The Vision of the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black is to see the face of Christ reflected in countless expressions of His love and reconciliation throughout the world whereby people of all races and backgrounds are drawn to the love and healing of Jesus Christ discovered in the Ancient Orthodox Christian Church.
The Mission of the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black is to equip Orthodox Christians for the ministry of Racial Reconciliation, and to share the Orthodox Christian faith with African Americans and people of color.
Position Statement of the Executive Board
Since the much politicized murder of Mr. George Floyd, the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black has been a sought-out resource for Orthodox Christian people to process, understand, and bring grace to what is happening in our nation today. As the Fellowship now has a much broader sphere of interactions, the Executive Board thought it timely to state, more definitively, who we are, what we stand for, and what we do.
The Fellowship is a pan-Orthodox body made up of Orthodox Christians in good standing. As such, we embrace and re-echo the timeless teaching of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
In our faith we are traditional; we transcend politics, being neither conservative nor progressive. We embrace the teaching that life is a gift from our merciful Creator, to be reverenced and protected “from conception to resurrection.” In upholding this truth, however, we do not focus on political strategies for the saving of life and lives.
We proclaim the roles that Africa, and African saints and righteous ones, have played in the unfolding history of the Church from Old Testament times until today. We share the lived experiences of Africans and their descendants in the Americas both in suffering and oppression, and in the resultant spirituality that has drawn nigh to the spirit of the suffering Orthodox Church.
We are aware that in the world, and among many Christians, upholding the value of Black lives often goes hand in hand with upholding modern, secular views of human sexuality, and advocacy for new gender roles and political philosophies; the Fellowship is not a platform for those discussions or initiatives. That said, the Fellowship has always had men and women working collaboratively in leadership. Moreover in 2020, to emphasize that women are included, we have changed our name from Brotherhood to Fellowship.
In its August 18, 2017 Response to Charlottesville, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the U.S.A. reminded us that “promotion of racial or national supremacy and ethnic bias or dissension in the Church of Christ is to be censured as contrary to the sacred teachings of the Christian Gospel and the holy canons of the Church. It is formally condemned as heresy, the strongest category of false teaching.” Knowing that heresy separates a believer from the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, we want to combat racial heresy for our souls’ salvation and to help others in this striving. The antidote is to work towards Racial Reconciliation.
We understand Racial Reconciliation as having three pillars: education, dialogue, and “unseen warfare.” We have various activities to foster education and a common understanding of the history and lived experiences of people across racial boundaries, in the light of the Orthodox Faith. We host conferences; we host or participate in panels, classes, and video presentations; and we produce books. To foster dialogue, we create skillfully moderated places for relationships, sharing, and processing across racial boundaries. These spaces include conferences and local chapters of the Fellowship.
We recognize that Americans are enculturated into a society where race significantly weights the scales of power, wealth, health, education, representation, and justice. No matter how much they may wish to be free of racial or ethnic bias, they are constantly bombarded with stereotypes and negativity; therefore we propose that weeding out this enculturation needs to be an ongoing process. We view “unseen warfare” as the spiritual answer to what some call “anti-racist” work. The four tenets of unseen warfare, from the book of the same name, are:
a) Never rely on yourself in anything;
b) Bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone;
c) Strive without ceasing;
d) Remain constantly in prayer.
Here are four tenets of unseen warfare for racial healing:
a) We realize that no matter how well-intentioned, we have blind spots about race and will unwittingly hurt people or situations—thus we welcome feedback;
b) As Orthodox Christians we know that we all stand in need of repentance and we rely on God to help us grow in humility, non-covetousness, freedom from anger, and in all the virtues;
c) We embrace this striving for our whole lives, knowing that the work of racial healing is ongoing;
d) We pray for this without despair or giving up hope.
In Conclusion, we of the Fellowship welcome people and outside organizations who are inspired by our Vision and Mission. To those organizations, and also to individuals, we offer one caution: As long as race weights the scales in America, Black people and people of color will “bear their reproach outside the gate”: They will be the targets of scapegoating; their competence and motives will regularly be questioned. Fair-minded friends and allies need to appreciate this aspect of American society. While you may be able to embrace controversial positions without damage to your reputations or your effectiveness in the world, an organization with Black people in leadership walks a very fine line. We ask you to bear this in mind as we collaborate in the work; with open communication on sensitive topics we can succeed in our joint endeavors.
And to individuals we extend this invitation: Orthodox Christians may join us as dues-paying members at the national level. Orthodox and non-Orthodox are also welcome to affiliate as friends of the Fellowship. Orthodox faithful may also wish to join a local chapter or inquire about starting one if there is none nearby. Our annual conferences are open to all and recordings of past conferences are available on our website and social media pages. And to everyone we say, join us in prayer for this Godly work.
Nun Katherine Weston, President
Mr. Kevin Bryce, Vice President
Ms. Arita Damroze, Secretary
Dr. Carla Thomas, Treasurer & Finance Chair
Fr. Alexii Altschul, Spiritual Advisor & Spiritual Formation Chair
Fr. Justin Mathews, Governance Chair
Mr. Cecil Mitchell, Conference Chair
Mr. Kevin Bryce, Communication Chair
Nun Katherine Weston, Book Sub-committee Chair
Dn. Joseph Clark, Membership Chair
Fr. Turbo Qualls, Dean of Chapters
Other Board Members
Fr. Moses Berry
Dn. John Gresham
Dn. Jonathan Reavis
Mr. Jonathan Vilord
Ms. Sabrina Vilord
Fr. Jerome Sanderson, Legacy
M. Musa Thompson, Legacy
A brief account of the beginning
In 1993 Fr. Moses was living in Saint Louis, Missouri and serving as the pastor to Christ the Good Shepherd Eastern Orthodox Church. It came to his attention that large numbers of Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants who, in seeking asylum from their war torn nations, were relocated to St. Louis from the East African refugee camp they had been forced into. While the move to the United States was necessary for the survival of these peoples, they were often unfortunately relocated into dangerous neighborhoods with violent issues of their own.
Fr. Moses noticed that they, like many other recent immigrant groups, lacked an established cultural community that they could rely on for help with the practical needs of adjusting to life in the United States and the spiritual needs that could only be fulfilled in a supportive environment. The Berrys, with the support of the church congregation, made every effort they could to help these immigrant become comfortable in their new lives. They set up a kind of free store in the church basement. Later, with the help of community leaders, Fr. Moses established the area’s first Ethiopian and Eritrean cultural center.
The first ad hoc meeting of the Brotherhood of Saint Moses the Black, with 20 or so community members, was held in the Berry’s living room. The organization was established with the broad purpose of developing unity and brotherhood in the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, because even though violence and forced migration had pushed these groups together, they had their own individual histories of war and aggression with one another. Members of the organization began regularly attending church services at Christ the Good Shepherd and Fr. Moses began to become known as the American spiritual father of this growing immigrant community.
As the Brotherhood grew, its outreach extended to diverse communities of African descent in the United States, but its mission of developing unity and brotherhood remains the same.
On May 29, 2020, the Board voted to change our name from the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black to the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black.
If you would like to donate to assist with the work of the Fellowship, you can do so here. Thank you!