Bishop Yvette Flunder, founder of City of Refuge UCC in San Francisco, celebrated gospel recording artist, and eloquent preacher, is a friend of More Light Presbyterians through our association with the Bishops and Elders Council of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. In this insightful interview she talks about her mission building an inclusive church drawing on African-American traditions of worship, social justice, and evangelism.
It’s Sunday afternoon in the sanctuary of City of Refuge, a linoleum-floored auditorium with folding chairs, at a particularly sketchy downtown San Francisco intersection. Yvette Flunder, founding pastor, is preaching at the podium, a fine wooden pedestal that gives the altar a hint of traditional “church.” It was her grandfather’s pulpit, and now she’s raising the roof amidst shouts from the congregation: Say it, Bishop! Tell it!
Possessing a world-class gospel voice she punctuates her preaching with spontaneous singing as she preaches about what it means to be a “radically inclusive” congregation—to be a church for everyone. It’s the kind of thing you might not notice right away. Just another black church in a down-and-out urban neighborhood. But then you look to your left, at the gangly transgender woman with tattoos; or at the band, up by the stage, with a drummer who looks like singer Nona Hendryx; or at the choir director, in shiny satin, and it begins to dawn on you: radically inclusive. Not just words.
I met with Yvette Flunder in her office at City of Refuge, where we talked about her background as a preacher, as the daughter of preachers, what it means to be bicultural—gay and church—and about how to reach more people with the message of inclusion.
Read the full story at Religion Dispatches.