Changes to the Fellowship's organization led to its demise
The Siceloffs discuss how the purpose of the Fellowship evolved with its name change, from an integrated grassroots field work group to an intellectual, organizational endeavor. They explain how Will Campbell's personality embraced his philosophy of merging different ideas together. However, in his efforts to combine the different strategies—field work and intellectual work—the Fellowship was destroyed.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
I guess in thinking of my impressions of the difference, I think of the
Fellowship of Southern Churchmen as being a vehicle for Will Campbell to
do the things that he's called to do. I really don't have any vision of
that as an organization. I think he's a prophet who's out there
prophesying and crying in the wilderness and doing outrageous
This is a sideline. He's trying to put together, trying to get a national
grant to put together the people in the pro-life movement and the folks
in the antinuclear movement and the folks in the environmental issues
and the anti-death penalty folks. To get those together at a national
level all over then try to organize some local coalitions of these
groups. And you talk about a weird bunch.
Reconciliation! The way Will always liked to work with the Klan. Keep in
What I remember as the Fellowship, it seemed to me to be more of a
grassroots group in which you would try to have a well-integrated group
get together periodically and have this idea and bought the property and
had long-term plans for carrying out that. People were encouraged to
build homes and buy lots from these slots or whatever it was. Once the
changed its name, I got the impression that it was much more of an
intellectual organization with publications with names I never could
Even harder and more obscure than Prophetic Religion.
That was not exactly a catchy title for a magazine.
I never remember seeing notice of any meeting after that change.
No, there wasn't. Intentionally. Will didn't want to spend his time going
out and drumming up members for a membership organization.
That's his style. A totally different style.
Actually, I think what happened was that he got this grant from the Field
Foundation to the National Council of Churches and
the National Council he split and he needed an organization to house it
and that's why he went to the Fellowship.
I thought that he got cut off from the National Council. Did they finally
cut off his grant? Weren't we encouraged to write letters to the
The grant came with him.
Maybe they tried to but . . .
It seems to me that they were . . . he was being dismissed and they
rallied to get the National Council to keep him on.
I don't know whether that happened or not but at the split when he got
canned by the National Council because he just wanted to be a preacher.
That's the way he puts it. I haven't heard from the National Council
side. But I have copies of the correspondence going back and forth. I
haven't had time to dig into them. He had a grant from the Field
Foundation to do what he was doing in the South with the National
Council. So when the National Council fired him the grant stayed with
him. So then he went to the Fellowship office and said, "I
would like to house this grant with the Fellowship" and that's
how it got restructured.