Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Crushing on Your Pastor

It’s perfectly ok, and can even be healthy and healing, to have a crush on your pastor.

It is not healthy, healing, or ok for your pastor to take advantage of those feelings.

We've started talking publicly about how it is wrong for pastors to sleep with members of their congregations.  It's about time! 

But we haven't talked about why it's wrong.  And that has, for some people, stigmatized the completely normal feelings they have for their pastors, made them feel wrong or dirty or gross for feeling attracted to their pastor.

You aren't dirty or wrong or gross!  First of all, because feelings and attractions aren't dirty or wrong or gross.  Actions can be wrong, and the choices you make about those feelings can be wrong, but your feelings aren't.

And attractions to pastors, just like attractions to therapists, are completely normal, and often part of the healing process.  If your pastor is a good pastor, they have been trained to expect this, and taught how to handle it in a safe and good and loving way.

Sometimes we get crushes on people like therapists, pastors, and other emotional caretakers exactly because they are people who we should be able to trust not to respond to our feelings.  These feelings might be part of healing if we have had our trust broken in the past, and need to experience an authority figure respecting healthy boundaries and not taking advantage of us, and we might even test the to see if they really will be safe.  Or we might be trying out a new identity or attraction that we aren't quite ready to act on, so we practice feeling it with an unavailable authority figure.  Sometimes we just have never experienced emotional or spiritual intimacy outside of a romantic relationship, and so our first response to an intimate relationship is to assume it's romantic, until we get to experience that it doesn't have to be.

In each of these examples, experiencing feelings for a safe authority figure who won't act on your feelings is part of healthy healing.  And completely normal! And nothing to be ashamed of!

But they also show why pastors need good and healthy boundaries with the people we care for.  We need to be the loving, but unavailable, space for people to experience non-sexual, non-romantic intimacy.

And pastors, we can simply never know if the church member who is attracted to us would be attracted to us if we weren't their pastor.  They probably wouldn't.  This is what we mean when we talk about a power imbalance, about transference, about all those other words we heard in seminary.  People are trusting us to teach them what loving intimacy, outside of romantic and sexual love, looks like.  They crushing on us precisely because they need us to be unresponsive to their crush.

If you have feelings for your pastor, or your therapist, or some other trusted authority figure, you can talk about it with them.  Sometimes naming something helps make it safer and more manageable! A good pastor will be able to talk with you about this in a way that makes you feel even more safe and cared for.

Your pastor might feel a little awkward, and that’s ok too! They’re human. And humans get awkward taking about sex.  But let it be their job to manage their own feelings. They are the professional.

Bad pastors won't.  Bad pastors might take advantage of you.  I don't want to lie to you about this risk.  And if you experience that your pastor is encouraging your feelings, telling you they return them, or offering to act on them, I'm really sorry, you need to leave the conversation and find someone else trusted to talk to.  The only good news I have for you is that more and more of us will believe you, will affirm that you did nothing wrong, and will have your back in deciding what to do next.

If you've ever been in a relationship with a pastor that doesn't feel right, it isn't your fault.  Keeping the relationship safe is your pastor's job, not yours.  I hope you can find some other trusted person, maybe not a pastor, maybe a therapist or someone else, to talk about this with.

(An aside about sexual harassment: pastors do get sexually harassed by their parishioners. If your pastor is a woman, is a person of color in a white church, is LGBTQIA+, has a disability, etc, they’ve almost definitely been harassed. Good pastors can tell the difference between emotional transference and the assertion of dominance that is sexual harassment. That’s another blog post, but I want to promise you that if you’re worried about respecting your pastor’s boundaries, that’s almost definitely not what your crush is about. Just like you would with any other person, listen when your pastor says what kind of touch is ok, and what isn’t, listen when they say when the conversation is done, and other boundaries they set, and you’ll be ok.)

The relationship between a pastor and the people they care for is a deep and holy one.  It is loving, and intimate.  It should also be safe, for your feelings, for your spiritual explorations, for you to grow into the person God has created you to be.

