good christian sex part 3: my failed “purity” + rethinking celibacy

If you haven’t read good christian sex part 1: theologically solid + enjoyable and/or good christian sex part 2: integrating postmodern sexual ethics + empowering beyond the “one”, I would highly recommend reading those first to provide a context for this post.

I used to wear a purity ring, but first things first: I’m not a virgin. I’ve never been married, but I have loved deeply and it ended. I have had nights of fun, had strings of short-term relationships, and no longer feel the shame I long associated with premarital sex. This is where I am going to remind you that I am no longer seeking ordination in The United Methodist Church (save some time and don’t bother filing charges) and being able to frankly talk about this topic is one of the reasons I left the said process. I refuse to silence my voice. Now that we have all that out of the way, judge me if you will, but there are girls and women in your life, regardless of what end of the theological and political spectrum, that have been like me or are like me.

Back to my ring that actually said: true love waits. I picked it out. It was my decision. I wore it proudly for a few years. I continued to wear it in college and after a few Busch Lights or a Boone’s Farm, when asked about it I would lift my hand to the sky and proclaim no sex until marriage. This lasted for a few months, but after my first kiss and realization I didn’t have to wait if I didn’t want, I took it off.

Eventually I was no longer a virgin; the world did not shatter, the devil didn’t pop up and do an evil laugh, God did not smite me. My views on sex before marriage started to shift and continue to shift. In the back of my head for a long time, I still had a glimmer of doubt about toeing the line of Christianity and being not celibate. I am not the only one: “That we are children of God, living in a broken world, usually at odds with ourselves and others, but nonetheless, all at once, also loved beyond measure and being drawn into reconciliation and holiness” (Good Christian Sex, 172).

I bought into “the One,” that I was looking for my other half, that I wasn’t enough and because of that, I sinned. My sin was that I wasn’t living up to my full potential. It wasn’t because I was sexual active at the time, it was because I forgot my God-given gift of freedom and action. What I have learned is something that the Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan said so well: “There is a distinct difference between actually losing the boundaries of one’s self and the ecstatic joining of hearts and bodies that sometimes happens in the best sex” (139). I would argue that losing yourself into another person is worse than joining another person between the sheets.

I don’t think I actually failed purity; I think purity failed me. Because it led me to relationships, attitudes, and choices that I do not regret but the impacts of which have been hard to shake.

The thing is, I am pure. That’s my theology, right? I’m Wesleyan and have a theology rooted in God’s abundant grace. I have had my moment of justification and my sins have been forgiven. Even if I thought sex before marriage was always a sin (I’d argue some sex in marriage is a sin as well), God’s grace grants us love and forgiveness. Relationships are not easy and can be work, a friend and I once decided: “The joy must outweigh the work.”

I want to live into mutuality in all my relationships, sexual or not. I do not subscribe to celibacy in singleness, and I believe it’s high time we started having real conversations about sex. It’s time to talk about it beyond abstinence, beyond fear based comprehensive sex education, and to realize that as a church we are failing our singles by limited their, my, sexuality. I want to create that conversation, this is my ultimate goal; it’s not about the shock value, it’s about fidelity in relationships and journeying in grace. I’m not done speaking and will continue to post about sex, gender, birth control, inclusivity, society, and my beloved church. I will be authentic and stand my ground theologically. I’m ready to challenge celibacy. I hope you are too.

taking off my headphones & finding humanity yet again

I listen to a lot of music. A lot. My Spotify is always going (I love skipping and listening to specific songs, so sorry Pandora). In a city, while walking around during my breaks or during my commute my headphones provide a barrier from the outside world. I can be alone in the midst of the city, I can pretend not to hear someone yelling at me or someone asking me for money.

Being on my cell phone (while using my headphones) is another way to ignore the world, even better when you are technically interacting via social media. I often check my phone to read the news, check Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, or I am texting my friends/mom. In the past week, I have had two experiences that required me to put down my phone and take off my headphones.

