No, not me. I am neither female or single. But a 27-year old United Methodist pastor from Alabama is. Her name is the Rev. Wren Miller. John Meunier points to some responses to an article she wrote for the magazine Marie Claire. [The Hacking Christianity blog gives its support to Miller and two links to scans of the article.]
I admit that I run conservative on the sexuality debates (even if uncomfortably on some of them). The most shocking thing I read in the article was that she wears a collar and cassock. In North Alabama, where Methodists struggle to be distinguished from the Baptists (a slight exaggeration, I realise).
Still, I found an insightful article that gives a glimpse into the life of what it means to be a single female in an area where many, many Christians will fault her for being in church leadership – nevermind what she wrote. Miller talks about the struggle to kiss a date good night. She talks about having a condition that increased her sex drive. She talks about church members that want to set her up with their family members. And, yes, she talked about masturbation. Actually, she talked about not doing it.
Reading the responses before I read the actual article, I expected her to have written gory descriptions that gave intimate details. I was surprised that the whole article was not much longer than this blog post will be. It did not read as erotica, but on the whole rather tame. Certainly her discussion of masturbation hardly raises an eyebrow when compared to the sexuality talks I had to endure from male teachers in the countless number of sexuality seminars at school and church. I have listened to men teach us about how God wants us to overcome our sexual urges and tell what they were like before they found God and what they do about it now. Sometimes, that was too much information. Why does this seem so different? Ah, she’s a woman. A passing mention by her must be a sin greater than all that the male teachers have ever said.
What I do see in Rev. Miller is someone who is committed to her calling, and overcoming the pressures in a way that shows her commitment to that calling. In a church where we worry about young people (who are all discussing sexuality and the church’s silence won’t help), I don’t see the need to push her off. How will you get young, single people to talk about these issues if we find them too taboo for our clergy?
Clergy often complain that the laity don’t understand what it is like to be in the vocation we are in. Here we have the perspective of a young woman who has her own unique feelings of the loneliness and isolation that ministers can feel. I commend her for her bravery and vulnerability in allowing us to get such a glimpse and risk her story being analysed in blog posts such as this one.