Author Archives: Jennifer Moxley

Jennifer Moxley ~ What to Do With #metoo

The pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault that last fall’s #metoo movement uncovered has left the Church wrestling with how to minister to those women and men who carry stories and bear wounds in our pews. I hear the Church asking questions like: What is our role in the wake of #metoo?

How can we preach light when they have kept so much pain in the dark?

What of the God who sets captives free when so many have been used as pawns in a game of power?

How can we teach love when that word has been used to manipulate or control?

How can we help them see the image of God in others and themselves when they have been conditioned to believe that their bodies are made for someone else’s pleasure?

How can we offer good news—hope— to those still in the darkness of the tomb?

While the pain that #metoo has uncovered will take years to heal, there are a few things we, as the Church, can do to bring healing and hope to those hurting.

First, we can listen.

For every story told, there are scores of others kept secret. This means our pews are full of people carrying the burden of untold assault. As the Church, we can invite these stories into the open and expose them to the light (Ephesians 5:13), stealing their power. Once revealed, they no longer have the power to shape the person’s life narrative. They can become events that happened to them, and not part of their identity, not who they are, releasing them from the captivity of shame and guilt.

Second, we can believe the stories.

Once we have created a safe space for stories to be shared—one in which there is no judgment or discrimination—if someone trusts us enough to hear their story of deepest hurt, we should believe them. The Church’s role is not to “find out what happened,” but to receive their account of experience as their truth. Rather than deem their testimony an idle tale (Luke 24:11), we are called to affirm their feelings, however messy or complicated, and trust that they are sharing honestly.*

Third, we can repent.

One of the impacts of the #metoo movement has been an awareness that sexual assault and harassment is not limited to Hollywood or boardrooms and newsrooms but reaches into every corner of our country and social strata, even the Church. At its core, #metoo names an abuse of power—the party with the most power in the relationship using their influence to control or take advantage of the other. As the Church, it would be foolish to believe we have not participated or contributed in some way. We can confess the ways we have corporately and personally upheld this power dynamic, repent and seek to turn it upside down (Luke 1:46-55).

Fourth, we can do better.

There is a cultural shift taking place in our country as a result of the #metoo movement, one that recognizes the value and dignity of everyone. As Christians who believe each person is formed in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), we should be leaders of this movement. We should be working for a time when it will be no longer socially acceptable to objectify or exploit any of God’s creation. We should be calling out oppressive systems that silence victims. We should be reminding a world desperately hurting that there a God who loves them, a Creator who calls them good (Genesis 1:31). We should share the good news that the same God who knows our deepest pain and shares our hurt came to redeem our suffering and restore all of creation. After all, this is the God who, in Jesus Christ, says, #metoo.


*As pastors, we are bound to pastoral confidentiality, although at times, mandatory reporting is necessary. For more information about mandatory reporting, visit:

Ideas for Churches That Want to Change Culture in 2018

  • Maintain and update the local church Safe Sanctuaries® policy. Train the church community on the policy.
  • Require all leaders, even non-clergy leaders, to take boundary training.
  • Post domestic violence and sexual violence hotline numbers in church restrooms.
  • Teach the warning signs of domestic abuse and abuse of children to volunteers and paid employees who work with children (e.g., nursery, Parents Day Out, Sunday School, preschool, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops).
  • Intentionally use the words sexual and domestic violence in various liturgies through the year—for example, in a prayer of confession.
  • Take a special offering for a local domestic violence shelter.
  • Hang posters in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
  • Plan education classes for the community on these issues during April and October.
  • Utilize local experts to educate the congregation, particularly parents and guardians, on topics like the grooming behaviors of predators, consent, and boundaries.
  • Teach a study on biblical texts of terror (e.g., Tamar, the unnamed concubine, and the daughter of Jephthah).
  • Strive to place women in visible leadership positions. Consider reflecting the gender breakdown of your own congregation in your leadership structure. If women represent 60 percent of the congregation, 60 percent of the church’s leaders could be women.
  • Have the leaders create a no-tolerance statement: If abuse occurs within the fellowship of the church, commit to prosecuting no matter who the offender might be.

#metoo additional resources:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Eradication of Sexual Harassment in The United Methodist Church & Society

United Methodist Sexual Ethics

General Commission on the Status & Role of Women

Missouri Annual Conference Boundary Resources

Online Boundaries Training from Lewis Center

Free Online Mandatory Reporting Training


Reprinted from 

Rev. Jennifer Moxley is a member of World Methodist Evangelism’s Order of the Flame.

