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  Affiliate member of
© 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. 

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
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., Princeton Theological Seminary, United States

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

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

since 2023
Anti-Discrimination Team Member, BCDSS

since 2023
Dependency Blog Editorial Team, BCDSS

since 2023
Elected Representative for Doctoral Candidates, BCDSS

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

Interim Associate Pastor for Youth and their Families, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, PA

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)

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

World Christianity Conference (Princeton Theological Seminary and OMSC)
  • 2023. “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
  • 2023. “Church and War in Contemporary Europe (Focus on the War in Ukraine),” panel chair/moderator
  • 2023. “The Future of World Christianity Scholarship: Perspectives from Graduate Researchers,” presenter in Graduate Researcher Panel

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

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 Public Lectures and Panels
  • 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 Organization (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
  • 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


  • 2020-2022
    Co-Host with Anitra Kitts and Matthew Lafferty, Intentionally International Podcast
Journal Articles
  • 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, Vol. 13, no. 11: 1119. 
  • 2016. “The Deceitful Savior and the Emasculated King: Heterosexist Violence in Judges 3:12-30,” in Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 19 (1), 39–50.

Public Scholarship with BCDSS (Publications)

  • 2023. “Labor Dependency and the Christian Tradition—On Contestability, Authority, and the ‘Social Factor of Salvation,’” in The Dependent, Issue 7, 2023-1, 12-15.
  • 2023. “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, Issue 5, 2022-1., 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. 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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