Filled with the Spirit: Sexuality, Gender, and Radical Inclusivity in a Black Pentecostal Church Coalition
In 2001, a collection of open and affirming churches with predominantly African American membership and a Pentecostal style of worship formed a radically new coalition. The group, known now as the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries or TFAM, has at its core the idea of “radical inclusivity”: the powerful assertion that everyone, no matter how seemingly flawed or corrupted, has holiness within. Whether you are LGBT, have HIV/AIDS, have been in prison, abuse drugs or alcohol, are homeless, or are otherwise compromised and marginalized, TFAM tells its people, you are one of God’s creations.
In Filled with the Spirit, Ellen Lewin gives us a deeply empathetic ethnography of the worship and community central to TFAM, telling the story of how the doctrine of radical inclusivity has expanded beyond those it originally sought to serve to encompass people of all races, genders, sexualities, and religious backgrounds. Lewin examines the seemingly paradoxical relationship between TFAM and traditional black churches, focusing on how congregations and individual members reclaim the worship practices of these churches and simultaneously challenge their authority. The book looks closely at how TFAM worship is legitimated and enhanced by its use of gospel music and considers the images of food and African American culture that are central to liturgical imagery, as well as how understandings of personal authenticity tie into the desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Throughout, Lewin takes up what has been mostly missing from our discussions of race, gender, and sexuality—close attention to spirituality and faith.
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