Friday, April 16, 2010

Community Of Christ 2010 Conference Delegates Approve Proposed Section 164 Of Doctrine And Covenants, Liberalization Of Gay Policy Expected To Follow

John Hamer has provided more insight on By Common Consent into the ongoing Community of Christ 2010 World Conference, and discloses that delegates have approved the canonization of President Stephen M. Veazey's "Counsel to the Church" as Section 164 of their version of the Doctrine and Covenants. As a result, according to the April 15th Conference minutes, 17 related legislative proposals slated for consideration have been tabled because they are now considered redundant, as follows:

G-1 Marriage Couple
G-2 Priesthood Authorized to Officiate at Same-sex Marriages Where Legal
G-4 Legal Marriage and the Sacrament of Marriage
G-5 Policy on Priesthood
G-6 Equal Access to Church Sacraments
G-9 Resolution on Human Rights
G-12 Full Inclusion
G-13 Policy on Priesthood
G-14 Legal Marriage and Sacrament of Marriage
G-16 Request to Authorize Ordinations
G-18 Blessing of Committed Relationships
G-21 Common Consent on Definition of Marriage
G-22 Common Consent on Officiating in Same-sex Marriages
G-23 Common Consent for Not Ordaining Homosexuals
G-25 Same-gender Marriage and Commitment Ceremonies
G-26 Giftedness, Diversity, and Priesthood
G-27 Policy on Priesthood

You can read the list of all 28 legislative proposals HERE. Hamer also provides insight as to how the approval process proceeded:

(1). President Veazey recused himself and left the chamber, leaving Presidents David D. Schaal and Becky L. Savage to preside.

(2). The Quorum of the First Presidency urged approval of the document.

(3). The Council of Twelve likewise unanimously bore witness that the prophetic counsel was the word of God to the church.

(4). The Presidents of the Seventy reported that all seven quorums had approved the counsel section by section, but that two quorums of Seventy had nonetheless expressed concerns about certain verses.

(5). The Order of Bishops approved, as did the Youth & Children’s Caucus, the French Language Caucus, and the Spanish Language Caucus; the secretary of the Tahitian Language Caucus noted that their approval had been unanimous.

(6). Full approval was then urged by the Delegate Caucus, the Elder’s Mass Meeting, the Aaronic Mass Meeting, the Quorum of High Priests, and finally the Order of Evangelists (patriarchs).

(7). The World Conference then proceeded to consider the document, discussing and voting on each section before discussing and voting on the whole. When each section came up for a vote, it passed overwhelmingly.

(8). Finally, the document as a whole was presented for discussion and was, in turn, approved — it will now be canonized as Section 164 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Contrast this process to the way the LDS Church would add a section to their Doctrine & Covenants. In their case, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve would discuss the issue, and then if unanimous consensus was achieved, the change would be presented to LDS congregations worldwide for a sustaining vote. Most likely a change of such a magnitude would first be presented to the membership at one of the twice-annual General Conferences. This is how the revelation extending Priesthood membership to worthy Black men was implemented in 1978.

So what exactly was approved? In this follow-up comment, Hamer reveals that Section 164 constitutes the numbered part of President Veazey's "Counsel to the Church"; the italicized portions represent preambles and postscript. Hamer does not make it clear whether or not the preambles and postscripts will also be included in the final product. For clarity, I've isolated and re-posted the numbered parts below:

1 All who actively engaged in prayer, discussion, and discernment about important issues in the church’s life are commended for your faithful response. Your disciplined effort to open your lives more fully to God’s Spirit in response to the call to be a prophetic people has become a blessing to the entire church. Your spiritual yearning for light and truth has created a favorable environment for the Spirit’s movement to provide inspired counsel as authoritative guidance for the church.

2 a. Instruction given previously about baptism was proper to ensure the rise and cohesiveness of the church during its early development and in following years. However, as a growing number have come to understand, the redemptive action of God in Christ—while uniquely and authoritatively expressed through the church—is not confined solely to the church.

b. God’s grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, freely moves throughout creation, often beyond human perception, to achieve divine purposes in people’s lives. In harmony with God’s will, the Holy Spirit leads some people already committed to Jesus Christ through Christian baptism to further focus their response through church membership.

c. Individuals previously baptized of water in an attitude of humility and repentance and as an expression of faith in Jesus Christ may become church members through the sacrament of confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

d. Confirmation should follow a time of intentional preparation that includes exploring the church’s mission, beliefs, and understanding of discipleship expressed through covenant with God and others in sacred community.

e. During the confirmation prayer include an acknowledgement of the grace and authority of Jesus Christ through which baptism occurs. Also, bear witness to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, which weaves people’s giftedness into beautiful patterns of community to enrich their discipleship and to strengthen the fabric of the church.

3 a. All church members are urged to examine the depth of your baptismal commitment. Having been baptized and confirmed, become fully immersed in the servant life of Christ.

b. Live the meaning of your baptism daily as you grow in the skills and qualities of discipleship. Actively and generously support the ministries of the church, which was divinely established to restore Christ’s covenant of peace, even the Zion of your hopes.

c. The Eternal Christ invites those who have yet to experience the blessings of baptism to “Follow me in the way of righteousness and peace.” Be baptized of water and the Spirit and discover your spiritual home as a fully functioning member of the body.