I want for you to have that.  And your feelings are perfectly ok.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Pastoral Promises

As a pastor, I deeply care for the members of the congregation I serve. And although pastors often spend time talking about good boundaries for keeping our relationships with our congregations healthy, I’m not sure we’ve done a very good job of teaching you, dear members, what you should be able to expect from a healthy pastor, loving you well.

So, along with some friends, I’ve put together a list of promises a pastor might make to a congregation.  They are a guideline for how a healthy pastor could care for you well. I can’t promise on behalf of your pastor, but you could use these guidelines to think about your relationship with your pastor, and to start discussions if you need to.  

These promises would be especially important in any congregation that has experienced pastoral misconduct.

Jessica Harren, Ann-Marie Kennedy, River Needham, Heidi Carrington Heath, John Michael, Becky Swanson, Bryan Rust, Stephanie Shockley, Anna Hurley, Anastasia McGee, Becky Swanson, Bethany Ringdal, Rachel Gooneratne, Presley Darnell, Kate Wulff, J Pace Warfield-May, Peggy Yingst, Jeanna L. GunderKline, Deb Loudin McCann, Chris Becker, Samantha Warburton, Jess Davis,  Akie Kutsanai, and a few anonymous folks contributed to this conversation.

Promises about my Role with you:
I am among you to teach and preach Good News, to attend to your spiritual and emotional life, and to serve your congregation.  I will place these commitments above my own personal agendas and emotional needs.

I will never reject you. As long as I am the pastor of this congregation, and you are a member here, I will be your pastor. When it is time to end that relationship, either because I am no longer going to be the pastor of this congregation, or you are no longer going to be a member, I will do so lovingly, honoring the relationship we have had, and with clearly stated boundaries.

Individual Pastoral Care:

I will pray with and for you.

I will trust that God is at work in your life beyond my work and influence.

I will listen to you without judgement, and keep your confidences. I will not shame you.  

I will not make assumptions about what I think is best for you and try to lead you to that decision.

I will honor your questioning, doubt, struggles with faith, and leaving this church, and/or faith, should you so choose.

In matters of life and death, I will show up if it is humanly possible.

I will come to support you, and be with you, and advocate for your well being if you are arrested, charged, or incarcerated for whatever reason.

If you decide that I am a safe person to disclose abuse, violence, or other trauma, I will believe you and honor your decisions with how to proceed. If it becomes an issue of mandated reporting, I will let you know when we seem to be nearing that kind of conversation.

I will keep your confidences, but will never ask you to keep secrets for me.

I will not make promises that I am unable to keep.  

Keeping Relationships Healthy:

If we are alone together, if will always be someplace where other people either can see us, or where someone else could conceivably see us at any time.

(For example, we might be the only two people in the church building, but only during hours that someone else could walk in at any time.)

You may always request someone else be present with us, for any reason, at any time.

I won’t touch you without your consent. When I touch you, it will be part of our pastoral relationship, and will not be romantic, sexual, or to meet my own emotional needs. I will communicate with you what my own touch boundaries are, and work to create a culture of consent in our congregation.

I will not have special friendships inside the congregation. My relationships with congregants and leaders will be unique, and I may be working more closely than some people with others, but this will be based in your needs, and not on my own favoritism.

I will share things with you about my own life, in as much as they are helpful for you. But I will not confide in you, or rely on you to emotionally care for me.

Keeping your Pastor Healthy:

I will cultivate my own spiritual life. I will pray regularly, read Scripture outside of what is required to prepare sermons and Bible Studies. I will at least occasionally attend worship that I’m not planning and leading. I will cultivate a faith community and pastor outside of this congregation.

I will attend to my own physical, emotional, and intellectual health and growth. If I am having problems with my own physical, emotional, or intellectual health that compromise my ability to be your pastor, I will seek help, and tell both you and my bishop.

I will consistently read relevant and challenging texts and participate in educational opportunities to improve my awareness of and ability to influence the world around us in alignment with the gospel. This will be in concert with appropriate continuing education requirements the congregation, synod and denomination have set for me.

