Tag Archives: Gender

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: http://www.moumethodist.org/mandatoryreporting.

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 https://www.moumethodist.org/ 

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

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ The Locker Room and The Vestry

One time as I came down from a platform during a church musical rehearsal, I passed several women and whispered, “I’ll be right back, I have got to go to the bathroom!” I rushed away and couldn’t hear the laughter that erupted behind me; the sound guy had not yet muted my lapel mic.

My whisper had been heard throughout the sanctuary.

When it was, Blessed Among Men turned off my microphone so that no further personal audio echoed through sacred space.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the public square about the nature of men’s-only talk. Behind closed doors, is it inevitably crass, boastful, and vulgar? Beyond that, does it involve boasts of non-consensual conquests? How common is it? Is it ever alright to be vulgar in private? Is it ever alright to boast of non-consensual conquests – indeed, to have them at all?

While “the locker room” has become spatial shorthand for the social space in which these conversations take place, “the vestry” (the room in which pastors put on their vestments) has scrambled to come up with a response. Most of the response has taken the shape of quickly condemning, not first and foremost the crass vocabulary, but rather the bragging about asserting unwanted sexual contact into social interactions with women. Some of the voices responding have been male – men who refuse to accept the unwanted advances of a male moore-tweetpolitician assuring the
populace that his own behavior wasn’t, and isn’t, harmful. Indeed, the best sermon I’ve ever heard on gender was preached by Tom Fuerst a couple of years ago, long before the current conversation reached fever pitch (listen here).

Some of the voices responding from the vestry have been female – women who cite their own experiences of sexual abuse and assault as evidence that what’s being said is excruciatingly harmful. “Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement and power. Are we sickened? Yes. Surprised? NO,” Tweeted popular women’s study author Beth Moore. “Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal,” she continued. Moore could hardly be characterized as an axe-grinding angry feminist; her books populate the shelves of conservative evangelical women. She is simply a woman telling the truth. One article from The Daily Beast illustrates the widening gap in the responses from evangelical women and some evangelical men, as their brothers in the faith determinedly look the other way.

It seems in our current cultural climate that the mic has picked up the twin identity crises emerging in the church and in the public square. It’s not so much that we’re at a crossroads as we’re at a demolition derby. At a time when deep down we would hope to put our very best people up for election as a government leader, we have one woman whose life has been sharply defined by her marriage to an infamous womanizer, and one man whose life has been sharply defined as an infamous womanizer.

In our public square, women across the country see two primary candidates for President of the United States: one has stuck with a serially unfaithful spouse. The other has regularly said horribly demeaning things to and about women while treating them as a fiscal and personal commodity in his business life. While there are other people on the ballot – thank goodness – the air time has largely gone to these two people. Both traditional political parties have put people front and center who communicate to women with their actions and words that this is the best we can do; this is the best we can expect; this is the best we deserve.

(Promoting the well-being and safety of women, by the by, is one of the most pro-life things you can do: after all, confronting a culture of sexual assault will inevitably lower the number of abortions performed. Not all abortions are chosen in response to sexual abuse, of course – no one would say that – but many women will never, ever bear the child who results from rape. Many women will never tell their abusive husband that there was another pregnancy, one he never knew about, after seeing their children sobbing in the corner. Do you want to protect the unborn? Go to bat against a culture of sexual entitlement.)

Project Unbreakable participant

What the vestry ignores at its peril is the underground experience of sexual abuse by millions of women, as recounted in overwhelmed terms by an author who inadvertently opened the floodgates on Twitter. This comes after the soaring popularity of Project Unbreakable, a movement that started as a photography project, in which women – faces pictured or not – hold a simple sign with a quote written on it: the words they were told by their abuser.

While many stand-up men and professional athletes have come forward to exclaim vehemently, “that doesn’t happen in my locker room!” perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “those things aren’t said when I’m there,” which both acknowledges that their very presence could have an effect on the environment, and acknowledges that there is a subculture which does exist but in which they do not participate. It also leaves room for the idea that some of this subculture may have just gone underground: perhaps in many social spaces these conversations no longer take place.

But have you checked the average smartphone?

A couple of years ago we bought a smartphone from eBay. It worked great, came with a case and was delivered promptly. I eagerly began exploring it.

The previous owner had not been careful in removing his content.

I doubt the young women who sent the nude pictures to the previous owner ever suspected a pastor-mom would see them in their birthday suits. As far as I know, they sent them of their own free volition (though I don’t know whether they were over 18; they were very young, and if the previous owner was over 18, it could matter under federal law, concerning images of minors). I also doubt that the young women who hooked up with Mr. College Student (he appeared in several selfies) suspected that screen shots had been taken of their phone numbers under the names “Easy Bang” and “Crazy Whore.” In his phone, those were their names. Their identities. I also doubt one young lady would have suspected that a screen shot had been saved of text messages in which he apologized for the accident and offered to buy her the morning-after pill. (Somewhere, he had learned to cover his behind – though not the rest of himself, as one short video clip demonstrated.)

There was a whole locker room in one Samsung Galaxy.

If you want to give a youth group a heart attack, tell them your church WiFi has been hacked and all the content on their smartphones – including their internet search history – has just been downloaded to the secretary’s computer.

Did I say youth group? I meant congregation.

And the vestry will have a difficult time speaking into the public square if clergy smartphones are pocket-sized locker rooms.

