How My Traditional Values Went from Being a Prison to a Home

ADBA Seminar Series

Rev. Fred Harrel (he/him/his)
Sr. Pastor, City Church San Francisco
City Church San Francisco

7:00 pm, March 8th, 2022
Online Zoom Meeting

How My Traditional Values Went from Being a Prison to a Home

Assyrian Christianity (in its various forms from ancient traditions of the Assyrian Church of the East, Various Syriac Catholic and Orthodox traditions, the Chaldean Catholic tradition, as well as various Presbyterian, Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions) is an important part of what we know as Modern Assyrian Identity. A lot of Assyrians on the progressive and democratic side of the political spectrum in particular in the United States, however see their political views in contradiction with main stream leadership in these churches.

While we are a political club, and not a religious organization, we think healthy discussions on the issue of religion and our traditional values is necessary. For this reason we invited Rev. Fred Harrell of City Church of San Francisco to talk about his journey as a church leader and challenges he has faced in a changing world.


I was raised in an evangelical church and home that was by all accounts, balanced, respectful, and open-minded. But something happened in the late 70s and early 80s that would impact me deeply. The balanced, respectful, and open-minded traits I grew up with were beginning to be seen as negative. “Balanced” now meant I was compromising. “Respectful” just meant I was afraid and cowardly. “Open-Minded” just meant I was susceptible to ‘secularism’ and all the horrors of anything outside of my evangelical bubble. I searched outside my Southern Baptist setting, only to land in an equally toxic environment, but it was intellectually stronger than my previous church so I stayed, and worked for change. The story of my evolving faith has not led me away from my faith, but strengthened it. I began to listen hard to the voices of people who were marginalized and then I realized those are the people Jesus stood in solidarity with in the pages of the New Testament. Everything in my life began to shift. Many of those I was taught to demonize‚Ķwere actually more aligned with Jesus than I realized. If you are wondering if there is another way to hold your faith, hold your traditional values, without them being a prison, maybe this seminar is for you. Those values are a home, not a prison, and from that place we can evolve and change in all the best ways to work for equity for all.

About Rev. Fred Harrell

Rev. Fred Harrell
Rev. Fred Harrell

Fred is a native of Central Florida and a graduate of the University of Florida and Reformed Theological Seminary. Fred founded City Church San Francisco. ( in 1996 and led it to a congregation of over 1800 congregants (1000+ weekly avg). Fred led the church to an egalitarian position in 2006, cutting ties with the Presbyterian Church in America, and realigning with the Reformed Church in America. In 2015 Fred led City Church to an open and affirming position for those in the LGBTQ community. The church went from 1400 total congregants, 3 services, and 2 locations to its current ~ 750 congregants (350+ weekly average), and one service in one location. Fred has no regrets and City Church is now a grateful beneficiary of many LGBTQ spiritual seekers and Jesus followers who have found City Church to be their spiritual home. Over its 24 years, City Church San Francisco has created auxiliary ministries in Counseling, Education, and Social Transformation.