Last week I splurged and took an Uber home from a networking event. My driver was thrilled because he was driving out of the district and into the depths of Virginia, this meant that I was his last ride of the evening. His joy was palpable and he blasted some sweet music. It was Arabic and as he clapped along (at red lights), I asked what the translation was. We started talking about Arabic and the poetic nature of the Quran.

He played the Quran in Arabic (if you haven’t heard it, it’s stunningly beautiful) and translated it for me. This led to a lovely conversation about the similarities between Islam and Christianity. I personally love the Quran, it has given me a new lens to read the Bible for me multiple times and it may redeem Adam for me some day. As he dropped me off, I was struck with the depth and trust of our dialogue. We found common ground and beauty in something bigger than ourselves. I thanked him for the ride and stumbled through saying, I hope more people are open to having conversations and I am truly sorry for Americans who do not take the time to get to know the Muslims in our midst.

Then this morning I went on an adventure run, which basically means I run or walk to a trail with some nature. I had found a trail via the internet and figured out how to get where I needed to go. When I reached the actual trail and started running one direction,  I reached the end quickly and turned around. I passed a man twice, then he passed me when I stopped to take a picture so I could show Instagram I #runlikeagirl (or more like #runtoinstragram). As I went to pass him, he started talking to me and told me his running friends all cancelled. I took out my headphones to run and talk. He knew the trail, I didn’t, and was faster than me. Challenged accepted.

I learned that he had been running for 7 years to my 1 month and I had found a good trail. He was going to show me the best spots on the trail so I knew where I was going. He told me I was tough. I needed to hear that this morning. Then we took a break and I mean break by pushups, crunches, stretching, and whatnot. This guy knew his stuff. Then we kept running, we learned we live close to each other so he could show me a better, safer way to the trail. I learned that he was originally from Sudan, had worked for a nonprofit advocating for women and children in his county, and he was Muslim. A few times he said, because of people like you, you make America great. A good affirmation of the work I have been doing as of late and what I want to do with my future.

We talked a little about why I was in DC and started nerding out about politics. We are both voting for the same person, talked about the lack of civility, the need to do better, and that loving ones neighbor is vital. Again, we found common ground and beauty in something bigger than ourselves.

As I have been reflecting on both God moments (they were holy), I realized that both men took risks sharing their lives with me. To say, yes I am a Muslim, at a time where it’s a risk. To be vulnerable with a stranger. To live out love of your neighbor in unique ways through driving a stranger home or teaching a stranger the ropes at a new running trail.

How can we look up from our phones, take off our headphones and see humanity again? To engage with those who are different than us? We must be willing to listen and engage, to risk ourselves. It’s scary to engage when you’re tired or just want to listen to Kid Cudi, but that’s what humanity requires. Humanity is shared, it’s not singular. It’s out there, waiting for you.

good christian sex part 2: integrating postmodern sexual ethics + empowering beyond the “one”

If you haven’t read good christian sex part 1: theologically solid + enjoyable, I’d recommend doing so before reading this post.

As the Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan puts it: “Sex and love, though, can be key experiences of the truth of Jesus’s words: that those who would save their lives will save them” (Good Christian Sex, 222). Sex and love is a different lens, a radically different way, of looking at Jesus that is scary, but yet totally necessary. Our faith requires us to seek truth, for ourselves. My Methodist tradition integrations experience into the way we look at theology and from that angle, we are not the same as those who walked before us. We are not the exact church of Paul in the sense; we are a completely different community. We are not the exact church of Augustine; we are a different community. We are not the exact church of John Wesley; we are a different community. However, we can use their truths and integrate them today. My question turns to this, why are we so hell-bent on maintaining the same standards in a completely different context?

why are we so afraid of a contextually postmodern look at sex and society?

“Christian life is less about protecting ourselves from being profaned and more about learning to risk ourselves in love” (71). Jesus took risks. The disciples took risks. The women who followed Jesus took even bigger risks as they challenged the status quo of their time. Historically, Christians have been risk-takers, table flippers, and countercultural.

Wait, I know a few of you are thinking right now: Everyone is having sex, so not having sex is countercultural. What type of sex are we talking about? Could Christians be countercultural if we prioritize intimacy as a part of sex? “Intimacy requires mutuality: mutual vulnerability, mutual disclosure and openness, mutual invitation and consent (obvious, but worth stating)” (141). What if we are countercultural through the embracing and teaching of consent, equipping young boys to not let “boys be boys” and be advocates for girls? There are many ways to be countercultural about sex without just saying it’s no sex until marriage.

Yet, the church I am a member of still embraces celibacy in singleness, and for those of you who aren’t United Methodist or haven’t had to sign a document to follow the statement below, this is a vow I took during UMC ordination process from The Book of Discipline Book of Discipline ¶304: Qualifications for Ordination:

For the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness to the Christian gospel, and in consideration of the influence of an ordained minister on the lives of other persons both within and outside the Church, the Church expects those who seek ordination to make a complete dedication of themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life. To this end, they agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and in the knowledge and love of God.

A quick Google search shows that only 3% of Americans are saving themselves for marriage, and by saving I mean aren’t having sex (let’s not even go into what that definition is or should be). The data is there … people aren’t waiting. But, Irene, clergy should be the moral backbone of our society!

  1. Read Good Christian Sex and decide what chastity means for yourself. If you still want to be celibate in singleness, that’s your choice. Embrace your God-given gift of freewill! You have my support and encouragement.
  2. Can we talk about bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, social responsibility, and growth in grace and knowledge and love of God? They are equal with fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, yet… no one is being kicked out of ordination for not taking care of their bodies or other items listed.
  3. If “a Christian sense of fidelity is one grounded in mutual promise and the hope of a shared life” (180), then can fidelity transcend marriage? I’d say yes. Do all people that are married or in committed monogamous relationships have fidelity?

Celibacy in singleness. When it was the social norm to get married early, when women didn’t have options in terms of career, perhaps it was easier, yet, this is not the experience we live in. Gone are the rose colored glasses of finding the (only) one person God designed for me, and not only for me, but many of my friends and acquaintances.

the death of the “one”

I had a roommate out of college who did not believe in the myth of “the One.” I was a bit confused because, well, as much as I wasn’t waiting for marriage, I was waiting for “the One.” I didn’t get where my roommate was coming from. As my sage McCleneghan writes: “The myth of ‘the One’ is powerful in our culture, and I object to it for how much harder it can make life for single folks, but it also presents a challenge to fidelity” (195). Towards the last few years of a relationship, I felt trapped by being with “the One” because it was not working and since I thought he was the “One”, I honestly thought it would work out because it had to. “We assume that when we are in love, the rest will simply fall into place, but… spontaneity–in sex or in intimacy–is a myth. We have to be intentional” (198). I know in my life the “One” myth was unhealthy and unhelpful for me, it made me stay in a relationship years longer than I should have.

Also, waiting for the “One” mathematically means we should only have one sexual partner in our lives. This isn’t the case for 97% of the population and maybe it’s time to start talking about sex and the 97% who do not wait for marriage, than teaching everyone to live as the 3%.

advances in birth control + sexual safety

So celibacy in singleness in a world where puberty is coming sooner, people aren’t waiting to have sex, women can freely enjoy sex without the fear of getting pregnant due to the advancement of birth control, and people are getting married later. The church is no stranger to these things because the pews are filled with us! We are not the church that Paul wrote to. Much has changed in terms of sexuality. We are empowered now, not restricted by sex. It’s not just to be fruitful and multiply–we can enjoy ourselves without the risk of children before we are ready. We have the option to be in partnership and model life like Eve and Adam before they chose to leave the garden. We can chose to leave the garden and explore!

Sex physically is risky, but it’s not as risky as it once was. The Affordable Healthcare Act made it so women and girls could get free birth control, there are amazing education programs about sex in our schools and churches if we just let them happen, and so much research, books about the topic. Sexual safety can be a reality for most women, I have never been scared of getting pregnant because of all the contraception at my fingertips. I’m not alone in this. All my singles out there, the 97% like myself live this and for those that have a call to ministry, we also balance our ordination-track vows. It’s time to rethink the single Christian.

where does this leave us?

