Anonymous: #HandsOffMyBC

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 7:58 am

I chose to go on birth control because I didn't want to get pregnant and I wanted to have sex. Because I am a clergy woman in The United Methodist Church, and I'm single, that information could get me brought up on charges, and I could lose my ordination. 

Luckily, we don't have an insurance plan that requires the church to sign off on the prescriptions that my doctor writes. Luckily, I can access birth control through the health insurance plan that my church pays for. 

However, because I value my job, I have to remain anonymous in writing this. It strikes me as ridiculous in 2016 that this is necessary, but being a person who is sexually active while single is against the rules. I'm very grateful that the church doesn't extend its reach into my prescriptions, and that I don't have to justify my prescriptions to my Bishop. 

I don't think it is any of his business. I hope the US government agrees. 



44 Responses to “Anonymous: #HandsOffMyBC”

  1. Thomas Says:

    You signed up for that restriction. You made a vow to stay celibate in singleness. It's something you did willingly. Not something that was forced upon you. 

  2. David Trawick Says:

    So I guess you lied when you made the promises required for ordination in the UMC. Or you changed your mind afterward, and are now living a lie. You lied then or you are lying now. And I'll bet lying is just as acceptable to you as having sex outside of marriage. Wow. Really high integrity! Makes me take very seriously the things you say. NOT. What a sad disgrace. (Full disclosure: I am a UM pastor of 35 years who made the same promises you made. But, unlike you, I've lived by those promises all 35 of those years.)

  3. KC Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It's horrible that single (especially female) clergy are stuck between a rock and a hard place on this. It's absurd to point fingers or shame clergy for not following this rule when other clergy don't follow plenty of other rules every single day. It's also ridiculous to put a bishop in between a clergyperson and their doctor. If we do this for clergy seeking birth control then certainly we won't have trouble with letting bishops know which clergy use, say, viagra, right? 

  4. Hannah Lampi Says:

    Hi there. Future UMC Rev. here (starting seminary this fall.)
    Thank you so much for this brave post. You body, your sexuality, and your safety are your decisions and I applaud you for your willingness to share, even anonymously. My fiance and I (he's going to be a Rev. too) started having sex a couple of years ago and were thrilled with our decision, and it wasn't one we made lightly, as I'm sure you don't take sexual activity lightly.
    As for the promises of ordination…perhaps it's time to take a second look at those.

  5. Eve of Eden Says:

    Don't you love how the UMC polices women's bodies? It is unfortunate that you receive comments from men like the two above. Male clergy are not at all faced with the same consequences. A male clergy member were to lie with another person (in the biblical sense) without consequence (i.e. Proof of sex by getting pregnant and therefore, losing one's ordination). As a UMC candidate for ordination, I am grateful for your post, anonymous or not. The conversation around the body and Christianity is total taboo in the UMC. As if we don't all have one and as if sex isn't a natural thing. Should we be focusing or even striving for celibacy anyways? The Catholic priest scandal did not involve men who were looking to perform such heinous acts, but these men who raped and sexually assaulted thousands of people were created by the Catholic when they were forced to stifle natural acts. #reevaluateyourselfUMC #yougogirl
    P.S. To David, how long have you been married?

  6. David Lee Says:

    You write "However, because I value my job, I have to remain anonymous in writing this." It's sounds like ministry is just a job to you. Do you have no regard for your ruined witness? Don't say that it's private so it doesn't ruin your witness, because it ruins it for at least the guy(s) with whom you're having sex. 

  7. Shadow-D Says:

    I don't think a woman's reproductive health is anyone's business but her own and anyone she feels comfortable with

  8. Ted Says:

    A celibacy requirement looks outdated and misguided based on the examples set in the actual Bible.  One of a number of rules made more for the comfort of the congregation rather than any theological basis.  It isn't the only one that should be softly broken.

  9. Taylor Gould Says:

    Thank you for this post and I thank you for your courage. The fact that you have to hide your name to say this shows how we as a church have grown so afraid of talking about sex, EVEN THOUGH WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT SEXUALITY IS A GIFT FROM GOD. And what a wonderful gift it is: to fully accept your body; to fully accept and celebrate another's body; to celebrate each others' divine messiness. Thank you for starting a conversation that we are afraid to have and to lift up this beauty in creation. In singleness, this is so scary, and to not be able to turn to your spiritual community for support is a shame. 

  10. Layton Williams Says:

    You are brave and beloved. Speaking for the value of your own God-given body and autonomy IS part of your witness. Don't listen to the voices that tell you otherwise. 

