Tag Archives: Christian

#ClergyShaming

It has been an interesting week. I usually come to clergy events with mixed feelings. I know not to expect over the top great continuing education. Annual conferences don’t have those kind of resources to usually underwrite top-notch events. In all my years of ministry that has been true. Occasionally someone has been brought in that was pretty great, but mostly I don’t expect it. I go to national events for those kind of experiences.

I go to annual conference events mostly for the fellowship, seeing people I only see a couple of times a year. This year was no different. I have heard Michael Slaughter more than once  and heard OF Clif Christopher so I knew it would be ok, or perhaps more accurately, I thought it would be. I am saddened and angry that it was not.

It is hard to know where to begin, but suffice to say that after thirty plus years of ministry I did not expect the overwhelming arrogance and maleness of the event. When I was a young clergywoman (and yes I was young once) I expected to do a great deal of translating. There were not many clergy women and so all the examples and all the stories were about men and for men and were usable by men. Jokes were often about male experience and too often with women as the lesser partners in the mix.

Fast forward to 2018. I would guess at least one-third of the room were clergy women. Women serve on the cabinet, as executive directors of our institutions, and are senior pastors of large churches. To have session after session with little or no positive examples of women’s leadership is unconscionable. PARTICULARLY in these days of the #MeToo movement.

The opening session and the example of a prostate exam and the doctor being somewhere “his wife” hadn’t seen was terrible and inappropriate and if not boundary crossing, it was border line. Women have been having “invasive” exams since their teens. Humilitating? Ok, but don’t expect everyone to have a moment of sympathy. It wasn’t funny for many and frankly wasn’t needed. Then the comment by the other speaker “Sorry I’m off the market ladies and I know she’ll (his wife) “have my supper ready.” The context was about thank you’s, but again it was inappropriate. There are far more examples that could have conveyed the same point, unless of course you are more interested in using the same tired “good ol’ boy” strategies for the 21st century.

Using military examples can work for some people. However, using the example of being in the Gulf War and having the Iraqi’s surrender was in my ears terribly demeaning and racist. The point the speaker was trying to make was that we need to be trained as Christians rather than pretend to be Christians. The example was that the Iraqis were wearing an Iraqi uniform, carrying Iraqi guns and when confronted with the American troops surrendered. The way it was told was patronizing. And the tag line of the solider who only had twelve bullets for his gun and needed back up in case those P.O.W.’s got ruly just was icing on the cake. How many other examples are there of people who are “pretending” to be Christian can we use that doesn’t look down on another country or another people? How about cowboys that wear the ten gallon hats but have never ridden a horse? Or snow bunnies who go to the lodges wear ski clothes but never get on the slope?

And the Body shaming was stunning. I was not personally affected by that other than amazed that it was being said. Comments like, “you can not be an effective leader if you overweight.” That was said in more than one way and in more than one session. I am ten pounds overweight and know it. Others are being humilated by being told they are ineffective and “fat.”

 

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I talked and heard from dozens of women and men who were unimpressed and saddened and even sickened by what was happening. Yelling at clergy, at anyone and telling them they are dumb and stupid for not doing something is not just unhelpful, it is abusive. The thing is, there was so much potential and opportunity to help clergy to learn and grow. One young woman said to me (and I have permission to share), “I don’t care if he wants a Mercedes convertible, I don’t appreciate being told that getting my Master’s degree was stupid and going into debt to do so on behalf of the church was dumb. He can talk money to me all he wants, what I want is enough money to pay my children’s pediatrician bills.”

I am not listing every comment I heard from the speakers or from my colleagues. I may have another blog coming on this subject. I know the purpose of the conference was to help clergy in terms of stewardship and reaching out to change lives. Yelling at clergy, telling them they have done it all wrong, regularly using like stupid and dumb usually is not very motivativing. I believe it counter-productive. Frankly, I am DONE with listening and exposing myself to people who think they have all the answers and are insulting to my intelligence. I am DONE with male jokes, the mansplaining, and the clergy shaming. Done.

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I want to motivate clergy to do better. I want people, my colleagues, myself to be healthier, stronger and more productive. I don’t want the church to fail or to miss opportunities to change lives or make a difference in the world. What I do want is an environment that is healthy, that is encouraging, that is godly and that does not demean or belittle or stereotype. I want a  place that does not assume that everyone is the same, that every church is the same and that every person will come with the same abilities and gifts.

In fact, isn’t that what “church” is all about? We are the body of Christ, not all alike, with different gifts and abilities, and we are brothers and sisters. We are the beloved children of God.

So, I say #TimesUp church! #TimesUp! We can do better, we must do better if we think we are going a reach out beyond our walls. I don’t want to have one more #MeToo story from the church. No more verbal abuse, no more #bodyshaming, no more #ClergyShaming. Not only do we need to do better, we need to be better than this.

