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Filled with the Spirit

Sexuality, Gender, and Radical Inclusivity in a Black Pentecostal Church Coalition

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.

240 pages | 3 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Black Studies

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Religion: American Religions

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations


“[Filled with the Spirit] makes a significant contribution to scholarship on African American religion as well as religion and sexuality. . . .Written in an accessible style, the book is also exemplary in the way the author narrates her own experiences during the research and performs self-reflexivity with respect to her position as a white secular Jewish anthropologist who “never expected to study religion.””

Reading Religion

"It is a sign of the excellence of Filled with the Spirit that readers like me are prompted by it to ask more questions. . . .The book is an invaluable contribution, putting detailed ethnographic readings in expansive historical and analytical contexts. It will likely spark many, varied, and rich conversations."

American Religion

Filled with the Spirit opens up a space to rethink how we theorize black homosexuality in the context of religion. Lewin complicates traditional views of black sexuality and spirituality by focusing on an institution that is steeped in the worship rituals of the traditional black church but whose “radical inclusivity” promotes an affirmation of homosexual identity (as well as other stigmatized identities) rather than a disavowal of it. This volume makes an enormous contribution to a number of different fields, including, but not limited to, anthropology, religious studies, queer studies, and black studies.”

E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern University

"Lewin sheds light on an important, and until now ignored (in scholarship), religious community of predominately Black LGBT Christians...Lewin’s study...prompts us to think critically about the convergence of faith practices, politics, and identity while keeping them in balance. Scholars of gender and sexuality would be well-advised to heed Lewin’s call."

Judith Casselberry | Pneuma

Table of Contents


Invocation: The Anthropology Ministry
1          “I’ve Been ’Buked”: The Double Consciousness of Being LGBT and Black
2          “Lead Me, Guide Me”: The Charisma of Bishop Flunder
3          “Just as I Am”: Revealing Authentic Selves
4          “Old-Time Religion”: Invoking Memory
5          “What a Fellowship”: Radically Inclusive Futures
Benediction: Continuities and Departures
References Cited

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