Pastor Spotlight - Archive  
  Pastor: Pastor Kevin D. Brown
Freedom Fellowship Christian Church, Washington DC
Interview by:
Tuan N'Gai

Tuan N'Gai (TN): We will start every interview with a statement. I will give the first part of the statement, and would like you to finish it in your own words.

Pastor Brown (PB): Okay TN: "God opens doors…

PB: "so that whosoever might come in."

TN: What exactly is the mission of Freedom Fellowship Christian Church?

PB: I think the mission of our church is tow-fold. To recognize the value of all of God's creation and the requirement that all of God's creation to be allowed to worship freely and comfortably. We believe that whosoever (all oppressed people) should have a place and the opportunity to understand that Jesus is a liberator, and He is working toward getting all of us who are abused or oppressed free. The second mission of our church is one of social action. We're not comfortable only in a right belief. Not only in an understanding of God as liberator, but that God is working in and through us that we might liberate others. We intend not only to warm the pews, but to fan out and bring the Ministry of Jesus Christ to whomever and whosoever needs to hear the good news of Jesus.

TN: What auxiliary ministries do you have that serve and meet that mission?

PB: We have worship service, fellowships, Bible Study….the basic church ministries. But there are also the outreach ministries. The first that we are particularly proud of is the Hypothermia Ministry where whenever the temperature falls below 30 degrees, the church is instantly turned into a homeless shelter for women. We open the doors to the church every night as shelter from the cold. We offer a meal and the opportunity to be safe from the streets on nights like that. We are actively working toward a new ministry where we are hoping to collaborate with other affirming churches and churches of like thinking to address some of the social concerns of the LGBT community and other oppressed people in our city. Issues related to HIV, Same-Sex Marriages, the need for churches to stand and be counted as a valuable resource to the community as opposed to an obscure fringe element. We hope to bring the requirements and needs for affirming communities to be mainstream and not marginalized. We work with other organizations that deal with the youth, HIV prevention and education, and whoever else is interested in collaborating and communicating with us.

TN: How do you define the term "affirming church"? And since most churches are structurally the same, how is your church different from other affirming churches or mainstream churches for that matter?

PB: I think what makes us different is most "affirming" and/or "mainstream" churches have at their core the requirement for a particular sexual identity. They seem to have as an essential element of their ministry the sexual orientation of those who participate. Whereas we believe sexuality to be irrelevant. The relevant factor is oppression. If one is an oppressed minority, a marginalized humanity then this is the place for you to find wholeness, health, and the liberation offered by Jesus Christ. That's what makes us different. We accept all those who have found themselves on the margins of mainstream society and the mainstream church establishment. One of the other barriers in the mainstream church experience is an implied racial identity. There is certainly no one standing in the pulpit saying they are a church that accepts only black people, but the reality is, some of the experience is consistent with disallowing and devaluing other cultures and ethnicities. Here, we are trying as best we can to offer a system of worship that is not exclusive and are not passively exclusive. We are a welcoming "whosoever" ministry.

TN: What do you think is the root of "gay-bashing" sermons?

PB: I think the root of that is a cultural norm that is clearly American. I think it rises out of a sexual moray that has condemned sexuality as an entity. There is as much fear of heterosexual sex as there is homosexual sex. I don't believe that Americans have accepted sexuality for all that it is. When one defines sexuality as "an act performed with genitals" I think one misses the mark of what sexuality really is. At its core, sexuality has to do with human relationship or an extension thereof. And how good it is for humans to relate. And the genital part is such a small part of it. The American ideal has focused on genital sex as being sex. I think therein lies a lot of the fear and misunderstanding. I believe that when sexuality is raised in the context of Christian love, it is difficult if not impossible to rationalize exclusivity of one group or another, all of us loving equally and being in relationship with God. So, when we have an understanding that sex and sexuality is a means of human loving. That human loving is an extension of our relationship with God. As God showed us through Jesus what loving really is.

TN: With the numerical growth of affirming churches and initiatives like Operation Rebirth, do you think we will ever get to a point where bashing will change and all of us will be able to live together? Or will this continue to be a battle until Jesus comes?

PB: The first answer is "I hope so". I hope it will get better. The second is, there is no peace until it does come. There is clear evidence that there are some changes. I recently read an article that spoke to there being a revolution of sexual thinking in teenagers. It was focusing on youth increasingly discarding traditional stereotypes of sexuality, and embracing it as a means toward relationship as opposed to that which is prescribed by society. Some of the quotes from the article suggested "I love who I choose to love, and I want to not exclude or limit my opportunity to love by limiting it to one sex or gender". The recent changes in government or decisions made in the courts have clearly pointed out that this is an opportune time to stand with those who seek to eliminate slavery or anything that would hold people down or back from loving and living. So, is it changing, "yes". Will it change before Jesus comes, "I hope so". And it's going to be my mission for the rest of my life to see that it does change.

TN: On a more personal note, after seeing you interact with your wife and children, and noticing that most of your congregation are part of the Same Gender Loving (SGL) or Trans-gender Communities, have you dealt with the argument "you're straight, so how can you minister to me"? If so, how did you overcome it?

PB: That has been a challenge. Not nearly as much as it was. One of the primary tools against the things that bind us with respect to sexuality and general oppression is knowledge. Knowledge is power. And that's the primary tool of this church and my ministry. The more you know, the better off, and the more equipped you will be to make reasonable decisions. "How can you understand our issues" was a challenge when I first came to this church, but I basically said "let me try, and if it doesn't work, throw me out." Well, as of today I haven't been thrown out because the issue of sexuality is irrelevant. My ministry really speaks to "where do you hurt? How can I show you that Jesus wants to and can heal the hurt inside of you? Why are you not a full and accepted member of this society? And what can Jesus do in order to cause you minimally to feel whole and feel like a complete person?"

My presence and acceptance at this church says that this church is different. It says that we're not just a bunch of gays and lesbians who are gonna go and have church all by ourselves in a corner so we can be happy like in a nightclub. But this is my attempt to bring the mainstream to those who are oppressed.

TN: There's a debate that asks if a person is really effective in ministry if they haven't been to seminary. Where do you stand on that issue? And what is the requirement to be on the ministerial staff at this church?

PB: Good question. I do believe in professional ministry. Because one of the things I learned in seminary is you don't know what you don't know until you know it. And as a professionally trained individual myself, I thought ministry was just another thing I could do. I was encouraged by a pastor to go to seminary, and I thank God for it every day. Because it allowed me an opportunity to know what I didn't know. In respect to a firm requirement for serving on this staff, there are none. But again, I do insist upon, and feel very strongly that there is a requirement for professional ministry.

One of the disciplines of seminary is systematic theology. Systematic Theology will not teach you how to preach, but it will teach you what not to preach. There is a fine line that one must walk in making the scriptures real to people without making it not unlike what's really in there. Is seminary the only means of training? Most likely not. But it is, in my opinion one of the best. One of the things I offer those who work with me here is, by my own experience, we can learn and share together. So it's not a requirement to have a degree or a seminary certificate. But I do strongly believe that one needs to be trained.

TN: Thank you so much Pastor Brown. I am honored to have you as the first Pastor Spotlight for Operation Rebirth. I look forward to working with you in the future, and wish you much success in the struggle for social justice. Let us know if there's anything we can do to help you and Freedom Fellowship Christian Church.

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