David B. Smith


PhD Researcher

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Room 3.017  
Niebuhrstraße 5
D-53113 Bonn
+49 228 73 62568

Supervisors: Dr. Julia WinnebeckProf. Dr. Wolfram Kinzig

Member of 

Elected Representative of Research Area E - Gender (and Intersectionality)

David B. Smith
© Barbara Frommann

Academic Profile

My research project explores how early medieval Christian confessional manuals (Penitentials) both assume and generate relationships of asymmetrical dependency around gender and sexuality for biological males who engage in sexual intercourse with other males.

Though we have sparse evidence from the early medieval period as to the practical application of penitential canons, the relationship between penitents (both lay and ordained) and confessors (including priests, bishops, etc.) was conceptualized as one of spiritual dependency, which in turn justified certain asymmetrical relationships within the church hierarchy, and the extra-ecclesial realm. In ways both dissimilar and parallel to our own era, religio-cultural sexual and gender norms acted upon early-medieval persons who deviated from prescribed behavioral patterns in 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 BCDSS research group of which I am a member, i.e., legal, theological, praxiological, thus provides a valuable framework for interpreting the relationships between the norms enshrined in the penitentials and a specified cohort: biological males who engaged in homoerotic 'behavior' with one another. 


"Religious Freedom and Dependencies from the Perspectives of Ecumenism, World Christianity, and Inter-Religious Engagement," Graduate-level block seminar offered in collaboration between the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the University of Bonn and the Theologische Hochschule Ewersbach, co-taught with Matthias Ehmann (Ewersbach) and Matthew R. Robinson (Bonn).

Groups Organized:

since September 2023

Organizer, World Christianity Studies and Asymmetrical Dependencies (WCSAD) Working Group

since January 2023

Founding Member of the Coordination Team, BCDSS PhD Forum


Active Membership:

since November 2023

Race and Dependency Working Group

since September 2023
Ecological Dependencies Working Group

since June 2023
Gender Reading Group (GRG)

since October 2022
Dependency and Ancient History Writing Group

since May 2022
Dependency from God, Gods, and the Divine Working Group

October 2021 to April 2022
Terminologies of Asymmetrical Dependency Working Group

since 2021
Doctoral Studies (Dr. theol.) in Theology (Church History), Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Bonn, Germany

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Ecumenical Studies, University of Bonn, Germany

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

Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Princeton Theological Seminary, United States

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Religion & Philosophy, Montreat College, United States


Additional Certifications:
Doctoral Certificate- Research Management Track, University of Bonn Graduate Center (BGZ)
Doctoral Certificate- Research Track, BGZ
Doctoral Certificate- Business & Organizations Track, BGZ

Certificate in International/Intercultural Competence, University of Bonn

Certificate in Gender, Women, and Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, United States

Further Study:
Ecumenical School on Government, Economics, and Management (GEM School), Ecumenical Center of the Council of Christian Churches of Malaysia, World Council of Churches (WCC) and other partners, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (August-September)

Global Institute of Theology, World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the Pacific Theological College, Suva, Fiji (June-July)

Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI), World Council of Churches (WCC) and University of Geneva, held in Karlsruhe, Germany (August-September)

Seventh International Annual Summer School in German & Theology, University of Mainz, Germany (July)

Latin Studies, POLIS Institute, Jerusalem, Israel (online due to COVID)

Manhattan Bioethics Summer School, Global Bioethics Initiative, New York, United States (August)

Global Institute of Theology, World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel, Germany (June-July)

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

Service on BCDSS Committees and Teams

Steering Committee:

since January 2024
Elected Representative of Research Area E

Elected Representative for Doctoral Candidates

Other BCDSS Committees and Teams:
since 2023
Anti-Discrimination Team Member

since 2023
Dependency Blog Editorial Team

Activities Beyond the BCDSS

since 2024
‘Theology in the Capitalocene’ Working Group, Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, TN, United States 

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

Resident Chaplain, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA, United States (also served as Pastoral Care Intern at Jefferson during Clinical Pastoral Education [CPE] placement from May to August 2016)

