Friday, April 16, 2010

"The Carnal Body of Christ Manifested"

That's how Jennifer Knapp describes one of her record albums. She's apparently a "Christian musician" -- meaning that is (or was) her assigned genre as well as her religious commitment. We've never heard of her, but then we're old enough to talk about "record albums."

She's also gay, a matter that would not normally concern us very much. ("Really? A gay Christian musician? Have you ever been to a church organists' conference?") But after an eight-year hiatus, she is performing and recording again, and in connection with this return sat for an interview with Christianity Today.

It's not a great interview, but it has some interesting moments. One, however, hits us where we live, more or less literally. Knapp talks about her struggle -- not with herself, but with "the church," meaning the Christians she has known and worked with. She is pretty clearly afraid that much of her fan base will desert her, and we expect that she's right. But that's not the part that hit us.

At one point, the interviewer says, "You're living in Nashville. Are you in a church now?"

And Knapp's answer, in its entirety, is, "No."

Can you hear our heart breaking? Because for any Christian, anywhere, to be without a congregation -- a place to worship, and people with whom to worship --is a calamity. And it must be undone. Fortunately, that won't be especially hard. So here's our fraternal suggestion for our sister Jennifer:

First, try the Lutherans. (Six congregations in Nashville). We're nice people, and, in case you hadn't noticed, we've put ourselves pretty far out on a limb lately, specifically because we want gay people to know that they are welcome in every part of our life as a community. While there is no Reconciling in Christ congregation in the state of Tennessee, there are several in nearby Kentucky. The closest is Glasgow -- about 90 minutes up on I-65. But even without the RIC badge of approval, you may your average Lutheran parish a pretty welcoming place.

If that doesn't work out, try the Episcopalians. A bit less warm and fuzzy, in our experience, but waaay better dressed. And Presbyterians, too, if you can find the right bunch. And Methodist. Basically, the much-abused mainline churches, and especially those with a northern European bent, have a lot of congregations that don't care much about your sex life, as long as it doesn't break any laws. (And here's a newspaper article about some of the gay-friendly churches in your area.)

And if you still can't find a church, call us. Seriously. Drop a line, and we will make some calls. We're not joking. You are not alone -- and neither is anybody else in your position, even if they aren't famous.


Anonymous said...

Please please please you all... get into Jennifer's music! It's quite excellent... try "The Way I Am," "Diamond In The Rough," or "Fall Down" if you're looking for a couple of entry songs on iTunes or etc. I owe my fandom to my wife... but seeing her open for Jars of Clay a few years ago was eye-opening. She's 100% great.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you like the rest of the world? Why only North Europeans?

Father said...

Hmm. You may have missed my point, so I'll try again.

The question isn't who I like, but who will welcome Jennifer Knapp, or any other partnered gay person, into their church.

And while any individual congregation may indeed prove welcoming, or not, there are certain denominations which have taken *public* steps to include gay people in their common life. These are the UCC first, the Lutherans and Episcopalians lately, with the Presbyterians and Methodists still working through the questions but tending in this direction.

All of these denominations have a conspicuous Northern European heritage. In their original forms, they were founded by immigrants from Britain, Germany and Scandinavia -- although of course they have expanded far beyond the children of those immigrants, and are all part of worldwide communions. That's all I was talking about.

At the same time, much of the most intense opposition to the full inclusion of gay people in the life of the church has come from churches in the so-called "Southern Tier," meaning Africa and South America. (This includes Lutherans and Anglicans in those places). African-American congregations have shared in some of this opposition, although with a much lower volume. So have predominantly white churches outside the "mainline" denominations -- Southern Baptists, for example.

So, if I were a gay person looking for a church, regardless of my own ethnic heritage, I would start by visiting one that had made a public effort to invite people like me, rather than one that had made public proclamations against people like me.

That said, there are always exceptions. if you know of some gay-friendly black or Hispanic churches, especially in the Nashville, area, feel free to send me some information. I'll happily post it.

Diane said...

I heard Jennifer Knapp open for Jars of Clay once long long ago as well. Very excellent, but I don't often travel in the Christian Contemporary music circles, so I haven't kept up. ( did very very long ago, and that's why I know a little of the evangelical "christianeze.")

I'm betting the the local Christian bookstore will no longer carry her CDs.