SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “ecumenical”

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “ecumenical”

(Photo: Tamara Danel was one of dozens of volunteers who helped Lytonja Smith and her Muslim family build a home during the 2015 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Shreveport, Louisiana.)

This is the third in a series of blog posts about terms that define how The Fuller Center for Housing works to help families have simple, decent places to live. On Saturday, we’ll take a look at the meaning of “partnership.”


 

After founder Millard Fuller’s unexpected death in February of 2009, those closest to The Fuller Center for Housing’s affordable housing ministry and its leaders had a decision to make: Since this grass-roots, Christian ministry was so closely tied to Millard’s dynamic persona, should it end with his earthly end or was the work so important that the ministry should persevere?

Millard had set the moral compass in the right direction for his ministry for decades. If they chose to continue with the ministry — which they obviously did, for which thousands of families are now grateful — they had to stay pointed in the right direction and not drift away from those simple principles that Millard was so passionate about. So, they drafted a Statement of Foundational Principles that would guide them going forward. You can find them on our Mission Statement and FAQ page or read below:

We at the Fuller Center for Housing believe that:

  • We are part of a God movement, and movements don’t just stop.
  • We have been called to this housing ministry; we didn’t just stumble into it.
  • We are unashamedly Christian and enthusiastically ecumenical.
  • We aren’t a church, but we are a servant of the Church.
  • We are faith driven, knowing that after we’ve done all we can do the Lord will help finish the job — something that requires us to stretch beyond our rational reach.
  • We are a grass-roots ministry, recognizing that the real work happens on the ground in communities around the world through our covenant partners, so a large, overseeing bureaucracy isn’t needed.
  • We try to follow the teachings of the Bible and believe that it says that we shouldn’t charge interest of the poor, so we don’t.
  • Government has a role in our work in helping set the stage, but that we shouldn’t look to it as a means to fund the building of home.

Tucked away in there is an awfully key word — “ecumenical,” actually “enthusiastically ecumenical” to be exact. Most often, the word is used in the context of Christianity in the coming together of Christians and churches for a uniting purpose. But we take it a step further.

We believe that all of God’s people ought to have simple, decent places to live. And we are all God’s people.

We are a Christian ministry, but we preach the Gospel through action — the Theology of the Hammer. You do not have to be a Christian to partner with us to get a home or repairs, nor must you be Christian to work with us. We’ve worked with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and those who adhere to no religion or faith. We share God’s love without a litmus test.

We are ecumenical in another way, as well — one that has nothing to do with religion. We are politically ecumenical.

When I joined The Fuller Center in 2011, I was weary of the hyperpartisanship that had gripped America and has since only increased its stranglehold. Yet, in The Fuller Center’s ranks I’ve met and worked with an equal amount of liberals and conservatives and all kinds of folks in between. I remember President Carter speaking at a Fuller Center dinner five years ago in which he thanked The Fuller Center for being “a harmonious oasis” in polarizing times.

I knew what President Carter was saying was true, even though I’d been here only a few months at the time. I’ve since come to understand why it is true that those of all faiths and political persuasions unite at The Fuller Center oasis: It’s because no one is against helping people help themselves. Liberals and conservatives are all for it. The religious and non-religious are all for offering a hand-up. No one is against a hand-up. I’ve even seen Auburn and Alabama fans, Georgia and Georgia Tech fans unite under this umbrella — and that’s no small feat down here in this college football-mad land.

Being ecumenical in more ways than one allows us to pitch a mighty big tent and to welcome everyone who shares our simple belief that everyone ought to have a simple, decent place to call home. If you also believe that, then you’re in the right place.

Below, a handsome fellow talks briefly about this topic: