Gay Rights Revelation added to the Community of Christ D&C (World Conference Part 2: April 12–15)


Delegates to the World Conference of the Community of Christ taking the historic vote.

This week I’ve been in Independence, Missouri, observing the history-making 2010 World Conference of the Community of Christ. As I mentioned in a previous post, World Conference is made up of delegates elected to represent the church’s Mission Centers (roughly equivalent to LDS Stakes or Regions), meeting together to discuss and vote on the business of the church. This year, two topics have been in the forefront of the agenda: (1) the role of gay members within the church, and (2) conditions of baptism.

Prior to World Conference, various Mission Centers across the church had passed resolutions calling on the church to embrace its stated values of “all are called” and “unity in diversity” by unambiguously allowing gay members to be ordained to the priesthood (without negative qualifiers or provisos) and to end discrimination in marriage on the basis of sexual orientation. These resolutions then come before the sessions of the World Conference and are considered according to parliamentary procedures. (These are conducted according Robert’s Rules with motions, seconding, discussion, questions of privilege, calling the question, and the like.)

Prior to considering any resolutions, the first business that came before the conference was whether or not to approve a new revelation brought to the church by President Stephen M. Veazey, the church’s 8th prophet. The approval of the World Conference means that the document (initially referred to as “prophetic counsel”) is added to the Community of Christ’s Doctrine and Covenants. Like the resolutions referred to the conference by the Mission Centers, the prophetic counsel addressed the issues facing GLBT members of the church and it also addressed the question of conditions of baptism. (On the latter issue, all Christian baptisms, including LDS baptisms, will be recognized as valid by the Community of Christ; rebaptism is now optional and membership in the Community of Christ will be conferred through confirmation.)

The process has been remarkable to witness. In the first two days, the prophetic counsel was referred to the various quorums, councils, caucuses, and mass meetings of the delegates. Each of these groups went through it section by section, discussed the sections, and voted on them. They then sent reports to the conference as a whole, meeting in parliamentary sessions beginning Tuesday.

As the counsel was deliberated, President Veazey left the chamber and Presidents David D. Schaal and Becky L. Savage were left to preside. The first order of business was to hear the reports, beginning with the Quorum of the First Presidency which urged approval of the document. The Council of Twelve likewise unanimously bore witness that the prophetic counsel was “the word of God to the church.” The Presidents of the Seventy reported that all seven quorums had approved the counsel section by section, but that two quorums of Seventy had nonetheless expressed concerns about certain verses. The Order of Bishops likewise approved, as did the Youth & Children’s Caucus, the French Language Caucus, and the Spanish Language Caucus. The secretary of the Tahitian Language Caucus noted that their approval had been unanimous. Full approval was then urged by the Delegate Caucus, the Elder’s Mass Meeting, the Aaronic Mass Meeting, the Quorum of High Priests, and finally the Order of Evangelists (patriarchs).


Presidents Schaal and Savage presided after President Veazey recused himself.

The World Conference then proceeded to consider the document, discussing and voting on each section before discussing and voting on the whole. Because the entire conference is translated into the many languages of the delegates, everyone was continuously reminded of the need to speak more slowly to give the translators adequate time. Before each discussion, President Savage read each preamble and verse at a speed that often seemed excruciatingly slow.


President Becky L. Savage of the First Presidency reading the document on a large viewer in the Community of Christ Auditorium.

After each section was read, delegates would register to speak for or against or to make motions. Generally for each section three to five persons made statements in favor and the same number made statements against, before a motion was received to “call the question” to the vote. These were periodically interrupted by “questions of privilege” which all related to delegates being unable to hear, translations being too fast, etc. The votes to call the question (that is, to cut off further debate) always passed near unanimously. Because the rules called for alternating between affirmative and negative speeches, the debate section made the question appear contested. However, when each section came up to the vote, it always passed overwhelmingly. Generally, the votes were 20-30 against, 5-15 abstaining, and nearly all of the remainder in favor (there is a total of 2,800 delegates).

Many of the speeches were emotional and included moving, personal tributes. Some delegates used scriptures to make their cases. (I should note that some of those speaking in favor of approval cited the Book of Mormon and the Inspired Version or Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.) Despite different viewpoints and the general volatility that often prevents dialogue on the subject of human sexuality, all the speakers remained respectful and thoughtful in their comments. Most of the opponents, while they could not agree with the majority, did register their appreciation for the process. One delegate noted that while he could not reconcile the document with his personal beliefs, he nevertheless “felt a reconciling spirit” in the conference.

