Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Many American mainline Protestant denominations discriminate against gays and lesbians or have discriminated against them in recent history by denying ordination to "self-avowed practicing homosexuals." This dissertation analyzes such ordination policies and their enforcement in ecclesial courts in three denominations, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Moving from a theoretical framework that integrates Michel Foucault's theories of discourse and subjectivity with Christian body theology, this dissertation argues that the language of the "self-avowed practicing homosexual" discursively produces a homosexual subject that does violence to gays and lesbians in these churches.

The rhetoric of homosexual practice functions in a way that condemns the homosexual person even as it claims to condemn only homosexual acts. The language of avowal intervenes in the coming out experience of gays and lesbians by placing one's coming out in the context of the prohibition of homosexual practice (and personhood). Coming out, then, is an admission of guilt that defines the homosexual as incompatible with ordained ministry and the Christian faith. By placing gays and lesbians in this situation, the rhetoric of the "self-avowed practicing homosexual" is no more than a self-fulfilling prophecy: it produces the homosexual subject that it claims merely to identify, thereby creating the terms under which gays and lesbians are found culpable.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.