When Christian music artist Jennifer Knapp abandoned a successful career seven years ago, many were left wondering why.
After selling about a million records and winning at Christian music’s prestigious Dove Awards in 1999, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter disappeared in 2003. There were countless theories as to why Knapp checked out, including the possibility of illness.
But the one that caused the most controversy among her die-hard fans was the one which proved to be true: Jennifer Knapp is gay.
This week Knapp burst back onto the music scene with news of a comeback and a coming out. Her new album will be released in May, and she has revealed that she has been in a same-sex relationship for the past eight years.
The revelation rocked the Christian music scene, where Knapp was a darling of fans and critics before her self-imposed exile. The intensely private singer said she’s not at all surprised by the shock waves.
“I’m aware that the evangelical community has problems with divorce and many other facets of their artists, let alone homosexuality,” Knapp said. “I really felt a strong obligation to be able to address that because for many people, it was really clear that they wouldn’t participate in buying a record because it was against their beliefs.”
“For many people who buy Christian music or have been familiar with me and my writings as a person of faith, I felt like it was the honest thing to do,” she added. “The last thing I wanted to do was to have someone go out and buy a record and feel like they had been hoodwinked.”
Knapp is not the first artist to find fame in the genre before revealing their sexuality.
In 2008, Christian singer/songwriter Ray Boltz came out as a gay man after a 20-year career in the industry. In 2009, gospel star Tonex went public with his homosexuality as a guest on “The Lexi Show,” a popular program on the Christian channel The Word Network.
Lexi, who is also a gospel music artist, said that while many in the Christian music industry are aware of who is gay, “we don’t talk about it, because that’s the unspoken rule.”
Lexi said she doubts most fans will ever fully embrace an openly gay artist, but she points to other artists who have been able to straddle the line between secular music and songs of faith.
“I think some Christians will totally avoid [Knapp] and say that she is the devil and all that, but there are some that are more open who will embrace her new material,” Lexi said. “Then she will find a new audience.”
Perhaps the most telling clue to where Jennifer Knapp finds herself in life after so many years is contained in the title of her new album. It’s called “Letting Go.”