|Bishop Yvette Flunder (D.Min. '01) honored during San Francisco Pride Parade|
By Lucas Walker
SFTS M.Div. Student
On a rare morning of rest in her busy ministry, Bishop Yvette Flunder tells me what she still treasures about her experience at seminary: “The mission heart of SFTS.”
Yvette is senior pastor at City of Refuge Church in San Francisco and presiding bishop of The Fellowship, a network of over 75 churches across the globe. She received her Doctor of Ministry degree from SFTS in 2001.
“The D.Min. program is such a good program,” she said. “It was more accessible than other schools in the Graduate Theological Union. It took into consideration what a working clergy person needs.”
Throughout her ministry, Yvette has emphasized a theology of “radical inclusivity” for all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender identity, orientation or health status. Raised as a fundamentalist Pentecostal, but now an ordained member of the United Church of Christ, her radically inclusive ministry has become a global standard of excellence, as well as a shining example of God’s work in the world.
She was honored on Sunday, June 26, during the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade as the Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal. After participating in the parade, Yvette took the main stage at the Civic Center and praised God in song before thousands as a spontaneous revival unfolded.
During her time at SFTS, she says the Seminary was leading the way in challenging racial and gender lines in ministry. “There was a willingness to be more and more open in supporting (these issues), particularly when the larger church was not more welcoming.” And she feels SFTS is still called to that same open and welcoming support now.
Yvette was also inspired by the time she spent with Rev. Dr. Jana Childers, SFTS professor of homiletics and speech communication and former dean. “We talked about exegeting our congregation, our context. We know how to exegete the text, but Dr. Childers emphasized marrying the text to the people you’re preaching to. That’s where the work of the Spirit takes place. For me, that was a defining moment of my time at SFTS.”
In addition to her ministry of preaching and teaching, Yvette’s local and global efforts for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, people living with HIV, African-American women, and dual-diagnosis persons continue. I asked her how we could support her in the ministry of God. She says she has a “huge desire” to come back to SFTS as a teacher.
“I was blessed by watching the struggle of the Seminary to become more inclusive,” she says. “I would love to come back and teach a course on race and sexuality.”
Also, I think it’s time for a greater online presence by the school. People across the globe, in isolated areas too, need access to the resources that SFTS provides.”
About the student writer: Lucas Walker is a third-year Master of Divinity student. He grew up in rural Western Colorado and attained a Bachelor's in Christian Education from a private college before working for eight years in social work and crisis counseling. He is currently the Pastoral Care Intern at SFTS.