March 2020: Keeping Faith in a Crisis

A note from Ashley Peterson, Faith in Women Director: 

In February 2019, Faith in Women sent a newsletter focusing on Caring for Ourselves in Troubling Times. At that time our concern was the wave of abortion bans sweeping many states, including Mississippi, and we hoped to offer support to our friends and colleagues on the front lines of the fight for reproductive health, rights, and justice. We wanted to remind you that you are worth caring for, too.

And now it’s March 2020. The fight against reproductive oppression continues to be unrelenting, but now we’re doing this work against a backdrop of a global pandemic — and all the fear, uncertainty, and disruption that comes with it. Our work for justice is more important than ever, even as our priorities shift to meet the needs of our families and communities during this time of crisis. Courageous ones, in taking care of the world don’t forget to take care of yourselves — body, mind, and spirit. Below we offer a few reminders and resources for the days ahead, and please reach out to us if there’s any way we can support you or your work.

In love and solidarity,


It’s ok to be afraid. 

The global and national statistics on COVID-19 paint a serious picture, and fear is an understandable response. We don’t know how long this is going to last or the severity of what’s to come.

What we do know is that Mississippians are resilient. We have survived many crises. And we have many resources available to manage the stress, fear, and anxiety that permeate our lives right now. Here are a few:

A Global Coronavirus Healing Meditation

A Coronavirus Meditation with Lizzo

Therapy for Black Girls Podcast Session 145: Managing Anxiety About Coronavirus

Manage Stress Workbook

Meditation apps like Headspace (free and paid versions available)

4 At-Home Workouts

It’s ok to rest.

The American ethos of productivity and perfectionism will be severely challenged in the coming days of social distancing and isolation. Tricia Hersey is the Nap Bishop; her work at The Nap Ministry (@thenapministry) shows us that all humans are worthy, not only the “productive” ones. “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations.” Anyone can and should rest, but the practice of rest is especially meaningful and powerful for those most affected by systemic oppression.

Taking time to rest is an essential part of caring for oneself. Embrace the daily rhythm of wake and sleep. Remind yourself that no matter what capitalism tries to tell us, working slowly can mean “careful” and “conscientious” instead of “lazy” or “incompetent.”

Many of us are working from home for the first time, and even experienced work-at-home people are struggling (waves hand). In between wanting to feel connected to the rest of the world through social media and message boards, strategically visiting a store to score some hand sanitizer or groceries, or checking out the news for the latest pandemic updates, focusing on work and “business as usual” feels impossible.

Here are some things to try:

Make a list.
Do one thing at a time.
Give yourself a deadline.
Incorporate rest into your schedule.
Try a dance or laundry break every hour. 

If you are trying to work and also taking care of children, lower your expectations and hang in there. If you are in a work environment with unrealistic work expectations, do your best and remember that other people are afraid, too, especially bosses. Over-functioning is not the answer, though.

For those of you reading who are pastors, know that this is a unique time in our vocation. As a pastor myself I personally know the weirdness of not being able to be around people when my job consists of largely…being around people. Remember that spiritual leaders are called to quiet and contemplation as well, and make space to encounter the Divine in this strange wilderness. Also check out Pastoring in a Pandemic from Dr. Chaenqua Walker-Barnes. She has realness to offer.

It’s ok to grieve.

As important life and work plans are put on an indefinite pause, we acknowledge the pain and frustration that accompanies cancelling long-anticipated friend and family gatherings, vacations, conferences, fundraisers, and career networking opportunities. This is a loss of social connection, and it’s real. Author and theologian Nadia Bolz Weber tweeted some wisdom about the grief that comes with this loss, calling it “a pandemic of human disappointment.”

We’re all feeling a lot of things right now and the best thing we can do is operate with compassion and care for ourselves and others. Being a listener to another’s grief is such a powerful way to be in relationship with one another. Simply reaching out to a friend and being present can help us heal, even in the midst of this crisis.

Check out the Marco Polo app for video messaging, Skype or Zoom for video group meetings, Facetime if you have an iPhone. Most messaging apps like Messages or WhatsApp have ways to share audio and video messages. Let someone know you care! Look at them in the face while you are checking in. Don’t forget about snail mail. And try a Netflix Party!

It’s ok to be angry.

