Monday, April 22, 2013

Community Of Christ Concludes 2013 World Conference, Conditionally Approves Gay Marriage At Separate USA National Conference

The Community of Christ concluded its 2013 World Conference which took place from April 13-18, and the most significant legislative development of this conference was the decision to rescind General Conference Resolution (GCR) 297, which made the issue of whether or not a person drinks intoxicating beverages a test of fellowship. If it was enforced, it would mean that a church member who drinks an alcoholic beverage could be excommunicated from the church. By rescinding GCR 297, the Conference decided that excommunicating someone merely because they drink alcohol is not a requirement. Rescinding GCR 297 does NOT repeal the Word of Wisdom. In another decision, there is no change to the Community of Christ's baptism policy, only a call for a study about the issue of infant baptism with a report back to the church by the next World Conference.

Visit the 2013 World Conference page and review the official business minutes for each day for more information on other discussions and decisions.

But the more momentous decision actually occurred at the separate 2013 USA National Conference, which convened from April 19-21. This Conference essentially approved gay marriage to be performed wherever it is legal, and commitment services for gay couples where gay marriage is not legal. The decision, if approved by the senior church leadership, would apply only in the United States. Kendra Friend, a member of the church’s communications and media relations team, believes the First Presidency and Council of The Twelve will follow the recommendations of the National Conference. Apostle Linda Booth provided an explanation to KSHB Channel 41: “We believe this is where God is directing Community of Christ, to be an inclusive body where everyone is welcome...We will be able to provide covenant commitment ceremonies in this state, where it's not legal, for anyone who wants to make a long-term life commitment to one another", said Booth. News video embedded below:



The Blue Springs Examiner has some good media coverage, publishing the following stories:

-- "Veazey counsels followers to shape communities", April 16th 2013: Discusses President Stephen M. Veazey's Words Of Counsel to the church. President Veazey urged church members to continue to shape communities that live Christ’s love and mission, and to shape their actions to end people’s suffering and abolish poverty. Read the full text of President Veazey's address HERE.

-- "Service to host community part of World Conference", April 18th 2013: Discusses Jessica Ralston's tasking to lead one of the community service projects during the 2013 World Conference. Ralston headed up a group of volunteers who put together more than 250 necessity bags for the Independence School District’s Family Services Department. In 2012, the Family Services Department helped about 900 homeless children and their families, so this is significant.

-- "Community of Christ celebrates ordinations", April 18th 2013: Reports on the ordination of three new members of the Council of Twelve Apostles: Arthur E. Smith of Independence, Barbara L. Carter of Newark, Del., and Mareva M. Arnaud Tchong of Tahiti, French Polynesia. Adam R. Wade, a native of Melbourne, Australia, was also set apart as a president of Seventy and member of the Council of Presidents of Seventy.

-- "Woman elected to serve as president of Council of Twelve Apostles", April 20th 2013: Linda Booth, already a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, was set apart to serve as president of the Council of Twelve Apostles April 17th. She is the first woman to serve as president of the Council.

And here are two stories from the Examiner about the separate USA National Conference that took place from April 19-21 after the conclusion of the World Conference on April 18th:

-- "Community of Christ U.S. delegates address same sex marriage", April 20th 2013: Reports on the efforts of delegates to address two issues – same-sex/gender marriage where legal, and covenant commitment services where marriage is not legal and the ordination of people regardless of sexual orientation. A 67 percent majority would be required to make recommendations to the First Presidency and Council of Twelve Apostles for the final decision.

-- "Community of Christ delegates recommend dropping sexual orientation barriers", April 21st 2013: Delegates decided that the Community of Christ should recognize same-sex marriage where legal in the U.S., offer commitment services for same-sex couples where marriage is not legal, and open the door to priesthood regardless of sexual orientation. The policy changes would apply only to the U.S. churches; current policy will still apply in other nations. Read the full proposal HERE. The First Presidency and the Council of Twelve Apostles would have to approve the proposal before it takes effect.

Update April 27th: A member of the Community of Christ has provided a good personal analysis of the decision-making at the Conference. FireTag says there is some strong anecdotal evidence to support the interpretation that the CofChrist is following other mainline American churches into a future where denominationally-affiliated Americans sort into “red” and “blue” versions of the same religious tradition, but the “blue” denominations will be increasingly checked in areas of personal morality by the ethics of the developing world members. FireTag also opines that the leadership of the CofChrist has now established the precedent, in two successive conferences at minimum, that their view of their pastoral, presiding, and/or prophetic roles will not countenance allowing statements of moral principles by subordinate jurisdictions or the World Conference to endanger church members or leaders in individual jurisdictions of the church. They reserve the right to inject morality into politically charged issues to themselves or to those who they choose to delegate with the task. They did, for example, rule out of order, a resolution asking for restraint on a First Presidency statement on United States (and solely United States) immigration policy. They permitted and the conference passed, with a single word change, a resolution directing the church to advocate the abolition of nuclear weapons, although the church has significant presence in only one nuclear weapons state where advocacy regarding aspects of security policy is tolerated.

In FireTag's opinion, the American membership of the Community of Christ is more progressive, or "blue", than the foreign membership.

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