John Fee was a faithful abolitionist and vowed “to love thy neighbor as thyself.” Fee, a pastor in Kentucky, preached against slavery. Fee received a lot of backlash for his anti-slavery messages in a pro-slavery setting. Despite his conflicts, he remained firm in his beliefs and continued to fight against slavery. Fee also founded the first racially-integrated college in the Southern United States.
In preaching against slavery, Fee encountered resistance due to his view that Christians shouldn’t fellowship with slave owners. Fee was forced to leave his church. Undaunted by this rejection, Fee founded Berea, Kentucky in 1853. He continued preaching and founded the first interracial college in the South, Berea College, which began as a single room that served as the classroom and church building. Fee also served as a chaplain for African American soldiers at Camp Nelson.
In his autobiography, Fee described one of his sermons and wrote, “I selected the text, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.’ I showed that human slavery was plainly a violation of this fundamental principle of the Christian religion. I then considered the various texts in the Old and New Testaments assumed as sanctions of slavery. I showed that such assumptions were wrong; that the precepts of Christianity must be construed in harmony with its fundamental principles, and that slavery was sinful as certainly as any- thing in human action could be sinful.”
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Fee was driven to unite the church on core beliefs, rather than dividing it over denominational issues. Fee addressed the Christian Union Convention and advocated for the unity of the church body in Jesus. He stated, “This faith in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, induced as it is by the truth and Spirit of God, carries with it a radical change in the believer; an entire conformity of will, of affection, of life to the Lord Jesus.” Fee believed that Jesus could transform lives and that He is the source of true unity in humanity.
Fee continued, “Whilst, then, the true followers of Christ are, by their new birth, their baptism, their worship, their lives, separated from the world, they are not to be separated one from another; they are to be one body, wearing the one name, - the name of Christ, their head. But the division of the body of believers into sects, parties, and this on mere opinions about doctrines, rites or polities, with names by which to designate these separate parties, is not right. Such separation is the sin of schism, condemned by the Word of God, and deplored by good men and women.” Uniting the church was crucial to Fee, and he believed that faith in Jesus was the source of unity and truth.