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 in 1973. In 1971-72 he studied in Spain at two universities, (a) Salamanca and (b) Universidad Complutense in Madrid. Over the years, and in addition to modern languages, Renato has studied classical languages, Danish literature, adult education, philosophy, sociology, Middle American anthropology, translation, Quaker literature, theology, and biblical interpretation.
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 late 1990s he has published 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? It was followed by a larger work in English entitled Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible, (Trafford, 2013). Both books document that negative Christian attitudes to sexuality are not rooted in the Bible but in centuries of Church tradition, especially the Church Fathers.
Renato toured parts of the U.S. in October and November 2013 to talk about his research and promote his book. A second U.S. tour took place in 2014. Accepting a joint invitation from the Church of Sweden and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, he toured the latter country in November 2016. He was favorably impressed by the level of scholarship among Filipino theologians, including their understanding of the importance of sexual and gender diversity.
In 2017, Renato published a book in Danish entitled Kærlighed under censur (Love under Censorship). It was followed by a Spanish edition in April 2021: Amores bíblicos bajo censura: Sexualidad, género y traducciones erróneas (Editorial Dykinson, Madrid). An English version appeared in July 2021 under the title Holy Censorship or Mistranslation? Love, Gender and Sexuality in the Bible (HarperCollins India, New Delhi). An Italian version of this work is in the making and there are plans to produce a Swedish edition.
Currently Renato lives in Spain.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman with information provided by Renato Lings.)
Biography Date: November, 2011; rev. August 2021