Sneak Peek: How to Preach a Funeral Homily

It’s weird to admit. I get it. It sounds a little, shall we say, macabre.

But here goes: I actually kind of like doing funerals.

Okay, a lot of pastors like doing funerals.

There’s the captive audience, the getting to hear ourselves talk, and sometimes there’s even free fried chicken and banana pudding involved.

So maybe it’s not that weird.

But after three years of full-time ministry and exactly forty(ish) funerals under my stole, I can say that I like doing funerals for a different reason: I like placing the deceased person’s story within the broader story God has been writing since the beginning of time. I like funerals because they present an opportunity to be creative—to lead those present into the world of the Bible and help them find themselves there, too.

Let me explain.

When I’m asked to do a funeral, sometimes I know the dearly departed, and sometimes (maybe over half the time), I don’t.  So I sit with the family and ask some open ended-questions like, “what was their childhood like?”

“How did they meet their spouse?”

“What’s the one story you always tell at family gatherings about them?”

And,“what role did faith play in their life?”

And for an hour or three, I just let the family talk while I take as many notes as I can.

Then I tell them what I see as my role in this whole thing.  My job, I say, is to tell the story of God—to tell the story of God’s relentless love and tireless chasing-after-us-even-when-we-run.  Of creation and new creation. Of death and resurrection.  And my job is to place the story of their loved one within this broader story that has been going on since “in the beginning.”

This is the fun part.

I read over the notes and pray.  Then pray some more.  Usually, a biblical story or passage comes to mind.  Sometimes though, just a word sticks out and I run with that.  I challenge myself to not use the “normal” funeral passages or the suggested readings in The United Methodist Book of Worship, at least for the homily.  And I allow the Spirit to give me a passage from Scripture that helps tell the broader story of that person’s life.

I have to say, I secretly relish the looks on the faces of the front-row-family as I begin the homily portion of the service.  I especially love it when the expression is slight confusion.  Tears are dried for a moment as heads cock to the side, their owners asking, “where is she going with this story about Ruth?” or “why is she reading from Nehemiah?!”

Because at first, their stay-at-home mom known for her lemon pound cake has little to nothing in common with the most famous Moabitess of all time.  And they can’t see how a minor prophet’s story could possibly shed light on their grandfather’s death.

But the thing about the stories in the Bible is that they’re our stories, too.They’re stories of imperfect, complicated people trying and failing and yet, by the grace of God, being used to witness to the love of God in the world.  Their lives tell the story of God’s redemption and grace upon grace.

And so do ours.

After attending a funeral I preached, a pastor friend (snidely?) remarked “you can’t not present the Gospel, can you?”

No, I can’t.

Because to me, this is good news.  This is very good news.  The Gospel is not just that Jesus died to take away our sin and make us clean-happy-pure people, but that God came to redeem us in our mess and to include us in the work God is doing to mend all of creation.  

It’s difficult to eulogize a life in twelve minutes or less: to summarize decades of experiences and relationships.  To comfort a generation of family members trying to make meaning from an unexpected death.  Or to un-burn years of bridges.  To mend broken hearts.

But the Good News is that the stories of our mundane, regular everyday-ness are as much a part of God’s story as the greatest king in Israel’s history. That work done in homes and classrooms and jobsites in middle America 2,000 years after Jesus are as much miracle as any healing done by Peter’s shadow.  That the Good Samaritan is alive and walking around disguised as the elderly veterinarian or nursing-home-bound centenarian.

That our stories are part of something bigger that has been going on since God spoke it all into being.

So our lives are more than just a few years of work and family and our contributions to church potlucks?  Yes.  Our lives are more than accomplishments and accolades? Absolutely.  Our lives are more than just setbacks and screw-ups? Yep.

This is the hope we have, anyway.  This is the hope we declare at a funeral and every time two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name.  That this is not all there is.  And when we enter into the strange world of the Bible, we find who God is, and who we are too.   

Jennifer Moxley ~ Huldah and Keepers of the Word

In a few days, I will be ordained as an elder in The United Methodist Church, marked as one called, among other things, to be a keeper of the Word. For me, part of this strange and wondrous calling is to narrate my community into the story of God – to help them find themselves in the story of creation and redemption – of exile and homecoming. It’s the story that God has been writing ever since God spoke it all into being.

This is my favorite. I love reading the Bible in community and watching as ancient words resonate with contemporary imaginations.

Like reading the story of the hemorrhaging woman alongside a grandmother scraping together money to pay for her hysterectomy.