I will model healthy living by intentionally and regularly taking time away from the congregation.

I will have a spiritual director and/or therapist to whom I turn for help and guidance and to work on my own issues. I will remember what it feels like to be the one asking for help.

I will maintain a community of practice with trusted colleagues. I cannot do this work on my own, and it is not responsible for me to do so. I will ask them to call me on my stuff, help me love you better, and to help me be the best pastor I can be. I will remember the importance of community in my own spiritual and pastoral development.

I will ask for help from colleagues when I am unsure of my role. I will sometimes share confidential things with colleagues, asking them to keep confidentiality as well, in order to consult with them. When I do this, I will attempt obscure personal details as much as possible.

I will build healthy and supportive relationships for myself beyond the scope of the congregation so I have places to safely explore my own emotional and social vulnerability.

I will attend to careful use of all substances and medications. With your consent and if it is healthy for you, I may have one alcoholic drink in a social setting with church leaders, but I will never be drunk or be under the influence of illegal drugs in your presence.  I will attend carefully to how any prescribed medications affect my functioning around you.

Social Location:
I will be aware of the ways your social location and history impact the ways you hear the stories we tell and are involved with. I will use my awareness to the best of my ability to prevent harming you.

I will attend to my own social location and privilege. I will be paying attention to how pastoral authority is a position of power. I will think carefully about how I use my pastoral authority and privilege, aiming always to use it for the benefit of others, especially those with the least power.

I will value the truth of your lived experiences over civility and good intentions. I will listen even when it's difficult to hear. I am willing to engage in challenging conversations.

If I don't know, I will say I don't know, and commit to exploring the unknowing.

Working together in the Congregation:

I will honor the calling you've heard, identified, accepted. I will treat you as honored co-workers in God’s kin-dom.

I will not take for granted the work you do as a volunteer of this congregation, and I will respect your own boundaries about what volunteering you can and want to do.

I will respect that lay leaders in the Congregation, even when they are younger than I am, often have professional and technical skills that I lack.

I will respect that congregation members may be bound by different professional codes of ethics/ norms than I am.

I will be attentive to care and feeding of all congregational leaders. If our council, ministry team, or worship team has a retreat, it will not be a day or weekend long business meeting.

I will use the best of my ability to show you that busy-ness is not our God. That play and rest are faithful ways to really live.

Along with the council and other staff members, I will be a good steward of all money given to the church. All decisions about money will be made for the benefit of the congregation, by the congregation, and all money spent will be transparently accounted for.

I will not give undue influence to those who are able to give more to the church, or treat people differently on the bases of giving.

In all these things:

I will apologize when I am wrong. I will strive to apologize in healthy ways that do not obligate you to care for me.

Friday, March 9, 2018

An “apology” from Rev Elise Brown

Rev Elise Brown posted an “apology” on her Facebook page tonight. You can find it here:

(TW: binary language, emotion/spiritual manipulation.)

Two quick thoughts from me, then some excellent theological reflections
from a colleague.

1. “Sisters and brothers” is an inappropriate way to address the entire LGBTQIA+ community, as it leaves out anyone with a nonbinary identity. Rev. Brown ought to have known to use “siblings.”

2. The repeated use of “confidentiality vs transparency” is very odd here. Is she intending to imply that when Dr Latini “disclosed” her previous leadership of OnebyOne, she did so confidentially? That wouldn’t be much of a disclosure, is inappropriate for a job search/call process, and ought to have raised red flags. It seems Rev. Brown continues to confuse confidentiality with secret-keeping.

But these are not the biggest issues with this non-apology. My most excellent colleague, the Rev. Carolina Glauster, wrote this comment, which I feel gets at the heart of what a true apology, with confession and repentance, could have looked like:

“Elise, I don't know you well or in person, although I have been following you to some degree in your connection to ELM and now in your connection to these events.  I feel moved to comment here for two reasons: (1) because I see that you have posted this on your own wall rather than somewhere where most of the people your actions have hurt are likely to see it, and so the comments seem pretty skewed and I worry that will make it harder for people who are frustrated and disappointed by your words to post and (2) because the shape of the way you have held this "apology" is a shape I am familiar with and I think needs to be named to each other as best we can--and charitably I am willing to assume that maybe you don't see it.

