Why, in the wake of centuries of corruption, hypocrisy, crusades and televangelists, do we continue to follow Jesus?
This was the question Nadia Bolz-Weber and I wanted to pose to ourselves and to eleven other women whose words and work remind us of why we’re Christians in the first place. If you’re interested in engaging these voices and adding your own, join us in Minneapolis, September 18-20 for the first-ever Why Christian? conference. (It’s NOT a women’s conference, by the way; it’s for everyone!) There are only a few spots left, and we’d love to see you there.
Today’s Follow Friday features the eleven women who will join Nadia and me as speakers, so you can start following them online now.
Winnie Varghese is the rector of St. Mark’s in-the-bowery (Episcopal), the oldest site of continues worship in New York and a congregation that has tripled in size since she arrived six years ago.
“St. Mark’s is a church that looks like the city,” she says. “Our folks don’t mind if someone who lives in a group home goes traipsing through the service with 25 keys around their neck. People come off the street, they come in from Wall Street wearing blazers, we have artists and writers and teachers.”
A graduate of Union Theological Seminary who served as a chaplain at both UCLA and Columbia University, Winnie’s approach to justice and Jesus-following is hands-on, practical, and refreshingly straightforward. “People seem to think that if they can out-argue their Facebook buddy, then it has something to do with a guy sitting on a bench outside of St. Mark’s,” she says. “And it doesn’t…The idea of the story of the life of Jesus really works for me. The idea that there are riches in that story to be plumbed for the rest of my life really works for me. That we would try to organize communities around that really works for me.”
Tiffany Thomas is the twenty-nine-year-old pastor of South Tyron Community Mission Church in Charlotte, North Carolina (United Methodist Church). She answered her call to ministry at the age of 15, and has been preaching, teaching and pastoring in the local church ever since.
A graduate of Spelman College and Duke Divinity school, she molds her life after the strong belief that we are called to be agents of social and spiritual change. To get a sense of Tiffany’s point-of-view, check out one of the first entries in her blog, “Shouting From the Front: Reflections of a Disorderly Woman Pastor.”
Nichole Flores is a college theology professor, writer, and public theologian. As a Roman Catholic and Latina, Nichole equips Christians and the broader public with a deeper understanding of the gifts, perspectives, and concerns of the burgeoning Latina and Latino population in the United States.
Flores is a blogger for Catholic Moral Theology and Millennial Journal and a North American contributor to the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church Forum. She teaches theology at Saint Anselm College and is a Ph.D. candidate at Boston College having earned a M.Div. from Yale Divinity School.
Emily Scott is the pastor of St. Lydia’s, a dinner church in Brooklyn, New York, associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (This is the dinner church I feature in Searching for Sunday.) Each week, the community gathers to cook and share a sacred meal, just as the first followers of Jesus did. “We do church this way because people are hungry,” explains Emily. “People in New York have hungry bellies that may be filled with home-cooked food. They have hungry souls that may be filled with holy text, holy conversation. And these hungers are sated when we come together and eat.”
Trained as a liturgist and musician at Yale Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music, Emily has followed a particular interest in the intersection of worship and the arts.
Jes Kast-Keat serves as Associate Minister at West End Collegiate Church in NYC (Reformed Church in America), and is an all-around delightful human being who brings humor, sass, and wisdom to her ministry and to her friendships. (I seriously love hanging out with this lady!)
Jes is the President of the Room for All Board of Directors, which is working for LGBTQ inclusion in the the RCA. She writes for Think Christian, and as you may recall, was our guest for "Ask a Reformed Pastor…”
Austin Channing Brown
Austin Channing Brown is one of my very favorite bloggers, whose journey as an evangelical racial reconciler began in college with an experience called Sankofa–a three-day bus trip exploring Civil Rights sites throughout the South.
Since then, she has earned a Masters in Social Justice and directed a short-term missions site on the west-side of Chicago, where she created interactive opportunities for young people to engage issues of poverty, injustice, and race. She also worked with two Willow Creek Community Church campuses, developing strategies and programming around multiculturalism. She currently serves as a Resident Director and Multicultural Liaison for Calvin College. Austin served as our guest for “Ask a Racial Reconciler…”
Jodi Houge was a student at Luther Seminary when she invited people to gather for worship in a neighborhood coffee shop. That was how Humble Walk (ELCA) was born. Six years and six locations later, Jodi is still running to catch up with where this church of artists, musicians, cooks, questioners, farmers, and learners is leading her.
Jodi lives in St Paul, MN with her musician/baker husband and two daughters.
Rachel Murr was passionate about her faith and active in her church when “after nine years of trying not to be gay,” she finally came out to her community. “The pastors debated for months about whether I should be allowed to stay in leadership,” she recalls. “The conflict that ensued made me wonder if my church was good for me anymore. I wanted to stay, but I feared it would only hurt.”
The experience led Rachel—a therapist from St. Paul, Minnesota—to research how other queer women from non-affirming Christian communities have related to the church and how they’ve maintained their faith. Her book, Unnatural: Spiritual Resiliency in Queer Christian Women, is a compilation of research, interviews, and memoir that explores the experiences of women who have fought to hold on to their faith in spite of obstacles related to gender and sexuality.
Mihee Kim-Kort is an ordained Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister, mother of three, and prolific writer, whose books include Making Paper Cranes, Streams Run Uphill, and Yoked (a book co-authored with her husband about being a clergy couple).
Born in Seoul, Korea, she and her parents immigrated here shortly after her birth. Settling in Colorado, she was baptized in a Methodist church before her family joined the local Korean Presbyterian (PCUSA) church. It was here that she learned the faith. During her undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, she joined various Christian fellowship groups and majored in Religious Studies and English Literature. It was during this time, and then at Princeton Theological Seminary, that she began to experience a shift from traditional evangelicalism to a more inclusive faith focused on God’s Good News in the here and now. Her writing reflects this on-going process of making her faith palatable, relevant, and authentic.
Allyson Dylan Robinson
Allyson Dylan Robinson is an entrepreneur and movement strategist who advises organizations on the vanguard of social change. In 2014 she became transitional pastor of Washington, D.C.’s Calvary Baptist Church, an ecumenical, multi-racial, multi-generational congregation that has served the nation’s capital for over 150 years. She is believed to be the first openly transgender person ever to be ordained by a Baptist church – a distinction that led MSNBC to speculate she might be “the most radical preacher in America.”
She’s also served as an Army officer and nonprofit CEO, studied at West Point, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona State, and Oxford University, and earned degrees in physics and theology.
Check out Allyson’s Web site.
Follow Allyson on Twitter.
Watch Allyson speak at the Reformation Project conference in Washington, D.C.
Kerlin Richter is the founding priest of Bushwick Abbey, a new creative Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, NY. She is the former editor of Hip Mama, the parenting zine. Additionally, Kerlin has been a painter, a writer, a teacher, a waitress, a librarian, a personal assistant, a tax preparer, an ice-cream scooper, an art restorer, a barista, a nanny, an accounts receivable clerk, a potter, an art supply seller, a dishwasher, and a graphic designer. Havings hared a beer with her, I would also add that Kerlin is what we southerners like to call A HOOT.
According to the Web site, Bushwick Abbey is “unapologetically Christian, which means that we believe we stand on holy ground when we meet you where you are. We are persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We welcome the whole of you with the whole of us.”
Of course, you should also be follow my dear friend Nadia Bolz Weber, if you aren’t already familiar with her. And be sure to join us in September for Why Christian?
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