Can we strike a balance of sexual relationships in singleness for our clergy, our seminarians, our single congregants that embraces the ethos of Good Christian Sex? Modeling healthy relationships, boundaries, chastity, fidelity, and consent in new ways that aren’t based on of just remaining a virgin? Or, maybe, one’s sex life shouldn’t overtake living our call to justice and health?

So what does a United Methodist Church with a postmodern lens on sex look like to you? Can we spend more time on fidelity? Feel free to leave a comment, shoot me an email, text, tweet, Facebook message. This is what I’m truly looking for, advancing our church towards the future because somethings gotta give.

Enjoyed part 2? read the last part, good christian sex part 3: my failed “purity” + rethinking celibacy.

good christian sex part 1: theologically solid + enjoyable

A month ago, I ran across an article posted online that was an excerpt from a book, Sex and the single Christian: Why celibacy isn’t the only option. (Also known as perfect clickbait for me, beyond anything Hillary Clinton.) I was hooked and discovered that the author Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan’s book called Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option–And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex was available online. I clearly ordered it immediately and thanks to Amazon Prime I had it two days later.

Now a few weeks later, I have read the book, and a few friends wanted a book review (which this is sort of), but I want to start a conversation about my favorite hot button topic: sex. Welcome to Good Christian Sex Part 1: Theologically Solid + Enjoyable, more of a reflection.

A few of the most enjoyable things about McCleneghan is that she is an ordained pastor in the UCC tradition, has a marriage that I think I may covet in terms of how they work, children, and she is a PK (pastor’s kid) to a Methodist preacher. Her thoughts on sexuality are theologically solid and experiential. There is an interesting balance of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

coming back from sex, shame, & sin

Growing up a girl in America, I was always aware of the shoulds and shouldn’ts of what I could wear, how I should act and more so, how I shouldn’t act: “In our culture, we are often made to understand that women and girls are not sexual beings, and are properly disgusted by sexual displays and acts. Any sexual interest we have is thus unnatural or strange, something to be embarrassed about” (Good Christian Sex, 21). Our culture sets the stage for shame even though that’s not a holistic view of self; Jesus was fully holistic, integrating his humanity with his divinity, both things that I believe we all possess as humans.

“The second-century church father Irenaeus wrote, ‘The glory of God is the human person fully alive.’ Not repressed, shamed, afraid, or lonely” (30). We have been separated from the very nature of our humanity. We are sexual beings, sexual divine human beings if you will. It’s a both/and, not a Madonna or a whore or “a lady in the streets and a freak in the bed”.

McCleneghan defines sexual sin simply. She believes that “sexual sin is about lack of mutuality, reciprocity, and love” (69). Three things any relationship needs with all the different varieties of love. If sin isn’t seen as a laundry list of “bad” behaviors and as something where we aren’t living into our contextually based potential, sexual sin is, then, denying the fullness of mutuality, reciprocity, and love of God, self, and neighbor, something we should all reflect on as Christians who are inherently sexual creations.

being single + sexual with chastity tossed in the mix

One thing I really appreciated was the Singleness, Sex, and Waiting chapter because McCleneghan brings up something that many of us who have had breakups, had divorces, had our hearts more than broken, stomped all over, and/or all of the above need to hear: “There is a legitimate grief that accompanies the death of our experiences for our lives–the passing away of a vision for our lives that isn’t coming to be… But we still expect our singles to be sassy and fabulous and endlessly optimistic, even as relationships end, or doors seem to close; people need the space to grieve dreams deferred and to imagine new ways of being in the world, to carve out new identities” (99).

Being single in today’s society is tough. Going back into the dating scene in the age of online dating and swiping (I never remember the direction, hence my frustration with Tinder) after 5 years off is not fun. Then I’m reminded, oh hey, aren’t you Christian and should be “waiting” for marriage, or believing chastity is so important. For me, in my 30s, not so freaking much.

