The week-long conference in Independence, Missouri, wrapped up Friday afternoon. Although numerous items of legislation were passed by the approximately 1,800 delegates, what was most evident was the international and gender-based diversity on display.

A majority of the prayers offered by Conference participants were in languages other than English, without translation. Many of the songs performed by small groups, as well as congregational hymns, were also in multiple languages. The photo above was of one of the giant screens in the conference chamber, showing lyrics in multiple languages for “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning,” during Thursday evening’s worship service. (Archived videos of worship services can be found here.)

Changes in leadership were notable. The new president of the Council of Twelve Apostles (Mareva Arnuad of French Polynesia) is the first non-native English speaker in that role. She is also one of six women in the Twelve, the largest number ever, and one of seven apostles born outside the USA.. One of the counselors in the Presiding Bishopric (Wim van Klinken, from the Netherlands), is the first person in the PB from outside the USA, as well. For the first time the Senior President of the Quorums of Seventy is a woman. The Standing High Council now has its first high-priest members from Honduras and India, as well as an African-American from Iowa.

Some importantlegislation was approved:

Baptism and Memberahip: The delegates formally requested the prophet-president, Stephan M. Veazey, to seek divine guidance on whether persons baptized before the age of eight in other Christian denominations may become members of Community of Christ via confirmation after having attained the age of eight. Currently, this option is available only to those baptized elsewhere after the age of eight.

The Climate Emergency: All Community of Christ jurisdictions (world church, national churches, mission centers, and congregations) are encouraged to take responsibility for reducing carbon emissions. The Earth Stewardship Team will identify and help develop resources and ways of doing that.

Racial Justice: The Church commits to eliminating institutional racism with a goal of an inclusive church in an inclusive society, and that this will be achieved through prayer, discernment, worship, love, justice, and nonviolent advocacy.

Universal Scripture Access: Delegates narrowly defeated a resolution that would have requested the First Presidency to formally study the possibility of providing free, online access to the church’s three books of sacred scripture. Much of the concern had to do with allocation of staff and financial resources when there are more pressing needs.

Marriage: Does not change existing doctrine or practice, but establishes a process whereby apostles may recommend, with approval of First Presidency, adaptations in some national and cultural situations. Monogamy and the church’s Enduring Principles remain as core guidance.

Recommendation on Removing Doctrine & Covenants Section 116: Referred to the First Presidency, because of the complex historical, social, and theological issues involved. That section originated in 1865, about a month after the end of the U.S. Civil War. Apparently some members of the Reorganization had been influenced by Brigham Young’s 1847 ban on Blacks in the priesthood, and Joseph Smith III considered that and other factors before presenting the statement. Leaders and delegates were cautioned against using “presentism” (judging past actions according to current standards) in situations such as this.

Compassion for Refugees / UN World Refugee Day: Delegates added climate as a category of refugees, then passed the resolution which will create an annual Refugee Day on the church calendar in June; the resolution encourages jurisictions to actively support efforts to assist refugees.

Organization of Additional Jurisdictional Units: The First Presidency was authorized, through a change in the church’s bylaws, to organize additional forms of organizational units not currently in use, or presently foreseen or anticipated.. These may be based on national or physical boundaries or no geographic designations (such as virtual or online groups).

Items Referred to First Presidency Due to Lack of Time: Resolutions decrying Christian Zionism and seeking further clarification on the church’s stance regarding nonviolence; and clarification of the audting and budget process,

A personal note: I have attended a great many World Conferences of the Community of Christ (before 2001, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or RLDS Church). I recall from decades ago looking to the rostrum at Conference, seeing an all-male priesthood (with men almost always wearing dark suits, white shirts, and ties) presiding. English was by far the language used (with translations provided to those few delegates who needed it). Worship services were formal and relatively standardized (preaching services each evening by a top church leader). In short, those memories seem far, far away and vastly different from today.

I still grieve the loss over those decades of thousands of church members who left, primarily conservative/traditionalists but also including a fair number of progressives who believed change was taking too long as well as some folks who simply got tired of all the bickering over small and major matters. Transformation of the church has picked up steam during the past decade or so. This World Conference more fully reflects the characteristics of our international faith community than ever before. And yes, the Community of Christ still faces major challenges in the years ahead, particularly in regard to demographics and finances. As well, this old, unilingual, white guy sometimes felt unsure of just what was going on at times. (At least I’ve not reached the “Get off my lawn!” stage.) Yet because of it all, I remain hopeful as our journey continues.