  11. jonah Says:

    Thank's for your post – I couldn't disagree more with David Lee above. I think this IS your witness. Your post and your expressions of sexuality with your partners are a witness to your love of God, neighbor, and self. Intimacy is complicated and beautiful, and the bureaucratic body of the UMC has proven itself (so far!) incapable of legislating policy that honors the complexity of sexual intimacy.
    Thanks for being an example of bravery and faith in the face of the policing of bodies, sexuality, and women. 

  12. Ruth Clark Says:

    I fear the UMC is stuck in not the 20th century, but the 19th century. I am amazed that there is a rule that prohibits pre-marital sex and that breaking this rule can result in removal from one's clergy position. The perpetuation of these archaic rules (like the church's stance on gay people) drives the church farther and farther away from the reasonable, 21st century people who might otherwise be interested in worshipping with us. It's a tragedy. 

  13. Mary Fraser Says:

    Thanks for your post. I don't think most people would be bothered by your personal decisions. I believe the Discipline had this rule added when the prohibition against homosexuals being ordained was added. Adding this stuff has caused a lot of trouble for persons and our denomination. Some things should be honored as deeply personal – like who one would have as a sexual partner or what types of medicines are taken.

  14. David Lee Says:

    "Autonomy" is what caused the fall in the first place.  Which I doubt you enlightened and modern self-proclaimed Christians believe in, anyway.  No wonder this denomination is dying, with "leadership" and a "Discipline" such as this.

  15. Jon Says:

    It's funny that we have to leave a name but this person is "anonymous".    Whether you think the rules are outdated or not this is just plain disrespectful to even write.  Whether it's sex outside of marriage, same sex marriage or polygamy, we have standards that you signed up to follow.  How can you call it justice when you deliberately seek to break the rules.  Please, repent and ask the holy spirit to change your habits, or leave the UMC.  Your writing this may be brave but is DEFINITELY disgraceful.

  16. DD Says:

    I agree, one woman to another,  that your body is your business.  Your sexual choices are your business.  Your medical choices are your business.  
    However,  as a mother of 2 young adults and as a long time UMC employee who's last assignment with the Conference was coordinating between Candidates for ministry and the Board of Ordained Ministry  I question the example you are setting for your congregation.  I echo the statement of a few of your colleagues.  You made a vow and you are choosing to break that vow.  Your "job",  or part of it,  as pastor-as leader – is to set a example for your congregation… Especially the children,  youth & young adults.  That doesn't mean you have to be perfect but it does mean that if you choose the path of ordination you have to follow the rules set forth in the Discipline.  You made a choice to do that.  But if that has changed and you are now at conflict with your vows then it may be time for you to reassess your career choice.  You do not need to be ordained as a Deacon or Elder in order to follow your calling and make disciples for Jesus.  There are plenty of other jobs that you could do inside and outside of the church that could allow you to follow your calling without bending an ethical line.  
    Furthermore I challenge the notion that there is a double standard here.  I have have seen male clergy placed on involuntary leave for exactly this offense.  Men are held to the same standard as women in this case.    

  17. Sandy Says:

    Leaders are held to a higher standard.  Period.  This country impeached a president because he had extramarital relations and lied about it to protect his job & marriage.  You are having relations outside of the marital bond and lying about it to protect your job. Please tell me how these situations differ and why you should be exempt from being held to a higher standard.  

  18. Al B. Says:

    "It strikes me as ridiculous in 2016 that this is necessary,"

  19. Mason Dorsey Says:


  20. Jason Says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. 
    How ironic, the responses of people here who are further proving the Church's obsession with women and their sexual lives and blatant disregard for this woman's personal choices.  
    What would it look like if we policed clergy folks' diet and exercise in the same way?  Unacceptable, that's what it would look like. 

  21. Taylor Says:

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for crushing the patriarchy. Thank you for not accepting the words of hypocrites. Thank you for setting one of many  possible examples of what it looks like to reclaim your body. From young and old feminists alike, thank you.

  22. Kevin Says:

    "…agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to physical health, intentional intellectual development, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, integrity in all personal relationships, social responsibility, and growth in grace and the knowledge and love of God…"

    That is the phrase in question in its context, about agreements made prior to ordination. I know fat clergy (by way of personal habits rather than medical conditions), stupid clergy, clergy who lack integrity, clergy with no sense or care for social responsibility, and clergy who show no sign or evidence of grace, knowledge of God or love. I'll just put that out there. But it's a sexually active female whose private, responsible sex life has no outward effect on others that I see people getting all upset about.
    Personally, it's the clergy with no sense of social responsibility, or even of what that means (hint: think along the lines of MLK rather than along the lines of Miss Manners), that I think Jesus would be most incensed by.