Over the course of three parliamentary sessions (Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning, and Wednesday afternoon), each verse was accepted by overwhelming majorities. The document as a whole was then presented for discussion and was, in turn, approved — it will now be canonized as Section 164 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This brought nearly all the delegates, observers and leaders to their feet for a series of standing ovations. President Veazey then returned to the conference chamber, which rose and sang the traditional “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” albeit with newly adapted lyrics, and he too received a standing ovation.


Recognizing the occasion, the conference rose for several ovations.

Yesterday was truly history making, because this revelation does for gay members what the 1984 revelation (D&C 156) did for straight women. The Community of Christ will now be able to unambiguously allow full participation for gay members (without discriminatory provisos). However, the new scripture pragmatically compromises by stating that policies will be implemented on a nation by nation basis. In a way, this is like throwing a troublesome Federal issues back to the states. The only difference is that in this case one of the states is the whole U.S. And the U.S. is just as relatively dominant in the Community of Christ as it is in the LDS Church.

Given that the Community of Christ’s leadership is fully in support of ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the revelation means that unambiguous policies regarding priesthood ordination and marriage equality will follow soon in the church in the developed world (US, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) Probably much of Latin America and possibly the South Pacific are also on the relatively fast list. However, the revelation allows the church in the developing world (Haiti, Africa, India, SE Asia, China, etc.) to move more slowly as the members become more familiar with the issues involved.

Obviously, nothing’s ever done — total gender equality hasn’t been achieved even twenty-five years after the revelation that extended priesthood to women in the Community of Christ, just as gender equality hasn’t been achieved nationally nearly a century after women achieved the vote in the U.S. So nothing is ever done because history rolls ever onward, but it is clear that the Community of Christ has now crossed an incredible threshold.

I interviewed several delegates who reported a marvelous spirit that they felt filled the chamber when the final vote had been taken. One delegate said that after everything that has happened, this is why she’s a member of this church.

My friend Ron Romig told me that 40 years ago when the revolution began which led the RLDS Church to abandon close-minded provincialism to become an enlightened, inclusive church, his prayers were that he would live long enough to see it achieved. He felt yesterday that he had now done just that.

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Comments

  1. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Is the new section 164 available for reading?

  3. (#2) Yes, it can be found here. The italic sections are preambles and the postscript; the actual text is the numbered portion. (Community of Christ scripture has numbered and lettered verses.)

  4. John, thank you for a wonderful report. What a joy this must be for you and your family- and by extension, it is a joy to those that also love you. What a happy day, my friend!

  5. WOOOOHOOOO! Happy day! Thanks for the report, John.

  6. Awesome…just awesome.

  7. BTW: The AP is reporting on today’s session, in which they talk about how all the Mission Center resolutions have been tabled. The point the AP is missing is that the reason they were tabled is because the acceptance of D&C 164 makes them unnecessary. Probably church leaders would actually prefer the story be reported the way the AP has reported it and probably people will be a little worried about my blog headline…but, oh well.

  8. jesse hunt says:

    you made an error!! it is the LGBT, not the GLBT. otherwise keep moving along!!

  9. Chris Henrichsen says:

    Very cool. Thank you for the report.

  10. Jesse (#8): Thanks. I guess that’s the more frequent usage now (although the universal authority of Wikipedia accepts both). I always remember saying GLBT back in the day, but that was probably because of my own centrism as a gay male. I now have heard it said LGBTI with “i” for intersex people, and I probably should inclusively adopt that since it’s a string of initials anyway.

  11. Aaron Brown says:

    Really fascinating, John. I’m glad you’re here to share this with all of us.

  12. I’m really loving these write-ups, John. Keep ‘em coming!

  13. Who needs the MSM when you’ve got breaking news at the BCC?

  14. This is a very interesting look into CoC church government. I also appreciated the note about Ron. Thanks.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, John. I saw a news report about this, but the article supposedly quoted the new section and there was nothing about gay rights at all, it was just about baptism. The document I saw was way shorter than the one you link to, so apparently some editor just quoted from the document and quoted the wrong part.

    Did you happen to know other gay persons who were present? In a way your presence to witness this contributed to its historic nature.