This pandemic, and our government’s response to it, have brought to the forefront what many of us already know —  we live in a nation of horrifying inequality. Our lack of a national infrastructure for effective, affordable healthcare is appalling. The effects of our government’s perpetual gutting of crucial social safety nets are becoming even more evident as millions of people face loss of jobs and income. The racism-tinged statements and actions coming from our President are enraging. Seeing companies and governments quickly make accommodations that they swore were unfeasible or too expensive in the past — such as telecommuting options for employees with disabilities — reveals the often arbitrary and profit-driven nature of these decisions.

As a nation we’ve forgotten – or ignored- our shared humanity and interconnectedness for far too long. There’s a lot to be angry about. The question is: what will you do with that anger?

It’s ok not to know how you feel.

Honestly, some of us introverts aren’t afraid of the prospect of “social isolation” and several weeks without big social and work commitments. Home projects and hobbies sound like a break from the routine of life!

But others, introverted or extroverted, are overwhelmed by the sudden demand of balancing childcare with working from home. Those of us who get our energy from spending time with friends and socializing are conflicted about social distancing and trying to figure out when and how to get those needs met.

Captain Awkward: Advice for Helping Loved Ones and Social Distancing for Extroverts

Parenting During a Time of Physical Distancing

Nevertheless we persist. It is ok to have hope that we can get through this time, together (but not in the same room).

Some more things to carry us through:

Supporting Creators in Need with The Creator Fund

Recipes for Pantry Cooking with Pinch of Yum

NPR: Tiny Desk Concert Playlists

Watch The Good Place on Netflix

#SustainingCommunity Video Series

Additionally, anything NOT on the internet or tv: reading, drawing, dance party. Get creative, and if you aren’t feeling creative, I have enough ideas to last 10 lifetimes, so email me!

We at Faith in Women love you, dear reader! And we are here to give support and encouragement.

Take heart,

photo of Anna Fleming-Jones



The Reverend Anna Fleming-Jones
Program Coordinator for Faith in Women

@annaflemingjones on IG email me!

2020: Courage, Community, and Resilience

Our vision for 2020 is to grow in courage, strengthen our community, and embrace resilience. Join us! 

Courage: What gives you courage? When we think about our Faith in Women activism, it helps to remember why we are fighting for reproductive dignity for Mississippians. Do you want to create a healthier, more equitable world for your own children? Do you want access to higher quality healthcare for yourself or your community? This year, look for opportunities to dig deep and find your why, and to craft your story of courage to share with others.

Community: Faith in Women has supporters all over the state, and in 2020 we aim to build and fortify our network even more. We’ll be offering several opportunities throughout the year to invite newcomers, get to know each other, and strengthen our bonds forged in pursuit of the common good. Let’s learn and rest and grow together this year!

Resilience: The sacred work of activism can be both a beautiful gift, and utterly draining. How are you taking care of yourself and each other? A major focus for Faith in Women in 2020 will be resilience — how to care for ourselves and our community when the challenges seem overwhelming (which is often these days!) Throughout the year we’ll be offering opportunities to explore and deepen our resilience together.

Stay connected with us throughout 2020 to learn how to act, speak, and pray in ways that bring more freedom, health, and life to our communities!

A New Voice: As of this month, Faith in Women newsletters will be coming to you from Program Coordinator Anna Fleming-Jones! You may remember that Anna officially joined our team last spring, alongside her pastoral work as a United Methodist Clergywoman in the Jackson Metro area. We’re thrilled to have Anna’s personal and creative touch in this work!

The 2020 Legislative Session: Legislative session in in full swing! Claiming “Christian values,” every year our state government attempts to further restrict access to life-giving reproductive healthcare while failing to pass bills that would actually help to lift families from poverty, like Medicaid expansion and pay equity. Join our private Facebook group for real-time updates and ways to participate in the work of reproductive health, rights, and justice in Mississippi through our legislative process.

You can also stay connected through the Planned Parenthood Rapid Response Network: Keep engaged in the work of repro justice that goes on around our State; sign up to find what actions best suit your call to justice.

Take heart,




The Reverend Anna Fleming-Jones
Program Coordinator,
Faith in Women

@annaflemingjones on IG email me!

In Your Own Words

Why do you support reproductive dignity?