  23. ann Says:

    This really is not that hard.  The scripture is very clear.  No sex outside of marriage: for Men or Women. 
    Hebrews 13:4
    Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

    Genesis 2:24
    Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

    1 Thessalonians 4:1-18
    Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; …

    1 Corinthians 6:18-20
    Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

    Colossians 3:1-25
    If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. …


  24. Brian Rossbert Says:

    Thank you for sharing your witness. The hypocrisy of the "celibacy in singleness, fidelity in marriage" agreement is astounding. I got to "fill in" for a pastor in the Tennessee Conference who had sex with a church member, was put on leave for a year with no punishment, and then was appointed to a church in another district a year later. The havoc his "indiscretion" wreaked on the congregation was astounding, but the white male patriarchy that is the church in TN was more than happy to sweep it under the carpet. They are much happier telling women what they can and can't do with their bodies than addressing the serious dysfunction that exists within its clergy.

  25. Cross another one off the list Says:

    Saw this piece shared by a friend. Reading the comments just proves to me again why every single church in this country has become totally irrelevant to my life. The double standard and hateful conversations about women that the churches continue to drive are why I have not set foot in one in nearly 20 years. It's why when friends and family try to lecture me about how I "need" church in my life, I point out to them that my husband and I have managed to raise a child who knows right from wrong, who treats others with kindness and respect and who, at age 18, does not drink, smoke, take drugs or have sex — and we did that without instilling the fear of hellfire and eternal damnation. It is possible to know right from wrong and to DO RIGHT without the input of a church. It is possible to do right because it's the right thing to do, not because of fear of being caught doing wrong. 
    Until men especially stop demonizing sexual relations between adults — married or not — we will never be able to address the deeper hatreds that are tearing our country and our world apart. No matter how much men want to pretend otherwise, holding women to a different sexual standard won't solve poverty or many other societal ills. You want to stop abortion? Stop fighting the availability of birth control. Stop trying to tell women that only sluts have sex outside of marriage unless you're willing to label men that way too.  Stop trying to control us and stop spewing hatred.
    One thing I know for certain: you've just convinced me again that staying away from churches — all of them — was the right thing to do.  

  26. Rev Rob Says:

    Okay as a gay clergy who was ordained in the UMC for 15 years and then made the choice to come out, I applaud the authors intent and courage. But the reality for me is that I left the UMC and stopped being obsessed with bedroom behavior and more focused on authentic spirituality. I am so glad not to be majoring in minors every 4 years and watching people who frankly love Jesus too damn much to act like him! Excuse me now while I write my UCC colleagues and thank them once again for their compassion, grace and loving welcome to someone the UMC didn't want.  ( Wesley would roll over in his grave if he saw what hypocrites the UMC has become.

  27. Shadow-D Says:

    Now that I've had a little more time to let this sink in, I have this to say…
    To all the "Haters" and "Bible Thumpers" who are giving this woman so much grief about her decision, I have one question for you…
    Are you the one she, or anyone else, must answer to at the time of her judgment??? No! So unless that changes, stay out of her vagina!
    Before you pass judgment against her, you need to ask yourself one question… "Did you EVER have sex with your wife / husband just for fun?" If your answer is yes then you are guilty of having "Immoral Sex".

  28. Pastor Sarah Says:

    Thanks for raising the subject.   I love the quotes from scripture lifted up by Ann.  They so clearly show that A. Sexual immorality is lifted up a bad but never specifically defined.  B.  Marriage was born in injustice/patriarchy C.  Sexual habits are culturally defined (don't be like the Gentiles).    
    As Jesus said, "I am making all things new".  And I think the Holy Spirit is leading us to a new, joyful embrace of the gift of sexuality that is honest, healthy, responsible and loving with or without the formality of marriage.  
    I am praying the church develops a better ethic of sexuality that follows the spirits lead.  And I think you are being a great example for youth and young adults caring for your sexual health.

