The Family (Christian political organization)

The Family (also known as The Fellowship, The Fellowship Foundation, and The International Foundation) is the name of a designedly informal U.S. organization that claims to be centered around the life and teachings of Jesus. The group, without any formal membership, has relationships that span from poor communities in developing countries to prominent members of the United States Congress. It is best known for its role in organizing the annual National Prayer Breakfast, at which the President of the United States customarily makes an address. Douglas Coe has led the group since 1966. [Joshua Green, [ Take Two: How Hillary Clinton turned herself into the consummate Washington player] "The Atlantic Monthly", November 2006] Doug Ireland, [ Hillary, l’Amérique, et l’intégrisme chrétien] , "Bakchich", 13 April 2008 (account of Jeff Sharlet, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power", HarperCollins, 2008) fr icon] It has 20,000 members, directed by 350 leaders.


The Family was founded in Seattle in 1935 by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant and traveling preacher who had been working with the city's poor, and who feared that "socialist" politicians were about to take over Seattle's municipal government.Lisa Getter, [ "Showing Faith in Discretion"] , "Los Angeles Times", September 27, 2002] Prominent members of Seattle's business community recognized his success with those who were "down and out" and asked him to give spiritual direction to their group who were "up and out." He organized Christian prayer breakfasts for politicians and businessmen that included anti-Communism and anti-union discussions. He was subsequently invited to set up similar meetings among political and business leaders in San Francisco and Chicago. By 1942, the organization had moved headquarters to Washington, DC, where it helped create breakfast groups in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. In 1944, the organization's name was changed to International Christian Leadership, then in 1972, to The Fellowship Foundation. It was at this time that the group's leaders decided to lower the Fellowship's public profile by decentralizing its leadership.

The organization has been criticized for its relationships with dictators, including Brazilian dictator Marshal Artur da Costa e Silva, General Suharto of Indonesia, Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez , Siad Barre in Somalia . More recently, Congress members of the "Family" have voted texts in favor of Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti and of Park Chung-hee in South Korea .

In the 1930s, Vereide also recruited the antisemitic Merwin K. Hart, labelled by the FBI as a supporter of the US fascist movement . Following World War II, Vereide visited prisoners camps in Germany, and recruited several former Nazis, such as the Gestapo's head in America, Ulrich von Geinath , Dr. Otto Fricke , a radio propaganda specialist of Joseph Goebbels' service , or Hermann J. Abs, "Hitler's banker" .

Vereide's principal collaborator in France was Edmond Michelet, five-time minister under President Charles de Gaulle .

Fellowship members have been active in reconciliation efforts between the warring leaders of The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

The organization has operated under other names, including: National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the National Fellowship Council.Jeffrey Sharlet, [ "Jesus Plus Nothing"] , "Harper's Magazine", March, 2003]

The Family has interlocking leadership with the New Age "Cultural Creative" Movement in the form of Paul N. Temple, a former Standard Oil executive who was also instrumental in founding the Institute of Noetic Sciences as well as the World Business Academy. In 1987, "The Family" co-sponsored a conference, "Bridging Through Christ" at the Goldlake New Age center near Boulder, Colorado. Barbara Marx Hubbard and Doug Coe co-chaired the event; David Spangler, Findhorn Community representatives, Conservative Baptist Seminary representatives including Vernon Grounds and Gordon Lewis participated. [ [ Spiritual Counterfeits Project 3 ] ] The catalyst appears to have been Paul N. Temple, who co-founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences and is a major funder of both IONS and The Family, through his "Three Swallows Foundation. Funding to "The Family" is indicated as to "International Foundation." The address of 133 C Street, SE, is the mailing address for Doug Coe, [] and the address given on the 990 IRS form of the Three Swallows Foundation. [ [ GuideStar - Grant Explorer - Report Page - THREE SWALLOWS FOUNDATION ] ]

Current operations

The Fellowship is incorporated in the United States as a tax-free 501(c)(3) organization operating under the name The Fellowship Foundation. While they conduct no fundraising operations, they reported revenues of more than $12 million in 2003 from donations. Its mission statement is:

"To develop and maintain an informal association of people banded together, to go out as "ambassadors of reconciliation," modeling the principles of Jesus, based on loving God and loving others. To work with the leaders of other nations, and as their hearts are touched, the poor, the oppressed, the widows and the youth of their country will be impacted in a positive manner. It is said that youth groups will be developed under the thoughts of Jesus, including loving others as you want to be loved."

