Bryce Brewer, a Christian youth pastor in Spokane, Washington, wanted to “make Jesus famous” by repenting in a Facebook post for banning bikinis from youth camps.
In four days, his online mea culpa garnered more than 27,000 online comments, and made national headlines.
“I’m a humble person just trying to figure out how to journey through life by following Jesus,” Mr. Brewer, describing himself as “between churches” right now, said in a telephone interview. “My intended audience was my friends on Facebook who had been part of my youth ministry or my church experience.”
Mr. Brewer wrote that his previous declarations about female swimwear were a “ridiculous ultimatum.”
He added, “I am sorry to all the girls that frantically searched for an appropriate one piece so that some male youth pastor could deem them appropriate,” noting that a shopping trip with his fiancee and her daughter to find “a cute one-piece that would be appropriate for camp … was hard and it sucked.”
The 42-year-old pastor wrote, “I am still a fan of the ‘No Produce Rule’ — No buns, bananas, or breasts need to be seen. But why are stomachs overtly sexual? Why is a little cleavage sinful? Why are women meant to feel they are responsible for men’s actual sin of lust?”
He said his two-piece epiphany came while preparing a condiment one Sunday evening with his fiancee.
“I was sitting talking with [her] and we were making salsa,” Mr. Brewer explained. “I wrote a couple of thoughts down that I wanted to lay out to students that had been under my leadership, with the female students, especially. I’m like, ‘Hey, I wrote this. What do you think?’ And she was ‘Hey, that sounds like a great apology, man.’”
As often happens with online posts, reaction on Facebook has been divided — and fierce.
“This was so powerful, and needed,” Christian author Sarah McDugal wrote on her Facebook page when sharing Mr. Brewer’s comments. “I’m not a fan of bikinis. … But it’s time to reassess how we talk about modesty, why we make rules only for girls about what to wear, and how doing so devalues both girls AND boys simultaneously.”
But Facebook user Rhonda Johnson Gordon disagreed. “It’s not always about sexuality. It’s about self-respect,” she wrote. “We need to teach girls that modesty isn’t about covering up our bodies because they’re bad, modesty isn’t about hiding ourselves, it’s about revealing our dignity.”
Evelyn Mostrom of Chattanooga, Tenn., wrote, “Thank you. Sincerely. Though I’m no longer a part of the Church, this was healing to read.”
Mr. Brewer said the online response has proved an education of its own.
“It’s been an interesting journey to see how what I view as a heartfelt apology to people I know and love turn into an opportunity for people to prove that they’re right [and] that I’m wrong, and an opportunity for people to put their ‘pet theology’ out there and to just hurt other people.”
The positive responses encouraged him, Mr. Brewer said.
He told The Washington Times, “I’ve had an unimaginable number of females reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, thanks. This is my first step towards healing. This is my first step towards coming back to church. It’s my first step to return to Jesus’ as having someone apologize for a moment that I had nothing to do with but they experienced in their journey.”