The Purpose of The Fellowship
The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries is a multi-denominational group of primarily African American Christian leaders and laity representing churches and faith-based organizations from the USA, Africa, and Mexico. These churches range from ultra-conservative backgrounds to more liberal, independent churches; from startup, developing to very large, established churches and from churches that are economically challenged to the very affluent. The overriding purpose of The Fellowship is to support religious leaders and laity in moving toward 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) develop a safe space for personal authenticity and open honest exchange;
2) adopt a more inclusive theology; and
3) create a network of collaborative support and practical guidance to prevent isolation and loss, both financially and socially 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 the political and social life of African Americans and other minority communities. 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, a significant number of African American churches remain judgmental in their theology and conservative in their politics towards some people who traditionally have lived at the margins of society, such as people suffering substance abuse; people living with HIV/AIDS; same gender loving people; the recently incarcerated; and sex industry workers.
Many in the African American church and their leaders suffer from oppression sickness: while aware of the legacy of cultural oppression suffered by African Americans, some religious authorities continue this form of oppression by excluding and condemning those who they disapprove of and do not understand. 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, institutions in the African American Church itself mimic the oppressor by exercising 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 marginalization 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 challenging theologies, which promote exclusion, and calling on churches 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 Church. 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 an 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 and 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 where we can search together in full assurance of faith in a God Who’s love is great enough to hold us all.
Rev. Dr. Yvette A. Flunder
Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
Rev. Dr. Yvette A. Flunder
John Smith (fill in later)
Rev. Dr. Wyatt Greenlee
Rev. Alex Byrd
Jane Smith (fill in later)
Team Youth Director
Jill Smith (fill in later)
Worship Arts Pastor
Under the direction of the Presiding Bishop, Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, is an Executive Committee responsible for spiritual direction and formation. They will consider candidates for ordination, affiliation, and membership. This Committee will be responsible to prayerfully develop spiritual direction, the themes and choose the speakers. This Committee will also have the task of commissioning ministries.
In a bold move to establish, support, and develop dynamic ministries that embrace the tenets of radical inclusivity, The Fellowship Executive Committee is comprised of seasoned bishops, elders, and pastors to lead a movement of liberation, spiritual direction and church growth. Presiding Bishop Flunder sees the body as vital to the movement of The Fellowship and the plethora of ministries it serves.
The Executive Committee convenes meetings semi-annually, at the Leadership Retreat, and the Annual Conference in June each year.
Radical Inclusivity is the intentional inclusion of all persons; especially people who have traditionally lived at the margins of society, such as people suffering from substance abuse; people living with HIV/AIDS; same-gender loving people; the recently incarcerated; and sex industry workers.
At the core of The Fellowship's mission and vision is a mandate from God to proclaim a gospel that is radically inclusive of all persons.
Our mission is to become a catalytic resource agent for the unity and support of churches and ministries who desire to celebrate and proclaim the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ.
Our key concern is that every member be provided with the necessary tools to mature the individual call and the vision of inclusivity as understood by each member.
Founded in 2000 by Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, the overriding purpose of The Fellowship is to support religious teachers 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 and discrimination.
"Once you were not a people, but now are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have have received mercy."
- I Peter 2:10
The Fellowship is a coalition of Christian churches and ministries which recognize the need for networking, accountability, fellowship and resource facilitation.
We are a trans-denominational fellowship that in voluntary cooperation is self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating.
Through the unification of networking of our collective member resources, The Fellowship can assist all of the churches and ministries in the fulfillment of their respective roles in the Body of Christ.
The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries defines radically inclusivity as
"the intentional inclusion of every person in the community of faith."
Inclusivity challenges major fundamental, deep-seated Christian beliefs, doctrines and theologies of the center of society which characterize people on the edge as enemies of God and routinely mistreats, oppresses, and excludes people from the community of faith and its institutions. It is our purpose and aim to provide a safe place of refuge for persons who have been wounded by oppressive theologies and to provide a place of nurturing and training for those who feel called to this shared ministry.
