Here is another guest post by Rich Brown, a member of the Community of Christ.
It used to be that World Conference delegates in the Community of Christ arrived in Independence, Missouri, wondering if the church’s prophet-president would submit an inspired document to be considered for inclusion in the Doctrine and Covenants. When they arrive the first week in June, they don’t have to wonder.
On April 6 President Stephen M. Veazey posted just such a document on the church’s website: http://www.cofchrist.org/Common/Cms/resources/Documents/WordsofCounsel04-05-2016.pdf
No doubt he picked that date because it was the church’s “twin birthday”: 186 years since its founding and 156 since its reorganization. Unlike previous years, particularly when the church was known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), this move caught nobody off guard. After all, the church had three years advance notice.
In April 2013 President Veazey offered inspired counsel to that conference, asking the church to live with the document, until at least the next scheduled gathering. He addressed the church five times by web video, followed by live Q&A sessions. The church’s monthly magazine also featured regular commentaries. Here’s what he wrote in the preface a couple weeks ago:
“For three years the church prayerfully studied the words of counsel given in 2013. The Holy Spirit confirms the church would be blessed by considering this counsel for inclusion in the Doctrine and Covenants. This document is offered humbly for that purpose as an expression of our cherished principle of Continuing Revelation. While preparing the final document, I stayed open to more divine direction that might enhance the church’s understanding now or in the future. Guidance refined some sentences. In several instances, it also added content for reasons known to God. I also considered prayerfully what portions of the words of counsel applied specifically to when they were given and did not necessarily need to be in the Doctrine and Covenants. So some sentences have been removed. Those sentences either have fulfilled their purposes, or the concepts they highlighted are expressed sufficiently elsewhere in the Doctrine and Covenants. The testimony I offer is assurance that God, the eternal One, lovingly and patiently guides the church according to divine purposes. Let us be grateful for that guidance. May it serve as a pathway of light and hope for all who seek to follow God’s will.”
There’s maybe nothing earth-shatteringly new, at least to Community of Christ members. Early on he focuses on generosity and tithing, which is a sensitive topic to be addressed at the conference through a common-consent process similar to the way national conferences dealt with same-sex ordination and marriage a few years ago:
“Free the full capacity of Christ’s mission through generosity that imitates God’s generosity. Listen to the testimonies of those responding generously. Follow your soul’s yearning to come home to God’s grace and generosity. Let gratitude show you the way. Remember, a basic discipleship principle is growing Christ’s mission through local and world mission tithes according to true capacity. Giving to other worthwhile organizations, while an important part of A Disciple’s Generous Response, should not diminish or replace mission tithes. Tithing is a spiritual practice that demonstrates willingness to offer every dimension of one’s life to God. When defined by faith, love, and hopeful planning, including resolving unwise debt, capacity to respond becomes much greater than initially assumed. Stewardship as response to the ministry of Christ is more than individual giving. It includes the generosity of congregations and jurisdictions that give to worldwide ministries of the church to strengthen community in Christ in all nations. Sharing for the common good is the spirit of Zion.” (paragraph 2)
This is followed by a renewed commitment to human diversity:
“More fully embody your oneness and equality in Jesus Christ. Oneness and equality in Christ are realized through the waters of baptism, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and sustained through the sacrament of Communion. Embrace the full meaning of these sacraments and be spiritually joined in Christ as never before. However, it is not right to profess oneness and equality in Christ through sacramental covenants and then to deny them by word or action. Such behavior wounds Christ’s body and denies what is resolved eternally in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You do not fully understand many interrelated processes of human creation. Through its wonderful complexity, creation produces diversity and order. Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature. Oneness and equality in Christ do not mean uniformity. They mean Unity in Diversity and relating in Christ-like love to the circumstances of others as if they were one’s own. They also mean full opportunity for people to experience human worth and related rights, including expressing God-given giftedness in the church and society.” (paragraph 3)
This emphasis could well be in response to an unexpected number of LDS Seekers recently. Nobody wants even the appearance of proselytizing, given the friendly relationship between the two churches. But with a growing number of LDS young adults investigating the church, leaders sensed an opportunity to create a welcoming sanctuary, especially for those desiring greater participation for women and the LGBT community. Events in the LDS church in the past few months have accelerated the movement. Unfortunately, for mainly historical reasons, there aren’t a great many Community of Christ congregations in the intermountain west. Still, the Salt Lake City congregation, in particular, has been reinvigorated, as have other congregations and start-up mission groups.
One sign church leaders have high hopes in this area is the calling of Robin Linkhart to the Council of Twelve Apostles. As a President of Seventy and SLC pastor, she has guided the LDS Seeker movement up to now (www.latter-dayseekers.org/ ) and will continue to give it direction in her new role in the Council of Twelve. (A full list of top leadership changes is here: www.cofchrist.org/Common/Cms/documents/LetterofCounsel03-31-16.pdf )
What are your thoughts concerning this revelation? Are you surprised to hear that the Community of Christ is experiencing an influx of LDS members due to the LDS Church’s stance on LGBT issues? What are your thoughts that a renewed emphasis on tithing was an important part of this revelation? Do you like the fact that the Community of Christ continues to add revelations to the Doctrine & Covenants?