  29. ann Says:

    Shadow: so using scripture to support an opinion makes me a bible thumper…I guess you would rather my opinion be void of scripture?
    Sarah: if you are indeed a pastor, at least quote scripture correctly.  Jesus did not say "I am making all things new"  That is a quote from Revelation 21:5.  The irony of your quote is that the verse is placed within a context that compares faithfully overcoming temptation and those who are immoral.
    5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NASB-31061c" data-link="[c]“>[c]It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 But for the cowardly and <sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NASB-31063d" data-link="[d]“>[d]unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and <sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NASB-31063e" data-link="[e]“>[e]brimstone, which is the second death.”
    I was hesitant to list this verse, because it uses the buzzword brimstone (which im not a fan of).  But come on people.  Sarah, your saying that is is healthy for our Youth to be sexually active? 
    Look, i have no problem with birth control. Many women use it for a variety of reasons.  But you signed a covenant.  If you are unwilling to follow it, then its time to pastor in a different context.  Have some intellectual integrity, like Rob did.  
    For those of  you using examples of white men not being dealt with after having sex outside of marriage, you are right.  All clergy should be held to the same standard.  It sickens me to see clergy willfully breaking covenant.   

  30. TREW Says:

    I am a woman. I am marrying a pastor in the UMC. I have considered ordination in the UMC. And I find this post horrifying. I see the posts that say "sexuality is a gift from God." This is absolutely true, however, it is a gift for a man and a woman who are married. Period. End of story. The bible is clear on that. What makes me even more sad is that pastors are supposed to be held to a higher standard. So my question to you, anonymous poster, is do you not hold yourself to a higher standard? And why are you others encouraging it? This is not about freedom of a woman's body and sexuality, this is about following the law of God. If you cannot feel that you can control this desire, then I ask you to pray hard about your position in the church and ask yourself if this is where God really wants you. Are you leading other towards HIM in this way?

  31. Jacob Red Says:

    Pastor Sarah wrote: "B. Marriage was born in injustice/patriarchy." Really? Is that what you think Genesis 2:24 means? What if, instead of a product of male dominance trying to keep women down, that Scripture was actually a message *from* a holy God *to* a patriarchal culture, which challenged their patriarchy? "A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife." Interesting. Do you know that's not actually how the ancient Hebrews did it? If that Scripture were a cultural product it would have said "a woman shall leave her mother and father, join her new husband's extended household, and be subservient." But that's not what it says. Instead it says to both the man and the woman: "the two are now one; this is now the fundamental human relationship in your life; you must hold to each other and not to any other loyalties; and the physical joining of two bodies is the sign of this permanent union." The Scriptures speak truth into all our cultures, past and present, and all our prejudices, left and right.

  32. HakimRamalla Says:

    "the Holy Spirit is leading us to a new, joyful embrace of the gift of sexuality that is honest, healthy, responsible and loving with or without the formality of marriage. "
    Of course, because we all know that the Holy Spirit has a completely different righteous standard than the grumpy Father and his silly Son!

    Hurray that the demiurges of the past have been defrocked and replaced by the free-wheeling spirit.  That old marriage patriarchy brought to us by YHWH in the form of marriage was terrible, and of course we know He hates any sexual activity outside the bonds of the covenantal relationship of marriage established in his creation of humanity in Genesis. 

    Perhaps the serpent was right, and we should all be asking ourselves "has God really said"?!

  33. Bob Says:

    Welcome to the new methodist church.  Where vows mean nothing; where scripture is often ignored and where our own wants and desires trump all else. 
    The UMC has become the UM ME.

  34. Jim Says:

    What if there was NO sex outside of marriage?  What if it somehow, magically – was simply not humanly possible for some fictional reason?
    - there would be no sexually transmitted diseases
    - there would be no extra marital affairs and the divorce rate would drop a great deal.
    - abortion rate would drop a great deal
    - great reduction in teen pregnancy
    - reduction in children in foster care, etc
    - etc etc etc
    But you are probably right Pastor Sarah – The Holy Spirit is probably leading us into the joyful embrace of encouraging single people to have sex (::sarcasm::)

  35. Chuck Gould Says:

    "Ye without sin cast the first stone" Give me a break. In this day and age it seems we always have a choice of the lesser of two evils. I admire your courage for living your life on your sleeve. Being honest and forth right seems to me has more merits than the virtue of deception. Your choices are admirable considering the other choices as a result of a Pregnancy. Even though there are those whom criticize you and say you have broken your vow of celibacy I would say being prepared for sin is not the same as committing the sin and who is to say the Heavenly father is not preparing you for something down the road. Finally as others have mentioned, even quoted you fancy scripture from many parts of the Bible, I think the only section left out, which is surprising, is Leviticus. But I digress, who are they to judge. It is all between you and the eyes of God, no one else.