I am definitely frustrated and disappointed by the way you've framed things here.  I am not jazzed that you used gender binary terms in an address to the queer community and I can't believe you've been at annual anti-oppression trainings with the ELM board and not had folks explain to you multiple times why that is wildly unhelpful.  But beyond that, and harder to name, is how you've managed to craft something that could be credibly defended as an apology but is basically functioning as a defence of your actions and your person and a plea for your friends to defend you.  You can see that it's functioning that way from the way the comments are running--people rushing to your aid.  It doesn't seem like you are interested in understanding the harm that you've done or how that is functioning for people or what they need, and it *definitely* doesn't seem like you are asking or helping your friends and facebook followers to understand what went wrong or learn how not to create that kind of hurt--even though you say your fervent hope is that healing and learning and commitments to do better will come out of this.  I don't see a lot of accountability from you, or a lot of pastoral concern for folks who have been harmed.

I guess my wish would be that you would decide that the doing better starts now, rather than in some unnamed future.  That you would show in a post that seems crafted to at least look like an apology that you were more concerned that we would see the hurt of those you harmed than that we would see your hurt.  That you would admit to some of what you don't know or are working to learn.  That you would point to the words of some of the folks who have been educating you on what you did wrong, so that we could all learn from them--including your supporters.  That you would display a Christlike willingness to sacrifice some of what you want if that turns out to be helpful to the healing of others less powerful and more vulnerable than yourself.  I know that stuff is hard.  I am not in your position, so it is maybe easy to wish for these kinds of things from the cheap seats.  But this just seems like so much about trying to shore up support for yourself and I simply expect more, under the circumstances.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

God in our Guts

This is an imperfect post, because everything I am saying I am also feeling today.

I follow a Jesus whose guts moved when he saw people hurting.

Beloveds, do you feel injustice in your body? That’s you feeling with Jesus. If you’re fearful or weepy or outraged or upset, if your digestion is off or your joints hurt or you get a migraine, if your energy is drained and you’re foggy brained- those are legitimate responses to an unjust situation!

(Allies, don’t imply otherwise. Fuck a bunch of that. You don’t get to regulate how people experience oppression, and your “rational” responses are not better. In fact, they’re farther from Jesus.)

And after a few years of feeling in his guts what his people went through, Jesus lost his shit at the religious establishment and flipped tables, drove people out of positions of power.

Within oppressed communities we can and will discuss the most strategic use of our emotions, and leaders will help each other moderate them to care for people. And we have an ethical responsibility about protecting the vulnerable, and/or other oppressed groups as we express our outrage.

*But our outrage is holy.* It is an expression of Divine Love. And “allies” aren’t allies if they tell us otherwise.

Do your things, beloveds. Feel your feelings. Care for your bodies. Don’t forget pleasure, whatever that means for you. These are all paths to God.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Spiritual Abuse at the Meeting at ULS regarding Dr Latini

TW: conversion therapy, spiritual abuse of LGBTQ+ people.

For factual background for this post, read this first.

For spiritual preparation before reading this post, pray this by yourself or with others.

Spiritual Abuse

What happened last night on Gettysburg campus was more spiritual abuse heaped upon LGBTQ+ people by the Board of Trustees of the ULS seminary.

There was spiritual abuse in the attitude of Bishop Dunlop, Rev. Elise Brown, and Charles Miller, who presented themselves as the unemotional adults in the room, who had the right or authority to control our pain and anger.

There was spiritual abuse in the way Bishop Dunlop claimed the ban on recording was to make this a "safe space" and his very act of presuming to be able to state what is safe space and what is not.  Nothing about that space was safe.

There was spiritual abuse in the way the board asked Dr. Latini to parade her pain before us.  Her story, told in another setting at another time for another purpose could have been a vehicle for healing and reconciliation.  Told in that way at that time it was a function of manipulation.

