Last year and early this year, as a component of reporting on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, I wrote a bit about the Fellowship Foundation. Author Jeff Sharlet reported in November of last year that the main movers of the Ugandan proposal were associated with the Fellowship. As the matter unfolded, it has become clear that those behind the bill are associated with the Fellowship, but outside of Uganda, many other Fellowship associates oppose the bill. In particular, former Ford and Carter administration official, Bob Hunter offered vigorous public opposition on behalf of the Fellowship. To get the context, Jeff Sharlet’s guest post here on the subject is well worth reviewing.
The signature event associated with the Fellowship Foundation is the National Prayer Breakfast. The Fellowship organizes the event for the Congress with the President sometimes taking an active role in inviting guests from around the world. Held the first week of February, speculation was high in January about who would attend from Uganda. In relationship to my reporting on Uganda, I was invited to come to the National Prayer Breakfast to learn more about the event and the group behind it.
As an aspect of that visit, I was given a rare opportunity to sit down with spiritual leader of the Fellowship, Doug Coe. He grants few interviews, in fact, I only know of a handful, but he was glad to affirm to me that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was completely inconsistent with his vision for the Fellowship. Today, Christianity Today published the rest of the interview on their webite.
Over the next week or so, I will be reporting more on my visit to the National Prayer Breakfast. In this post, I want to begin by providing the talking points for a meeting where delegates from Africa were given information about the essential aspects of the National Prayer Breakfast work. In the legislatures of many nations, Fellowship groups conduct prayer breakfast meetings with similar aims as the US version. What follows is a document used to explain the Fellowship at an African gathering at this year’s event.
Eight Core Aspects of the vision and methods – the National Prayer Breakfast work:
- Based on Long Term Relationships: There are a circle of friends connected with this that go back several decades in some cases. Sometimes we simply call ourselves the fellowship or a family of friends. Family refers to the nature of relationships and friends speaks to the quality of our relationships.
- It’s a Wide Vision but grounded in Small Groups: It’s world-wide – we have members coming from very many different nations – it’s a very wide vision – but at the same time the whole thing is composed of friends gathering regularly in small groups for fellowship and to pray for their nations, their leaders and the leaders of the world.
- We focus on Jesus as the Common Ground: Any movement needs to have a strong ideal of shared values holding its members together. Many initiatives that try to promote unity across religious divides – can often end up with the ‘lowest common denominator’ when trying to create common ground. We are seeking the highest common denominator and so we reference our core values and methods to the principles, precepts and person of Jesus.
- We work across all that is dividing humanity: Nearly all of the conflicts and wars in the world today are being fought because of religious or ideological difference and ethnic differences. And part of the vision of our family of friends – is to raise up a movement of people who can cross these divides – who can ‘stand in the gap‘ – who can love ‘ the enemy.’
- It’s also call for Personal Transformation: A personal transformation – by Divine influence. All of us are works in progress… we experience changes in ourselves as we follow this Way of Jesus. And this happens the more we reflect His thinking, His way of speaking these actions – his love. The hope for the transformation of society – lies with transformed individuals.
- It’s about faith for a Better World: As human beings making up the family of nations in the world – we can do much better than what we have done so far. We can do better than this. We need to articulate and communicate a vision that is big and inspiring enough for people to buy into with whole-hearted, life-long commitment. A vision for a new way of living, this is what Jesus’ concept of the kingdom of God was all about. The world in its present state is not at all in line with the ideals of God’s Kingdom. That is, it is not operating by the values of God. This is why we see wars, injustice, poverty, crime and so forth.
- We Focus on the Essentials: By the time of Jesus – in his religion there were over 600 commandments. Jesus boiled them down to two. He said “Love God with all you heart, mind and should and Love your neighbor as yourself.” This he said was the Sum of all…..the other commandments. The sum of the law and the prophets. This was the greatest commandments. The main thing. And the main thing to keep the main thing the main thing.
- Finally – we work with Leaders but only have one leader that we give our lives to and that is Jesus: One of the earlier followers of Jesus – Paul was given a special mission: “This man is my chosen instrument to take my name…before the Gentiles and their kings….Acts 9:15,” This group of friends has helped to carry on this mission in regards the “king” – or other leaders of our world – who hold enormous influence – for better or worse – over vast numbers of people including billion of the poor – “the least of these” for whom Jesus has a special concern.
Number 7 echoes what Coe said during the interview:
Coe said that Lincoln was always faithful to go to church, but never joined a church. When asked why he stayed unaligned, President Lincoln replied, “When I find that church which has as its only creed ‘to love God with all its heart, mind, soul and strength,’ I will gladly join.” Coe seems to want the Fellowship to be the kind of group Lincoln could join.
For now, let me note that Coe rarely speaks in public and rarely takes public positions on issues. He was willing to do so in order to say that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was inconsistent with his vision of following Jesus.
I am very interested in observations and dialogue regarding the interview and the summary points above. There were many more questions I will ask Mr. Coe if given the opportunity. I suspect this will have an interest to many outside the Ugandan anti-gay bill so I hope the discussion will not be limited to it.