Nativity Fellowship Church

in Groups and Organizations

Nativity Fellowship Church (NFC), an independent Christian church with an outreach to the LGBT+ community, was formed by pastor Tony Iroio in 1977. The Nativity Fellowship Church was comprised of former members of the Cleveland Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church (Fellowship MCC). Following a split between the Cleveland Fellowship MCC and “the “the Great Lakes District of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches” in October 1977, members of the former Fellowship MCC congregation elected to form a new independent congregation, dubbed the Nativity Fellowship Church, in November 1977. Between November 1977-November 1978, pastor and Nativity co-founder Tony Iroio held Nativity worship services in a space rented from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cleveland, 2728 Lancashire Road. After Iroio resigned from his role as pastor in 1978, pastor Jack Sowers assumed pastoral oversight of Nativity Fellowship Church. Nativity Fellowship Church broadly sought to meet the “spiritual needs of every member of society without regard for race, color, creed, gender, or sexual preference,” with a particular focus on “meeting the needs of the gay community.” As an “open and affirming” church, Nativity quickly amassed an “over-all cross-sectional ecumenical” congregation. In 1979, Pete Lader was invited to serve as Nativity co-pastor due to his ability to provide “‘high church’ liturgy” that would meet the needs of the church’s diverse congregation. (Unlike Lader, Sowers’ worship services were conducted “in a more evangelical nature.”) Responding to the needs and location of its growing congregation, Nativity Fellowship Church later relocated its worship services to a building at 9312 Madison Avenue in September 1979. After relocating to 9312 Madison Avenue, Nativity Fellowship Church continued to host weekly worship services and social events (including a “weekly bible [study], prayer services, and a Saturday night coffeehouse”) for its congregation. Benefits, fundraisers, and outreach helped the church continue to grow, attract new members, and advocate for LGBT+ liberation through the late 1970s and early 1980s. Nativity Fellowship Church remained active into the mid-1980s.


Additional information coming soon.

Resources

  • Chapman, Paula. “A Year’s Activity At Nativity Fellowship.” High Gear. November 1978. Page 1.
  • Chapman, Paula. “Nativity Pastor Resigns.” High Gear. December 1978. Page 3.
  • Hampton, Hugh. “MCC Now NFC.” High Gear. November 1977. Page 16.
  • Iroio, Anthony. “Iroio Answers.” High Gear. January 1978. Page 17.
  • Lader, Peter A. “My Dear Friends.” High Gear. November 1979. Page 14.
  • “Nativity Relocates, Focuses on Gays’ Needs.” High Gear. September 1979. Page 22.
  • Sowers, Jack. “God Loves Lesbians and Gays.” High Gear. June 1985. Page 5.
9312 Madison Ave., Cleveland, OH 44102 (Nativity Fellowship Church).

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