But it’s not just about the abuse of status, influence and power in sexual interactions with women.

In truth, both the vestry and the locker room have been part of an ongoing national conversation for months now. Who can forget the nauseating news story that broke about white athletes sexually abusing a disabled black student in a small town high school locker room? What women of all colors are now testifying to, our black sisters and brothers have been saying for quite a while, as they’ve shared stories of discrimination, racism, and abuse: of being pulled over, followed around a department store, or questioned as to the ownership of their vehicle. What have they said? This has happened. This is happening. This will continue to happen unless we confront this reality.

Show me a person who is vocal about women’s rights or racial inequality, and I’ll show you someone who has had some deeply painful and personal experiences. Behind what may look like a “platform” is a story – or a lifetime of stories. It’s easier to talk about civil rights than it is to talk about the time you were called the “n” word. It’s easier to talk about women’s equality than it is to talk about the time you were groped.

So what trends will the mic pick up in our churches? In our locker rooms? What is the mic picking up in our public square? If we refuse to acknowledge the damage, then we have a lot of North American Protestant clergy who essentially are following the example of former Popes in turning a blind eye to the abuses happening in their vestries.

I am moved by stories of survivors: stories of women who climbed their way back from despair, self-loathing, and addiction. Women who – for better or for worse – have taught men to fear them. Women who confront their abusers and hold them accountable in court, so that whatever the verdict is, there will always be an asterisk in peoples’ minds.

Recently I heard Dr. Andrew Thompson speak on acculturation, Constantine, and John Wesley. He expertly dissected the precarious relationship the church has had with the dominant culture in which it finds itself, pointing out that Wesley critiqued Constantine and the effects that came from Christianity being the religion of the empire. Rather than the empire becoming more Christian, the church became more like the empire.

It is dangerous to become complicit in the sins of the empire. There are many such areas; in this case, justice is at stake. How will we love our neighbors as ourselves? Dr. David F. Watson considered this question with insight and gravity recently here.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

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.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ A Woman’s Voice Can Usher in the Kingdom of God

Today my first-person perspective of Resurrection Day sits over at this website in honor of the traditional myrrh-bearers – the women who went to care for Jesus’ body at the tomb, later running and announcing the resurrection to the rest of the disciples. (Yes, Protestants – after Greek Orthodox Pascha [Easter], the tradition observes the Feast of the Holy Myrrhbearers; have we forgotten how to remember female saints?).

In Zimbabwe, traditionally women preach the Easter sermon, because it was women who were the first witnesses to the resurrection.

A woman’s voice can usher in the Kingdom of God.

I don’t know what lullabies Mary sang to her infant, who, contrary to “Away in a Manger,” would’ve wailed and screamed like any other baby because that’s what Fully Humans do. I do know some other words Mary spoke right before Jesus’ first miracle. “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.”

A woman’s voice can usher in the Kingdom of God.

Women’s History Month is punctuated by International Women’s Day; the internet floats retrospectives up to the surface, and we see photos of ceiling-shatterers, of sisters and mamas captured in time because they happened to be in a certain place on a certain day. I’m young enough to be surprised at the outcry caused simply by a woman running in a marathon. I’m old enough to feel impatient that progress in certain areas seems to have stalled in my lifetime. I’m aware enough to know how much things have changed in the past 100 years.

Women got the vote. Women welded and riveted. Women got labor-saving devices. Women burned bras. Women embraced careers. Women got the power to sue harassers. Women rediscovered value in parenting, knitting, gardening. Women took selfies.

Obviously there were some ups and downs.

This March is a bit different for me. This March, instead of reflecting on Earharts and Bhuttos and Roosevelts, I keep hearing the voices that echo from far away; voices that are muted; voices cut off.

I think about the women who lost toddlers to a vicious ruler bent on destroying a baby who drew wise men from the Far East – Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.

I think about a woman in a rural Chinese village, unable to pay a fine for a second child, losing a baby to a government-forced abortion against her will. She can’t even blog about it.

I think about about Felicity and Perpetua, saints, women who were martyred in the early church the nameless women like them who died for their faith.

I think about Assyrian Christian women kidnapped by ISIS in Syria.

I think about a story in the book of Genesis about the rape of Dinah – read here – and I think about young women fighting for dignity and healing from sexual assault and trafficking through organizations like Project Unbreakable and the International Justice Mission.

A woman’s voice can usher in the Kingdom of God – whether or not we hear it. How many women have gone unheard?

Ultimately, all the voices are heard: they hold up the rafters of the universe in prayer, they proclaim the Risen Christ and worship joyfully, they whisper hope and comfort with Messiah-smiles to the dying and the ones dead inside.

Ultimately, all the voices are heard: the voices weeping for their babies, screaming in loss, yelling in protest, whispering in despair. They are heard, like Martha and Mary’s voices were heard by a heartbroken Messiah – “if you had been here…”

You know what followed.

“Jesus wept.”

Dear sisters – we hear you. Across the centuries – we hear you. When no historian wrote your part of the human tale – we hear you. From the other side of the world – we hear you.

Founder of the Methodist movement John Wesley’s last letter was written about the urgent need to end slavery. He wrote it to famous abolitionist William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was someone who could hear silenced voices.

A woman’s voice can usher in the Kingdom of God.

Lord, in your mercy, show us how to hold the megaphone.

Lord, in your mercy, show us how to set caged voices free.