January Resource Review: 5 Titles to Add to Your 2019 Reading list


Did you know that reading more books ranks as the seventh most popular New Year’s resolution that people make? That’s one goal that we can get behind! Whether you have committed to reading more in 2019 and are looking for books to add to your to-read list–or if you simply want to gain a better understanding of the issues that impact women and girls in our communities –we’ve compiled a list of highly recommended books that we suggest you pick up this year. (Looking for more recommendations? Check out our other reading list we put together in 2017.


Birthing Hope: Giving Fear to the Light  by Rachel Marie Stone

This award-winning memoir about birth, death, and the spaces in between will send tingles down your spine. Stone’s artfully-crafted reflections on faith and our reproductive decisions call us all to deeper, more intentional conversations about life’s greatest complexities. Weaving together lessons and errors from ancient texts, modern learning, and personal stories, this book includes discussions of contraception, abortion, disability, and AIDS.


Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower  by Brittany Cooper 

Both raw and personal, Cooper’s collection of essays about life as a Black woman in America is required reading for everyone. She explores topics like growing up as a Black girl in the South, the power of friendship, and Black feminism. Cooper also dives into her encounters with the church and how they have shaped her sense of self–for better and at times, for worse. 


Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds  by adrienne maree brown

Fans of Octavia Butler’s Afrofuturism will devour Brown’s book–a hybrid of tactics, self-reflection prompts, personal stories, and group exercises aimed at doing the work of changing the world in a truly collaborative fashion. Advocates and activists, this would be an excellent book for your organization to discuss as a group and to consider how you might integrate some of her strategies and tactics into your work. 



Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free  by Linda Kay Klein

An unapologetic critique of the “purity industry,” Pure dives into the damaging, long-lasting effects of purity culture on the lives and relationships of those who were immersed in it as young people. Klein argues that “purity” is not a product of the evangelical Christianity alone, but one that secular culture upholds alongside the church.


A Spark of Light  by Jodi Picoult 

In her latest novel Picoult’s harrowing story of an anti-choice terrorist who enters Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic reads more like fact than fiction. Hour-by-hour, Picoult explores the thoughts, beliefs, and fears of those who oppose abortion, those who provide abortion care, and those who are desperate to terminate a pregnancy. One of the characters, Dr. Louie Ward who travels to the clinic to provide abortions, was inspired by our friend and colleague Dr. Willie Parker.


Is there a book you’d like for us to feature in a future Faith in Women book club discussion? Would you like our help in starting a book club of your own featuring one of these books? Please send us an email. We’d love to hear from you!  

Finding Hope in Troubling Times + Book Giveaway

Finding hope in troubling times is essential to our well-being and sustains our energy as we engage  in the long work of resisting oppression and creating sustainable, positive change in the world. This month we want to share with you some of the innovative tools, inspiring events, and uplifting work happening now that gives us hope, heals our hearts, and strengthens our resolve to continue working for a more just, compassionate world. Be sure to enter our book giveaway. Information is at the bottom of the post. 

We want to hear from you! 

What gives you hope right now? Join the conversation in our Facebook group!


Contacting our legislators doesn’t have to be a headache. Built and operated 100% by volunteers, ResistBot is a multi-platform tool that takes the headache out of contacting Congressional offices and other elected officials. If you’re having trouble getting in touch with a Congressional office about your concerns, ResistBot can ensure that your voice is heard by delivering your message on your behalf.

Anyone with a smartphone can text the word RESIST to 50409, and ResistBot identify your senators and representative. You can also connect with ResistBot through Twitter or Facebook messenger.  Type any message, and using simple commands, ResistBot will send your message for you and confirm that it has been delivered. It can remind you to take daily action, give you resources on what topics to write about, and even send your letter to your local paper for publication.

Learn more at resist.bot.

Mississippi Teens Advocating for Better Sexuality Education 

Young people are such an inspiration these days! Current Mississippi law requires sexuality education in public schools, but the quality of that education leaves a lot to be desired. A group of Mississippi teens, organized by our partner Teen Health Mississippi, is working to change the current law to ensure that all sexuality education curricula are medically-accurate, evidence-based, and cover a wide-range of ages.

The teens involved with Mississippi Youth Council, or MY Council, were recently featured in an MTV News segment on their Facebook page. Watch as these young folks organize, strategize, and advocate with their elected officials to change Mississippi law to ensure every young person has the information and support needed to make healthy decisions about their sexuality.

To learn more about MY Council, visit Teen Health Mississippi’s website.