There was spiritual abuse in the request from a powerful figure (Dr. Latini) that those she has power over keep her secrets for her, secrets they didn't consent to having shared with them.

There was spiritual abuse of Dr. Latini in the board calling her to a position that she is not yet able to perform well.

I suspect there was more, but that's just the beginning of the list.

On Grace and Reconciliation

I believe Dr. Latini is sorry for what she has done, and is forgiven by God.  And I believe in change and redemption: that someone who has sinned can be and should be brought back into human community.  But I also believe that accountability and reconciliation is part of that grace.

A useful comparison made by many is to that of St. Paul, who persecuted the early Jesus followers before his conversion.  But afterwards, this story became a central part of his witness and testimony.  Everyone knew his history. They knew it because his repentance for the harm he caused, and the overwhelming grace of God to use him anyway, was a continual theme of his ministry.  He never minimized the pain he caused. 

If Dr. Latini had been open about her history, had confessed it with full knowledge of the damage she caused, had openly sought to make restitution to those she harmed, and sought reconciliation with the community, before it was forced upon the seminary by outside revelations,  I believe she would have been welcomed with open arms.  

On Secret Keeping

Dr. Latini told the story of her connection to One by One, her conversion away from those ideas, and some about her current sense of self, but she asked those present not to repeat any of this.  With profoundly mixed feelings, I am not going to.  But I am also going to say it was spiritually abusive of her to ask this of her students and employees.

No one walking into that room was told that they were about to hear deeply confidential and personal secrets, nor were they given a chance to consent to that exchange of information. 

Healthy confidentiality is when people in power control the personal information of those they care for in order to protect them.  Unhealthy secret keeping is when those in power ask those in their care to protect the powerful person's information for the sake and protection of the powerful person. It is inappropriate for pastors to ask church members to keep their personal secrets, for parents to ask children to keep personal secrets, doctors to ask patients, etc.

This is especially painful in a setting, as several students pointed out to me, where most seminarians are in candidacy, being asked to reveal their entire lives on paper, having their own personal stories and intimate details scrutinized by those in power over them, with no assurances of confidentiality.  For students to be asked to reveal all, and to simultaneously be asked to preserve the secrets of their seminary president, is a grave injustice.

I understand Dr. Latini's desire to control her own story and her own identity.  And yet she has applied and accepted a position as a public face of a religious institution before being able to talk about parts of her religious life that were very public.  Public theologians, and public representatives of institutions, need to be able to take responsibility for their public record, and to explain previous writings and actions.  It is especially important that the leader of a seminary be able to speak about her life with at least as much integrity as the institution asks of its students in candidacy. 

On the Board of Trustees Actions

In my opinion, the Board of Trustees of United Lutheran Seminary displayed shocking incompetence in one of the most important tasks that was set before them.  The failure to truly vet the online history of their candidates is incomprehensible.  I read every google result of any person I hire, and I am not hiring the public face of a multi-million dollar institution that is shaping the future of our church.

The board's indifference to the impact of conversion therapy upon the LGBTQ+ community is likewise shocking.  That is a critical failure in a competence in understanding one of the communities they claim to serve.  This is repeated in the inability to even say "LGBTQ" without stumbling, and in Bishop Dunlop's use of the term "a homosexual."

The Board of Trustees cannot simply expect us to forgive and overlook this.  Serious re-organization is called for- paid diversity trainers, resignation of key members, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ members who represent the community.  (And, while we are at it, people of color too.)

The inexplicable silence of Rev. Elise Brown needs to be addressed.  I cannot see any way forward for her after this other than resignation.

Rev. Brown also currently serves on the board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, making her inability to understand the severity of this situation all the more inexplicable.  I see no way for her to remain a leader in that community after these revelations.

On Students and the Seminary Community

The students I spoke to were all devastated by this breach of trust.  They were also, to a person, strong, faithful, powerful leaders.  The church is in good hands with them.  And yet they are also the most vulnerable people in this system, and need our support.  They were glad of my presence, and strengthened to hear of alumni and Queer Lutherans all over the country watching and supporting them.  I look forward to hearing them tell us what they need, and a community of people responding.