But the beauty of McCleneghan is that she helped me to reclaim chastity by reminding me it’s about more than just keeping one’s self “sexually pure”: “Chastity is a virtue, related to temperance–it’s about moderating our indulgences and exercising restraint” (103). Then she says, “I’d argue that we can be chaste–faithful–in unmarried sexual relationships if we exercise restraint: if we refrain from having sex that isn’t mutually pleasurable and affirming, that doesn’t respect the autonomy and sacred worth of ourselves and our partners” (103).

being naked: vulnerability leads to intimacy

McCleneghan quotes Karen Lebacquz: “Sexuality has to do with vulnerability. Eros, the desire for another, the passion that accompanies the wish for sexual expression, makes one vulnerable. It creates possibility for great joy but also for great suffering. To desire another, to feel passion, is to be vulnerable, capable of being wounded” (119).

I was in a relationship for years, and after it ended I realized one of the things missing was the intimacy I craved. I had been so afraid of failure I hadn’t been vulnerable and let another person see me for who I really was or could be. There was a sense of shame I carried with me from growing up girl, and I wish I had McCleneghan: “Learning to be naked and unashamed in our sexual relationships is possible, even though that freedom and courage will look different than in the relative innocence of childhood. It is my dear hope that marriages can be safe spaces to do this work–but the institution is no guarantee, anymore than being unmarried is a guarantee of danger and pain” (129).

The last of my favorite quotes about intimacy, something I would argue we all crave and is a part of our human nature is that “true intimacy requires us to eschew those double standards and to transcend our assumptions about others. We cannot read minds; we have to learn to be in conversation with our partners–not just about shared sexual experience, but about our feelings, our hopes, fears, and interests” (152). Funny how this can also translate into our relationship with the Divine.

part 1 conclusion

More so than a book review, this is a reflection leading into another post. I will be talking Good Christian Sex and reflecting on how we can integrate a postmodern sexual ethic that both empowers and emboldens instead of instilling a deep well of sexual shame.

Enjoyed part 1? read good christian sex part 2: integrating postmodern sexual ethics + empowering beyond the “one”.

a brief reflection on approaching 32

For the past year I have been looking at On This Day via Facebook. It’s not because I am overtly nostalgic, but it really started to delete the presence of an ex-boyfriend and some less than professional conversations from nights I don’t remember in college. Something happened yesterday and today though as I checked. 2 years ago my On This Days were memories that made me smile. They were the turning points after a year of finding myself again after losing myself in a relationship.

As I got ready for church this morning, I started remembering my birthday from 2 years ago, my 30th. My 29th year had sucked and I was ready to turn over a new leaf, a shift in my life. My friends who were already 30 had prepped me for the awesomeness that is 30. I was ready, so a group of my friends and I stayed in my aunt and uncle’s Leavenworth cabin and the morning before my birthday I took a hike. I was overcome by the hope and possibilities of 30 to the point of tears. (Fun fact, the main picture is from that very hike.) 30 did not disappoint.

Not to outdo myself, last year I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my 21 run with a mini-top hat party. It was the same time as the first week of my last year of seminary and all the changes/shifts that happen as you finish a theological degree. Now, we are about a week from my birthday and already my 32nd year is shaping up quite nicely.

My life has changed in ways I never deemed possible. I remember telling a man I was dating last summer that I was willing to move for a job, but wanted to stay in Seattle. Then by March I knew I wanted to move to Washington D.C. I started off my last year of seminary set to become the Rev. Irene DeMaris and then by April, I formally left the ordination process. My discernment process continued to fine tune who I have evolved to be as a pastoral leader (even saying I’m a leader was a major shift), opened up space to further seek justice, I have deepened friendships that have changed my life, and made new friends who are my rocks. Ever single day I feel more authentically me and every single day, I live into the hope and possibilities of my life, something I only started to fill an inkling of 2 years ago.

The difference between 29 years of age and going into 32 is that I have learned to trust myself, to be open to the world, and to take leaps of faith. I used to be so reliant on one person, that I forgot myself. There also is a difference in my health, my happiness, and my relationship with God.

Life is amazing. Hope and possibility abound. I miss Seattle and my loved ones like crazy, but my 32nd year of life is here in D.C. Here’s to another year of growth, change, and moving onward towards perfection.

just say no… to the status quo.

