I’m a Pastor and Award-winning Author
I’ve been in ministry for thirty years, serving churches in upstate New York, rural Illinois, and suburban Maryland. I’m also the author of many articles (linked here). Two of my cover stories for Christian Century won awards from the Associated Church Press, as did a feature article for Sojourners (about abortion). Other bylines include the Washington Post, Religion News Service, Patheos, and Feasting on the Word.
My most recent book is The #MeToo Reckoning: Facing the Church’s Complicity in Sexual Abuse and Misconduct (InterVarsity Press), which weaves together contemporary stories of abuse and ancient scripture. Publishers Weekly named it one of the Five Best Religion Books for 2020. It’s available in paperback, eBook and audio versions, and is being translated into Korean.
My second book is Ruined (Tyndale) a memoir of being sexually assaulted while a college student. It was named 2017 Book of the Year by Christianity Today Women. It’s available in paperback, eBook and audio versions.
My first book, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land (Eerdmans), chronicles my transformative two-week pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine. It’s available in Kindle and POD (print on demand) from the publisher.
Why I wrote two books about sexual abuse and faith
Authors usually choose what topic they’re going to study, especially a topic that will consume their energy for years. But sometimes the reverse occurs. Sometimes the topic chooses the author. I write about sexual abuse because I was the victim of a brutal assault that shattered my life when I was 20 years old. Since I believe that our lives are a gift from God, I spent years wrestling a gift from that traumatic experience. Because I’m a writer, I’ve done my wrestling on the page.
Ruined: a memoir
In 2012, after decades as a pastor, I felt the Spirit calling me to delve into the sexual assault that had changed the course of my life some 35 years earlier. Why had that night been so traumatic? What, exactly, had been destroyed? And how did my faith inform my understanding, in ways both negative and positive?
I began by meeting with people I hadn’t seen in decades — friends who’d been victims of the same intruders, the detective who spent more than a year pursuing the criminals, and the attorney who prosecuted our case on behalf of the People of Michigan. One good friend located newspaper articles as well as the court transcripts which preserved our testimony. At home I unearthed diaries and letters I’d squirreled away. With some trepidation, I sat down with my aging parents for long heart-to-hearts. I met with my family as a whole, and independently with each sibling. I even met with an old boyfriend, and his wife. In every conversation we spoke about things which were once unspeakable — sealed in secrecy for years.
That deep dive took four years and resulted in a spiritual memoir with a one-word title that expressed how I felt after the assault: Ruined (August 2016, Tyndale House). As any author would be, I was thrilled when Christianity Today Women named Ruined their 2017 Book of the Year .
The #MeToo Reckoning
After the publication of Ruined, messages and emails poured in. I realized that very few people of faith address sexual abuse frankly, especially the ways the church responds and fails to respond, and the way theology can do damage. As I traveled to speak about the memoir, I heard countless stories from other victims and survivors. I began to suspect that my work was not over.
In the fall of 2017 the #MeToo movement took hold. Stories of abuse were featured on the front pages of newspapers. I felt excited to hear victims’ voices so prominently. But where were the voices of faith leaders? Instead of leading this justice movement, many faith leaders decried it. That angered me. I felt the Spirit calling me to go broader and bolder with another writing project.
I chose ten true stories which highlight various dynamics of sexual abuse and misconduct. Some of the stories are my own, a sort of unwelcome follow-up to the earlier assault. The other stories belong to brave survivors who entrusted them to me. As I wrote about each story, I chose an ancient story from scripture to interweave with the contemporary one. I had not seen a writer do this before, but I knew the braided narratives would inform each other. I wanted readers to experience the power of scripture firsthand. The #MeToo Reckoning: Facing the Church’s Complicity in Sexual Abuse and Misconduct (January 2020, InterVarsity Press).
My First Book: Holy Land Pilgrimage
My first book is a spiritual memoir spanning a two-week pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine. Readers journey alongside me, the author. Together we experience both the outer terrain of the Holy Land and the interior questions that arise from pursuing the Holy One. It’s a personal book, with many light moments. Readers tell me it helped them prepare for a pilgrimage, or was a pleasant substitute for a trip they were unable to take for whatever reason. Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land (December 2012, Wm. B. Eerdmans).
Available to Speak
I used to travel widely to urge faith communities to reconsider their response to sexual abuse. Because of the pandemic, I’m doing speaking engagements online. Feel free to contact me.
Besides Writing . . .
I live in northern Virginia with my husband, Doug, who’s a sixth grade Science teacher. We have two daughters, Hannah and Clara. (The picture is from March 2019 when we celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday and took a quick detour to Lake Michigan.) Besides writing and reading, my favorite things include walking in the woods, watching live performances (oh how I miss them!), and enjoying my husband’s good cooking.
Yes, we have a cat. It’s my understanding that cat ownership is mandatory for writers. Meet Wrangler, a successful Rescue Kitty.