Author & Professor Ellen Lewin explains about TFAM in her recent book, Filled with the Spirit (2018), in this article:
TERMS & DEFINITIONS
The Fellowship endeavors to provide safe space for all persons — especially those who have been wounded by oppressive religion. We invite all persons to join us as we share, wrestle, and discern the will of God for our individual, collective, and global communities. We will not be afraid of the gray areas nor the hard questions. We do not proclaim to have all of the answers, but we acknowledge that God is able to hold us as we journey together toward lives of wholeness and peace.
It is the aim of our fellowship to create an environment where persons are free to live their individual truth. We will reject any misguided messages of self-hatred, intolerance, or prejudice that fail to acknowledge that all individuals are fearfully and wonderfully made in the likeness and image of God. We will intentionally resist the desire to tell individuals what and how to think. We will seek to provide individuals with the tools to think for themselves.
People Not Organization:
The Fellowship will seek to build up individuals; believing that if we are faithful to this task, God will provide space for the work to which we are called. It will be our aim to direct the bulk of our resources to efforts that provide services for and improve the quality of life for both our clergy and members of the wider community.
Worship and the Arts:
We endeavor to build a community that celebrates God through vibrant praise, liberating and creative worship; utilizing the rich and diverse gifts given to our community by God. We will provide a place for persons to be transformed through a worship experience that is Christ-centered, passionate, welcoming, and led by God's spirit.
It is The Fellowship's goal to create a place where all may feel free to worship, serve, and grow spiritually -- without regard to race, ethnicity, social class, age, gender/gender identity, or affectional orientation. We will create a safe place for all persons to flourish - especially women, same-gender-loving individuals and their allies, transgendered persons, persons in recovery, the recently incarcerated, the economically disenfranchised, and persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. We will seek to proclaim the same message proclaimed on the day of Pentecost: that God continues to pour out God's spirit upon all persons.
Relevance to our culture is not optional. We will strive to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that are both liberating and culturally-sensitive. We will seek to provide quality ministry to populations that have been underserved by the traditional church.
Liberating the oppressed is the heart and soul of the gospel message. The Fellowship will seek to do relevant ministry that dismantles oppressive systems and ideologies that prevent individuals and groups of people from experiencing whole, healthy, and Godly lives. We will seek to establish a community that takes seriously the justice-centered message of Jesus Christ.
We will strive to honor individuality while at the same time, we will seek to build community; always honoring the least among us -- even when and especially when that makes us uncomfortable. We will celebrate God's diversity.
The Fellowship endeavors to create a community that fosters balanced psychological, spiritual, and physical health. We will seek to partner with agencies and social institutions to provide holistic ministry to persons in need of basic health, educational, and psychosocial services.
12 Steps of
A Model for Recovery
from Oppressive and Exclusive
Theologies and Religions
Inclusivity, with love for all of God’s creation, challenges major fundamental, deep-seated Christian beliefs, doctrines and theologies at the center of society which characterize people who do not fit the definition of the acceptable social norm as enemies of God and routinely mistreats, oppresses and excludes people from the community of faith and its institutions.
is and must
Jesus was himself from the edge of society with a ministry to those who were considered least. Jesus’ public ministry and associations were primarily with the poor, weak, outcast, foreigners and prostitutes.
Radical Inclusivity, recognizes, values, loves and celebrates people on the margin.
Many people rejected by the Church
got their burns from Bible believing
Contempt for the Church and all things religious often stems from exposure to oppressive theology, self-serving biblical literalism and unyielding tradition.
It is neither Christ-like nor spiritual to be oppressive. No human being is born
with a destiny to be oppressed or
to oppress others.
Radical Inclusivity recognizes harm done in the name of God.
