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Monday, September 26, 2011

RevGalBookPals: Disrupted

This month's review is by Carol Howard Merritt, pastor, writer and RevGal extraordinaire- known to many as the speaker from the Big Event 4.0 and the author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation.

Disrupted by Julie Anderson Love

This is, on one level, a very extraordinary story. In Disrupted: On Fighting Death and Keeping Faith, Julie Anderson Love battles a brain tumor, something that most of us will not have to undergo, especially in the third decade of life. Love moves us with medical accuracy, spiritual awareness, and emotional depth through the painstaking decisions and healing.

On another level, however, Love’s story is an ordinary one. She is an Associate Pastor, she clashes with the Interim Senior Pastor, and he retaliates. Let me sound the spoiler alert here—if you have not read the book and want all of it to be a mystery, you can stop reading.

The heart of our discussion resides in the fact that the church fired Love while she was fighting for her life. Yes, you read that correctly. They took away her insurance and her livelihood while she had a brain tumor. When they should have been bringing her casseroles, flowers, and cards crafted by Sunday school children, they brought her a pink slip.

When Love’s pastoral counselor recounted the devastation that she had been through that year, he was pretty sure that the brain tumor was less traumatic than the church letting her go in the midst of it all. I kept turning the pages, thinking, She’s not supposed to be talking about this

As stark and traumatic as Love’s story is, what’s even more difficult is that we hear about this stuff happening all of the time. Something similar has probably happened to many of our dear readers. When it does, we are told to be quiet, gloss over it, and move on as quickly as possible. Most of us do. Then we try to negotiate a new job, entering another church, becoming a chaplain, or dropping out of the clergy ranks altogether. Keeping quiet is usually the wisest thing to do, but does all of this playing nice help in the long run?

I don’t think so. I mean, it helps in our particular circumstance (and looking after yourself is the most important thing in these devastating situations). The opportunities for secure employment increase when we don’t make much of a fuss.
But how does it help clergywomen in general when we constantly cover up the sins of our congregations in order for us to come out less scathed?

We all know stories that make us shudder--women who have been sexually harassed, fired without cause, or paid unfairly. How can we communicate these narratives and still protect our careers? Can we find creative ways to be able to break the silence that so often enshrouds our positions?

Reading this book made me thankful that Julie Anderson Love was able to break through that code of silence under which we work. She didn’t try to make herself or her position more spiritual or perfect than she was. She told her story, with courage and honesty. She did not shy away from all of those secrets that we often have to keep. And for that, we all owe her.


  1. Thank you, Carol, for this review of a book that courageously tells the truth about a life that, as you say, we know too well but don't talk about.

    One of the things that happens in some safe clergy (usually women clergy) gatherings is that the real stories are sometimes told with that awareness that there is so much that our congregations don't know, even about what they are doing!

    Is the "code of silence" ultimately helpful to ministry and to the church? Is the silence we keep serving a greater purpose than would be served by telling the truth more openly? I'd like to hear from some RevGals on this.

    Even with whatever spoilers there may be in your review, Carol, you have enticed me to want to read this to see how she did it!

  2. She did it in the same way we would do at our safe clergy gatherings--but with more eloquence. It's well worth the read!

    "There is so much that our congregations don't know, even about what they are doing!" --so true...

  3. I was just talking to a friend last night about an incident in the church. She asked if I told her all the details and I said no, some of the details have to be saved until I'm on BE5, in international waters, with a drink in my hand. That awareness of holding things back always hangs in the back of my mind. I'm very excited to read this book and be apart of Love's truth-revelation.

  4. I'm lucky enough to know Julie and her family. (Her spouse is on the faculty of the seminary where I studied.) I did not know this aspect of her story, but her courage and grace do not surprise me.

    I too, have struggled with how to tell my story. Not sure mine is ready for publication yet. Maybe never will be.

  5. I'm too overwhelmed to comment on this, given my current circumstances. I just feel kind of generally ill, reading it and thinking: Where were the casseroles ???? (metaphorically speaking)

  6. It's just sick-making, Robin. I guess I need to read this book.

  7. Sounds like a book I need to get hold of - thanks for the review!

    It can be very difficult knowing when to speak up in circumstances such as these. Not that any of the circumstances that I have found myself in over the last few years are anything like that of Love, I still struggle. If I speak up, I risk being accused of being 'power-seeking' or hearing 'this is exactly why women shouldn't be in Ministry' - but if I keep quiet - nothing will ever be challenged and corrected. It is frustrating!

    I too am saddened by the response of the church in this particular situation - where are the casseroles? - exactly!!


  8. This resonated with me on so many levels. The church must begin to peel away the layers of abuse and misconduct towards its people (especially female clergy). It simply must.

  9. wow. yes. I guess I need to read this book, too.

  10. Casseroles don't come. Support comes in the form of "you need to take time off - to assess..." and yes, I need to post this anonymously.


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