Jenna Barnett is the senior associate culture editor at Sojourners and the host of the audio miniseries Lead Us Not. She was born in San Antonio and lives in San Diego. She has a B.A. in sociology and religion from Furman University and an M.F.A in Literary Reportage from New York University.
Before joining the Sojo team, Jenna managed the International Rescue Committee’s urban gardens in San Diego, and worked as a writer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.
She has written for McSweeney’s, the Belladonna, and New York Magazine’s Grub Street. You’re likely to find her playing basketball, watching women’s soccer, eating homemade flour tortillas, or taking her time in Scrabble.
Follow her on Twitter @jennacbarnett and see what she’s creating at jennabarnett.com.
Posts By This Author
The Best Soccer Team in U.S. History Wants Justice
Just under a hundred days before their first World Cup match (in which they would score a record-breaking 13 goals), every member of the team filed a class action, gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The timing of the announcement conveyed that the 23 other teams in the tournament would not be the only opponents of the USWNT this World Cup.
Let There Be Light
DURING REV. HEIDI Hankel’s interview for the lead pastor position at Philadelphia’s Bethesda Presbyterian Church, she learned that one of the church’s deacons was under investigation by law enforcement for allegedly sexually abusing a member of the youth group. Hankel was later offered the job.
No one would blame even the bravest of pastors for turning it down, but fortunately for that small Presbyterian church, Hankel is a reverend who likes to hop down in the trenches to be with her parishioners. She was afraid, she said, but also propelled by her faith to address the violence openly and holistically. She took the job.
“I didn’t know if they would fire me,” said Hankel. “But I felt at least I could stand before God one day and say I handled this well.”
Hankel had a simple answer for why it is so important for church leaders to loudly and actively work to prevent and address abuse: “God isn’t silent. And if God isn’t silent, we as his body—his hands and feet—should not be silent.”
Rev. Dr. LaKeesha Walrond Named First Woman President of New York Theological Seminary
Walrond said she is pleased “to have the opportunity to show all women that there are still many opportunities to be ‘the first.’”
ICE Detains Pastor, Leaving a Wisconsin Community Reeling
“In a representative democracy, if our legislators are not legislating in accordance with the moral law that we’re given by God, then it’s really on us to select representatives who will legislate in accordance with that law,” she said.
Advocate for Maternal Health this Mother's Day
In response to rising maternal mortality rates in the U.S., congress has introduced several pieces of legislation in the past several months aimed at saving the lives of women during and immediately after pregnancy.
The Equal Rights Amendment Inches Forward: A 100-Year Fight for Gender Equality
The House Judiciary Committee today held the first hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in 36 years. The ERA affirms that, “Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” If the ERA passes, the word “women” would appear in the Constitution for the first time in history.
11 Women Shaping the Church
Every International Women’s Day, Sojourners has the honor and challenge of selecting the women who are most inspiring us in the ways they are leading the church, and through it, the world. This year’s group of women includes pastors and artists, professors and activists, lawyers and painters. Collectively, they are shaping the church into a more inclusive, daring, honest, and action-oriented community of believers. We thank them for it. Below, learn why their work is so important, and pray along with these leaders as you receive their blessings for 2019.
New Study: Largest U.S. Churches Are Unclear on Women's Leadership
I spent the first 18 years of my life blissfully assuming all Protestant churches allowed women to preach. At my home church, a tiny Presbyterian (USA) congregation in San Antonio, women spoke from the pulpit as often as they brought lukewarm casseroles to Sunday potluck. But when I left home for college, another first-year ambushed me in the dorm kitchen with his mouth full of 1 Timothy, bursting my egalitarian bubble. While I have since memorized the scriptural justifications for my equal existence and participation in the church, a new study by Church Clarity reveals that I am still far from living in a world where all Protestant churches allow women to lead.
Women and Children Feel the Most Impact of the Shutdown. Here's Why
In Donald Trump’s address to the nation last night, meant to emphasize his desire for a physical barrier to close off the southern border, he stated, “Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.” He referenced high rates of sexual assault on the journeys up the southern border and the brutal rape and murder of a California resident by an undocumented immigrant and a U.S. citizen (though he failed to highlight the ladder assailant). I agree with Trump that women and children are the biggest victims of the broken system, though not in all the ways that he had in mind.
