When delegates to the week-long Community of Christ World Conference gather in Independence, Missouri, April 6, they will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Independence Temple dedication and the calling of two new apostles.

Prophet-President Stephen M. Veazey released a Letter of Counsel last Thursday presenting the call of Catherine C. Mambwe and David M. Nii as apostles and members of the Council of Twelve. They will fill vacancies left by the upcoming retirement of Linda L. Booth, current president of the Twelve, and Rick W. Maupin. Both are in their mid-60s, which is a typical retirement age for CofC leadership. Linda Booth, however, will continue to serve in various capacities on a voluntary basis at the direction of the First Presidency. Jane M. Gardner, the church’s presiding evangelist, will also retire from church employment but will continue to serve as leader of the Order of Evangelists.

Both apostles-to-be currently serve as bishops over significant territory. Bishops in Community of Christ primarily serve as financial officers, along with giving direction to Aaronic priesthood ministry as specified in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Catherine C. Mambwe

Catherine C. Mambwe, of Zambia, currently serves as bishop of the Africa Mission Field. Catherine previously served as mission center president and financial officer for the South Central Africa Mission Centre. Previously, she worked for the Zambian Ministry of Education as a basic and high school teacher in Chingola, Zambia. She also worked as a human development facilitator for Outreach International and served as secretary to ecumenical church groups in Zambia. Catherine received a teaching diploma from Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia, specializing in math, physics, chemistry, and biology. She also studied at Mansa Teachers’ Training College (MTTC), has 15 years teaching experience, and trained as an accounting technician. Catherine previously served as pastor and congregational financial officer in several CofC congregations. She will become the second apostle from Africa, joining Bunda C. Chibwe.

David M. Nii

David M. Nii is a native of Hilo, Hawaii, and currently serves as bishop of the USA Mission Field. He lives in the Denver, Colorado, area and has served as bishop for the Asia Mission Field, apostolic assistant for the West USA and West Central USA mission fields, president and financial officer for the Rocky Mountain USA Mission Center, bishop of Denver Stake, and stewardship minister for the West Central States Region. David received a bachelor of science in engineering from Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California, and a master of arts in religion from Park University, Parkville, Missouri (a program now part of Community of Christ Seminary at Graceland University). He also completed seminar courses in small group facilitation and business management. Before employment with Community of Christ, he worked as a petroleum production engineer and engineering consultant. He also ran an independent equipment brokerage business.

If these calls are approved by Conference delegates, the Council of 12 will have seven men and five women; also, there will be six apostles each from outside and within the USA:

Mareva M. Arnaud Tchong (French Polynesia)
Barbara L. Carter (USA)
Bunda C. Chibwe (Zambia)
Janné C. Grover (USA)
Ronald D. Harmon, Jr. (USA)
Richard C. N. James (Wales, U.K.)
Robin Linkhart (USA)
Lachlan Mackay (USA)
Catherine C. Mambwe (Zambia)
Carlos Enrique Mejia (Honduras)
David M. Nii (USA)
Arthur E. Smith (Canada)

Former CofC prophet-president W. Grant McMurray began the practice about two decades ago of separating top leadership changes from other prophetic counsel. Previously both were included in new sections added to the church’s Doctrine and Covenants. Also, President Veazey continues the practice of releasing letters of counsel with changes to the First Presidency, Council of 12, Presiding Bishopric, and Presiding Evangelist several weeks or months before World Conference.

Similarly, it’s become common for the prophet-president to offer “inspired counsel” at a World Conference, with instructions for the church at large to give it prayerful consideration before the next Conference is held, when it will be considered for inclusion in the Doctrine and Covenants. World Conferences are now held every three years at the church’s International Headquarters, which includes the 25-year-old Temple and the approximately 90-year-old Auditorium across the street.

President Veazey provided some additional information at the end of his letter, noting the considerable budgetary measures the church has taken over the past decade, in particular.

Questions have been asked about expense management related to World Church leadership positions during a time of budgetary and staff reductions. In response, I would like to provide the following information. During the past three years expenses for World Church Leadership Council positions have been reduced or offset as part of overall budget reductions. This has been achieved through various actions, such as:

1. Some World Church officers serving in full-time leadership positions while donating all or significant portions of their income back to the church as World Mission Tithes. On average, World Church Leadership Council members contribute 12 percent of their incomes to Worldwide Mission Tithes, in addition to local contributions.

2. Individuals have accepted added major responsibilities without additional salary. This has reduced the number of funded full-time World Church Leadership Council positions. This response frees funding to support other staff positions in the fields and at International Headquarters.

3. An integrated leadership model has reduced the number of full-time funded positions in the First Presidency and Presiding Bishopric. This approach frees funding for other field and International Headquarters positions. In the years ahead, if this Letter of Counsel is accepted, more than $200,000 (USD) in World Church Leadership Council expenses will be eliminated in addition to expenses already reduced from 2016–2019. Much of this amount will be achieved through actions anticipated in this Letter of Counsel.

Noting the steps described above is not meant to suggest WCLC members are doing more than others. Numerous paid staff members have taken on additional responsibilities while increasing their tithing. Also, many church members tithe generously, fulfill multiple responsibilities, and serve in self-sustaining roles in all arenas of church life. The commitment, generosity, and service of all is valued greatly and deeply appreciated.

This information is meant to answer questions about whether WCLC personnel expenses have been decreased during a period of overall expense reductions. Hopefully, these facts provide helpful answers and assurance of our mutual response.

  1. The CofC and LDS churches take different approaches to calling individuals to the leading quorums. What could each learn from the other?
  2. How significant is the gender and nationality balance in the CofC Council of 12?
  3. Twenty-five years after dedicating the Independence Temple to the “pursuit of peace,” a daily prayer for peace is held midday in the Temple sanctuary, recognizing a different nation each day. How do you think that has affected both the church and the world?

*Header photo credit: Americasroof at English Wikipedia