4 a. Serve the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to all committed followers of Christ as a visible witness of loving Christian fellowship and shared remembrance of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Individuals may choose whether or not to receive the emblems according to their faith and understanding in harmony with guidelines provided by the First Presidency.

b. This pastoral provision does not lessen additional meanings associated with this sacrament in the church’s life. When the church gathers for Communion, highlight the opportunity for members to reaffirm their baptismal covenant, to reconcile strained relationships, and to commit together to the church’s mission of promoting communities of generosity, justice, and peacefulness.

c. Explore all the ways the Lord’s Supper can spiritually form the church community into a true and living expression of the life, sacrifice, resurrection, and continuing presence of Christ. Inherent in this sacrament is the divine call for the church to be a sacramental offering for the blessing, healing, and peace of creation.

5 It is imperative to understand that when you are truly baptized into Christ you become part of a new creation. By taking on the life and mind of Christ, you increasingly view yourselves and others from a changed perspective. Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.

6 a. As revealed in Christ, God, the Creator of all, ultimately is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable. Such relationships are to be rooted in the principles of Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness, against which there is no law.

b. If the church more fully will understand and consistently apply these principles, questions arising about responsible human sexuality, gender identities, roles, and relationships; marriage; and other issues may be resolved according to God’s divine purposes. Be assured, nothing within these principles condones selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive relationships.

c. Faced with difficult questions, many properly turn to scripture to find insight and inspiration. Search the scriptures for the Living Word that brings life, healing, and hope to all. Embrace and proclaim these liberating truths.

7 a. A world-wide prophetic church must develop cultural awareness and sensitivity to distinguish between issues that should be addressed by the World Conference and those that are best resolved nationally or in other ways.

b. Fundamental principles of ethical behavior and relationships should be addressed by the World Conference. The Conference should not decide specific policies for all nations when those decisions likely will cause serious harm in some of them.

c. However, timely resolution of pressing issues in various nations is necessary for the restoring work of the gospel to move forward with all of its potential. Therefore, let the proper World Church officers act in their callings—as already provided in church law—to create and interpret church policies to meet the needs of the church in different nations in harmony with the principles contained in this counsel.

d. Where possible and appropriate, convene national or field conferences to provide opportunities for broader dialogue, understanding, and consent. In those gatherings, let the spirit of love, justice, and truth prevail.

8 a. The importance of evaluating and aligning ministerial roles and relationships to reach individuals and nations most effectively with the liberating truths of the gospel is always incumbent on the church.

b. For this purpose, the number of quorums of seventy and presidents of seventy may be adjusted at times to respond to evangelistic strategies in apostolic fields. The First Presidency, in concert with the Council of Twelve and the Council of Presidents of Seventy, will provide procedures for determining the number, makeup, and roles of quorums of seventy and presidents of seventy.

c. Let the evangelistic ministries of the church accelerate.

9 a. Beloved children of the Restoration, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely-led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.

b. When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.

c. This covenant entails sacramental living that respects and reveals God’s presence and reconciling activity in creation. It requires whole-life stewardship dedicated to expanding the church’s restoring ministries, especially those devoted to asserting the worth of persons, protecting the sacredness of creation, and relieving physical and spiritual suffering.

d. If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.

e. The challenges and opportunities are momentous. Will you remain hesitant in the shadows of your fears, insecurities, and competing loyalties? Or will you move forward in the light of your divinely instilled call and vision?

f. The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.

The results of Section 164:

(1). As previously noted, baptism by any other Christian denomination will be considered valid for someone migrating to the Community of Christ, regardless of whether the baptism was by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring. The Community of Christ itself will continue to perform baptism by full immersion only, and limit it to those eight years of age and older.

(2). The Community of Christ will now allow full participation for gay members (without discriminatory provisos). However, the new scripture pragmatically compromises by stating that policies will be implemented on a nation-by-nation basis. Policies regarding priesthood ordination and marriage equality are expected to follow soon in the church in the developed world.

Unofficial Community of Christ bloggers discussing this issue include BewareTheChicken, Todd Elkins, and MustardSeedManifesto. MustardSeedManifesto poses an interesting question. If homosexuality in the priesthood is determined on a local level, what would be the status of priesthood in locations where homosexual behaviors would not be accepted for priesthood? For example, a non-celibate gay priesthood member travels from his home in a location where gays are permitted to serve in the priesthood and visits a congregation where such behavior would prevent his ordination. Would his priesthood still be valid there?

And in this comment on By Common Consent, Rick Collins expresses concern about eventual conflict with Section 111 of the Community of Christ D&C (an 1835 statement on marriage that is no longer included in LDS D&Cs), which defines marriage as being between a male and a female. So while the baptism ruling may be unambiguous, the gay ruling is a long way from being unambiguous.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that the Community of Christ already has the resolution of the conflict between Section 111 and Section 164 vis-a-vis same sex marriage well in hand.

You may note the following:

The RLDS Church always claimed to be the legitimate continuation of the original church founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830.

Though the Community of Christ lays claim to being the sole legal corporate entity of the RLDS church, the CofC recently joined the National Council of churches. In joining, the CofC officials presented to the NCC, documentation purporting to demonstrate that the CofC is NOT the original 1830 church founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., but is instead a distinct ecclesiastical organization founded by Joseph Smith III in 1860.

By dissaociating itself from the original church, which was the source for Section 111 of the Community of Christ scripture volume Doctrine and Covenants, the CofC is making a play to enable it to disavow or annul Section 111 as not pertinent to the Community of Christ, being baggage left over from before the 1844-1852 split between the Mormon church and what became the RLDS Church.