On Tuesday, April 7, editor and author Rachel Joy Welcher was welcomed into Christ Chapel at 11:05 a.m. as a guest speaker. Welcher also spoke at an NGAGE that evening at 8:30 p.m. Author of “Talking Back to Purity Culture,” Welcher discussed the topic of sexual ethics and Christianity.
Prior to Welcher’s visit, vice president of student life, Julie Elliott, hosted a book club where participants read through and discussed Welcher’s book.
“I am a frequent panelist on the Steg Sex Panel, where I’m able to hear the kinds of questions that students are asking in regard to sex. What I’ve noticed is that some students have ideas about the relationship between faith and sex that are more cultural than biblical,” Elliott said. “I felt that [Welcher’s book] fills a need among our student body. I thought it would also be really fun for some students to read a book prior to the author coming to campus.”
Welcher opened up her time at chapel with the caveat that what she has published has made both sides of the liberal to conservative spectrum offended. She offered a unique perspective.
“She deconstructs purity culture but retains a concern for purity,” Elliott said. “However, she defines that purity in a much more hopeful, grace-filled and biblical way.”
Janaya Battles attended both the book club and Welcher’s chapel, taking away the ways Welcher is pushing Christianity to rethink purity.
“Welcher is definitely impacting Christian circles in that she is challenging them to rethink how we define purity culture and how both the church and the purity culture have failed men and women both in how they should view their purity,” Battles said. “She impacts them because she views purity as how we should be in relation to Christ, not just purity in the relation to sex.”
Jessica Nibbelink also attended both. As a psychology major with an interest in rape and purity culture, she was excited to both read more in depth regarding Christian ethics.
“From what I read from her book, she has been able to start the conversation of how purity culture has been impacting Christians, specifically women,” Nibbelink said. “I do think that this is an important conversation to start, though I wish she would have been able to go more in depth on certain topics in the book that felt rushed or incomplete.”
For Emma Geary, an interest in purity culture was sparked by a childhood event at her church. In fifth grade, her church gifted her a purity ring and held a ceremony, complete with wearing a white dress.
“I became skeptical of the implications behind this ideology, but I did not have the words or thoughts to concretely understand this skepticism,” Geary said.
With a conversation regarding purity culture beginning, this opportunity to explore a different view of purity culture was what Geary was looking for.
“Welcher is passionate about reform in church ideology surrounding sexual purity,” Geary said. “I do not agree with everything she said in chapel, but I know by reading her book, she makes honest attempts to wrestle with these issues.”
Lauren Eidsness was another book club participant. Knowing Elliott doesn’t shy away from tough topics, Eidsness was excited for these discussions.
“One chapter in the book was about the next generation and how we will approach this topic with our kids,” Eidsness said. “I enjoyed discussing this with other book club members, it was great to hear everyone’s thoughts on how we can stop this damaging mindset and educate the next generation on purity, perhaps in a more positive light.”
Overall, Welcher served as a great beginning point to the overarching theme of purity in Christianity, one that NW can continue to foster as the institution progresses into the future.
“[Welcher] is a genuine Christian woman that is trying to change the way Christians view ourselves,” Battles said. “I greatly appreciate how she is called out problems in purity culture AND problems that the church has in not responding well to these tough conversations.”