I recently attended the 2023 Nevertheless She Preached (NSP) conference in Austin, Texas, sponsored in part by Good Faith Media. Revs. Kyndall Rothaus and Natalie Webb are its founders.
NSP’s mission “is a collective of innovators who curate an annual conference that elevates and centers female, queer, and BIPOC voices. The wisdom workers we invite offer transformative theologies of liberation and critical reflection of our social and religious contexts.”
Furthermore, NSP “create(s) brave space for faith leaders and justice makers to experience healing and be valued in community as their authentic selves. Together we pursue freedom from the toxic power of patriarchy, colonization, racism, and heteronormativity.”
The conference focused on everlasting female and queer voices. Many of the speakers preached and spoke about the importance of matriarchal voices and representation. “The matriarchy is coming, and she is coming for blood,” Lyvonne Briggs told the audience.
In an interview with GFM, Briggs clarified her remarks, noting her call was not for bloodshed but one of how often women have given their blood and will continue to do so for equality and justice.
Preaching from Matthew 27:15-23, Briggs pointed out what happens when the patriarchy ignores the wisdom of women: “While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’”
But did Pilate listen? What do you think? The text reads, “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.”
When women are ignored and forgotten by the patriarchy, death and destruction often follow. How often do women get ignored and forgotten by the patriarchy today? How many of the world’s problems stem from the hubris and arrogance of the patriarchy?
Briggs went on to state that a new matriarchal movement is afoot. This new matriarchy movement, according to Briggs, will be rooted in feminine narratives. Women are storytellers, keepers of wisdom and reason handed down from the community of womanhood.
Patty Krawec, a First Nations person from Canada, emphasized the importance of “roots” and “routes” in a breakout session. Roots acknowledge where a person comes from while routes outline how they ended up in their current location.
Roots are more than a simple land acknowledgment though. Roots point to ancestral lands but it also emphasizes culture and kin.
It connects the land and her people to a way of life. The land is the mother that gave birth to humanity, nurturing and caring for humans and placing them on routes to living life.
Routes note the journeys leading us to where we are today, but those journeys are filled with provocative stories, sacred moments and deep emotions. Krawec points out the feminine as the storyteller. She claimed, “I am my relatives, all of them.” She carries those stories, the joy and trauma of them all.
Her insight is intriguing as we are reminded of the divine creation of humanity in Genesis, when God created humanity in their image— the “I am” became the “we are.” Krawec seemed to connect the vertical and horizontal relationships between the creator and created beautifully.
Naomi Washington-Leapheart asked the crowd what happens when heaven is not enough. Noting she was preaching from sinking sand, she began her presentation with the hymn, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.”
She sang, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand, All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” She told the crowd at First Baptist Church, Austin, “If we are honest with ourselves, then most of us don’t stand on that rock. We exist on that sinking sand.”
She went on to sing, “Every Day With Jesus (Is Sweeter Than the Day Before).” However, she raised her eyebrow and asked, “But what if every day is not sweeter than the day before? Then what?”
Arguing that much of faith today is more about living up to some utopian mirage created by colonialism, she made a bold claim: “My faith indoctrinated me away from myself.” In other words, the colonial and patriarchal faith of Evangelical Christianity demanded she deny her very being to pursue a colonial and patriarchal ideal.
Washington-Leapheart said, “We have believed our way into our own destruction.” We have forgotten that God created humanity and declared we are “very good.” For some reason, we abandoned the notion that God created something good and replaced it with something bad.
By concentrating on the self as evil, authoritarian figures can convince us we need more than ourselves to be complete. We need religion. We need their acceptance. We need their control.
Those ideas have sent us down a path toward destruction. We need a better path forward.
For Washington-Leapheart, that pathway begins and ends with love. God’s love is curious, nestling up beside the hot messes that we are and saying, “Tell me more.”
She also offered an illustration of that love between her and her wife. Knowing she is a hot mess sometimes, her wife still asks at the end of the day, “What do you want for dinner?” According to Washington-Leapheart, that is divine love in human form.
The 2023 Nevertheless She Preached conference challenged and inspired participants. Speakers and breakout session leaders challenged the norms of orthodoxy often born and nurtured in colonialism by the patriarchy.
While many of the messages sounded defiant, they were also filled with hope. Drag Queen Flamy Grant performed for the crowd, singing her hit song, “Good Day.” The song puts the patriarchy on notice that it no longer has power over her and others like her. It does not get to tell her and others they don’t belong.
People on the margins, predominantly female and queer people, are reclaiming their faith and places in the community of faith. They may separate from the institutional church, a decision they have the right to make based on a hurtful past.
However, the feminists and queer people I have heard and visited over the last few years have a different message than one might expect. Their messages are filled with love and justice.
Their message is Gospel. It is Jesus.
CEO of Good Faith Media.