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, they planted a church in Dallas for other Chinese immigrants like themselves. This beloved 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.
Harvard Divinity School — MDiv (expected graduation 2024)
University of Washington, Bothell — M.A. in Cultural Studies
University of Texas, Austin — B.A. in Sociology
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
A Tale of Two Twenties: An Interview with Bill Woodward
Declining Marine Health Threatens Traditional Subsistence for Tribes
South Seattle Emerald
Loss and Wholeness: An Interview with Beth Piatote
In limbo: Will Washington codify environmental justice into law?
The Seattle Globalist
Becoming a Bridge Person in Precarious Times
The Seventh Wave, Issue 11
Why We Need Imperfect Apologies
Sisu Magazine, Issue 5: Black + White
When the personal is too political
CBC Sunday Edition
The Pain of Belonging
Kin Aesthetics // Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice
Catalyst Wedding Co