The faculty and staff were likewise hurt, worried, upset, and strong.  I am not sharing exact words or names of any of them, because I heard frequent concerns about retribution for speaking out.  (A fact that ought to trouble us by itself.)

It was very clear that, although hearing that crucial information about Dr. Latini had been kept from them was deeply upsetting, this was within the context of larger trends in the formation of the new seminary.  Faculty and staff were upset about this as a part of a pattern of no transparency and trust between board and faculty.  And students mentioned that faculty had been so far reduced and split between campuses that they didn't even have access to faculty members they trusted for appropriate pastoral care.

I heard, over and over again, that this crisis was bringing together the students of the two campuses, uniting Queer people in the community as a whole, and bringing faculty, staff, students, and alumni closer together.  Out of this crisis is growing a powerful community, no longer willing to stay silent, with students as leaders and the Spirit on the move.  I would have preferred no crisis at all.  And yet I see God's Spirit at work in the midst of it. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Meeting at United Lutheran Seminary regarding Dr Latini

(TW: Conversion therapy, general church mess) 

Last night I attended a meeting at the Gettysburg campus of United Lutheran Seminary, to discuss the revelation that Dr Theresa Latini, the seminary President, advocated for conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people in the past. I am going to try to be as factual as possible in this first post, and to offer my reflections in a second post coming soon. 

You can read Dr Latini’s blog post coming public with this information here.

And the seminary board’s support of her here

If you have a strong stomach, you can read an example of her former writings here

Dr Latini was installed as the President of the newly formed United Lutheran Seminary in July, but the students, faculty and staff of ULS only learned of her former advocacy, as the Director of the Presbyterian group One by One, last week. The outcry from the seminary community, and the LGBTQ+ community throughout the ELCA, was instant and intense. 

Conversion therapy is more than bad theology, it is spiritual abuse perpetrated upon the LGBTQ+ community, and can be deadly. It is still very much a current and pressing issue for us, with many of us survivors of conversion therapy, or with survivors of conversion therapy in our social circles. Many of our friend groups also contain the memories of those who didn’t survive conversion therapy. 

On Monday, February 26th, an email went out from the ULS communications office inviting students, faculty, staff, and alumni to two meetings on Tuesday, Feb 27th, to "begin a restorative dialogue" about Dr Latini's past statements. Despite the fact that alumni live all over the country, and that many current students are distance learners or away on internship, this email made clear there would be no distance options for attending these meetings. A form was given for submitting questions in advance. An executive summary was promised, but as of this time, has not yet been released. Despite the meeting being so scripted the executive summary could have been written in advance, it has not yet been released. 

 The meeting was informative, as to what the board knew when, although none of it in ways that made the board look very good. 

 Bishop Dunlop, Bishop of Lower Susquehana synod, who sits on the ULS board, chaired the meeting, and began by making it clear that any recording would not be permitted, "in order to keep this a safe space." 

 The chair of the search committee spoke first. (I believe this was Charles Miller, but will double check this name when the executive summary becomes available.) He was clear that the search committee did not know of Dr Latini's past association with One by One, or her advocacy for conversion therapy. None of these were listed on her CV. He said the committee had asked her questions about the seminary's RIC status and LGBT inclusion, and was very satisfied with her answers. (His authority on what are satisfactory answers for LGBT inclusion was somewhat undercut by his inability to say "LGBT" without stumbling over the letters.) He admitted, and regretted, that the committee had not done due diligence in searching their candidates' online history. His quote was "although some committee members were googling during the interviews." He admitted, and regretted, that the committee had not asked the standard question if there was anything in Dr Latini's history that could potentially embarrass or harm the institution. 

