NEW YORK — A female preacher in New York who has become pregnant outside of wedlock says she won’t step down from the pulpit, stating that she is not “sorry or ashamed.”
Desiree Allen serves as the pastor of arts and spiritual formation at First Corinthian Baptist Church in New York City, which also runs the non-profit Dream Center in Harlem.
Recently, Allen, who is engaged to be married, wrote a blog post outlining that she had discovered in May that she had become pregnant with twins.
“My immediate reaction was shock. This was not planned. Yes, I know it’s a potential consequence of having sex, but not one readily expected,” Allen wrote. “With the exception of living a pretty much celibate lifestyle in my twenties I had been having sex on and off since I was 15 and had never been pregnant. In fact, I assumed when I was ready it would be very hard for me to conceive. Boy, did I miscalculate that.”
Her post, entitled “On Being a Pastor and Pregnant (and Why I Can’t Carry Your Weight),” was written in part to express her feelings about the “weight” she carried having to face those in the Church who “shame” those having sexual relations outside of marriage.
“What had my stomach turning, other than nausea, was me being pregnant and a pastor,” Allen outlined. “Let’s face it. The Church has not had a good track record of accepting unmarried women who got pregnant. If you’ve been in church for any period of time, you’ve heard or witnessed the aftermath. Shunning, slut shaming, being sat down from your position, having to go up in front of the church and confess your sin, etc. etc.”
She said that while she struggled with having to tell others about the pregnancy, she ultimately decided to be proud of herself.
“I decided I was going to walk with my head held high, because I was proud and excited to be pregnant,” Allen wrote. “Often, when people think you’ve done something wrong or have sinned they want you to walk around with your head low in guilt. Otherwise, how would THEY know you were sorry? Well, I wasn’t sorry or ashamed. Shame and happiness cannot reside in the same place.”
She said that she had been told at one point that fornication was an abomination to God, but shrugged it off as “antiquated” language.
“So when the first comment was made about my pregnancy being an abomination I wasn’t bothered, because it wasn’t MY truth. Plus who uses abomination anyway? Can we say antiquated?” Allen asserted.
She advised that when she broke the news to church staff at a retreat, she was rather received with prayer and support, and therefore has no plans to stop preaching.
“So no, I cannot carry your weight about MY situation. Whoever you are,” she wrote to those who would express opposition or concern. “I have my own beautiful, amazing and miraculous weight to carry for the next few months and a lifetime. … I have preached throughout my pregnancy and will do so until I can no longer waddle on the stage.”
Reaction to the matter has been mixed, with some opining that the woman should just ask for forgiveness and move on, and others stating that she should not be in the pulpit as her example is not good for the flock of God.
“In my opinion, the only kind of sex that is sinful is sex where one or both partners is being harmed, physically, emotionally, spiritually or otherwise,” one commenter wrote. “God created sex. Sex isn’t bad. We have turned it into a taboo. This taboo is most often used to control women.”
“Worry about your own sin, and do some more research before you start deciding that you know how God feels about a situation,” they contended. “You know, the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ got pregnant before she was married too. God seems to love, bless, and ordain unmarried women just as much as the rest of us.”
“I am disappointed that this pastor does not feel like she should ‘voluntarily’ sit down until after becoming pregnant. Sitting down is not ‘shaming,’” another said. “It merely reflects an attitude of responsibility and accountability to the very Word that pastors are entrusted to preach. The very decision to have sex knowing what God’s Word says about it, is to reject God’s Word as being the basis upon which you live your life.”
“If a pastor rejects God’s Word as the basis for life decision, how can that pastor instruct others to obey God’s Word?” they asked.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7-8 reads, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor. … For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.”