I support women’s moral agency and bodily autonomy in matters related to reproductive health, rights, and justice. While I support this for everyone, in this patriarchal culture where women’s bodies are objectified and not safe from violence and abuse, where gender inequity erodes autonomy and dignity and justice, where too few women have access to comprehensive reproductive health care – I especially support this for women – all women.

Rev. Carol Burnett, Executive Director of the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative

Celebrating Our Fellows and Leaders of Moral Courage

In looking back over 2019, by far the most meaningful and exciting project we undertook was the Fellowship for Leaders of Moral Courage. In partnership with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Faith in Women designed and piloted a 12-week intensive course of study to explore the meaning of “moral courage” at the intersection of religion and reproductive health, rights, and justice. Together with our first cohort of Mississippi- and Louisiana-based fellows, we tackled sacred questions like: 

What does it look like to embody courage in the struggle for justice?

How do we care for ourselves and each other in the work of uprooting oppression?

In what ways does self-examination bolster our efforts to create a society that values the common good? 

How do we create brave space together?

Eight fellows from a range of professions including religious leadership, education, public health, social work, and advocacy, gathered over the summer to learn from one another and share their individual expertise. Grounded in reproductive justice, the fellowship centered on the history of reproductive oppression in Mississippi and how this past informs our current day struggles for freedom and dignity. Learning from activists and experts including Cherisse Scott of Sister Reach, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Highland Center, and Sean Saifa Wall, we recognized the strengths and the limitations of the current framework of reproductive rights and imagined a more expansive and inclusive vision around the idea of reproductive dignity for Mississippi. 

Through a combination of in-person retreats, self-study, and virtual meet-ups, our fellows worked collaboratively to navigate the leadership challenges they face in the field and to gain a deeper awareness of themselves, their faith, and their calling. Together we discerned and discussed the particular skills and gifts that we each bring to the work of justice, realizing that though our intervention styles may differ, each is an essential part of the overall fabric of justice work.  

One of the biggest areas of practical skill-building for the fellows was the art of storytelling. Together we explored what makes a story powerful, and over the course of the fellowship each fellow worked to craft a personal narrative of how their faith has shaped their understanding of reproductive freedom and dignity.

Looking ahead, we at Faith in Women feel called in 2020 to deepen our contribution to shifting the narrative around reproductive freedom and dignity in Mississippi. Over the coming year, we will be exploring the stories that we tell and how our vulnerability can be our greatest strength in these challenging times.

What We’re Grateful For in 2019

Gratitude is not so much a feeling but a practice–an important one, particularly in times when so little seems to be aligning with our hopes for the world. Even so, we can find hope in unexpected places. Here is what we are giving thanks for this month at Faith in Women. 

We are inspired by the first ever Daring Compassion: Movement Chaplaincy Training that is taking place right now. Activists, religious leaders, and other justice-inspired people from around the country are participating in a 12-week online learning program designed to equip individuals to provide emotional and spiritual care within our movements for social change. This course is co-instructed by Hilary Allen and friend of Faith in Women Micky ScottBey Jones, both from the Faith Matters Network. To learn more about the training and get updates on future trainings, visit the Movement Chaplaincy Training website. 

November 13th was Contraception Access Day, and we’re saying #ThxBirthControl all month long. From regulating menstrual cycles and easing painful periods to preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing risk of gynecological cancer, access to reliable forms of contraception is essential for gender equality, bodily autonomy, family planning, and reproductive dignity. We are also thankful to our partners that provide sexuality education to ensure every person has the information they need to make informed decisions about their bodies, families, and futures. 

Everyday the Jackson Women’s Health Center, also known as the “Pink House” and the only abortion provider in Mississippi,” is targeted by anti-choice extremists who attempt to intimidate staff and patients with shouting and even bullhorns. In response the Jackson City Council voted 3-1 to enforce a noise ordinance that in addition to banning the use of amplifiers and speakers, provides a protective “bubble” both for the clinic and for those entering its doors. The Jackson Free Press covered the specifics of the new ordinance which went into effect October 1st. 

Judge Carlton Reeves, nominated by President Obama in 2010 to the position of district judge for the Southern District of Mississippi, has twice struck down legislation that would severely limit–or even outright ban–access to abortion in the state. In 2018 he struck down a fifteen-week ban, and this year he blocked an even more restrictive six-week ban. Judge Reeves said the six-week ban “smacks of defiance to this court.” 

