Nadia Bolz-Weber

Why Hipster Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber Thinks the Church Is for Losers

Image via Nadia Bolz-Weber / RNS

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the kind of pastor who ends up doing funerals for an alcoholic stand-up comic and a transvestite. The founder of Denver’s House for All Sinners and Saints, this tattooed, profanity-loving Lutheran pastor wants nothing more than to tell it like it is.

Her newest book, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, expands on her trademark exploration of finding God in the unexpected.

“When it comes down to it,” said Bolz-Weber, “the church is for losers. We connect to each other and to God through our shared brokenness, not through our personal victories and strengths and accomplishments. This is why it’s hilarious to me when people sort of write me off as hipster Christianity. You have definitely not been to my congregation. It is not hip.”

'Accidental Saints' Is a Call for a Vulnerable Church

Image via YouTube

Within her tale of adding reconciliation to her annual lessons and carols was a challenge to the church: to come out of the hole of escapism and into “a place where we dive right into difficult truths.”

With hard-hitting candor, Pastor Nadia asked, “When we find ourselves in a world where we see up-to-the-minute images of human suffering...can we really afford quite so much sentimentality in Christianity?”

As we see bodies of child refugees washed upon shorelines, can we sit comfortably in our pews, not asking for any changes to our hospitality or political structures? When we know that innocent lives continue to be lost at the expense of keeping control of our guns for our own personal safety, does it make sense for us to gloss over the stories in the Gospel where Jesus proclaims peace over all things? Is Christianity about memorizing the most inspirational verses of the Bible, or is it about putting them into action to combat the injustices of our reality?

VIDEO: We Are Not An Issue

In the long-running “culture war” over whether or not to accept and embrace the LGBT community in the U.S., many evangelicals are switching sides. David Gushee, a leading evangelical ethicist, has recently become an outspoken ally of the LGBT community. In “Tackling the Hard Questions” (Sojourners, January 2015), Gushee explains that the welcome and affirmation of LGBT members of the church is both needed and biblical. “A new evangelical conversation should begin with Christian love and pastoral concern for all people, especially our own closeted adolescents and wounded exiles.”

It is essential that this conversation include LGBT voices. Recently, pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber of Denver’s House for All Sinners and Saints did just that.

When The Nines, an online evangelical church leadership conference, asked Weber to create a five-minute video discussing "the issue of homosexuality,"she turned the mic over to LGBT members of her church community, who quickly and necessarily reminded us that they are not an issue: They are the body of Christ.

Watch this video to begin or to continue engaging in the conversation about LGBT people and the church.

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50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders To Celebrate On International Women's Day

Lisa Sharon Harper Lisa Sharon Harper is the senior director of mobilizing for Sojourners. She was the founding executive director of New York Faith & Justice—an organization at the hub of a new ecumenical movement to end poverty in New York City. She helped establish Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice and also organized faith leaders to speak out for immigration reform and organized the South Bronx Conversations for Change....

GRAPHIC: Hipster Faith

Like the following graphic may attest, Nadia Bolz-Weber's church, House for All Sinners and Saints, is not your typical Lutheran church. Instead "House," as the community refers to itself, combines ancient liturgy, Eastern Orthodox iconography, and traditional hymns with a pierced and heavily tattooed hipster pastor, events like the annual "Blessing of the Bicycles," and a "queer-inclusive" congregation.

You can read more about Nadia Bolz-Weber and the House for All Sinners and Saints in Jason Byassee's April 2014 Sojourners cover article "Cutting-Edge Orthodoxy." The article highlights Nadia's unconventional faith journey and introduces readers to the church that is reimagining traditional practices for the Millennial generation.  

Created by Kara Lofton for Sojourners

Kara Lofton is editorial/online assistant at Sojourners.

Images from (from top left to right): Praying hands in black background, Jesus Cervantes; Church with the Holy Spirit and water, Irisska; Rock with cross abstract grunge image, jcjgphotography; Smiling female friends with dog on old loading dock, CREATISTA; Bicycle, onairda; A Catholic nun wears a crucifix, Ryan Rodrick Beiler; Catholic liturgy and prayer beads, Marijus Auruskevicius; Denver, Colorado skyline, Teri Virbickis; Young bearded hipster man, Anchiy; Handsome young man with tattoo, Halfpoint; Stained glass church window, joroma; Byzantine 11th century painting, Brigida Soriano; Burning candle in a church, Nykonchuk Oleksii; Ancient Orthodox icon, Oleg Golovnev; Happy hipster girl, Alliance; Handsome young African-American man, Malyugin; Portrait of two hipster girls, Dragon Images


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VIDEO: "Pastrix" Nadia Bolz-Weber

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the pastor of the House of All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colo., and is featured in "Cutting-Edge Orthodoxy" in the April 2014 cover story of Sojourners. Although Nadia uses traditional liturgy and Eastern Orthodox iconography in her services, this 6'1 tattooed preacher is hardly called conventional. In a December 2013 interview with CNN Denver, she talks about her new memoir Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint and about her 180-member downtown church. 