 

 

 

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Prayers, Presence, Walks and Marches

I woke up early this morning. I was going to walk or “wog” in the “Battle of the Bean.” This 5K race supports the ministry of Mead’s Corner the coffee shop that is an outreach of the church I serve First United Methodist in downtown Wichita, Kansas. Before I got out of bed, I said my prayers. First I prayed for our new president Donald Trump. Then I prayed for our nation and prayed for many people I care about.

Not that it matters, but I did a personal best on the 5K at 44:30.8. My husband and I enjoyed the race and the energy and helping out a good cause.

20170121_075643Following the race I went home, changed clothes and got in the car with my twin sister and friend and husband and headed over to the Women’s March.

20170121_093953I will be honest, I thought long and hard about whether or not I would go. When the march was announced in Washington, D.C. I was asked if I was going and I said no. It was a long way away, it would be expensive and I wasn’t sure what my presence would add.

Then a march was announced for Topeka, again, I had not planned on going because I had the 5K in the morning and I knew I couldn’t get there in time. Then they announced a march in Wichita. This gave me pause. What reason could I give for going or not going?

The truth is, that I have it pretty good. I am in a place in my life that frankly I never imagined I would be. I am a senior pastor in a historic downtown church. There have not traditionally been many senior pastors that are women, although they are becoming more prevalent. My life is secure. I have health insurance, although like many it went up dramatically for 2017 (60%). I can afford to pay for it. In some ways I could be the poster child for women’s equality.

That is not my whole story, however. I could be a poster child for other things: being raised for five years by a single mom and grandparents and being a recipient of what was then called Aid to Dependent Children and a medical card. I could be a poster child for being sexually harassed by my superiors and not reporting it for fear I would lose my job and not be able to be a pastor, something I was called to do and be. I could be a poster child for women who have been raped in college or anywhere and not reporting for fear of not being believed (actually both the sexual harassment and rape were shared but I was told that it would be his word against mine and there wasn’t any point in reporting it.)

So I marched today for those who could not or those who have not yet seen that equality and justice is possible. I marched today, because I don’t want to go back to where there is an open season on women to be groped and to be raped and to be abused and told to just get over it. I don’t want to go back to when I knew what it was like to be voiceless and powerless and afraid.

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The truth be told, I didn’t agree with every sign I saw, or every part of every speech that was shared. I didn’t need to. I needed to stand up and be counted. I also don’t believe in violence. I was particularly grateful there was none in Wichita, not that I expected it. Parents with children, young people, old people with gray hair and wrinkles, women and men gathered and the mood was amazing.

One of the gifts of being part of this country is our right to assemble, our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech. Disagreement is not only necessary, it helps us move in new directions. I know this will sound somewhat shocking, but I don’t need everyone to believe the way I believe. Christians do NOT agree on many things…not the least of which is who to vote for in any given election. Christians don’t agree on baptism, on women in ministry or other doctrinal issues. Jewish people also don’t agree on every doctrinal issues, nor do Muslims or any other religion. In this country, we are free to worship or not in the way we see fit. We are free to assemble and protest and march in order to change the things we feel need changing. We are free to write, to speak and to post what we believe even if others do not.

I prayed for President Trump this morning, because that is what Christians do, he is the president of the United States. I prayed for our government because that is what Christians do. I stood up for those less fortunate, the ones who are afraid and the weak, because that is also what Christians do. I believe deeply that I am part of a long line of those who have worked for justice, for equality and for the hope and promise that all people deserve the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There have been many who have gone before me, my attendance today honors their sacrifice and commitment to building a better world. I attended today for those who come after me, that the time will come sooner, rather than later, when the reign of God, which promises hope, love, joy and justice will be made real.

So today, I prayed and walked. I marched and was present and accounted for. I know that not everyone will think that was important, some will disagree. I honor that disagreement. I also honor those who work tirelessly for peace, for justice for all people. I want to be part of a loving movement which provides safety for the most vulnerable, justice for the oppressed, equality for all people. I want my words and actions to match what I say I believe. As a Christian, I long to live as Jesus did, not only proclaiming good news, but working in ways to change the world….into a world of peace, of grace and of justice.

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Some additional thoughts on Paris and a Christian perspective

My Bishop, Scott Jameson Jones wrote a blog on the the Syrian Refugee crisis. He writes from a historical perspective as well as a Christian one. I find his words far more articulate and powerful than I could have written. I share them with you as many of us continue to wrestle with how to be Christian in a world that spews hatred and violence.

Bishop Scott Jones

I also share what United Methodist’s  believe about other religions and immigrants.

The United Methodist Reporter

I, for one, plan to remain faithful to welcoming the stranger and immigrant.