January 21st, 2018
Ordination as a minister of Word and sacrament (pastor/teaching elder) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by the Presbytery of Western North Carolina on behalf of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in Montreat, NC, United States

Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, PA, United States

  • 2018–2019: Interim Associate Pastor for Youth and their Families

  • 2017: Interim Director of Youth Ministries

  • 2015–2017: Seminary Intern (part-time)

Pastoral Assistant, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Trenton, NJ, United States (part-time)

Staff Facilitator, the Princeton HUB, Princeton, NJ, United States (part-time)

Creative Assistant, Montreat Conference Center (Presbyterian Church U.S.A.), Montreat, NC, United States 
Additional Internships and Field Research Placements:

Ecumenical Studies Field Research Placement, American Protestant Church of Bonn, Germany

Generalist Graduate Social Work Intern, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) of Central New Jersey, United States (part-time)

Mission Intern, The Center: Where Compassion Meets Justice, a Mission of the Presbytery of Baltimore, MD, United States

Pastoral Intern, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC, United States, including temporary 'supply' as Student Co-Pastor at Paint Gap Presbyterian Church in Paint Gap, NC, under the supervision of the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry (part-time)

Pastoral Administration Intern, Christian Family Academy & New Life Baptist Church, Conover, NC, United States (part of the 'Servant Leadership' program)

Lombard Prize (third), World Communion of Reformed Churches & Lombard, Odier & Cie., Geneva

Hochschulpreis for outstanding master’s thesis, Evangelischer Bund Rheinland, Germany

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, Princeton Theological Seminary

Shreveport Presbyterian Scholarship

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

Presbyterian Study Grant, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Recent Academic Conferences and Workshops Organized

  • Planned for October 2024. "Workshop on Intersectionality and Dependency Theory," International BCDSS Workshop held as part of the 'Research Area E: Gender (and Intersectionality)' Thematic Year Conference Series, Co-Organized with Eva Marie Lehner and Sara Eriksson
  • 9 April and 27 June 2024. "Network Analysis and Asymmetrical Dependency Research Laboratory," Co-Organized with Prof. Dr. Julia Hillner (BCDSS) and in partnership with Alexander Ermakov and the Bonn Center for Digital Humanities (BCDH)
  • 7–8 March 2024. "Islamic Feminisms and Dependency" (part of "Marking International Women’s Day" Events Series), featuring Miriam Cooke (Duke University), Co-Organized with Dima Al Munajed and Emma Kalb (BCDSS) in partnership with the Gender Group of the Bonn Center for Development Research (ZEFGG)
  • October 2023. International PhD Seminar on Slavery, Servitude and Extreme Dependency ('Bonn/Leiden/Hull Seminar'), Member of the Organization Team and Panel Chair, University of Bonn, Germany
  • July 2022. PR Team Member, "What Does Theology Do, Actually (III, Church History)," A Conference Celebrating the Fifteenth Anniversary of the MESt/MEESt Program, University of Bonn, Germany
Recent Conference Presentations & Panels

World Christianity Conference (Princeton Theological Seminary and OMSC)

  • 2024. Conference Theme: "Revisiting Women and Gender in World Christianity," held at the University of Ghana, Legon (Accra)

– Panel Chair: "Engendering Pentecostalism II: Violence and Entrepreneurship" with a focus on violence against women and the relationship between Pentecostalism and economic development in Ghana. 

– Paper Presentation: "'Nothing Manly in Him…' Hegemonic Masculinities, Asymmetrical Dependencies, and the Early Penitentials."

