The Holy Spirit works through real women

Hear from Christian female leaders in local communities.


Cayla Won, The Horizon

Shepherding the church.

Riley Potter, Staff Writer

Last week, I laid the framework for reading the Bible that allows space for women in positions of leadership and authority in the Church. This joyful truth ushers in a plethora of good news for all of Christ’s followers and fulfills the bold claim that, whether slave or free, male or female, we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). While the American church and greater society are  still debating whether women can lead in pastoral positions, it appears that the Holy Spirit is quite clear on the matter. Katie Knapp, a second year Religious Studies (RS) major, and Reverend Colleen Hurley-Bates, the lead pastor of SB Free Methodist, both shared with me the divine revelations they experienced that called them to pursue ministry. 

When Knapp felt this divine calling in high school, she remembers thinking, “Is this even something I can even do?” However, a clear image had surfaced, and after praying constantly about it, she realized that this is what God is calling her to do. Even though she felt this pull by the Spirit, she was not impervious to the voices of the other Christians, and underwent what she called “religious gaslighting,” leading her to doubt the veracity of her calling and even the strength of her relationship with God. 

Knapp grew up in the Catholic church, and reflected that there are “aspects of the Catholic faith that I love, but other messages that I don’t endorse.” She continues to be frustrated by the ways in which women are consistently barred from leading, particularly as priests.

She expressed the irony of the fact that she went to a lecture by a nun who held basically the highest degrees/credentials within Catholicism and was allowed to teach priests at seminary, but couldn’t officiate mass. These contradictions within the body of Christ are also not held up against our Scriptures because, as Knapp notes, “the earliest you can get in Christian history, there were women in the church.” 

However, her time at Westmont has shown her that there are “so many well-equipped, ready and willing” women who can lead churches and teach fellow followers of Christ, if only we let them. Knapp also highlighted many of the sexual scandals that have marred the history of the Catholic church and suggested that perhaps a more egalitarian understanding of gender would prevent such abuses of people and power. 

When she was 16, Reverend Colleen experienced a calling similar to Knapp’s and this call to ministry was wholeheartedly affirmed by her church. When she first attended a Free Methodist Church in college, she knew she had found her home. Established in the 1860s, its pillars included equality of races and of genders, and its founder, B.T. Roberts, wrote a book titled “Ordaining Women” at around the same time. In reality, though, there were no lead women pastors at the time the Reverend was in seminary, and when she was ordained, a fellow clergyman left the denomination.

Both women acknowledged the futility of trying to change the minds of some people, but ultimately see their journey in faith as one of witnessing to the power of the Holy Spirit. When asked about reconciling with those with whom she disagrees, Knapp asserts, “I can love them as a human as I live out my calling. Hopefully they’ll come around.”

Reverend Colleen echoed that sentiment. As she experienced some pushback from naysayers throughout the years, she responds, “You have to obey God rather than people, for ignoring one’s calling is being disobedient to the Lord.” 


Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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