And watching tears roll down the cheeks of a teenage girl as she whispers, “Amen” to the words of Kohelet.

And kneeling next to a dying man as he recites Psalm 121 from memory.

This. This is what I love. This is what I was made to do.

And yet.

And yet, I have spent the last two years struggling to find myself in the pages of the Bible.  I have spent the last two years searching for my place in the story. I have spent hours poring over word after word, verse after verse, chapter after chapter, searching for how I might narrate myself into this story. And my prayer, often through tears, has been, “Where am I?”

Two years ago, after finishing seminary, my husband and I returned to our home state to begin our new careers as pastor and farmer.  We were thankful to be close to family again and thankful, also, to have free childcare available. We wanted to start a family as soon as we crossed the Missouri line. Everything was falling into place.

Infertility was not part of the plan.

And now, two years later, I still have not known full-time ministry apart from the pain and grief of the monthly hope and heartache cycle that is infertility.

Like so many before me who have dealt with the inability to conceive children, seeking to lean into that command to go forth and multiply, I have sought wisdom from the Biblical sisterhood.

There is no shortage of Biblical figures who “get it”— a cohort of women who struggled with the exact same emotional hypostatic union I do today: fully delighted for others with children while fully devastated for their own empty arms.  They wrestled with their own identities as women, grappling with the definition of motherhood that comes with it. Even without Instagram posts of pregnancy announcements and milestones, they, too, felt the sting of inadequacy as they watched their sisters raise broods.

I imagine lamenting with Hannah or Sarah or Rachel – glass of red wine in hand.  We would swap stories of pithy, asinine, insensitive comments from strangers and friends who tie our situation into neat theological bows.

We would laugh at the awkwardness of ovulation kits and scheduling intimacy.

We would cry.

And we would end the night the way it always seems to end – with a sigh.

With the acknowledgment that other people are trying the best they can to comfort us and don’t know how because they don’t know how.

With the resignation: “It just stinks. A lot.”

Because as comforting as it is to know that I stand in a long line of mothers without children, ultimately their stories of temporary infertility are not helpful. I have prayed until I looked drunk. Nothing. My husband has prayed on my behalf. Still nothing.

Granted, I’m not 90 yet. Maybe there’s still hope. Thirty-three sure feels ancient. So if my story is not like theirs, how do I fit in?

Enter Huldah.

HuldahWho? I know. Huldah. As I searched and searched to find my place in the story of Scripture, I stumbled upon a prophetess mentioned only briefly in 2 Kings 22 and again in 2 Chronicles 34.

“When Hilkiah, the High Priest, found the Book of the Law in the temple, King Josiah commanded him to inquire of the Lord what it meant.  Hilkiah went to the prophetess Huldah, the wife of the wardrobe keeper’s son, and she interpreted the Book of the Law and prophesied the implications for King Josiah and all of Judah.” It wasn’t pretty. She didn’t sugarcoat it.  Hilkiah took the harsh message back to the king.

And that’s it.  Those six verses are all we know about Huldah.

And yet, what captivates me about Huldah is not what we know about her, but what we don’t.  We know she was married, but have no idea if she ever birthed children.  Her ability or inability to reproduce is not mentioned.  Her womb is not the source of her identity.

This is not how she is defined.

Instead, she is known as an interpreter of scripture.  Her legacy was not her offspring. Her legacy was her faithfulness to the word of God.

The story of Huldah has become a lifeline for me.

As I seek to live into the call of ordained ministry, I cling to Huldah’s story.   Her life – however little we know about it – reminds me that my usefulness for God’s kingdom and my place in the story is not defined by whether I am able to bear children. Thanks be to God.

Just over two months ago, Maundy Thursday, I joined another cohort of Biblical sisters.  Miscarriage added me to the membership roll of grieving mothers, mourning the loss of a beloved child.

As the heartbeat of our baby – the one for whom we had prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed – fell silent, I cried alongside Mary at the foot of the cross.

Wailed with Rachel in the wilderness.

Gasped for air with Bathsheba in the temple.

Sat inconsolably with Naomi in the Moab desert.

And sobbed with all of the daughters of Jerusalem, my tears spanning centuries, while still laying on the cold, hard ultrasound table.

In the midst of our grief, my husband and I continue to pray for the next positive test result.  And we hope that the joys of parenthood are still in our future.  We hope that someday we will know our child’s giggle and console her with forehead kisses.

But while our story is still being written, Huldah’s remains a source of encouragement.  She reminds me that God continues to use men and women in whom Scripture dwells so richly that it flows from their heart and mouth, calling those around them to greater knowledge and love of God.

