Women of faith celebrate differences, call for unity

Jennifer Knapp performs on Sept. 13 at the "Nevertheless the Preached" event at the Hippodrome, sharing about her struggles as a member of the LGBTQ community through song and word. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Savannah Cooper | Staff Writer

Five weeks ago, two friends came up with the idea of hosting a rally celebrating women of the pulpit to help remind them that they’re not alone in their calling.

The Reverend Natalie Webb of Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio and the Rev. Kyndall Rothaus of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco partnered to turn that idea into a two-day conference at the Waco Hippodrome. The conference highlighted female pastoral unity that ended with a concert from Grammy-nominated artist Jennifer Knapp.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, “Unauthorized: Nevertheless She Preached” didn’t shy away from tough topics, ranging from LGBTQ members in the church to sexism.

Webb, a graduate of George W. Truett Theological Seminary, realized that the support she was looking for wasn’t present, so she made it herself.

“We were feeling very isolated and we weren’t getting the kind of support we needed and we know we had friends that were feeling the same way,” Webb said. “We had a lot of good people that were supportive of us in theory, but weren’t willing to have our backs out loud in public and so we thought, you know, if we aren’t going to get this from our own institution, we’re just going to do this for each other and for our friends.”

As soon as Knapp took the stage, greeted by a great collective cheer, she made it clear that nothing was off limits and that the space woulf be an interactive one.

“I’m going to say whatever the hell I want tonight,” Knapp said.

Webb said that with the combination of luck and the Holy Spirit, she reached out to Knapp’s assistant via email and Knapp graciously accepted.

In April of 2010, Knapp announced that she’s a lesbian who’s been in a same-sex relationship since 2002, despite being a successful contemporary Christian artist.

A year later, Knapp said she realized that she didn’t have to stay in the dark about her sexual orientation and her spiritual beliefs, so she started Inside Out Faith, a LGBTQ advocacy organization that helps Christian members of the community.

Knapp saw how the church treated her community and recognized a unique chance to change such the conversation.

“I just want the church to be nice to gay people,” Knapp said. “If nobody’s there who’s going to change it.”

Webb said she was excited to reach several women with a safe space that spoke to them and their work in the church.

“There were just all of these women that it really struck a nerve with that saw the need for a space that was unapologetic in affirming our calling, our lives and our gifts,” Webb said.

In addition to this conference, Webb and Rothaus are starting their own nonprofit bearing the same name as the conference to provide additional support to Texas female pastors.