Fellowship Community History The Fellowship Community, formerly known as the Fellowship of Presbyterians (FOP), arose from a movement started by seven pastors from some of the largest PCUSA churches in the United States in 2010. The movement gained momentum when they met in August 2011 at a planning and organizational meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota and began drafting essential tenets and refined polity for a new reformed body. A second gathering of the movement in January 2012 resulted in a new denomination known as Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO). In June 2014, the FOP parted ways structurally with ECO and shortly thereafter, joined with Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) to work with gospel-centered congregations and individuals in the PCUSA. In August of 2014, the FOP and PFR began re-branding to become known as the Fellowship Community. The two groups fully merged in January, 2015. Much of the available information for the Fellowship Community is found on their website, which expressly states that they are “not a waiting room for departure” into ECO. The website provides that the Fellowship Community “is a “community for those God has called to prosper where they are (Jeremiah 29)”. The website further states that “One of the purposes of The Fellowship is to network, resource, and serve congregations and individuals who are called to the mission of maintaining an orthodox, evangelical witness within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” According to its website the Fellowship Community is “embracing new mission possibilities for evangelicals called to remain active in increasingly liberal mainline denominations. We believe this is a challenging and exciting time to be apprentices of Jesus; one that will require us to be thoughtful in our theology, articulate in our beliefs, culturally aware, accountable to one another, and actively engaged in mission.” The website goes on to provide that the Fellowship “forms closer relationships and more significant accountability among its members, recapturing the essence of what Presbyteries were originally meant to be.” The Fellowship Community’s one common goal is “to build flourishing congregations who make disciples of Jesus Christ.” The Fellowship Community is constructed around the three basic principles of “clearly articulated theology, covenanted order, and missional ministry” i.e., Covenant, Tenets, and Mission Affinity Groups. Governance The Fellowship Community considers themselves to be “in but not of” the PCUSA, which requires it follow the PCUSA governance.
The Theology Project (http://tinyurl.com/mmnoeuf), a lengthy document, outlines the Fellowship Community’s confessions, tenets, essential beliefs, and proposal for Mission Affinity Groups to nurture theological conversations and relationships across the Fellowship Community.
The Fellowship Covenant (http://tinyurl.com/nyllarf ) is a covenant to which all churches wishing to join the Fellowship must affirm and agree.
Administrative Services Because the Fellowship remains in the PCUSA their administrative services remain the same. Mission Programs and Relationships with Other Organizations In addition to all of the ministry opportunities offered through PCUSA, the Fellowship Community has established Mission Affinity Groups (MAG), which are groups of 3-4 congregations that share “similar ministry contexts.” The MAGs are “designed to connect, care for, and provide accountability for churches and leaders.” Prior to the merger with Presbyterians for Renewal, these groups could include other denominations sharing a similar vision. It is unclear if MAGs will accept groups outside of PCUSA post merger. Policy Statements The essential tenets are not clearly listed on the web site in an easily digestible format. However, the Fellowship Community does list the following values: Jesus-shaped Identity: We believe Jesus Christ must be at the center of our lives and making disciples of Jesus at the core of our ministry.
Biblical Integrity: We believe the Bible is the unique and authoritative Word of God, which teaches all that is necessary for faith and life. The prominence of God’s Word over our lives shapes our priorities, and the unrivaled authority of the Bible directs our actions to be in concert with Christ’s very best for our lives.
Thoughtful Theology: We believe in theological education, constant learning, and the life of the mind, and celebrate this as one of the treasures of our Reformed heritage.
Accountable Community: We believe guidance is a corporate spiritual experience. We want to connect leaders to one another in healthy relationships of accountability, synergy, and care.
Egalitarian Ministry: We believe in unleashing the ministry gifts of women, men, and every ethnic group.
Missional Centrality: We believe in living out the whole of the Great Commission – including evangelism, spiritual formation, compassion, and redemptive justice – in our communities and around the world.
Center-focused Spirituality: We believe in calling people to the core of what it means to be followers of Jesus – what “mere Christianity” is and does – and not fixate on the boundaries.
Leadership Velocity: We believe identifying and developing gospel-centered leaders is critical for the church, and a great leadership culture is risk-taking, innovative, and organic.
Kingdom Vitality: We believe congregations should vigorously reproduce new missional communities to expand the Kingdom of God. Although the Fellowship of Presbyterians shared essential tenets with ECO before its merger with PFR, it is unclear whether the Fellowship Community will retain those same essential tenets Confessions •
The Fellowship Community follows the same confessions as those found in the PCUSA Book of Confessions as a “faithful and sure guide on the perilous road ahead.”
Process and Requirements for Membership include the following:
• Sign and return the Session Congregational Covenant (see handout) • Read and affirm the essential tenets of the Fellowship, found in the Theology Project (see handout) • Complete the Session and Congregational Fellowship Application which asks applicants to 1. live in conformity with the Fellowship covenant; 2. receive, adopt, and be bound by the essential tenets as published by the Fellowship; and 3. Actively participate in networks of accountability with others in Fellowship (Mission Affinity Groups) Miscellaneous: The Fellowship Community website states that other denominations may join, although that appears somewhat inconsistent with other sections of the website.
Notwithstanding, there are still videos regarding ECO in the video resources section of the web site and Peachtree Presbyterian, a Fellowship Community church, is hosting ECO’s East Central Presbytery in April 2015.