The Community of Christ World Conference officially gets underway today at its International Headquarters in Independence, Missouri. The more than 1,400 delegates from around the world have been arriving this week for the week-long conference, delayed a year by the Covid pandemic.

So, just what’s going to happen? First thing to keep in mind, it’ll be nothing like the semiannual general conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing is your choice, of course.

CofC World Conferences are a mix of legislative sessions, large and typically joyful worship experiences, and multiple small-group sessions. I, for example, will be meeting each morning with other members of the Quorum of High Priests in the sanctuary of the historic Stone Church, about a hundred yards north of the Auditorium, across the Temple Lot. There are other meetings at the same time for the Quorums of Seventy, Order of Bishops, Order of Evangelists, Council of 12 Apostles, and mass meetings of Elders and Aaronic Priesthood.

The large legislative sessions and most of the worship experiences will be held in the Auditorium conference chamber, which normally has a seating capacity of 5,800. But that will be almost cut in half due to Covid protocals put in place this year. The sanctuary of the Temple, across the street, has a normal seating capacity of about 1,600, so reduced seating this year means it will not be used as a major venue as much as usual. Whenever indoors, delegates and visitors will be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks.

Worship Experiences: Many of the large worship services will be available online for anyone to view, using the church’s YouTube channel, including the following:

  • Saturday, April 22, International Peace Award Service in the Temple Sanctuary (7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time)
  • Sunday, April 23, Communion Service in the Auditorium (10:00 to 11:30 a.m.CDT); Time with the First Presidency in the Auditorium (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.CDT)
  • Monday, April 24, Worship Service in the Auditorium (7:00 to 8:30 p.m. CDT)
  • Tuesday, April 25, Ordination Service in the Auditorium (7:00 to 8:30 p.m. CDT [several new members of the Council of Twelve Apostles and members of the Presiding Bishopric]
  • Thursday, April 27, Worship Service in the Auditorium (7:00 to 8:30 p.m. CDT)
  • Friday, April 28, Sending Forth Worship Service in the Auditorium (3:45 to 4:30 p.m. CDT)

Legislation: Elected delegates, along with members of the leading quorums and orders of the church, will consider numerous policy changes and, in some cases, make recommendations to the First Presidency and/or prophet-president. Many proposals originated in mission centers (similar to LDS stakes) or national churches. Delegates will have opportunities to discuss legislation in smaller information gatherings. Legislative sessions will not be streamed online for the general public but available for people who register. A few delegates, unable to obtain visas, will participate online.

  • Climate Crisis: directing all jurisdictional levels to take responsibility for reducing carbon emissions, using a gospel perspective rather than partisan political platforms.
  • Doctrine & Covenants Section 116: Possibly moving this section (originally dated 1865) to a historical appendix because of what some now believe is its rascist approach to ordaining black men. (I wrote about this in a previous W&T blog post.)
  • Racial Justice: Acknowledging that racism is a sin, calling for renewed commitment in church and in national cultures to eliminate institutional racism.
  • Budget & Audit Process: To ensure even greater transparency in printed publications and online.
  • New Organizational Units: To authorize and organize additional forms of units (national, other than physical boundaries, or nongeographical designations), and encouraging online ministries and communities.
  • Baptism & membership: Request the prophet-president to seek guidance regarding possibly changing the minimal baptismal age from eight years.
  • Universal Screipture Access: Request First Presidency to look into providing digital editions of scripture at no charge.
  • Resolution on Marriage: Allows for some international contexual application (for example, Haitian immigrants to the Dominican Republic cannot get citizenship and get married, and therefore cannot be ordained).
  • Opposing Christian Zionism: Calling for CofC to reject any historical complicity in the narrative of Christian Zionism (which has similar roots to Christian Nationalism), thereby asking the First Presidency to promote eductional materials and advocacy tools.
  • Compassion for Refugees/UN World Refugee Day: Seeking solidarity and coordination with the UN World Refugee Day on June 20 (this would be similar to the church’s annual Racial Justice Day in January)

Discernment Process: Conference-goers will also engage in small- and large-group discernment activities related to President Stephan Veazey’s recent announcement that he will retire at the June 2025 World Conference. After a churchwide discernment process, he is expected to announce his successor in Spring 2024. More on that here.

  • Which legislative item interests (or possibly intrigues) you the most? Why? Can you relate it to an LDS context?
  • With upcoming ordinations, this marks the first time there will be an equal number of men and women in the Council of Twelve Apostles, as well as a majority of apostles born outside the USA. What might that mean for Community of. Christ going forward?
  • One legislative item calls for new forms of congregational units/communities, both physically present and online. Imagine what those might look like. How does that change the concept of church?

Photo Credit: Brian Seever of Quimby Pipe Organs took this photo after tuning the antiphonal organ at the rear of the Auditorium conference chamber, looking out over the horizontal trumpet en chamade pipes. His company maintains and tunes the Auditorium’s Aeolian-Skinner organ and the Casavant organ in the Temple.