On the heels of the just-concluded 180th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the "other guys" are preparing for their own world conference. The "other guys" being, of course, the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). Not very much discussion of this conference around the web; the only discussion I've seen outside the official Community of Christ environment is on Cougarguard, although a member of their church published this Examiner article back in March. Photo at left courtesy of Velton Peabody. Since this post, the Blue Springs Examiner and the Kansas City Star have also published stories.
The Community of Christ's World Conference is different - and lengthier - than the LDS Conference. A dedicated World Conference page provides all the details. Unlike the LDS Conferences which are held twice per year, the Community of Christ Conferences occur every three years. Their 2010 conference is actually the 150th anniversary of the very first conference in 1860, at which time Joseph Smith III accepted his prophetic calling and became the first president of their church. The entire conference period extends from April 7th through April 21st, 2010, and is broken down into an International Leaders Meeting from April 7-9, the official World Conference from April 10-17, and another International Leaders Meeting from April 19-21. Their registration booth at their Auditorium opens as early as 9 A.M. (CDT) on April 5th. Registration is encouraged but not required to attend the Conference; online registration is available. [Ed. Note: Hat tip to Velton Peabody for providing corrected information on the registration process.]
The schedule of activities is fully packed. You will notice a number of terms not associated with an LDS Conference, such as "legislation", "caucuses", and "delegates". This is because they have a broader concept of common consent than the LDS Church. While the LDS Church makes policy and calling decisions behind closed doors, then presents those decisions to a congregation for a sustaining vote, the Community of Christ prefers a more transparent and deliberative approach. There are 28 pieces of legislation proposed by one Community of Christ team and 14 mission centers from across the world and submitted to the 2010 World Conference for deliberation. Delegates and members will join the World Church Leadership Council in prayer, discussion, and discernment, with the intent that the Holy Spirit will move in World Conference legislative sessions to help delegates make sound decisions. Much of this was first prompted by President Steve Veazey's Counsel to the Church given on January 17th, 2010. Here is what President Veazey said about the same-sex issue:
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.
6 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.
6 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.
This seems to leave some latitude for deliberation.
Nevertheless, the fact that there are 28 separate proposals on the table doesn't mean there are 28 separate issues to consider. Many of the pieces of legislation propose different resolutions of the same issue. For example, 14 of the 28 proposals deal with homosexuality in one way or another, in terms of marriage, marriage solemnization, church membership, and priesthood ordination. Some of these are actually competing proposals. So the issue of homosexuality will be a major topic of discussion, and could even lead to the canonization of new policy as a new section in their Doctrine and Covenants. Discussion sessions on some ancillary items, such as Human Trafficking, Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, and World Trade Day are scheduled for April 10th. Ancillary issues like those might attract unfavorable commentary from Glenn Beck, since he believes social justice by churches should be limited strictly to the humanitarian realm and not address political issues. Some of the services held during the World Conference will be webcast, although none of the legislative sessions will be webcast.
It'll be interesting to see what emerges from this conference on the issue of homosexuality. It has the potential to be controversial, although the resultant decision is unlikely to cause the attrition the Community of Christ experienced after their revelation to confer the Priesthood upon women in 1984. That decision is said to have cost them up to 20 percent of their membership, and led to the formation of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We can only hope they make wise decisions influenced by the Holy Spirit, and wish them a successful conference.