As I continue to live into my calling, I pray that my name is added to this band of prophets – this band of keepers of the Word.

I pray I’m included in their club, too.

Jennifer Moxley ~ Yes…And: The Grace of Improv

She was trying to make sense of it all. “So what I hear you saying is… it’s sort of like how God’s grace is offered to us…”

“Right,” I said.

“And we get to respond to it,” she said during the first night of Yes&, our church’s recent first-ever improvisational comedy workshop.

“Actually yes,” I said. “It’s exactly like that.”

Wait, what? Someone can learn about God’s grace and living the Christian life while laughing hysterically and enjoying themselves?

Hold. The. Phone.

I know it sounds crazy, but it’s a thing!  Really!  Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, our church invited two pastors, two of my best—and most hilarious—friends from seminary, to join me in leading a three-night improv comedy workshop event.

But what is improv anyway?  Isn’t improvisation just making stuff up?  Well, yes…and it’s more than that.  It’s learning rules and principles and practicing those until they become natural and playing within these boundaries seems a lot like, well, playing.

It’s not unlike a jazz musician who practices scales until they can enjoy playing their instrument.  The act of playing is fun and enjoyable; that’s why it’s called playing and not working.  Nobody says “he works that jazz sax real good.”  In the same way, improv comedy is fun and doing improv is called playing and comedic improvisers are referred to as players.

During the first night of our improvisational comedy workshop, the three hilarious instructors (that’s us) taught foundational principles to the players and played games that helped put these concepts into practice.

The first foundational principle and the only one I’m talking about here: Yes…and. In improv comedy “Yes… and” is the act of listening to what has just been said by a scene partner and accepting it (or saying “yes.”)  And when the scene partner adds something to that aforementioned hilarious statement, that’s the “and.” By listening, accepting, and contributing new content, it’s the start of a conversation and a scene develops before the audience’s very eyes. A whole new world is created when two people genuinely hear one another and choose to create something together.

Are you with me so far? One person says something. Another person accepts (Yes) and adds to it (and). And this happens a lot: yes…and…yes…and…yes…and.  And pretty soon, the conversation–the scene and the world the two are creating together– becomes something nobody could have expected.

The concept of Yes…and is the distillation of what everyone who has ever had a conversation with another person in their life knows intuitively: when you say no, the conversation comes to a—probably awkward—halt.  You shut down and your partner struggles to get the dialogue train back on track.

To say no blocks the conversation from moving forward in a positive direction.  To say no leaves conflict and confrontation or calling it quits as the only potential options.

Instead, engaged listening and contributing new information continues the conversation as you learn more about each other’s lives and how to share life together.

To say yes is to listen when another person is hurting or needs to process a current life crisis.

To say and is to add a word of encouragement, consolation, or solidarity. Eventually trust is earned as each person allows themselves to be more and more vulnerable when more of their life is shared and accepted.  These real and open conversations are the stuff communities are made of.

And so, improv comedy builds on this communication technique.  While in real life, honesty is the best policy, in the improv world, saying yes trumps the need for integrity. No one wants to watch a scene that ends as soon as it starts.  Instead, it is funnier and more interesting to watch two people create and inhabit a world in which all things are possible.

Of course, the conversations that happen during an improv comedy scene are made up on the spot.  Because the players have practiced the art of Yes…and they are able to take a suggestion from the audience and play together, listening and responding over and over and creating a new world in which they can live and move and breathe.

And eventually—hopefully—hilarity ensues.

Not only does Yes…and have implications for how we are to live in Christian community as those who listen and contribute, but it also encompasses the totality of the Christian experience.  This is what that incredibly insightful workshop participant quoted above discovered that first night: playing in an improv scene is a lot like living the Christian life.

Listening to a scene partner mirrors our need to listen for the voice of God speaking to us through prayer, Scripture, and community.  Saying yes to God means accepting God’s life-giving gift of grace and love.  Responding to this free gift is a lifetime of and-ing.  It is the everyday turning to God, accepting God’s grace, and adding new content, the life lived for God.

On the last night of the Yes& workshop, the 42 participants had a chance to perform for friends and family, flexing their newfound comedy muscles.  It was hilarious.  They were so funny.  And it was beautiful.  Because while I was wiping away tears of laughter, I caught a glimpse of a new community forming: one in which communication was based on listening and fun.  Is this what Christian community is supposed to look like?

Yes…and it’s one in which I want to be a part.

If you are interested in bringing Yes& to your church, youth group, or monthly potluck, please contact Jennifer Moxley at