Rev. John G. Fee, along with his wife, Matilda, founded Berea College out of convictions grounded in a particular understanding of Christian scripture. Fee believed deeply that the words “impartial love” were the most accurate to summarize the Christian gospel found in the New Testament. And so it was this idea, the gospel of impartial love, that informed the identity and values of Berea College, making it the first coeducational, interracial college in the South.
Rev. Fee was educated, trained, and ordained in the Presbyterian Church tradition. He attended the Presbyterian Church’s Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, which was at the center of the abolitionist movement at the time. There, he became active with the American Missionary Association which was instrumental in founding many of the historically black colleges and universities, including Howard University in Washington, D.C.
While Fee would later come into conflict and eventually sever ties with the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky over his view that the church should refuse fellowship to slaveholders, one may be able to draw a connection between his theological training as applied to the major social issues of the day: gender equality and slavery.