Their primary activity is to develop small support groups for members of Congress, businesspersons, and anyone else who is interested in the teachings of Jesus. Prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense. They have connections to the CIA. Anthony Lappé, [ "Meet 'The Family'"] , "Guerrilla News Network", June 13, 2003]

The Fellowship maintains a three-story, 7,914-square-foot red brick townhouse at 133 C Street in Washington, D.C., near the United States Capitol. The townhouse used to be a convent. As many as six members of Congress, Democratic and Republican, live here while in Washington. In 2003, these men paid $600 a month to live there: U.S. Reps. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; and Mike Doyle, D-Pa.; and U.S. Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev.; and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. The house, which was valued at $1.1 million in 2003, is owned by a Fellowship sister organization called the C Street Center. IRS records show that the Center received more than $145,000 in grants from the Fellowship between 1997 and 2000.Lara Jakes Jordan, [ "Fellowship finances townhouse where 6 congressmen live"] , "Associated Press", April 20, 2003]

The Fellowship operates a retreat center as an "unofficial headquarters," at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Va. Called "The Cedars," it was purchased in 1978 through donations from, among others, Tom Phillips, CEO of arms manufacturer Raytheon; and Ken Olsen of Digital Equipment Corporation.

There is no official membership of the group. Most members of Congress who participate are from the Republican Party but some Democrats such as Hillary Clinton (Doug Coe is a pastor/ advisor for Clinton) [Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet [ Hillary's Prayer: Hillary Clinton's Religion and Politics] "Mother Jones" (1 September 2007)] [Joshua Green [ "Take Two: Hillary's Choice"] "The Atlantic" (November 2006)] participate as well. Clinton's associates distanced her from Coe in 2008, saying that Clinton was not a member of The Fellowship and never contributed money to it. They also said that Clinton had not heard sermons Coe gave using Nazi and Communist leaders as examples of gaining commitment. (See Mitchell, Andrea and Popkin, Jim. "Political ties to a secretive religious group", NBC News, 2008-04-03. Retrieved on 2008-05-04.) Senators who have been cited as members of the organization include Don Nickles and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, John Ensign of Nevada, Bill Nelson of Florida, Conrad Burns of Montana. Members of the House who have been cited as participants include Frank Wolf of Virginia and Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania. Charles Colson, an adviser of Richard Nixon, was also a member of "the Family" .

National Prayer Breakfast

The Fellowship organizes the National Prayer Breakfast, held each year on the first Thursday of February in Washington, D.C.. First held in 1953, the event is now attended by over 3,400 guests including dignitaries from many nations. The President of the United States typically makes an address at the breakfast. The event is officially hosted by members of Congress. Democrats and Republicans serve on the organizing committee, and leadership alternates each year between the House and the Senate. In 2008 the Fellowship and its Congressional allies received widespread media attention and public criticism for involving military officers in organizing events surrounding the National Day of Prayer, particularly since no one was allowed to be involved in organizing an event unless they were a "Born Again" Christian (prospective leaders were required to sign contracts to the effect).

*In 2006, the event was co-chaired by Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democratic Senator Mark Pryor. Speakers included King Abdullah II of Jordan and musician Bono. [cite news |title=Transcript: Bono remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast |url= |work= |publisher=USA Today |date=2006-02-02 |accessdate=2008-03-22 ]
*In 2007, Members of Congress Emanuel Cleaver, II, (D. Missouri) and Jo Ann Davis (R. Virginia) co-chaired the National Prayer Breakfast. Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, gave the message.
*In 2008, Sen. Ken Salazar (D. Colorado), and Sen. Mike Enzi (R. Wyoming), co-chaired the event. Ward Brehm, who chairs the United States African Development Foundation, delivered the keynote speech. [cite news |first=Frederic |last=Frommer |title=Minnesotan to deliver keynote speech at National Prayer Breakfast |url= |publisher=Star-Tribune |date=2008-02-06 |accessdate=2008-03-22 ]



*Jeff Sharlet, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power" (Harper Collins, 2008) ISBN 0060559799

*D. Michael Lindsay, "Faith in the Halls of Power" (Oxford University Press, 2007) ISBN 0060559799

External links

* [ Excerpt in Mother Jones magazine from "The Family," by Jeff Sharlet]
* [ synopsis of Eikon documentary (Eternal Forces) on this and other political fundamentalist organizations, in German]
* [ SourceWatch: The Fellowship]
* [ "Doug Coe, The Fellowship, Hillary Clinton and Why You Should Care," reprint of article first published, April 14, 2008]
* [ Archive of Records of the Fellowship Foundation, 1937-1988] , Wheaton College; only material over 25 years old is accessible.
* [ Review of Jeff Sharlet's "The Family"] , "Religion Dispatches"

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