Today again, I’m going to focus on gender, and it’s going to be dualistic. My personal belief is that gender is fluid, that we cannot just say brothers and sisters, that we need to add sibling. I know that many of God’s Beloved identify as gender queer, I have the utmost respect and do my best to pull myself out of the binary gender world I have grown up in. However, I hate saying this, binary gender is what this post is about. I truly believe that in my title gender representation means ALL genders beyond binary. I am willing and wanting to learn more, but as an ally, I will keep educating myself because it’s my responsibility to.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:28

Last week, I wrote about the lack of women’s voices in the original group of conveners for the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). During a #dreamumc Twitter meet-up slash group conversation, as I continually pushed that 11% was not good enough for me, I heard that women were welcomed in the WCA. In fact they were encouraged to be in leadership and that the involvement of women in the WCA was better than the status quo.

I expect more than the status quo from a group that is starting a renewal movement that marks Gender Equality as priority. The beauty about starting something from scratch is that the WCA does not have to deal with centuries of patriarchy, androcentrism, and sexism. They have the potential to start from a clean slate, yet, I keep coming back to the 11%. Let’s say I did buy the status quo argument. How does the WCA stack up to the status quo?

This past week, Huffington Post had a headline with At America’s Largest Companies, Just 7% of CEOs are Women and then Religion News Service had White male leadership persists at evangelical ministries. Finally, Christianity Today posted this: Who’s Afraid of Her Own Authority, which hit close to home  as a woman who has struggled to grasp my own God-given agency and authority:

Sandberg writes, “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back.” This can be especially true for some evangelical women who subtly, even subconsciously, come to believe that avoiding leadership is part of being a godly woman. But encouraging women to embrace authority is essential to discipleship, and it’s a task that all of us—those who favor women’s ordination as well as those who don’t—can embrace. For both men and women, learning to embody authority is essential to human flourishing.

In the WCA, women are not represented in the fullness of creation, or we could just say plain underrepresented (11%). This isn’t just a church issue, it’s societal. Yet, for those of us who name ourselves as religious, as Christians, as Wesleyans. We must do better, and we can do better. So how do other United Methodist caucuses stack up? I used data collected by General Commission on the Status & Role of Women (GCSRW—but, if you’re Methodist, you’ve likely heard them called “COSROW”), and I contacted both conservative and progressives caucuses to see how they stacked up in regards to gender equality.

I’m going to start with the data from GCSRW (I love you; you are my favorite) and jump into who is at the table at General Conference: At General Conference, gender is broken down from the 36% women delegates into laity and clergy: “44% of the delegates from the United States are female, 56% are male. In addition, 36% of clergy delegates are clergywomen and 64% are clergymen, while 52% of lay delegates are women and 48% are men.”

As many of us embedded into the Methodist system, we know how important our District Superintendents are. Only 34% are female and 66% are male. That’s just ⅓ of women sitting at those tables where clergy appointments are made and advocating for women with a lens informed by gender.

Then we have our bishops. GCSRW’s data is from June 2016, and 28% of bishops are female, with 72% male.  Though it is totally worth noting that during the Jurisdictional Conferences, for the first time 7 women were elected bishops.

As the September 2016 issue of United Methodist Women’s response magazine shared, 58% of members of The United Methodist Church are women. Yet only 24% of United Methodist active and retired clergy are women.

I reached out to the Confessing Movement, the Institute of Religion & Democracy (I say this fondly, the other IRD), and the Good News for the gender breakdown on their boards. I graciously heard back from Patricia Miller of the Confessing Movement and John Lomperis of the IRD. The Confessing Movement has a female executive director (ED) with a board consisting of 5 women and 29 men, making it 15% female. The IRD’s United Methodist group has two different committees: steering and advisory. The steering committee has 6/16 women making it 38% female, while the advisory committee has 3/16 making it 19% female. Lead by a male, John Lomperis, whose boss, Mark Tooley, is also male.

From the opposite theological spectrum I reached out to the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), Reconciling Ministries Network, and Affirmation. (Thank you to Joey Lopez, M Barclay, and Walter Lockhart.) The MFSA’s interim ED is female, while the board is 50/50 in terms of gender. RMN has a male ED, while the board is 10 women and 9 men, so 53% female. Affirmation’s board has 4 females, 5 males making it 45% female.

