Young letter writer loses summer camp job

On April 9 The Lead highlighted Dannika Nash's "An open letter to the church" which let the church know why thy were losing young people. Now Patheos reports that Nash has lost her summer camp job because of her letter:

...And how was this open letter received? With the church doubling-down on its ultimatum, as Jill Callison reports for the Sioux Falls Business Journal:
That stance also cost Nash her summer job as a counselor at a church camp.

She was sitting in a coffee shop with her boyfriend when the camp director called to politely, regretfully dismiss her.

Maybe this church camp director just couldn’t resist the rare opportunity for a moment of sheer perfection. We’re often given a chance to do the wrong thing, but how often is any of us given such a golden opportunity to do something so precisely and so utterly wrong? There’s almost a kind of beauty in how exactly wrong this particular response was to this particular open letter. It’s like his tone-deafness has perfect pitch.

Or maybe this the some new church-growth strategy. Instead of sitting idly by and watching the Millennials drift away from the church en masse, the new plan is to call them all one-by-one in order to “politely, regretfully” inform each young person in America, individually, that he or she is no longer welcome in our congregations.

Reminds me of this video:

Comments (10)

An excellent video to accompany the story.

We’re often given a chance to do the wrong thing, but how often is any of us given such a golden opportunity to do something so precisely and so utterly wrong?


June Butler

1.At our church summer camp, counselors are expected to be church attenders, leaders of youth groups etc. She said or implied it twice that she's a former church-goer and depending on which parish she "belongs" to, might no longer be a member. Depending on the camp, that's automatic dismissal. 2.Then she mentioned "your churches...your Jesus" so maybe not a Christian anymore? 3.Conservatives are all haters, etc. That'll go over well.(Here in MT, conservative families are more likely to send their kids to church camp, even in "liberal" churches than liberals do, who often send kids to other camps). 4. She told people to go look at other denominations. Not what parents sending their kids to a denominational camp are looking for.

Our camp is liberal and still expects the camp leaders to be role models in the church. I'm sorry, but I'm not surprised, and she shouldn't really be either.
The church does need to deal with the changing culture, etc. Was there a way to make the same points within the church? Maybe, maybe not, but this wasn't it, if she wanted the job.

Chris Harwood

"It’s like his tone-deafness has perfect pitch."

But not so perfect it can't be replicated, ChrisH?

To the estimable Ms Nash: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!

JC Fisher

I point out that we are only hearing one side of this issue. Since she won't say what camp she worked at, we have to take her word about what happened, and why. There's just not enough information available to know what the full story is.

Maybe she was fired because of the letter. Maybe she was already in trouble with her employer. Or maybe something else.

Bill Dilworth

A thoughtful and careful reading of Dannika's open letter reveals a love for the church that seems to have been ignored by some. While she may have chosen some unfortunate vocabulary in one short section, the import of her words makes sense to me, and rings very true. Her references are not to all churches, but to churches which are exclusionary, where, as she says, "hate" is preached.

I think it is very sad that she has been fired from the summer camp. I hope she will find another position, one which celebrates the commitment which she brings to her beliefs, and one which enables her fully to exemplify the love she wishes to bring to the church. We need more like her!

Jim Hammond
Warrenton, Virginia

I have been a camp counselor and was asked all kinds of questions about what kinds of answers I would give to kids' questions before I was hired. Another counselor from Australia was almost fired because she brought a bikini instead of a one piece swimsuit. Camps have rules and expectations--even the local TEC camp and we don't know what camp this was. She sounds like a somewhat jaded seeker, not someone to answer kids questions. Chalk this one up to "Be careful what you put on the internet. If your boss sees something they don't like, they can fire you."

I seem to recall a whole bunch of people here happy that Rev. Giglio was pressured out of/fired from giving the invocation at the inauguration because of something he said 20 years ago. (Which at the time the President himself may have agreed with). Forget the fact he's been fighting human trafficking for years. One opinion on one topic overruled everything else. Well, she had more than one opinion/habit they could have disagreed with. Why are you surprised? Liberals can fire conservatives, but not the other way round?

Chris Harwood

You're seriously comparing the disinvitation (due to unrepented homophobic statements) from the highest-profile gig of ***Inaugural Invocation***, w/ a 20 year-old getting fired from a camp counselor job, due to a blog-critique??? Question of scale, perhaps?

JC Fisher

Why would only one sort of person be held accountable and not all of them? The invocation is a 5 minute or less prayer that most of the country ignores. And he's worked hard for an important cause. She's spending weeks teaching/leading kids. She complained, threatened, spoke for her entire generation, and either said she wasn't a Christian or conservatives weren't, e.g. "Your church...your Christ...etc." and yet she still wants a job at a Christian camp? Why? To spread more doubt and disbelief? Tell more kids how evil and wrong their parents are?
In the newspaper article, she says she knew it might cause trouble, but she did it anyway. Now she knows that words have power and nothing on the internet is just for your friends. A good reminder for everyone.

Chris Harwood

Yes Chris -- I see your point. Hope we find out "the rest of the story"

PS - is everyone having to sign in each time they comment? Happening to me now.

Chris Harwood,
Most of the camps that I have attended have had counselors who have expressed doubts and concerns about the teachings of the Church. The way I dealt with this at my camp for the past two summers (as a counselor) was by inviting the kids into a conversation on THEIR terms about what it means to have faith, doubt, etc. If a church cannot handle criticism and won't invite kids into that conversation (hello Semper Reformanda!), I don't see how it can truly form the next generation in a life committed to the Church. Like Jim Hammond, I read this letter as one from someone who has felt excluded herself and yet who still loves the church. Moreover, I think it is unfair to criticize a young person who turns to social media because often we are (or feel) excluded from social spaces in the church and our concerns are dismissed. I'm blessed to have a church where this is not the case, but I know of many others that are not this way (across the theological spectrum).

I can't speak for all in my generation, but I know that almost all of those I have met who grew up in the church and have left, left because of the exclusive nature of those churches. As important as formation is (and don't get me wrong, I believe it's where we mainliners need the most work), it will sound empty if we form people in a Gospel that says a group of our peers will never be allowed to marry the one they love. I know that my peers who are joining TEC, are doing so because of BOTH good formation and because of our practice of radical hospitality.

As a young person who left one part of Christianity that excluded me (as a queer man) for one that called me into a deeper relationship with God, I am happy that I have been able to find communities that have helped (and continues to help) me discern my calling without condemnation. I am happy to help encourage the younger generations to think for themselves and engage the Church and challenge it to more fully live into its calling of preaching the Gospel.

Gregory Stark [added by ed.]

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