Mississippi Book Festival

Sometimes we need a break from the digital world and just want a good, old-fashioned book. On August 18th at the Mississippi State Capitol hundreds of authors will join thousands of book-readers for a celebration of books, reading, and learning. Launched in 2015 by literary activists the annual Mississippi Book Festival has reached more than 6,400 people. This completely free event will feature panel discussions as well as music events and activities for kids. This year’s speaker line-up includes award-winning novelist Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied Sing which won the 2017 National Book Award.

To learn more, visit msbookfestival.com.

In honor of the Book Festival, Faith in Women is hosting a book giveaway

We’d like to help spark a little more joy in the world, so we’re passing on some good reads to our friends. If you’d like to be entered to win a free copy of Cecilie Richard’s Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead–My Life Story or Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, please fill out this form by July 31st. The winners will be notified in August.



Sexuality Education Partner Highlight: Teen Health Mississippi

At Faith in Women we know that access to quality sexuality education is critical for ensuring young people have the tools and information they need to lead healthy, happy lives. Mississippi parents know this too–that’s why they overwhelmingly support age-appropriate sexuality education in public schools.

As we continue to work toward universal, comprehensive sexuality education for every young person, we know that faith leaders have an important role to play both in providing and advocating for sex ed. Religious communities are uniquely positioned to minister to the full range of needs that young people have, including questions and concerns about their sexuality and relationships with one another. If you want to learn more about comprehensive sexuality education and get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these programs, please visit our past blog posts on these topics here and here.

Faith leaders in our network often ask us, “How do I get trained to provide sexuality education?”

This month we are excited to share about the inspiring work of our partners at Teen Health Mississippi, an organization providing essential training and resources to those who seek to offer research-based, developmentally-appropriate sexuality education in their communities. They offer a wide-range of affordable, accessible trainings for different audiences, including parents, teachers, and health practitioners.

In 2017 Faith in Women had an opportunity to participate in one of their Foundations Core Skills Training for Sex Ed, and last month we partnered up with Teen Health Mississippi to host one in Biloxi. If you couldn’t attend this training and are interested in attending one in the future, please send us an email, and we will be in touch to discuss this further.

The Foundations Core Skills Training is a one-day program designed to bolster participants’ facilitation skills, so that they are better prepared to offer sexuality education in their communities. Some of the components of the training include:

  • climate building in the classroom,
  • understanding state and local sex education policies,
  • facilitation techniques,
  • values clarification,
  • managing personal disclosure, and
  • handling difficult questions and harassing comments.

Those who wish to receive additional training may opt for a supplementary half-day workshop on topics such as:

  • commonly used sex education strategies,
  • LGBTQ inclusive sex education,
  • a trauma-informed approach to sex education, and
  • cultural proficiency in sex education.

Teen Health Mississippi is an essential resource for anyone and everyone invested in the health and well-being of our children and young people. Check out their website and resource page to learn more about all they have to offer. 

Our 2017 Letter from the Director

As 2017 comes to a close, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the privilege of leading Faith in Women and for what we have been able to accomplish together over these last two years. Let me take this opportunity to thank each of you for your support and partnership in transforming Mississippi for all women and girls who deserve to live their lives with dignity, health, and joy. We simply could not do this critical work without you.

Despite the challenges of these political times, there is still much to celebrate as we progress towards achieving our vision of accessible reproductive health care and education for all of Mississippi’s women and girls. I want to share a snapshot of some of our programmatic highlights from the past year and reveal some of what we are planning for 2018.

Sexuality Education

To strengthen our sexuality education programs, we received a $25,000 grant from the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. Reducing teen and unplanned pregnancy rates is one of the foundation’s top priorities, and we are grateful to partner with them in providing effective prevention through evidence-based, medically accurate sexuality education. Faith in Women is using these funds to assess training options, curriculum choices, and resource development for our clergy and faith leaders.

In 2016 I was accepted into the Mississippi Sex Ed Training Cadre, a group of health and education professionals across the state who are committed to advancing quality sex education for Mississippi youth. As part of this program, this spring I co-taught a training class with Hope Crenshaw of Teen Health Mississippi to equip a group of Jackson and Delta-based advocates with facilitation skills to better prepare them to teach safe, evidence-based, non-judgmental sexuality education programs in their communities and faith spaces. We did this in partnership with Delta Hands for Hope, a Cooperative Baptist-affiliated youth outreach organization based in Shaw, MS.