(I also reached out to a few of our ethnic caucuses and hadn’t heard back by the time of this blog; if I do hear back, I will add that information to this post.)

What can we learn from the numbers? The majority of The United Methodist Church leadership is still male. Majority of conservative/orthodox caucuses of the church are also male (shout out to the IRD for 38% on the steering committee). When we compare the 11% female representation of the WCA to their like counterparts, they don’t hit the status quo set by those groups. There is work to be done.

Then when we integrate the progressive groups, they are all close to 50%, or in RMN’s case 53% female! WCA, you can do this. I believe in you. Theologically, I disagree with the WCA and I worry about WCA congregations not accepting women in their pulpits in the long term. I believe that it is vital for women to be in leadership equally, 50/50 to prevent patriarchy from taking over. It all stems to my biggest fear that women will just leave the church, we know that women are leaving the church at increasing numbers, and I believe it’s because women are losing our voices because we accept the status quo of gender parity as good enough.

Most importantly, I believe that the status quo is just another part of the patriarchal system, a system that stands between Christians and the actualization of the Kin-dom of God. As a Christian, as a woman, I will keep pushing back against the status quo. 50/50 gender parity or bust.

if all are created equal thus implies that gender representation matters at the table… 11% doesn’t cut it.

Today, I’m going to focus on gender, and it’s going to be dualistic. My personal belief is that gender is fluid, that we cannot just say brothers and sisters, that we need to add sibling. I know that many of God’s Beloved identify as gender queer, I have the utmost respect and do my best to pull myself out of the binary gender world I have grown up in. However, I hate saying this, binary gender is what this post is about. I truly believe that in my title gender representation means ALL genders beyond binary. I am willing and wanting to learn more, but as an ally, I will keep educating myself because it’s my responsibility to. 

One thing that I love about my home United Methodist jurisdiction, the Western Jurisdiction, it that we do a pretty good job of regulating who is at the table. By regulating, really, self-regulating, we actively look for voices, opinions, gender, and ethnic background to make sure we have all of God’s Beloved at the table. We had a moment of gender equality for our boards and agency appointments/assignments, but then realized that we had work to do on race. It was a moment of church because no matter what the goal is, or the type of theology, God’s creation needs to be represented. 

A few days ago, I awoke to a message from a good friend asking me to proof something and as it jolted me up, the lack of gender parity kicked me solidly in the gut. I knew I needed to break it down. First, if you haven’t read this excellent piece by the prophetic Rev. Jeremy Smith from a few days ago, please do. Before my first cup of coffee I was on the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) webpage reading this:

Gender Equality

Scripture teaches that men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God. Accordingly, the church should treat women and men equally. We believe that both women and men are called to and gifted for ordained and licensed ministry, and both genders are able to hold any role of leadership within the WCA.

Of the 55 co-conveners that started the WCA, 6 were women. For you math nerds like me… that’s a whooping 10.9%. Let’s give the WCA the benefit of the doubt and say 11%.

11%. Yet, they list Gender Equality as vital. That both genders shall hold any role of leadership within the organization, yet this is not who is at the literal table.

Now, I’m going to say something and, damn I mean this, I hope the WCA proves me wrong. That when they meet on Oct. 7th, gender parity happens, that they do really mean what they say about equality. That they are almost to 50/50 in leadership because without women’s voices, women’s leadership, the blood, sweet, tears, deep faith of women, patriarchy wins and my sisters (who I disagree with) are hurt. Regardless of our differences in beliefs, I am committed to fighting for them. 

11% is not even close to their priority of Gender Equality, so Wesleyan Covenant Association conveners, many will be watching you on issues of inclusivity, but this feminist will be watching how you treat women. I want you to prove me wrong. Like the other IRD, this IRD is watching too.

today it rained & i turned my face to the sky

This post is dedicated to my mom and everyone who is discovering that post-commute Irene is anti-social or at the fitness center. 