“On Purpose” because of the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ. The inclusive community deliberately makes a conscious and unapologetic decision to love and celebrate the Creator’s diversity welcoming all persons regardless to race, color, ancestry, age, gender and sexual or affectional orientation. Radical Inclusivity practices and celebrates the Christian community outside of the dominant culture believing that the Kingdom (Kindom) of God includes the margin of society and is a perfect place for ministry. Marginalized people, now as in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, respond to a community of openness and extravagant grace, where other people from the edge gather. Such an atmosphere welcomes people to feel it is safer to be who they are.
Radical Inclusivity is intentional and creates ministry on the margin.
The Church belongs to God and is
the Body of Jesus Christ. It is not the sole
property of any denomination, person or group. There are systemic wrongs in organized church due to oppressive theology, bibliolatry and traditional beliefs, which prevent freedom for all people that we can never fully right. Radical inclusivity, however, is ministry rooted in restoration believing that God has given the church the work and ministry of reconciliation. It is for freedom that Christ has made us free (Gal. 5:1). Although, radical inclusivity believes and celebrates the kinship and fellowship of all believers of Jesus Christ it, is does not seek to change the mainline church but it uses its power of love to model and demonstrate the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ.
The primary goal of Radical Inclusivity is not to imitate or change the mainline church, but rather to be Church.
“…from this day forward, we regard no one from a strictly human point of view, not even Jesus.”
(II Cor. 5:16)
This scripture passage implies that we can celebrate one another in some new and powerful way in Christian community - some way that both accepts who each of us is in a human sense and transcends our humanity allowing us to see each other as God sees us. Christian community can truly be celebrated when we realize the Church is a spiritual, mystical, faith community and we relate best when we make the two-foot drop from head to heart.
Radical Inclusivity requires a new way of seeing and a new way of being.
The creation of Christian community among people marginalized by the Church requires that the community be prepared and maintain a presence of cultural familiarity through education and training which equips the community to understand, actively fight and overcome oppressive and exclusive theology and practices. Sustaining and eventually celebrating community on the margin requires the Church to re-examine sexual and relational ethics, develop a theology of welcome and de-stigmatize its view of any group of people.
Radical Inclusivity requires awareness, information and understanding.
The radically inclusive ministry of Jesus does not encourage people to hide their ‘unacceptable’ realities (based upon the dominant culture’ point of view or faith) in order to be embraced. True community comes when marginalized people take back the right to fully “be.” People must celebrate not in spite of who they are, but because of who their Creator has made them. In order for marginalized people to have community they must develop community “naked” with their “marginality” in full view while often celebrating the very thing that separates them from the dominant culture.
Radical Inclusivity does not hide and works to undo shame and fear.
People live and are located on the various margins of society for many different reasons. Most people live on the margin because the dominant culture and/or faith communities have forced them outside their boundaries to a margin. Not all marginalized people are poor, uneducated or visible. Because many marginalized people are together on the margin does not mean that each affirms the other or that their common marginality will hold the community together. People on the margins are challenged to find the inter-connectedness of their marginalities.
Radical Inclusivity recognizes diversity on the margin.
The creation of Christian community among people marginalized by the Church requires preaching and teaching that defines and strengthens the essence of the community through a theology of radical inclusivity. Preaching and teaching clarifies, reinforces and supports the collective theology of the community and gives voice to its emergence and evolution.
Radical Inclusivity must be linked to preaching and teaching.
Marginalized people experience hospitality where they have neither to defend nor to deny their place or their humanness. Henri Nouwen, author of Reaching Out, says, “Hospitality…means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by a dividing line. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of chance for the guest to find his/her own."
Radical Inclusivity demands hospitality.
Sustaining Christian community requires an intentional effort to design a framework that includes everyone in the life of the Church. The dissemination of duties and chores insure that all members share in and contribute to the welfare of the community. It is often difficult for people who have not had continuity in life to understand that freedom without responsibility and accountability is as detrimental as slavery. Freedom cannot be an end unto itself. Freedom from something must flow into freedom to be something else or it is not truly freedom. The object of getting free is being fee: the object of being free is living free.