Mainline Protestantism: The wolves in sheep’s clothing have shed their fleeces

By Jonathon Van Maren

Some of you may remember that back in 2019, a tattooed, pierced clergywoman with purple hair presented a sculpture to abortion activist Gloria Steinem at the 2019 Makers conference. Nadia Bolz-Weber of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had taken hundreds of purity rings, had them melted down into a vulva emerging from a throne of flames, and given it to Steinem because the feminist’s writings had “changed my life.” Bolz-Weber’s own 2019 book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, was … well, shameless.

When the story was covered by conservative media at the time, many people shrugged it off — how hard is it to find another “pastor” from a dying mainline Protestant denomination declaring loyalty to the sexual revolution in outlandish ways? Besides, these folks are the fringe. Most clergy in mainline churches are nice, elderly ladies who just want everyone to feel warm and fuzzy and play dress-up with colorful vestments. Bolz-Weber might be a flamethrower, but she was still an aberration.

That, of course, is not the case. The author of Shameless who named one of America’s most prominent abortion activists (a woman who dedicated her memoir to her abortionist, no less) has been named by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S.) has now been named to the role of “pastor of public witness” by the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA.

Or, as the Episcopal News Service described her: “Bolz-Weber, who has often attracted controversy, is perhaps best known for her New York Times bestselling books, including Shameless: A Sexual Reformation and Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, the prayer- and profanity-filled memoir of her journey from alcoholic stand-up comic to Lutheran pastor.”

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