David B. Smith

Doctoral Candidate

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Research Associate in Research Group Structures of Dependency in the Late Antique and Early Medieval
Room: 3.022  
Niebuhrstraße 5
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 / (0)228 / 73 62578

Smith_David 2.jpg
© Barbara Frommann

Academic Profile

Masculinities, Homoeroticism and Dependencies in the Early Medieval Penitentials & Ecclesial Law

My dissertation project asks, how did the sexual and gender norms codified in early medieval penitential literature generate new and undergird extant socio-religious structures of asymmetrical dependency concerning masculinities and homoeroticism
in both ecclesial & civil law?

My project grapples with the entanglements of gender, homoeroticism, and covert asymmetrical dependencies in early medieval penitential literature & ecclesial law. In ways both dissimilar and parallel to our own era, religio-cultural sexual and gender norms acted upon early-medieval individuals who deviated from proscribed behavioral patterns in both covert and overt ways. The ‘sexual code(s)’ outlined in the early- medieval Penitentials offer examples of how the foundations were laid for subsequent  sexualized/gendered dependency structures in law, theology, and liturgical praxis.

The three-fold approach of the research group (legal, theological, praxiological) provides a valuable framework for interpreting the power relationship between the norms enshrined in the penitentials and a specified cohort, i.e., males who engaged in homoerotic behavior. My project might also provide valuable insights into the complexities and intersectionalities involved in dependency structures across contexts and cohorts. The primary methodology employed will be that of historical-critical content analysis of the physical, syntactical, referential, and thematic units to be found within extant penitential manuscripts. Depending on the state of the documents, further archival communication research may become necessary. In light of the functional nature of the penitentials, this project will also draw upon hagiographies, classical historiographies, and (possibly) sermons or other faith formation materials from the period to complement my analysis of focal texts. Finally, to ascertain the nature of the entanglements between penitential texts and subsequent developments in ecclesial & civil law, a detailed analysis of the process of synodal promulgation, rejection, and codification of penitential remedies for 'sin-sickness' will be conducted. The goal is to map the conceptual, legal, and praxiological development of ‘fornication’ as it relates to homoeroticism and gender construction (specifically focused on masculinities) on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of human development in church and society.

Since 2021
PhD studies in Protestant Theology (Church History), University of Bonn, Germany

M.A. in Ecumenical Studies, University of Bonn, Germany

Graduate Studies in Social Work as part of the M.Div./MSW Partnership, Princeton Theological Seminary and Rutgers University, United States

M.Div. with a Graduate Certificate in Gender, Women & Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, United States

B.A. in Religion & Philosophy, Montreat College, United States

since 2021
Research Associate in Research Group Structures of Dependency in the Late Antique and Early Medieval Western Church, University of Bonn, Germany

Research Assistant, Montreat College, United States

Bible & Religion Department Tutor, Montreat College, United States

Nominee for the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Preis/German Academic Exchange Service Prize (DAAD Prize), Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Bonn, Germany

Seward Hiltner Award in Theology & Personality, Faculty of Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary

Since 2021
Editorial Consultant for Religious & Gender Studies, Social Sciences & Development Review, Institute of Human and Social Development (IHSD) of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines


Since 2021
Ambassador, Master of Arts in Ecumenical Studies Program, Faculty of Protestant Theology and Center for Religion & Society, University of Bonn, Germany


Substitute Examinations Committee Representative, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Bonn, Germany

Shreveport Presbyterian Scholarship

Euler Scholarship, Synod of the Mid-Atlantic of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Presbyterian Study Grant, Presbyterian Church (USA)

European Society of Intercultural Theology & Inter-Religious Studies

  • 2022. “Yet More Light… From an Apologetics of Queerness to RE-De-Normalization in the Intra-Religious Protest Movement for Inclusion in the Presbyterian Church (USA).” Power and Authority in Religious Protest Section at the Biennial Conference, University of Bonn, Germany