Reproductive Health

We are always working to find new ways of engaging in meaningful conversation around issues of reproductive health, rights, and justice. In May we launched our first ever virtual book club. A group of faith leaders and advocates across the state read Dr. Willie Parker’s best-selling book Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice and engaged in dynamic group discussions via video conference. We are planning more book clubs for 2018, so please stay tuned!

The success of our book club laid the groundwork for our September event at Millsaps College featuring author Dr. Willie Parker, a Christian reproductive justice advocate and ob/gyn. More than 50 faith leaders, health providers, students, and advocates attended our evening of conversation with Dr. Parker. Our event also included comments from Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson, Executive for Religious Leadership and Advocacy for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). We look forward to partnering with RCRC on some of our faith leader engagement initiatives next year!

Faith Advocacy

In January of this year I had the opportunity to speak at the Sister Solidarity Rally held in Gulfport, MS, one of hundreds of local marches and rallies that coincided with the national Women’s March on Washington, D.C. I was proud to voice my belief, in front of an audience of over 300 people, that women and girls have sacred worth and that my faith supports access to life-giving reproductive healthcare for all people. Several of our Faith in Women members also attended local rallies around the state in cities like Jackson, Oxford, and Gulfport. Together we offered our witness as people of faith who stand for the rights of women and girls.

Sojourners, an ecumenical organization committed to social justice, hosted its annual Faith Leaders Summit in June in Washington, D.C. Faith in Women was invited to facilitate a breakout session with over 30 faith leaders from across the country to discuss how we engage with our supporters in sustainable, long-terms ways, especially those who are new to advocacy. This was a great opportunity to grow our network beyond the state of Mississippi and connect with like-minded organizations doing similar work around the country.

Looking Forward to 2018

I am pleased to announce the good news that the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has renewed our grant funding for two more years! We are grateful for their ongoing support of our mission to engage faith leaders in advocating for comprehensive reproductive health care and sexuality education.

Thank you again for all of your remarkable work, support, and encouragement over this last year.  I look forward to more shared work together in 2018 and beyond!

With gratitude,

Ashley Peterson
Director, Faith in Women
Ecumenical Coalition for Women and Families

May Resource Review: Books We’re Reading


This month we are excited to pilot our first ever Faith in Women virtual book club! Some of our fantastic Mississippi-based faith leaders and activists are currently reading Life’s Work by Dr. Willie Parker. Together we’ll be engaging in some dynamic group discussions via video conference this week. To celebrate our latest endeavor, this month we’re highlighting five of our favorite faith + justice books for activists, clergy, and parents. (Don’t have time to pick one of these up? Not to worry! Check out our other posts on podcasts and documentaries we recommend.)


Sex + Faith: Talking with Your Child from Birth to Adolescence by Dr. Kate Ott

Does talking about sex with your children make you squeamish? It doesn’t have to! Written for parents and caregivers this book discusses how to talk about sexuality with kids at every stage of development. Readers will gain tools for incorporating faith values in their ongoing dialogue about sexuality in a way that is inclusive and supportive of sexual differences.


Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger

Have you heard the phrase “reproductive justice” but you’re not exactly sure what it means? This book serves as a primer for anyone wanting to gain a better understanding of the intersectional approach of reproductive justice. Written for scholars, activists, and everyone in between, Reproductive Justice covers the history of the term,  examples from the field, and strategies for taking action today.


Good Christian Sex by Bromleigh McCleneghan

If you’re looking for an exploration of sexuality from a Christian perspective that doesn’t hinge on extremes, consider picking up a copy of McCleneghan’s Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option–And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex. Pulling from the insight of theologians and practitioners, this book is a refreshing change of pace from other takes on the bible and sex. Her nuanced, thoughtful perspective will engage both your head and your heart.


The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The United States currently incarcerates over 2 million of our citizens in public and private prisons. Why do we imprison so many people–and why are so many of those incarcerated people of color? Alexander traces the legacy of segregation laws that shapes today’s legislation and feeds into our system of mass incarceration. Both a much-needed history lesson and a call for justice, this book dispels the cultural myth of “colorblindness” once and for all. 


Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Willie Parker [Faith in Women Book Club Pick!]
When Dr. Willie Parker trained as an obstetrician and gynecologist, he never intended to become an abortion provider, but over time he realized that his Christian faith called him to help women in need of this particular form of medical care. Part memoir and part theological reflection,  Parker weaves together his faith, study of scripture, scientific training, and experience as an African American living in the South to make a moral argument for supporting women’s access to abortion.

Is there a book you’d like for us to feature in a future Faith in Women book club discussion? Would you like our help in starting a book club of your own featuring one of these books? Please send us an email. We’d love to hear from you!