And, we are grateful to our Faith in Women partners, members, supporters, and activists. Faith in Women started as an experimental project in 2015, and because of your support and perseverance, our organization has grown into a vibrant spiritual force for change in our state and beyond. Thank you, thank you!

Introducing Rev. Anna Fleming-Jones

Rev. Anna Fleming-Jones is a native Mississippian and an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. For the last ten years she has served congregations around the state, and this June she was appointed by the Mississippi Conference to serve the mission of Faith in Women. Anna lives in Jackson, Mississippi with her husband and 3-year-old son. 

Q: Welcome to Faith in Women! Tell us a little about yourself. 

A: I’m a United Methodist pastor and throughout my ministry I have spent a lot of time thinking about my place in the institution of the church. I feel called to leadership that is both prophetic and loving. I know that civil rights and human rights are what God wants to see in the world. Part of my spiritual calling is helping every person encounter the divine, and that means working for liberty for all. 

Q: What role will you be playing at Faith in Women? 

A: I’ll be working on a number of initiatives, including supporting our fellowship program that pairs faith leaders with leaders in reproductive health, rights, and justice movement. When people feel empowered to speak up about these issues, it makes a huge difference. 

I will also be looking at how to create spaces and networks of spiritual support for people who are making reproductive decisions or who are encountering difficult reproductive experiences, including infertility and miscarriage. Related to that, I’m interested in how to provide pastoral support for people who are activists in this movement. I recognize that spiritual formation, like going on a silent retreat or working with a spiritual director, is often a luxury that many can’t access. How do we make it more available for those who need it most? 

Q: These are troubling times for reproductive health, rights, and justice work. What gives you hope in this moment? 

A: I do feel like beginning my work with Faith in Women in this moment is divine timing. My church voted on my appointment to serve in this role, and people were excited by the intersectional approach of the work. The mission of Faith in Women aligns with our values as a denomination, and I have had a lot of positive conversations with people, including those who hold more conservative views. There are opportunities in this moment to see how we can come together to make our state better. 

Q: What about this work makes you the most excited? 

I want to help us explore the question: are we living up to our stated and unstated values as a church and as a society?  That starts with creating space for conversation around issues of reproductive dignity and working to center voices in our churches and communities that have traditionally been excluded and silenced. I’m looking forward to that work.

Partner Highlight: Center for Ministry at Millsaps College

At Faith in Women we talk a lot about thriving in our vision for Mississippi’s most vulnerable women and girls. And we believe that the opportunity to grow and flourish is something that every person deserves. That is why we are excited to highlight the work of the Center for Ministry at Millsaps College, in particular their newest program Thriving in Ministry focused on supporting clergywomen across the South.

About the Center for Ministry

Formed in 1998 as a partnership between Millsaps College and the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC), the Center for Ministry supports faith leaders through lifelong learning programs, including continuing education classes, spiritual direction training, and spiritual formation programs. Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley, an ordained elder and spiritual director n the UMC, has served as Executive Director of the Center since 2016. In an article about her leadership of the Center, Rev. Swaim-Presley spoke of her commitment to expanding their offerings for learning: “I am passionate about creating opportunities for all people, particularly clergy and laity within the United Methodist tradition that is so uniquely a part of Millsaps College’s identity.” 

Faith in Women and the Center for Ministry have a strong relationship, partnering on projects like 2017’s Called to Courage event at Millsaps College and a training series for clergy and youth leaders on teen dating violence prevention.

Thriving in Ministry Program

Thanks to a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Center for Ministry has established a new program called Thriving in Ministry which focuses on supporting the ministry of clergywomen across the South. We are thrilled that Faith in Women member Rev. Elizabeth Henry has been named the program director of this exciting new initiative which will “support, resource, and empower clergywomen toward thriving during a key season of professional transition: as they prepare for, or begin, their first pastorate as a solo or senior pastor.”

Why focus specifically on clergywomen?

