NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Dove Award-winning artist Jennifer Knapp has revealed in a series of interviews that she is a lesbian and in a relationship — a revelation that may shock many in the Christian community but that should serve as a lesson for the evangelical church, a Southern Baptist Convention leader says.
Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist national strategist for gender issues and representative of the denomination’s Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals, said Knapp’s story is “far too common” in evangelical circles.
“Many of us in redemptive ministry to same-sex strugglers have heard the comment ‘we don’t have that problem in our church’ so often it has become something of a standard joke,” Stith told Baptist Press. “Whether or not your church has someone who is known to struggle with this issue, your church does have this problem. And it may be that you aren’t aware of it because the struggler doesn’t think it is a safe environment to admit such a thing.”
Knapp won a Dove Award in 1999 for new artist of the year, the first of four Dove Awards she won over the next five years. She also was nominated for a Grammy in 2003. Her music was played regularly on Christian radio at the time — “Undo Me” and “Whole Again” were two of her more popular songs — but she then went on a lengthy hiatus from the industry and hasn’t released an album since “The Way I Am” in 2001.
She told Christianity Today that she has been in a same-sex relationship with the same person since around 2002. But her lesbianism isn’t why she stopped recording and touring, she said. For much of the past eight years she and her partner have traveled throughout the U.S., Europe and Australia.
Her next album, “Letting Go,” is a mainstream album. She still considers herself a Christian — she says the Bible has “saved my life” — but remains unconvinced at the often-cited Bible verses condemning homosexuality.
“I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church,” she told Christianity Today. “There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.”
The article was posted April 13. She also has given interviews to Reuters and the Advocate, a homosexual magazine and website.
She is living in Nashville but is not attending church, she said. Knapp told the Advocate that she received an e-mail from a “young fan” asking if she was a lesbian and then asking her to make it public: “That would help me feel less alone.”
Stith said the way to win a homosexual to Christ is not through arguments but through love and compassion.
“What I would want to say to Jennifer and others who may be facing her dilemma in the Christian church is that God really does have a sexual standard,” Stith said. “It is based on His creative intent which is made clear in both the Old and New Testament. He did not put forth this standard to enslave us but rather to free us. When God prohibits something He always has something better for us. Unfortunately that concept is often lost in both the church and the world today. All of us are inclined to trust our own instincts and desires more than the revealed will of God. Whatever our desires may be and however right and/or powerful they may seem, God’s desires for us must always take precedence. That may not bring immediate gratification but both for us and the Kingdom eternal the ultimate pay-off will be far greater.”
Knapp told Christianity Today she “absolutely” has felt at times she had to choose between her faith and her feelings.
“[E]veryone around me made it absolutely clear that this is not an option for me, to invest in this other person — and for me to choose to do so would be a denial of my faith,” she said.
Knapp also said her feelings for women date back at least to her college years.
“I received some admonishment about some relationships I’d had with women,” she said. “Some people said, ‘You might want to renegotiate that,’ even though those relationships weren’t sexual. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess it makes sense.”
She added, “The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people. I’ve struggled with what that means in my own faith. I have struggled with how that perception of me will affect the way I feel about myself.”
Asked whether she was “beyond those struggles,” Knapp responded, “I don’t know. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”
Knapp is the second big-name Christian artist in recent years to “come out.” Ray Boltz did so in 2008.
“What I would want to say,” Stith said, “to the church is, please, please, recognize there are so many wounded and hurting people all around us. Many of them may not be recognizable. But they are there. Every week I hear from or about people who are struggling and scared. They are afraid to talk to the leaders of their church because of things they’ve heard said. Some are just afraid of what will happen if their struggle is exposed. Instead of being defensive, let’s examine our own hearts. Is there something we can learn from our critics?
“I am totally convinced we can be loving, compassionate and redemptive and also totally God honoring and biblically accurate,” Stith added. “We’ve lost too many Jennifers and Rays from our churches.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Visit the Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals’ website at SBCTheWayOut.com. Read the full Jennifer Knapp interview at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/article_print.html?id=87412.