Patristische Arbeitsgemeinschaft

  • 2022. “Sodomites, Effeminates and other Fornicators: Masculinities, Homoeroticism and Dependencies in the Early Medieval Penitentials & Ecclesial Law.” Dissertation Project Poster Presentation, Bi-Annual Conference, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Mainz, Germany


Society for the Study of Theology

  • 2021. “Liberative Intercultural Linguistics: Young Theologians, Ecumenical Exposure Programs & Human Sexuality.” SST Post-Graduate Conference, Newnham College, University of Cambridge, UK


European Academy of Religion

  • 2021. “Woven Confessions: Religious Symbology & the Intra-Ecclesial Struggle for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the PCUSA.” Prophets, Prognosticators and the Theo-logics of Protest Panel, Annual Meeting, University of Münster, Germany


American Academy of Religion                                                

  • 2018. “Beyond the Vigil: Ecumenical & Interfaith Youth Work as a Catalyst for Public Theology.” Religion & Leadership Section, Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Region, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
  • 2017. “Beyond the Closet: Reinhold Niebuhr and the Queer Ethic of Pride.” Co-Authored with Robert T. Drake, The Women’s Caucus & Feminist Liberation Theologians Network (FLTN), Annual Meeting, Boston, MA

Selected Public Lectures and Panels

  • 2021. “Ugnayan at Talastasan - Human Rights and Beyond.” Institute of Human and Social Development (IHSD) Forum, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila
  • 2019. “Faith and Identity: Finding Safety, Risking Responsibility.” Compass Gathering, The Agnes Irwin School, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • 2019. “Bonhoeffer: An Ecumenical Youth Worker.” Lenten Lecture Series, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • 2018. “Facilitating Conversations on Identity and Meaning in Church and Community.” Panel, Ministry Incubators & Presbytery of Philadelphia (PCUSA)
  • 2018. “Niebuhr had a Point.” Lenten Lecture Series: Three Weeks with Reinhold Niebuhr, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • 2016. “Childhood Suicide in the LGBT Community from a Social, Economic and Religious Perspective.” Lecture & Panel Discussion, Raices Cultural Center, New Brunswick, NJ
  • 2015. “Christians: Who are we and What do we Believe?” The Jewish Center, Princeton, NJ
  • 2014. “GA 221: A YAAD’s Perspective.” Black Mountain Presbyterian Church and Montreat Presbyterian Church
  • 2013. “The Religious and Cultural Dynamics of the Millennial Generation and the Future of the PCUSA.” Montreat Presbyterian Church (January), First Presbyterian Church Asheville, NC (February)
  • 2012. “A Progressive Perspective on Amendment One.” Public Lecture & Panel, Fairview Presbyterian Church USA, Lenoir, NC



  • Since 2020
    Co-Host with Anitra Kitts and Matthew Lafferty, Intentionally International Podcast


  • Forthcoming April 2022. Seventy-Five Years of Uniting Nations, Fifteen Years of BIMUN’s Lecture Series, Emerging Scholars Project Festschrift. BIMUN/SINUB, e.V.

Journal Articles

  • Forthcoming June 2022. “Is Anyone else out there LGBTQ? – A Question for Religious Scholarship and World Christianity”. In Religions, Special Issue: Religion & Change, MDPI.
  • Forthcoming February 2022. “Human Rights and Beyond: Liberative Linguistics for Intercultural Religious Discourse on Gender & Sexuality”. In Social Sciences & Development Review, Vol. I, Issue I. Polytechnic University of the Philippines: Manila.
  • 2016. “The Deceitful Savior and the Emsaculated King: Heterosexist Violence in Judges 3:12-30”. In Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 19 (1), 39–50.

Other Academic Publications

  • 2014. “Following Jesus into Ministry”. In Gospel and the City: Sermons from the 2013 National Festival of Young Preachers, edited by  Dwight A. Moody. Chalice Press; Saint Louis, MO.
  • 2013. “Christian Righteousness”. In Uncommon Sense: Jesus and the Renewal of the World, edited by Dwight A. Moody. Chalice Press; Saint Louis, MO.
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