consist of three parts: (1) An analysis of the queerness ofthe concept “circumcision of the heart,” aspresented in Wesley’s sermon and in Scripture, (2) An analysis of holiness as queer, and 3) Some consequences and implications for the life and practice of Wesleyan-holiness churches in light of (1) and (2).

Read the full paper HERE.