  16. Kevin (#15): Yes, I attended the conference reception for Gay and Lesbian Acceptance (GALA) and the Welcoming Community Network (WCN) — GALA is the Community of Christ’s equivalent of LDS Affirmation and WCN is a network of Community of Christ congregations which have gone through discernment, dialogue, and training in order understand the issues and be fully welcoming to gay people. The mood at the reception was absolutely celebratory. Awards were given to the founders of the movements (including awards for Bill Russell and Barbara & Dick Howard, all of whom some LDS folks know). I felt the awards were almost saying, “we made it” and now we’re recognizing the folks who got us here.

    Obviously, a lot of people are dissatisfied with allowing a double track — gay people are facing discrimination in the developing world that is horrifically intolerable. The recent legislative moves in Uganda to execute people for being gay is an example of the intensity of the issue. Indeed, the verse of D&C 164 that allows the two tracks compromise got by far the most “No” votes — probably double the others — because it received many “Nos” from the left.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Absolutely fascinating. Thanks for that extra detail, John.

    I think I’m coming down with a bad case of holy envy…

  18. John,
    You mentioned “No” votes in (16), but you mentioned several votes of unanimity in the OP–so I assume these were different bodies or different votes? Could you explain what you mean by “No” votes? How many “Nos” would it have taken to alter the outcome–simple majority? Or a majority of the quorums? Or was the voting more symbolic, and ultimately would not have changed the leading body’s decision?

  19. Just some details and thoughts on Section 164 on the LGBT issue: My understanding of the passage of this section does not necessarily overrule the 1982 prohibition on priesthood engaging in homosexual relationships. It does however give authority to national conferences to change the policy within their area to remove that prohibition.

    This does not answer to me the question of how far up the priesthood heirarchy LGBT members can go. For example, calls to offices like Evangelist and Seventy must come from World Church officers. It could be as limited as the Aaronic Priesthood, Elders and High Priests called by Mission Centre Presidents.
    At very least, without changing the policy at World Church level it would mean that LGBT members could not serve in the presiding quorums.

    I’ve explored this a little bit in a blog posting (found at: http://mustardseedmanifesto.wordpress.com/2010/04)/11/localizing-conferences-effective-solution-to-harmful-issues/ ) and have sought clarification from the First Presidency about it.

    I’m also not at conference, so I don’t have any new information that has come to light since then.

    So while it’s definitely opened up the possibility for LGBT members to serve in the priesthood without being celibate, what offices they can serve in may be limited.

    If anyone has any further information that might clarify this, I’d be interested to hear it.

  20. Scott (#18): The unanimous votes are from the reports from the various Councils, Quorums, Caucuses, etc. That’s like the report of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee report could be unanimous and then the Senate could still reject their recommendation by a simple majority vote. Likewise, most of these votes required a simple majority of the conference, but some — like the rules of the conference — required a 2/3rds majority.

    Rick (#19): You’re absolutely right that the change is not immediate, but this action of the World Conference was really the only obstacle. We should note that Section 156 didn’t result in the immediate ordination of women — there was an implementation period (of what, a year? before any ordinations) and it took 20+ years for a woman to be in the First Presidency, for example.

    My understanding is that the 1982 prohibition isn’t even a World Conference Resolution and I think the effect in the national conferences in the U.S. and Canada anyway is a foregone conclusion. I don’t agree with your interpretation that this will limit full participation in headquarters level positions. I guess we’ll see, but I think a better example is that the Community of Christ now has female apostles presiding over congregations which do not ordain women.

  21. Natalie B. says:

    This is quite fascinating. Looking at the pictures of women as leaders and hearing the accounts of the community discussing and approving the revelation is such a stark contrast to how we currently practice. It makes me wonder about the possibilities…

  22. The biggest problem with you post is the word “unambiguously”. There is certainly nothing unambiguous about the revelation, but I don’t know anyone who reads it as you do. I’ll need to ask around more.

    There is no part of Section 164 that even references GLBT or their issues. Rather, the Section establishes some parliamentary procedures to make sure that (a) such issues will not be discussed at Conference and (b) if they are addressed in the future, they will not be addressed at a World Conference.

    If the First Presidency has a plan to change policy or even to provide for national/regional conferences to address policies toward GLBT, they are keeping it an incredibly well guarded secret.

    The only think unambiguous about Section 164 as it relates to GLBT is that all those who were afraid the issue would be pushed off to the future – were correct.

