Spiritual Biography

Frances S. Lee

Spiritual director, essayist

To write about the spiritual legacies I bring to spiritual direction, I have to back up a few generations. My paternal grandparents were Chinese refugees who fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Communist Revolution. After completely starting their lives over in a new country, my grandmother became a seminary teacher and my grandfather became a minister in Taipei. A generation later, my parents immigrated separately to the United States, met in college, and married.

Unable to access social support through existing churches and community services, they planted a church in Dallas for other Chinese immigrants like themselves. This beloved religious community raised me. Church gave me shared meaning with others and a conduit for revering holy mystery. Eventually, my father went to seminary and returned to our church serve as a minister.

However, not all was right. As a child I was preoccupied with being good and my comportment was shaped by ever-present fear of punishment, a product of guilt-based theology. When I came out as queer in my late twenties, many of my family members and my church family rejected me. I left Christianity and religion altogether, completely heartbroken. Since then, I’ve been understanding and healing from evangelicalism harmed me through teaching white cultural supremacy, patriarchal theologies, and purity culture. Leaving a dogmatic religious community taught me how to stay wide open to receiving wisdom and spiritual guidance from all traditions, especially non-dominant or subjugated ones.

I dove headfirst into social justice activism in the Seattle area where my queerness was affirmed and celebrated. I came into my transgender non-binary identity and was welcomed into a fierce activist QTBIPOC (queer and trans, Black, Indigenous, or people of color) community. However, I didn’t expect to find similar elements of dogmatism and discipline in these places. Again, I became obsessed with being seen as good, my behavior shaped by the guilt of privilege and a fear of judgment.

In 2017, I put two and two together and I wrote a pleading letter to my activist peers and leaders, “Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice.” The essay went viral, igniting a national conversation on how humility and grace are needed in healthy movement building. My subsequent essays, syllabus, and anthology continue to resist dogma and teach people how to foreground everyone’s humanity and redemptive possibilities at home, work, school and out in the world.

In 2021, I was awarded a Ministry Fellowship at Harvard Divinity School to continue my work of bridging the sacred wisdoms of the past and the needs of modern leaders manifesting justice in the world today. My offerings of spiritual direction and public writing are bolstered by my study of Taoism, meditation practice, and interfaith theologies.

EDUCATION

Harvard Divinity School — MDiv (expected graduation 2024)

University of Washington, Bothell — M.A. in Cultural Studies

University of Texas, Austin — B.A. in Sociology

FELLOWSHIPS

2021-24 Ministry Fellowship, Harvard Divinity School

2020-21 Writing Fellow, Hugo House

2020 Bainbridge Writer Resident, Seventh Wave

2019-20 Environmental Justice Investigative Journalism Fellow, The Seattle Globalist