Can ‘Locker Room Talk’ Be Redeemed?
WHEN I WAS a high school soccer and basketball player, locker rooms were a sanctuary for me. I remember elaborate pregame handshakes and earnest debates over whether it was okay to pray for a win. I chatted with teammates about defensive strategy, physics homework, and crushes. But I do not remember anyone ever bragging about sexual assault.
Donald Trump excused as “locker room talk” his vulgar boasting about kissing, groping, and trying to have sex with women during the infamous 2005 conversation caught live by Access Hollywood and released during the 2016 campaign. Trump’s lewd remarks still loom large for me, because I refuse to normalize having an admitted sexual assaulter in the Oval Office and also because UltraViolet, a creative women’s advocacy organization, periodically plays that videotape on a continuous loop in front of the U.S. Capitol. Tourists, members of Congress, and everyone else get a regular reminder of who is in the White House.
However, as UltraViolet’s action and the flood of #MeToo testimonials demonstrate, it is not enough to shine a light on the prevalence of sexual violence. Revelation alone does not beget liberation. We can’t simply hold up a mirror to our cultural misogyny and expect the image to change. For real transformation, we must project a true image—an imago dei —rather than our current distortion.
'I Believe You': Church Leaders Respond to Survivors
On Thursday Dr. Christine Blasey Ford recounted her experience of sexual assault before a committee comprising mostly older white men. Women and other victims of abuse held their collective breath. The details were familiar. The resulting trauma — anxiety, fear of flying, claustrophobia — resonated. Survivors listened — and they recalled their worst experiences.
This Is How #MeToo Will End
I, too, have felt the thickness of the past 341 days. Because time doesn’t fly in the midst of a long awaited cultural change — it crawls. Time pauses to ask God, “Why?” It stops to lament each child abused by a priest and each survivor silenced to preserve the legacy of a charismatic pastor.
Cardinal McCarrick Removed from Ministry After Sex Abuse Allegations
The Vatican has decided to remove Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick from ministry after finding allegations that he sexually abused a minor to be “credible and substantiated.” Cardinal McCarrick is one of the most prominent Catholic leaders to ever face such accusations. He is the former Archbishop of Washington, but the abuse in question occurred during his time as a priest in New York 47 years ago.
Thousands of Women Could Die Because of Sessions' Latest Immigration Decision
Yesterday Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a legal decision that has fatal implications for our neighbors fleeing abuse around the world. Sessions has decided to deny asylum to everyone coming to the U.S. to escape domestic violence, overturning a precedent set by the Obama administration in 2009.
This Mother's Day, Give the Gift of Civic Engagement
Even though Congress has not voted on the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, states have begun using it as a model for state-level legislation. We must keep the momentum rolling. This Mother’s Day, give the gift of civic engagement.
10 Pieces You Need to Read About Sexual Assault and the Church
Just as one month of awareness every April isn’t enough, neither is one 10-article roundup. Our prayer is this: May our reading and writing lead to preaching and legislating, may our preaching and legislating heal trauma and end sexual violence.
How Churches Can Stand for Survivors, Not the Accused
Churches must not be scared of what an independent investigation will uncover. Instead, they should fear what an investigation that prioritizes the accused won’t uncover. We cannot truly preach the Good News until we are ready to reveal the bad news of the harassment and violence at work in many of our churches and homes.
2018’s 10 Christian Women to Watch
Every International Women’s Day, we compile a roundup of Christian women who are making and shaping history right now. From advocating for immigration reform, to battling racism and abuse in the church and through the church, women are leading the way. Below, the women we are honoring this year share with us their hopes, heroes, and blessings for 2018.
The Golden Globes Held a Funeral. Now Let's Hold One in Church
I hope we stop spreading the dangerous myth that abuse and harassment doesn’t happen among Christians.
Have You Ever Heard a Sermon on Domestic Violence?
Faith communities can play a powerful role in preventing violence and supporting survivors, but collectively we’re falling short. Two-thirds (65 percent) of pastors say they speak once a year or less about sexual and domestic violence, with 1 in 10 never addressing it at all. This failure has a deep and lasting impact.