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Meaningless Church Jargon

marekuliasz and bigredlynx/Shutterstock

Let’s all speak of God and faith and community in clear, simple, and meaningfu language. marekuliasz and bigredlynx/Shutterstock

Earlier this morning, I saw a tweet from @JesusofNazareth316: Blessed are they who stop using the word “‪#missional," which caused me to post something on Twitter and Facebook asking people what their favorite church jargon is — mine being “Missional Imagination.” The response was unbelievable and also quite interesting.

I realized upon reading the #meaninglesschurchjargon tweets that the responses tended to fall into several categories:

1. Mainline Protestant church consultant/bad seminary class lingo. (“Missional imagination”; congregations as “centers for evangelical mission”; pastors as “transformational leaders”; referring to members as “giving units”; and churches “doing life together”) this language has a commonality with corporate jargon and like corporate jargon, refers to the culture and practices related to an organization.

IDEA: Let’s make sure that in seminary classrooms and at church conferences and in congregational life when we use a term or a phrase, that it points to an actual thing or person or event and is not just a string of words that sound like something meaningful but, in fact, lack real meaning. There is a reason that my computer does not recognize the word Missional. Try it at home. Go ahead. Type that shit and see.

An Edgy Pastor Whose Edginess Isn’t Just Shtick

RNS photo by Sally Morrow

The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

PASADENA, Calif. — The first thing most people mention when they talk about Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is her tattoos. She has many — most of them religious in nature, including a large icon of Mary Magdalene covering her right forearm.

Then they talk about how tall she is (6 foot 1), that she looks more like the lead singer of an all-girl punk rock band than a pastor and that she (unapologetically) swears a lot — even from the pulpit while preaching.

All of the above is true and part of what makes Bolz-Weber unique among high-profile pastors and so-called “Christian authors.” (I hate that term. The word “Christian” is best used as a noun, not an adjective.)

Secrets of the Spiritual Paparazzi

Paparazzi, Ronald Sumners /

Paparazzi, Ronald Sumners /

Some people follow pop-star celebrities. I follow spiritual writers.

Rather than tracking news about Lady Gaga or Beyonce, I’m a fangirl of writers like Anne Lamott, Nora Gallagher, Kathleen Norris, and Barbara Brown Taylor.  

The obsession is borderline embarrassing. Just last month, I announced at a party that writer Nora Gallagher, author of Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, friended me on Facebook. (In truth, I was bragging about an imaginary friend.)

After Nora accepted my friend request, I was bold enough to send her the link to an op-ed I had written about making my teenager go to church. Within 48 hours, Nora wrote back that she liked the title of my piece. So I was convinced she would like me too.

My love of spiritual memoirs has reached the point that my book club, The Literary Ladies, issues a collective groan when it’s my turn to suggest book titles. Many believe that memoirs about faith are slightly self-indulgent. In contrast, I view such writing as the deepest expression of sacred meaning in the chaos of our daily lives.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Nadia Bolz-Weber

Kardashian family, admedia /

Kardashian family, admedia /

One odd way that we all keep up with the Kardashians is in the extraordinary effort we put into maintaining our own personal “brand”. The reaction of Khloe to recent allegations of drug addiction against her husband, NBA player Lamar Odom, is a Kardashian case in point. In reporting on this newsworthy event (sarcastic sigh), Huff Post speculated as to why Khloe was continuing with business as usual, posting “booty shots” and making no reference to her husband’s problems. They asked, “Is the 29-year-old trying to avoid the harsh reality that her husband is struggling with drug abuse, or is she simply trying to keep up the family’s brand?”

Posturing like a Kardashian

We can all appreciate that Khloe might need some privacy from prying and judgmental eyes because you don’t have to be a Kardashian to want privacy when things go wrong. Who wants to be judged for our mistakes by gleeful critics and gloating rivals? When we err, we tend to hide our errors from others and all too often, from ourselves. We are as desperate to maintain our “brand” – our self-identities as flawless, perfectly good, failure-free paragons of virtue – as if we were the public face of a multi-million empire.