During more than 20 years of working as a pastor, Bryce Brewer has given what he now calls a "ridiculous ultimatum" to more young girls than he can count, insisting girls only wear one-piece swimsuits to church-sponsored events.
But on a recent shopping trip with his fiancé and her 10-year-old daughter to find a one-piece suit for a church summer camp, the Spokane Valley, Washington dad came to an important realization.
"I wandered with them through several department stores and through Target trying to find a cute-but-appropriate one-piece bathing suit and they're very very difficult to find," Brewer told TODAY Parents. "I watched a frustration build with both of them, almost a dejection."
"I wondered, how many young ladies did I subject to this event over 20 years of ministry?" Brewer continued. "Times when, because of me, they were desperately searching for a one-piece bathing suit and couldn’t find one?"
Brewer came home and wrote a now-viral Facebook post, apologizing for the years when he told young women what they could and could not wear to swimming pools, summer camps and water parks.
"I am sorry that I didn't teach boys to control themselves," Brewer wrote in the post. "I am sorry I laid the weight of purity on a girl's swimsuit while she was swimming and not on the boys' responsibility to not be gross."
Brewer says when he recalls past meetings in which he had discussions about appropriate swimwear with female youth leaders, he finds his comments "cringe-worthy."
"Women are all shaped differently and for a male to come in and say what a female should wear? That's the most ridiculous thing in my head now," said Brewer. "Those conversations and meetings? It breaks my heart that I said some of the things I did. I was totally missing the point."
As his viral apology letter makes its way around the internet, Brewer says he hopes he will inspire others not to make the same mistake he did.
"The number one thing I hope comes from this is that we as leaders, especially in the church, would walk in humility and stop pretending we are the ones that have the answers," he said. "I truly am sorry, and my intention was to say that and to say that while my heart may have been in the right place, I missed the boat in this area."
Brewer, who has a 13-year-old daughter of his own, ends his post with a plea: "Female students: Wear a swimsuit that lets you have fun. Male students: Stop being disgusting and control yourself. Youth pastors (male especially): Stop being chauvinist and making female students feel bad for having breasts."