  36. Sam Says:

    This is why Islam is appealing to people who are so sick of this corrupt world's shallowness. They see the church is becoming "slowly broken" and who would look to be saved in a place that is damned.  Responses to this ridiculous problem indicate a country where the church is weak.  The UMC need to read the Bible, and repent for allowing homosexuals, women and liberal feminists to infect it.

  37. David Lee Says:

    Pastor Sarah, please reconsider your encouragement to this young woman in the light of these words of God the Son:
    Matthew 18:5-7
    “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

  38. Tom Says:

    Fornication is a sin, full stop.  If you have a problem with this, perhaps ordination is not the best career choice for you.

  39. Tom Says:

    Edit to add…  Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…"?

    Same story, different day. People trying to find loopholes and ignore the word of God is nothing new.  Potential *church leaders* doing so?  We truly are in the end times.

  40. mojohn Says:

    Ann says, thanks for quoting God, since it's his church after all.
    What we see in the original post and those who support her – all who are professing Christian in any event – is what happens when organizations that claim to be churches depart so markedly from the Bible and the will of the God who inspired it. Shame on all of you.

  41. bthomas Says:

    A clergy person who is unfaithful to their own given word has jettison their integrity, they are without credibility to speak to any matter of significance.  It's that simple.  You cannot be a little bit unfaithful.  It's like being pregnant.  You can't be just a little bit pregnant.  You either are or you are not.  There are plenty of professions where one need not be faithful.  Being a clergy person is not one of them.  Hopefully Rev. Anon will find a one of those professions.  Even better would be for Rev. Anon to follow the way of Christ in the living out of vocational Christian ministry.

  42. Carla Says:

    Congratulations Rev. Sarah!  Thank you for your honesty. As an 80 year old retired RN, who is married to a retired Methodist cleric who is, also, a retired electrical engineer (Where he made most of his money) I readily admit that we dated for five years, prior to our marriage, due to the fact that each of us was in school, I to be a nurse, and my husband to be an engineer, then a cleric. Yes, we were monogamous.and yes, we were sexually intimate during this time. 
    As a RN I worked in the pre operative teaching area and saw women who came into have abortions, and sterilizations. The young cleric is wise to use contraception, but abortion is still legal, although becoming more difficult to access, and most women would rather use contraception.  We are all sexual beings, and God created us to be sexual beings.  I wholly agree that once married one should be faithful to his/her spouse, but to ask all single persons, clergy or laity to celibate until marriage is ridiculous, it is not going to happen, it didn't happen when I was 20 and it is not happening now. Frankly, it never happened.
    To all the many who responded and castigated you, the woman and her husband who no longer attend church due to their hypocritical stance and the young cleric who anonymously admitted to wishing to engage in sexual activity, but to not become pregnant, I ask this: How many of you remained celibate prior to your marriages?  It is sad to  see hypocrisy anywhere, but it should be completely absent in churches. 

  43. Carla Says:

    I would like to add a note to Rev. Rob. My husband and I now attend a UCC due to the archaic rules that appeared in the Discipline of the UMC. These "rules" were not in the earlier versions of the Discipline. Maybe, just maybe the "rules" will change again, and for the better after the upcoming General Conference. If the UMC continues on its far right wing path they will continue to lose more members and more clergy who use both their hearts and minds and keep both open.I remember when the motto for the UMC was "Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds." They have removed that wonderful motto, and they will live to regret that choice.
    Frankly, Rob, UCC's gain is the UMC loss. Congratulations and best wishes.

  44. Carla Says:

    From what I am reading, it is no wonder that th UMC is losing membership. The UMC, now, sets up a standard, that frankly, was never followed and that august body expects that their members will adhere to such restrictions. Celibacy prior to marriage, no abortion, no inclusion of our LBGTQ sisters and brothers?  Really? Where is this coming from? 
    If the UMC wants to doing something worthwhile, teach young people responsible sexual activity.  Teach them about contraception, and where to go to obtain it, should they choose to become sexually active. Abstinence Only Sex Ed does one thing and one thing alone, it creates unwanted pregnancies.  Abortion should be a woman's choice, and don't rail about "partial birth abortion."  Late term abortions are only don't in emergencies, such as the health of a woman, or a late diagnosis of a severe fetal anomaly, such as we will be seeing with the ZIKA virus causing microcephaly.

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