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Mission of Our Ministry
The Essence of The Fellowship

The Fellowship is a trans-denominational fellowship of primarily African American Christian leaders and laity representing churches and faith-based organizations from all parts of the country ranging from ultra-conservative backgrounds to more liberal, independent churches; from upstart, developing to very large, established; from economically challenged to very affluent. The overriding purpose of The  Fellowship is to support religious leaders and laity in moving towards a theology of radical inclusivity which, by its very nature, requires an equally radical social ministry reaching to the furthest margins of society to serve all in need without prejudice or discrimination. The more specific goals of The Fellowship are to create a safe environment where all can assemble in order to

1) afford, both financially and socially, to tell the truth about ourselves and our congregations;

2) become more inclusive in our theology; and

3) create a network of collaborative support and practical guidance to prevent isolation and loss which typically haunt leaders and their churches as they become more radically inclusive.

Historically, faith leaders have been a very strong voice for justice and compassion in African American political and social life. Faith leaders, time and again, have taken the lead and have been a voice of conscience on issues ranging from poverty and  homelessness to peace and civil rights. However, the vast majority of African American churches remain extremely judgmental in their theology and conservative in their politics towards people who traditionally have lived at the margins of society, such as same gender loving people; people suffering substance abuse; people living with HIV/AIDS; the recently incarcerated; and sex industry workers.

Many African American churches and their leaders suffer from oppression sickness: perceiving a legacy of cultural oppression suffered by African Americans, religious authorities turn into oppressors themselves by excluding and condemning those of whom they disapprove. The doctrines and tenets of Christianity presently practiced by African Americans in this country were learned in the context of chattel slavery where classism, racism and sexism were the rule. Over time, the institution of the African American Church itself creates the margins of society by this mode of oppressive exclusion. Many African American churches have achieved substantial power and influence within their respective communities by virtue of marginalizing certain segments of society. Furthermore, this external marginalizing often is mirrored within the very structure of authority of churches, which typically are patriarchal and rigidly hierarchical.

Recently, however, there has been a growing movement to challenge the theology, which allows churches to be private social clubs and calls on them to become more involved in the life of the community. This enables the celebration of diversity and inclusion of all peoples, especially those who have traditionally been marginalized by the institutions of the African American churches. Yet there is often a heavy price to pay for individual pastors and their congregations for making this courageous change: congregations become bitterly divided, memberships decrease, financial stability is lost, leaders are removed from their positions of authority, and social ostracism is unleashed on the pastors and their congregations alike.

The Fellowship’s overarching goal is creating, sustaining and celebrating community on the margin. At its simplest level, the Fellowship offers a place of hospitality: marginalized people experience hospitality where they have neither to defend nor to deny their place or their humanness. Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of any enemy. The intention of hospitality is not to force people to change, but to offer them space where change can take place; It is not meant to convert men and women over to any one “side,” but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines to engage in heartfelt, meaningful dialogue.

The Fellowship welcomes all persons to join us on this journey. We don’t purport to have all of the answers, but we endeavor to create an environment here we can search together in full assurance of faith in a God who’s love is great enough to hold us all.

Bishop Yvette Flunder

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