Today it rained. Hardly noteworthy in Seattle, or my homeland of Washington State, but this morning it felt inspiring and exciting. Because I’m in a new city, the other side of the country, and finally something seemed normal to me. Rain.

To understand this newfound appreciation for rain in the summer, I have to explain the past month of my life. Less than a month ago, I had a phone interview that I didn’t know was a phone interview. Then, a few days later on a Friday, while driving down to visit my sister in Vancouver for the weekend, I was offered a 3 month fellowship with Faith in Public Life. I said yes and that I could start in 9 days.

9 days is nothing if you are staying in the same city, or general area, but Faith in Public Life (FPL as we call it in the office) is in Washington, D.C. Saying yes meant packing up my house in Seattle, figuring out where I would live in D.C., tying up all the loose ends, and saying goodbye to the people I love and who love me. But, instead of turning my car around, I spent a great weekend with my sister and her boyfriend because they are people I love. We ate great food cooked at their home, discovered new wineries, and just enjoying each others company (perks of having a sister best friend). I drove home on Sunday and announced to my faith community I was moving.

While still in Vancouver, I posted that I was moving via Facebook, that I needed housing, and the United Methodist connectional system did it’s thing. Hours after my post, I had a lead that turned into affordable housing for the duration of the internship and living with some amazing justice-seeking Methodists. God is good.

Back to the update: On Monday I had a pretty full docket. I had to pack, clean, said good-byes, leave my Leo with my parents, get my haircut by Thursday night as my flight was on Friday. I had friends who make sure I ate, who packed my stuff, who held me when I had my moments of holy shit I’m moving and leaving my life, a mom who helped out every single day, and a dad who is a total boss at moving. The thing about community is that they carry you when you need them the most, even when it’s bittersweet. On Friday, I held Leo for the last time for a few months and my parents dropped me off at the airport. My good friends were also traveling, so I got to spend some more time with people I treasure.

I arrived in D.C. Friday night and it was hot as hell. (I imagine that if I did believe in a hell, it would be humid like the first days I had in D.C.) I saw friends from college and sort of watched a Nationals game, spent an afternoon with a friend from home where I bought a romper, and then moved into my room in Alexandria, VA. August 15th was my first day of work. I figured out the Metro thanks to my host family slash roommates, found a salad for lunch, amazingly made it back to Virginia that night.

In many ways, my life is completely different. There is no snuggly pup to hug when I need one, but I don’t live alone and have company when I need it. I spend over 2 hours commuting every day, I eat simply unlike what I was doing in Seattle, I joined the run club at FPL where I can do under 9 minute mile, and I’m getting used to the heat and humidity, but only because every place I go has air conditioning. I also work with some amazing people who have been supportive in this phase of my life through food recommendations, listening and suggesting ways to pitch in, Gatorade after run club, and playing Biggie at the right moments.

But, I haven’t found a good coffee place close enough to work. I have one for long breaks, but in a pinch there is a Starbucks. I miss layering my clothing,  being able to wear my hair down, wearing all my makeup without the threat of looking like Marilyn Manson at the end of the day, walking Seward Park with Leo, spontaneous dinners with my parents, and seeing my friends. I also miss the rain.

But today it rained and it felt like a little piece of home came to the D.C. Metro Area. It wasn’t anything to write home about this morning (beyond complaining on social media) and I was disappointed.When I got to FPL, I made sure I should watch the grey skies with the rain falling gently down from the comfort of my desk. I even grabbed a hot soy latte from Starbucks and it felt calming.

On my way home via the metro, it started raining a little. As I got on my bus to get back from the metro station, it started pouring. The people on the bus where not happy. I just smiled, opened my large purse, put on my button-up, took off my glasses, and put up my hair. I was giddy getting off the bus and let the rain fall on my face, it felt good and refreshing. I was soaked by the time I made it to my building, but I felt alive, enjoying every drop that ran down my face. I love it here, but little reminders of home will hold me through until I can actually move my life, aka Leo, here.

This is my life update: I am in D.C., walking in the rain, loving D.C., making new memories, enjoying new and old friends, and figuring out my career. I can’t wait to see what the next month of my life looks like.