A teenage worship leader at the Swansboro United Methodist Church in North Carolina unleashed an expletive-filled retort at an older adult church sister on Sunday after she scolded her for wearing shorts on the church’s stage. A video of the exchange has since gone viral.
Jenna explained that her older adult church sister followed her into the church bathroom and told her that her shorts weren’t appropriate and made it clear that it would be more appropriate for her to wear a knee-length dress like another church sister.
“She’s a chubby girl. She’s got a dress on. That’s appropriate. It comes down to the top of her knees,” the unidentified older adult said in a recording of the encounter shared by Jenna in a Twitter post.
“So you’re sitting here calling me fat?” Jenna asked.
“You don’t think you are?” the older adult pushed back.
“No, because I f-----g love who I am,” Jenna shot back before telling the woman to get out of her face, using more expletives.
The older adult did not back down and warned her not to return to the stage wearing shorts while telling her that even if the teen didn’t care about propriety, she did.
“Don’t come back on that stage with those shorts. I’m warning you,” the older adult replied.
Jenna then responded hysterically that “I am 19 years old and I can do whatever I want.”
The video of the encounter has racked up nearly 6 million views on Twitter as well as an outpouring of support for the teenager from people like actor Jameela Jamil.
“This is the daily harassment people receive over their size. Even at the hands of people old enough to know better. Even in sacred places. Even in their own doctor’s practices. Our hyper normalization of policing and ridiculing fat bodies is what leads to this brazen bullying,” Jamil wrote on Twitter.
Swansboro United Methodist Church Pastor G. Kevin Baker, released a statement on the incident on the church’s Facebook page expressing shock at the incident and said they were working to ensure something like that never happens again.
“One of the main principles of Christianity and Methodists in particular is to ‘do no harm.’ It has come to our attention that great harm has been done in an incident that occurred this past Sunday where a faithful and very gifted young lady and worship leader was body shamed for her appearance,” Baker said.
“We are shocked and saddened by this act. The Church is supposed to be a place of safety, love and acceptance. We are focused on caring for everyone involved in this incident and their families. Our goal is to provide the emotional and spiritual support they need to cope with this spiritual woundedness and also make sure that a just resolution takes place,” he noted.
“We are currently working to assure that nothing like this will happen again and will update the church on specific next steps we are taking soon. The worth, dignity, and safety of all who are reached by our ministry is our priority and will remain our sacred trust and duty,” the statement ended.