Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The "Fellowship"

While in Washington DC, Senator Sam Brownback lives in a house named the "C Street Center"run by a secretive Christian group known as The Fellowship. He pays the low rent of $600 a month to share the house with 5 other Congressmen. While residents of the house claim that nothing crosses the line of church-state separation, an examination of the Fellowship shows that crossing the line occurs with alarming regularity.

"The Fellowship" is a loosely defined, sometimes denied, group of evangelical Christians who hold positions of power around the world. Its membership runs the gamut from our own Senator Brownback to Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda . Began in 1942 by a Methodist minister from Seattle, it has an annual operating budget of at least $10 million and in addition to the C Street Center also owns a mansion known as "The Cedars" in Arlington VA.

The Fellowship has been described in many way by different people. According to David Coe, the organization's current president:
...the group's mission is to create a worldwide "family of friends" by spreading the words of Jesus to those in power. He believes that people of every religion--including Muslims, Jews and Hindus--are swayed by Jesus. If he can change leaders' hearts, he said, then the benefits will flow naturally to the oppressed and underprivileged.
The Fellowship has played a background role in a few high profile success. A LA Times article describes:
Democratic Republic of Congo President Kabila and Rwandan President Kagame privately met for about an hour in the living room on the first floor of Cedars. It was the first time the two warring leaders had met face to face.

"It was an important meeting," said Richard Sezibera, Rwanda's ambassador to the U.S. In the months that followed, members of the Fellowship reached out to both leaders, visiting them in Africa. The two men finally signed a peace accord in July in a deal brokered by the president of South Africa--a move that could be an important step toward peace.

In addition to bringing together leaders here in the United States, members of The Fellowship have brought their theology with them on officially sanctioned congressional trips. The same LA times article explains:

In January, Reps. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio) and Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.) traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan on a fact-finding congressional trip, meeting with the leaders of both Muslim countries. But the men, all members of the Fellowship, discussed more than U.S. policy.

"The first thing we did when we met with [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai and President [Pervez] Musharraf was to say, 'We're here officially representing the Congress; we'll report back to the speaker, our leaders, our committees, our government. But we're here also because we're best friends.... We're members of the same prayer group,' " Pitts recalled...

"We meet every week together around the teachings of Jesus and we pray together," he said. "We told them about the National Prayer Breakfast and we invited them to join us."

Remember, this was a taxpayer financed trip and the first thing the Representatives did when visiting the foreign presidents was to talk about Jesus?

The Fellowship has also invited some controversial figures to the States. The LA times article continues:

Among them are former Salvadoran Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who in July was found liable by a civil jury in Florida for the torture of thousands of civilians in the 1980s. He was invited to the 1984 prayer breakfast, along with Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, then the head of the Honduran armed forces. Alvarez, later linked to the CIA and a secret death squad, became an evangelical missionary before he was assassinated in 1989.
Not exactly people who would seem to uphold the tenets of the Christian faith. I wish someone would ask Brownback why he accepts charity from an organization that sponsors war criminals.

As you can tell from my citations, there are not many articles about the organization. The breakthrough article was written by Lisa Getter of the LA times in September of 2002. The other article of merit is Jeffrey Sharlet's piece in Harper's Magazine. It is especially interesting because he lived with a group of young men who took care of The Cedars and experienced the group dynamic first hand.

While it appears creepy, The Fellowship may be harmless. I don' t know enough, and it seams no one knows enough, to determine whether it crosses the church-state boundary. Therein lies the problem. The secrecy surrounding the organization is troubling. All of the congressmen who live at the C Street Center should have to answer questions about their involvement in The Fellowship. If it is innocuous then they should have nothing to hide.


Blogger vaara said...

Off-topic, but I just came across this blog -- two weeks after I started my own anti-Brownback blog:


But this one is much, much better. Not least because it's written by an actual Kansan! So I'll discontinue my effort and post something to that effect. Feel free to use anything of interest you might find there.

10:34 AM  

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