  • 2023. Conference Theme: "War, Pandemic, and Climate Change: Global Crises- Past and Present and Their Place in World Christianity Scholarship"

– "Is it Possible to Read Early Medieval Penitential Literature in Light of World Christianities?" Conference Theme: War, Pandemic, and Climate Change: Global Crises-Past and Present- And their Place in World Christianity Scholarship, Panel Title: Dialogues in World Christianity in an Era of Global Crises and Challenges: Ecumenical, Interreligious and Transcultural Encounters

– "Church and War in Contemporary Europe (Focus on the War in Ukraine)," panel chair/moderator

– "The Future of World Christianity Scholarship: Perspectives from Graduate Researchers," presenter in Graduate Researcher Panel

New Theologies of Justice Conference & Workshop (SCM Press)
  • 2023. “Queer Presbyterians, Provocative Questions, and the Possibility of Building Solidarity with the Past,” Westminster College Cambridge, UK (attended online due to Schedule Conflict)
Society for the Study of Theology
  • 2023. "'The Slave has a Friend in Heaven …' Theodore Sedgwick Wright on Consistency and Circumstance," SST Annual Conference on ‘Power,’ University of Warwick, UK
  • 2021. "Liberative Intercultural Linguistics: Young Theologians, Ecumenical Exposure Programs & Human Sexuality," SST Post-Graduate Conference, Newnham College, University of Cambridge, UK
Bonn/Oxford Colloquium (Faculties of Protestant Theology)
  • 2022. Formal Response to Tim Middleton’s "Christology and the Temporal Trauma of the Anthropocene," University of Bonn, Germany
What Does Theology Do, Actually? (Third Annual Conference)
  • 2022. "Home, but Always Away: An Illustrative Case Study of Bonn’s Stimson Memorial Chapel and its History," WDTD-3: A Conference Celebrating the Fifteenth Anniversary of the MESt/MEESt Program, University of Bonn, Germany.
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, Biennial Conference, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Mainz, Germany
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
New Testament Scholars Conference (Ekklesia Center for Biblical Studies & Pastoral Accompaniment)
  • 2020. "'Is Anyone Else Out there Gay?' Liberative New Testament Exegesis and the formation of the Presbyterian Gay Caucus" Second Annual New Testament Scholars Conference, Theme: "Human Sexuality in God’s Canvas of Creation" hosted by Ekklesia Center for Biblical Studies & Pastoral Accompaniment, India (via JioMeet due to COVID)

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

Recent Colloquia and Workshop Presentations at the University of Bonn

  • 2024. "Penancing Fornication: Men, Sex and Ecclesiastical Rank in the Praefatio Gildae," Kirchengeschichtliches Kolloquium, Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, in dem Diözesanen und Dombibliothek, Köln
  • 2023. "'Et mulles Sicut Adultera:' Male Sexuality, Gender Slippage, and Dependencies in the Early Penitentials," Annual BCDSS Doctoral Colloquium
  • 2022. "Perspektiven auf Methoden der Kirchengeschichte aus den USA," Kolloquium Methodenbücher in der Kirchengeschichte, Kirchengeschichtliches Kolloquium, Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät
  • 2020. "Our Own Most Vexing Problem: LGBTQ+ Experience, Sin Talk &  the Ecumenical Movement," Systematische Theologie Doktoranden-Kolloquium with Prof. Dr. Richter, Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät

Recent Public Lectures and Panels

  • 2023. "'From Caterpillars to Butterflies:' Multilateralism and Bonn’s 'American Settlement' in a Past Age of Geopolitical Competition." Invited Lecture. Bonn International Model United Nations, e.V. & Studium Universale, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2022. Plenary Address, iStart Alumni/ae Day, International Office, University of Bonn
  • 2022. Leser und Diskussionsteilnehmer, "Gefesselt/Bound: Lesung & Diskussion mit Natassa Sideri," University of Bonn, Center for Dependency & Slavery Studies
  • 2022. Hochschulepreis Acceptance Speech, "Geistige Heimat: Eine Zusammenfassung der Forschung zu internationalen protestantischen anglophonen Gemeinden." Evangelischer Bund Rheinland, Evangelischer Bund Westfalen und Lippe, Melanchton Akademie Köln
  • 2022. "Faith for Rights: The Beirut Declaration and Religious Actors on the World Stage." Invited Lecture. Bonn International Model United Nations, e.V. & Studium Universale, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2022. "Visiting Wounds." Plenary Address and Panel Discussion, Pre-Assembly Ecumenical Youth Gathering at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 2022. "Spiritual Care & LGBTQIA+ Identities: An Introduction to the Discourse in U.S. Health Care Chaplaincy." Trauer am Arbeitsplatz Seminar, DFG-FOR 2685- Resilienz in Religion und Spiritualität, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2022. "The 'Third Rome' and the 'Russian Peace:' Religious Dimensions of Putin’s War on Ukraine." Dies Academicus Lecture. Bonn International Model United Nations, e.V. & Studium Universale, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2021. "Ugnayan at Talastasan - Human Rights and Beyond." Institute of Human and Social Development (IHSD) Forum, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila


Recent Work with Ecumenical Bodies and Non-Profit Boards

  • Selected Projects and Committee work with the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC)

– since December 2023: Member of the Core Team on the Preparation of the 'Working Paper on Communion' for the 2025 General Council

– since 2021: Member of the WCRC Youth Summit Core Committee

– 2020–2021: Member of the WCRC Youth Summit Working Group

  • August 2023: Delegate to the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) Consultation on Labor, hosted by the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) under the auspices of the International Labor Irganization (ILO), World Council of Churches (WCC), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Christian World Mission (CWM), and World Methodist Council (WMC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • since 2020: BIMUN/SINUB, e. V. 

– since 2022: Member of the Board of Advisors/Trustees (Kuratoriumsmitglieder) responsible for Lecture Series and Academic Affairs

– 2021: Member of the Advisory Team

– 2020: Member of the Executive Board and Director of the Lecture Series


  • 2020–2022: Co-Host with Anitra Kitts and Matthew Lafferty, Intentionally International Podcast

Special Issues of Peer-Reviewed Journals (co-edited)
  • Forthcoming. 2025. With Raimundo Barreto, Julia Winnebeck, and Matthew Robinson. Special Issue "World Christianity and Asymmetrical Dependency." In Journal of World Christianity 15(1).
Journal Articles
  • 2024. "'An Open Wound in the Body…' A 'Dependency Turn' in Ecumenical Discourse on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery." In The Ecumenical Review 75(5). Open access
  • 2022. "Calling the Question: The Role of Ministries of Presence and Polity Principles in the Struggle for LGBTQIA+ Inclusion, Ordination, and Marriage in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Its Predecessor Denominations." In Religions 13(11): 1119. Open access
  • 2016. "The Deceitful Savior and the Emasculated King: Heterosexist Violence in Judges 3:12–30." In Princeton Theological Review 19(1): 39–50. Open access

Book Reviews
  • 2023. "Review of Randall H. Balmer, Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021 (ISBN 978-0-8028-7934-9)." In Modern Believing 65(1). 

Public Scholarship with BCDSS (Publications)
  • 2023. "Enduring Dependencies and Relational Hermeneutics: Reflections on the 2023 Global Institute of Theology at the Pacific Theological College in Suva, Fiji." In The Dependent 8: 40–43. 
  • 2023. With Laura Hartmann and Ayesha Hussain. "Writing Studies of Slavery, Servitude and Dependency in Community: Reflections on the 2023 Bonn/Leiden/Hull PhD Seminar." Dependency Blog, BCDSS. 
  • 2023. "Labor Dependency and the Christian Tradition—On Contestability, Authority, and the 'Social Factor of Salvation.'" In The Dependent 7: 12–15.
  • 2023. With Lena Muders and Ayesha Hussain. "PhD Research, Interdisciplinary Collaboration, and Sparks." Inaugural Post, Dependency Blog, BCDSS. 
  • 2022. With Henriette von Harnier. "In the Grip of the Supernatural: Dependencies Above, Within, and Before Us—An International Conference Report." In The Dependent 5: 55–58.

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. Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press. 
  • 2013. "Christian Righteousness." In Uncommon Sense: Jesus and the Renewal of the World, edited by Dwight A. Moody. Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press. 
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