Women remain less likely than men to lead the largest churches or to be senior pastors of mid-sized congregations; they are more likely to be associates; and they also receive less on average in compensation. The specific challenges clergywomen in leadership face are particularly concerning because they include a lack of opportunity for authenticity and membership in the larger clergy community, struggles in their relationships with significant others, challenges in attending to personal care and renewal, and difficulty in identifying role models and mentors, all of which the Flourishing in Ministry study (Notre Dame) identifies as extremely important for cultivating pastoral well-being. This makes the challenges women face as they prepare for or transition into leadership as solo or senior pastors all the more urgent, and all the more important, to address.

This program will have three 15-month cohorts and will include:

  • Ecumenical peer groups 
  • Large-group retreats
  • Restorative activities
  • Congregational training
  • Spiritual direction/coaching

Are you or someone you know a clergywoman interested in this program?

Applications for the first cohort will be accepted through May 31. Learn more about the program and how to apply at


Caring for Ourselves in Troubling Times

Three decades ago Audre Lorde, the feminist poet and activist,  wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. ” All of these years later Lorde’s framing of self-care is critically important as we struggle for justice in these tumultuous days. Continuing the arduous work of creating a more just, compassionate world requires us to pause, to rest, and to heal. Do not lose heart.

The practice of sustaining ourselves looks different for everyone and may take some experimenting to figure out what works best. Below are a few suggestions to consider trying as we navigate the days and months ahead. Many of these ideas are probably ones you’ve heard before, but we hope this list serves as a gentle reminder to make your well-being a priority. 

Show your body some love and gratitude. The stress and ‘busyness’ of life often take a toll on our physical health, but we don’t always feel it until a crisis comes on. So do what you can to give your body the care and respect it deserves. Schedule that haircut or teeth cleaning you’ve been putting off. Actually take your lunch breaks (away from your desk!) Get outside, play with that puppy, crank up that music. When stress runs high, practice a few deep breaths or gentle stretches.

Consume news mindfully. Identify what sources of news are triggering and which are helpful in keeping you informed. If news notifications are distracting or anxiety-inducing, turn them off. If you’re worried about missing an important story, consider blocking off fifteen minutes in the morning (preferably not right after you wake up) and in the evening (preferably not right before going to bed) to get caught up.

Unfollow social media accounts that cause unnecessary stress. If there is a particular news outlet, pundit, or personality that constantly makes your blood boil, protect your energy by clicking “unfollow.” Online marketers purposefully exploit our emotions for revenue, so don’t let them! As with news consumption, consider scheduling a finite block of time for social media. You may even want to delete the apps from your phone or tablet to prevent mindless scrolling.

Choose online battles wisely. Not every argument is worth your time. When there is a matter you’d like to discuss, share your expertise wisely and compassionately, and feel free to practice the “chime in and let it go.” You can even turn off notifications for that particular conversation thread.

Likewise, choose in-person battles wisely. It’s ok– and even healthy– to say no to that committee, or march, or meeting. The path to justice is not a sprint, or a marathon. It’s a relay. It’s ok to pass the baton to others when you’re low on spirit or need time to recharge. Remember this advice from La Sarmiento: “Know that in any given moment, our comrades are working for causes that matter. For one of us to take a break for a few minutes or a few days is totally OK.”

Remember that you are not alone. Isolation can be soul crushing. We’re here for you! If you’re looking for more support and solidarity, please send a request to join our private Faith in Women Facebook group. We’d love to have you. Or send us an email!

Called to Resist: Honoring the Legacy of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion

Pictured: (l-r) Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson; Dr. Gillian Frank; Rev. Bill Kirby; Dr. Willie Parker; Ashley Peterson

The faithful activism of Rev. Bill Kirby, a United Methodist pastor who helped lead the Missouri Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, is tied to his long-held belief that God is love. Guided by Jesus’s commandment to “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself,” Rev. Kirby felt called to assist nearly two thousand women experiencing unplanned pregnancies in the early 1970s, at a time when abortion was illegal, offering them non-judgemental, compassionate counseling known as All Options. “Even the use of the word ‘abortion’ was illegal,” he said. “We lived in the realm of knowing we could be in trouble.” If a woman in his care chose abortion, he and his colleagues made sure she could get one, even if it meant arranging a secret round-trip flight from Missouri to New York, where abortions were performed safely by trained physicians.

Rev. Kirby was one of three featured speakers at Faith in Women’s September event, “Called to Resist: The Pre-Roe Faith Movement that Saved Women’s Lives,” co-sponsored with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).  More than forty local clergy, churchgoers, health educators, and representatives of Mississippi-based reproductive health and rights organizations gathered in Jackson to learn about the history of the Clergy Consultation Service (CCS) and how its legacy continues to inform the prophetic work of reproductive health, rights, and justice advocacy today.