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Finding the Center in the midst of craziness

I am struggling to make sense of the craziness of the world. The struggle is not new of course, but still, within a couple of days, social media is filled with people angry, frightened and ready to do unspeakable things in the name of safety and security.

The terrorist attacks in Paris have brought the best of the worst of humanity to the forefront. I have been heart sick over the comments and posts that no matter what, none of “those” refugees will be allowed into Kansas, or Texas or anyone of about two dozen states. Children and women and men who fleeing for their lives. Women and children who are being raped and sold into slavery.

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I don’t have enough wisdom or knowledge to truly write about these issues other than to believe that I can not claim the name Christian and turn my back on those who are fleeing such horror. I do not choose to live in fear, and to claim that God wants us to take care of the least and lost.

Better writers and minds than mine have written numerous blogs and news stories. I will write something in the next day or two. Later than everyone I suppose, but I need more centering and prayer before I am prepared to put my thoughts out into cyberspace.

I am part of group called RevGalBlogPals who have taken the challenge to blog daily during November. I haven’t made it every day, but each day a “prompt” is posted on facebook. Today’s has to do with what keeps one connected to God and to others.

So in responding to that prompt, I am aware there are many things I do to recenter myself when I am overwhelmed, confused, scared, or just need to be reminded of who I am. I pray, I read, I cook. Cooking is practical and creates something that is helpful. Everyone needs to eat. So I can do something that makes a difference in that moment. I listen to music, occasionally watch television or movies. I find a way to laugh and smile.

I think true “power” lies not in how strong one might be, but in the ability to find joy in the midst of all: tragedy, grief, pain, sickness, uncertainty and fear. Today, I ran across video that features dancers from old time movies in a mashup using Old Town Funk. It made me smile today and I have watched it a couple of times.

http://www.slate.com/articles/video/video/2015/11/mashup_of_uptown_funk_and_hollywood_golden_era_movie_dancing_video.html

In the midst of life that would grind us down, I share this for a smile and moments respite. May joy infuse our lives. May a little laughter bring some happiness in the midst of a time that would wear us down and bring us despair. Today, I choose faith, I choose hope and I choose life.

 

 

 

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On the movies and the gospel

I do not often recommend movies. Not because I don’t like them or enjoy them, but because people’s tastes are different. I love movies, I love the theatre. Recently I have not gone to “the movies” as often. My husband Andrew and I tend to rent them, pop some popcorn and enjoy our movies at home.

The last few weeks at the church, we have explored the movies and the gospel. All the movies were recent, and some already available on DVD. We chose different genres and kinds of movies to appeal to a larger audience. We had a baseball movie, a children’s movie, an action movie, a Christian/comedy movie and a drama that was up for several Academy awards.

I have seen all of them, the last this afternoon. I will be honest, “Christian” movies don’t usually appeal to me, but Mom’s Night Out was just delightful. Funny, true to what life can be like and have a “message” worked in this particular film. The trailer

shows some of the craziness of a Mom’s life and her stress and her need to remember who she is, not who she thinks she should be.

My husband Andrew and I laughed throughout the movie.  As we exited the movie theatre, he said, “how novel to enjoy a movie with no vulgarity, not cuss words, no nudity or unnecessary sex or violence.  AND it still had car chases!”  Andrew enjoys car chases, shoot em ups and frankly gratuitous violence!  The other stuff makes him cry, but don’t tell him I said that!  He was right.  I get violence and sex and language in movies, but it was sort of fun to have a movie that made one laugh and cry without it.

The mom, Allyson, just needed a break.  Any mother or father or grandparent can identify.  More importantly she struggled with how to be who she was called to be.  I think it is pretty true of human beings to look at whether they are ever “enough.”  The definition of enough changes for people.  The striving to do all and be all in our culture is pervasive.

In the Christian tradition grace is the gift to remind each person they are “enough.”  It isn’t anything a person does….it is a gift.  God loves each of us as a beloved son or daughter.  No one has to do anything for that love or grace just accept it.  Each of us is “enough.”  It is hard in this culture of ours to be “enough.”  Everything encourages us to believe that somehow we are deficient.  In God’s grace, we are loved, beloved even.  It is important to be reminded of that.  Now, in God’s grace each of us is able to be more and do more than we ever dreamed possible, but God loves each of us regardless of what do or say.

The unbelievable gift of the gospel is this:  God love us, period.  It is not what we do, or say or know, it is God’s deep grace and love for each of us as unique and unrepeatable persons.  This movie, is a reminder of that grace and that love for each person.

It was a fun movie with a reminder for me that God’s grace is sufficient for all.  I am grateful for grace that is great than I can imagine and love that is eternal and everlasting.  With that, I am thankful and

Graced to serve.

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