 Then Rev. Elise Brown, chair of the ULS Board of Trustees spoke. She told us that shortly after the committee recommended Dr. Latini for the position of president, but before the board vote, Dr Latini called her to disclose her past association with One by One. The exact timing of this went unsaid, but the committee made their recommendation in March, and the board announced her name in April. She admitted she did not tell any other board members until November. She reported that she reached out to the director of More Light, the Presbyterian organization for full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, who did not know Dr Latini. He asked other More Light leaders, and reported that the older ones did not know of Dr. Latini, and the younger ones knew of her vaguely as an ally. She also completed standard background checks, and confirmed with Presbyterian leadership that Dr Latini remains in good standing on their roster. She decided this was sufficient to satisfy her concerns. 

Bishop Dunlop spoke next from the board perspective. He said the first he heard of Dr Latini's past was in December, when a pastor in his synod called him to ask about it. (This is in contradiction with Rev Brown's account that she told the board in November.) He said the board met by phone on Dec 21st to discuss this, but that it was primarily a discussion about how to communicate this information, nothing more. He said that the board had no idea what a big deal this would be to the LGBT community. (Audible gasps were heard in the auditorium at that statement.) 

Then Dr Latini, visibly emotional, took the microphone. She told us that yes, she had been the Director for One by One. That she had believed and taught that sexuality was only expressed in a healthy way between one man and one woman in a marriage, and that she had believed and taught that it was possible for some people to change their sexual orientation. She admitted that she had advocated for conversion therapy (which she called reparative therapy) and that although she was not a reparative therapist, she did refer people to them. She utterly repudiated these beliefs, and apologized for them.

Dr Latini then told us her personal story, and asked that we not share it outside of the room. With very mixed feelings, I am honoring that request, although I think it is an illegitimate and abusive one, and will reflect on that in my next post. 

A very short time was allowed for questions, although most questions were not answered, and there were great and frustrating technical difficulties with questions from people on the Philadelphia campus. In the questions, it became clear that the faculty were not informed of Dr Latini's history before the larger community, and felt unprepared to support their students when they didn't have information either. When I asked about the board's cultural competency on LGBTQ issues, I was told they had "a homosexual" on the board. A few faculty and students gave powerful impact statements and requests for how future communication would be improved, and were not truly answered.  

 Bishop Dunlop tried to wrap up the questions after a few minutes, and a faculty member  said "Oh, we're just getting started!" After one more comment, Bishop Dunlap invited a faculty member to up to offer a closing prayer- a moment of awkwardness, as the faculty member had clearly not been asked ahead of time, and was clearly still reeling from information received.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Bodies are good and holy.

Bodies are good and holy. 

Your body is good and holy.

Your body is good and holy if you have more fat, or less fat, or more muscles, or less muscles, than is socially acceptable.  (Fuck socially acceptable.)

Your hair texture and skin color and nose width and thigh thickness are good and holy.

Your body is good and holy if it doesn’t do the same thing as everyone else’s, if it hurts sometimes, if it need care sometimes.  (Everybody’s does.)

Your body is good and holy if you use it to have sex, or if you don’t want to have sex, or if the person or people you want to have sex with don’t desire you.  Your body is good and holy if you are conventionally hot and other people impose desire you don’t want on you.

Your body is good and holy if someone or ones have done things to it that you didn’t want them too.  Your body still belongs to you.  Your struggle to reclaim it as yours is good and holy. 

Your body is good and holy if it is male or female or both or neither.

Your body is good and holy if it matches your gender identity or if it doesn’t.  The way you use or modify your body to express your gender is good and holy.  Your body is good and holy if it “passes,” or not, if it conforms to conventional gender or not.

Your body is good and holy if you menstruate, or if you don’t.  Your body is good and holy if it has carried children, or if it has not.  Your body is good and holy if you get erections, or if you don’t.

Your body is good and holy if it is aging.  Your body is good and holy if it smells funky sometimes.  (All bodies do.)

Your body will be good and holy when you die.

Your body is good and holy if it has disappointed you.  Your body is good and holy if you sometimes feel ashamed of it, or have a hard time taking care of it the way you know you should.  We all do.

Everyone else’s body is good and holy in the same way.  We are surrounded by good and holy bodies. We get to see them and smell them, and respect them.  Sometimes we get to touch them and care for them.  How good and holy!