Historian Dr. Gillian Frank, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Program in American Studies at the University of Virginia, gave a brief overview of CCS’s history. At a time when abortion was a punishable crime, more than 2,000 Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis, and dissident Catholic priests and nuns banded together to fight publicly for reproductive rights and to counsel hundreds of thousands of women on how they could access safe, compassionate abortion care. The underground networks they formed were robust: members were active in 40 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and in the city of Tokyo, Japan.

Why were these faith leaders willing to risk so much–their careers, their livelihood, even their freedom–for these women? They saw the devastating impact that illegal abortion was having on their communities. Back-alley abortion providers took advantage of desperate women, charging exorbitant fees to terminate their pregnancies and even worse, they often endangered their health and their lives in the process. “It became increasingly clear to clergy across the country that abortion restrictions were not preventing abortion,” noted Dr. Frank. “Rather, they were creating a public health crisis.”

The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was a landmark moment for the CCS, whose members had advocated tirelessly for the legalization of abortion. But in Rev. Kirby’s eyes, it was also a moment when the CCS made a strategic error.  “Once we got Roe, we quit. And that’s the mistake we made,” he commented.  “We need to recover the moral high ground. We’ve given it up, and we can reclaim it.”

Dr. Willie Parker, a Christian abortion provider and author of the bestselling memoir Life’s Work, offered his insight as to how we reclaim our prophetic voice in this moment when the future of reproductive rights in the United States seems increasingly tenuous:  

Let’s say hypothetically…that Roe goes away. Our task still doesn’t change. Women don’t lose their right to bodily autonomy and safe management of pregnancy. The question becomes what do we do next? If it’s non-negotiable that women have a right to safe termination of pregnancy and control of their lives, how creative are we going to be as people of goodwill?

Dr. Parker also emphasized that the intersectional analysis of the reproductive justice movement continues to be central in responding to the relentless political destruction of reproductive health and rights that has occured since the Roe decision. This expansive framework, he said, lends itself to the kind of coalition building we need right now—and that we will continue to need in the future.

Audience reaction was overwhelmingly supportive. For many attendees, the event was their first introduction to the history of the CCS. “I continue to be surprised to learn just how deeply involved faith leaders have been in this movement from early on, including advocating for safe, legal abortion and helping to provide care when it was still illegal in most states,” said one Jackson-based United Methodist minister. “I was also impressed with how strategic the CCS was in crafting an incredibly holistic movement that spanned several states and accounted for every detail of the process to help women have as smooth and safe an experience as possible. It was an amazing operation!”

Others considered their own faith perspectives as they listened to the speakers. “It’s so easy to lump all religious perspectives into one belief system or moral understanding of faith, grace, and health and healing. The movement is lead by people who are doing the work not in spite of their faith, but because of their faith,” commented one attendee. “That most resonates with me and my approach to life.”

To learn more about the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, check out RCRC’s interactive timeline.


Remembering the Pre-Roe Faith Movement that Saved Women’s Lives

An Evening to Honor the Clergy Consultation Service

It’s a busy time for Faith in Women! You may remember that last fall, Faith in Women hosted more than 70 activists, faith leaders, and students for a dynamic evening with Dr. Willie Parker at Milsaps College. Building on the theme of courageous callings, next month we are partnering with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice on an evening event to honor the Clergy Consultation Service (CCS), a national underground network of clergy who risked everything to help women access safe, compassionate abortion care in the years prior to the legalization of abortion.

Event: Called to Resist

Our September event held in Jackson, MS  will feature a number of special guests, including:

  • Historian Dr. Gillian Frank
  • CCS Member Rev. Bill Kirby
  • Christian Author and Activist Dr. Willie Parker

During these turbulent times, as the future of reproductive rights becomes increasingly uncertain, there is much that we can learn from those who came before us. By exploring the legacy of the Clergy Consultation Service and its stunning example of faithful resistance, we find wisdom, hope, and inspiration as we discern our own roles in ensuring that every woman and girl lives in a world in which she is safe and free to make decisions about her body, her life, and her future.

