Kjeld Renato Lings, Ph.D., was born in a rural part of West Jutland, Denmark, near the town of Herning. His father was a schoolteacher and his mother was an organist and housewife. They were both committed Christians and active in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark.
Renato's childhood hobbies included studying maps of the world, reading, raising pigeons, and roaming the countryside. Music was important, particularly communal singing. At age 7 Renato started playing the piano and at 19 he added the guitar. Today his favorite music genres are baroque, folk, classical jazz, and African-American gospel.
Renato’s teen years were very lonely. Because of social taboos surrounding homosexuality, he took refuge in "the closet." Haunted by depression, he was ready to implode by age 18 and tried to find a way out of this emotional turmoil. A physician referred him to a psychiatrist. The "help" he got consisted in being told to wait patiently for a few years until he felt attracted to girls.
By age 24, after six years of waiting, Renato realized he was still strongly attracted to male beauty. Fortunately he found a psychologist who helped him to come out. At last he was able to accept himself as a sexual human being created by God. Soon after this pivotal moment he joined the gay liberation movement in Denmark.
At university his studies focused on Spanish language and literature. He earned a CandArt degree in Spanish from the University of Copenhagen in 1970 and a CandPhil degree there in 1973. In 1971-72 he studied in Spain at Salamanca and at Universidad Complutense in Madrid. An accomplished scholar always interested in learning, Renato also studied modern languages, classical languages, Danish literature, adult education, philosophy, sociology, Middle American anthropology, translation and interpreting, Quaker literature, biblical interpretation through his lifetime.
When he was 18 years old Renato decided to become a conscientious objector on moral and religious grounds. However, he found few people in the state-run Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark who shared his concerns. He became friends with a man from Korea who had been a conscientious objector. Through him Renato was introducted to the Quakers. For the first time he felt welcomed by a community where the vast majority shared his views and concerns on military conscription and conflict resolution. After two years of reading and reflection, he joined the Religious Society of Friends.
Since university, Renato has travelled extensively and lived in different countries in Europe and the Americas. He has studied or worked as a translator, interpreter, teacher, researcher and writer in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, in addition to Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Over the years he has been a member of various LGBT organizations in the countries in which he has lived.
A second major turning point in his life occurred when he was 43 years old. He began to slide into a deep existential crisis, facing an abyss of anguish. This lasted for several months. One morning he got down on his knees and prayed. Three days later he attended a brief church service which brought peace to his heart. A few minutes after leaving, he heard the voice of Jesus speaking words of healing. The effect was extraordinary: the very same night all his agony lifted. He believed it to be a miracle.
Integrating his sexual orientation with his Christian faith, Lings began studying theology and engaging in biblical research. In 2002 he enrolled in postgraduate studies in theology at the University of Exeter (UK). He was awarded a doctorate in 2006 for his thesis: Restoring Sodom: Towards a Non-sexual Approach.
In the summer of 2011, Renato Lings became the European Coordinator for Other Sheep Ministries. He is a member of LGBT Denmark, the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement (UK), the Quaker Lesbian & Gay Fellowship (UK), the National Association of Danish Writers, the Society for Old Testament Study (UK), and the Society of Biblical Literature (US).
Since the 1990s he has published a number of articles on theology, gender and sexuality. In 2011 his first major book in Spanish appeared under the title Biblia y homosexualidad: ¿Se equivocaron los traductores? Renato’s latest work in English is Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible, (Trafford, 2013), which documents that negative Christian attitudes to sexuality are not rooted in the Bible but in centuries of Church tradition. He toured the northeastern U.S. in October and November 2013 to talk about his book and research.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman with information provided by Renato Lings.)
Biography Date: November, 2011