This event will be by invitation-only. If you would like to request admission, please contact a member of our staff.  Pre-registration is required for all attendees.

About the Clergy Consultation Service

Beginning in New York City in 1967, more than 1,400 clergy came together to form the Clergy Consultation Consultation with the mission to ensure that women in their communities could access safe abortion procedures from reputable providers across the country. Some faith leaders even personally accompanied women across long distances to locations where they could obtain safe terminations. In addition to their clandestine work with women in need, members of the Clergy Consultation Service were public advocates for the legalization of abortion. To learn more about the CCS, visit RCRC’s interactive timeline featuring historic footage and interviews with several CCS members.

Hear from Rev. Finley Schaef, a founding member of the CCS, about how the movement began.


Highlighting Our Faith + Reproductive Justice Partners

Everyday we’re inspired by the tireless efforts of so many advocates to improve the lives of women, girls, and families in Mississippi and beyond.  To honor that work, this month we are highlighting three of our colleague organizations working at the intersections of faith and reproductive health, rights, and justice: Exhale, the Religious Institute, and SisterReach. Read on to learn about their prophetic leadership in these areas, and how you can get involved with their ongoing work.


With its uniquely “pro-voice” approach, Exhale honors the breadth of abortion experiences and uses storytelling to shift the public conversation away from divisive labels and towards compassionate listening. Exhale’s Executive Director Rev. Susan Chorley, an ordained Baptist minister, preaches about her abortion experience to congregations around the country as part of Exhale’s Pro-Voice Tour.

In an interview with SELF magazine about the tour,  Rev. Chorley said, “[Abortion] feels like an area that I’ve recognized the church is lacking in terms of supporting women’s experience—not that churches have to be supportive of abortion, but more that this is a reality for some women that are sitting in the pews.” By addressing the stigma surrounding abortion from the pulpit, Rev. Chorley brings visibility to a common, but invisibilized experience that many religious women have been too ashamed to name in their faith communities.

To learn more about Exhale and how you can support their work, visit

Religious Institute 

The Religious Institute advocates for sexual, gender, and reproductive justice both within faith communities and beyond them. With a network of more than 8,500 people, they equip religious leaders and people of faith to bring their prophetic voice to the public square on issues concerning gender, sexuality, and our reproductive lives.

Abortion + Faith

In partnership with the Texas Freedom Network, Just Texas, and the Afiya Center, the Religious Institute has convened a series of trainings for clergy and lay leaders in Texas called Abortion + Faith. The training develops participants’ theological, pastoral, and congregational competency in the areas of reproductive access, reproductive justice, and abortion.  Guided by theological reflection, informal presentations, and hands-on activities, the Abortion + Faith curriculum aids faith communities as they discern their call to advocate for reproductive justice in a hostile political and religious environment.

Webinars to Engage, Equip, and Inspire

Last summer the Religious Institute presented a webinar series entitled “Religious Resistance and Reproductive Justice”  that focused on four thematic areas: Pastoral Care, Liturgy, Religious Education, and Preparation for Preaching. In partnership with subject matter experts, these webinars helped maintain faith leader advocacy engagement after what had been an exhausting six months of attacks on reproductive health, rights, and justice at the federal level. Recently the Institute presented a webinar entitled “When Seminaries Aren’t Safe: Sexual Assault and Harassment in Graduate Theological Education”  that was facilitated by Rev. TiShaunda McPherson, a civil rights attorney, seminary graduate, and elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. You can view the webinars on the Religious Institute Youtube page.

To learn more about the Religious Institute’s work and to stay up to date about their latest campaigns, visit


Founded in Memphis in 20011, SisterReach was the first Reproductive Justice organization established in the state of Tennessee. Through advocacy and education, SisterReach strives to support the reproductive health and rights of all women and young people through community conversations and engagement with faith communities.

Faith & Advocacy Toolkit

As part of their interfaith advocacy work, SisterReach has developed  free resources for faith leaders and their communities to engage them in the movement for reproductive justice. The EDUCATE! Toolkit is designed with seminarians, clergy, and other people of faith in mind while the ADVOCATE! Toolkit is for community partners that might be interested in partnering with religious organizations and their leadership. You can download these free toolkits by signing up on their resources page.

To learn more about SisterReach’s mission in Tennessee and beyond, visit

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