  23. BtC (#22): I’m using “unambiguous” to refer to the future conditions in developed countries after the policies are implemented on national levels, in keeping with the directives of D&C 164.

    In other words, conditions surrounding gay priesthood ordination are currently ambiguous. As you know, there are many openly gay people in the Community of Christ who hold and exercise priesthood offices, but their condition is ambiguous because of contrary rules on the books. This document clears the way for that ambiguity to be eliminated in the near future in the developed world.

    I completely agree that the language of the revelation itself is extremely ambiguous, as you point out. I believe the reason for this ambiguity is (1) we are dealing with scripture, not policy statements, and (2) church leaders don’t want to unduly alarm conservative members, especially conservative members in the developing world. As was mentioned in the discussion during the parliamentary session, by not being explicit in this new scripture the church is protecting members who live in developing countries who could face legal prosecution and other cultural persecution if the explicit wording was present.

    In terms of people interpreting this the way I have, at the GALA reception, David Howard, President of GALA, said something to the effect of: “Make no mistake, folks, this is it. This opens the door to ordination, gay marriage, everything.” Having listened to all their speeches, I think it was pretty clear that the delegates understood the ramifications.

  24. Praise to the man.

  25. jonedrahadian says:

    So it means that gay marriage is allowed in this church?

    Joned ^_^

  26. Jonedrahadian (#25): It means that the church will soon allow gay marriages to be performed by priesthood holders in countries where conferences of the church in that country have agreed that gay marriages should be allowed. Is that clear as mud? :)

  27. Steve Evans says:

    Monumental!

  28. Randy B. says:

    Kevin put this well — holy envy indeed. Thanks for the write up John!

  29. “holy envy”

    Hmmmm, I like it.

  30. John, thanks for this great post!

    Forgive my relative ignorance of CoC. Maybe you could give a quick outline of the implications of this action on CoC beliefs wrt post-mortal gender, sex, sexuality, family, and reproduction? Or is it just a “God will sort it all out” thing?

    Pragmatism is great, but if there is theological or doctrinal dissonance even within CoC beliefs, it will not be a very effective guiding light for LDS. No one will know where the bath water stops and the baby begins.

  31. ” gay members to be ordained to the priesthood (without negative qualifiers or provisos) and to end discrimination in marriage on the basis of sexual orientation”

    1) To clarify….. gay members, actively living a homosexual lifestyle, are going to be ordained to the preisthood, and participate in exercising priesthood blessings, ordinances etc??

    2) The CoC church will be performing marriages for homosexual couples?

  32. John:

    I think the point BTC is making is that BEFORE Section 164 was canonized, the First Presidency had the power to change the policy and chose NOT to do so over an 18 year period of formal discussion. (Earlier verses of Section 164 in regard to changes in the rites of baptism and confirmation are being interpreted in policy guidance already in ways that may be startling to LDS readers, so changing a 28 year old standing high council statement would have been a piece of cake.)

    The real-world factors in the third world or among conservative North Americans that led to the Presidency’s decisions that were present all those years ARE STILL THERE. The principles that guided the gospel of full participation and equal worth of all souls were already there and the PRESIDENCY DECIDED NOT TO ACT.

    The church can not hide from the world the fact that the US national church approves gay marriage if such a conference is ever called! After all, it couldm’t hide a single marriage in the center of rural Iowa, which triggered the burst of proposed legislative activity which necessitated the counsel addressing more than the intended topic of conditions of membership. So, if there was reason not to act before, the reasons not to act are still there.

    I respect the necessity for the leadership of the church to do what’s necessary for the good of the entire church. Sadly, what’s best for the entire church and what’s best for the GLBT community are not necessarily the same thing.

  33. a fascinating contrast between the two main LDS based religions.

  34. Rich Brown says:

    The Community of Christ, fairly soon after the formal reorganization of the church in April 1860, rejected all doctrines related to eternal marriage, proxy baptism for the dead, and “post-mortal gender, sex, sexuality, family, and reproduction,” as you put it (a phrase which sounds very strange to my CofC ears, by the way, something like the whole idea of a “Mother in Heaven”).

    It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the CofC and the LDS church have taken widely divergent theological, organizational, and sociological paths since the death of our founding prophet Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844. Interestingly, even though we’re continuing to become much more distant cousins to the LDS, we’re on far friendlier terms now than back in the day. We can all thank the historical community in our respective churches for starting that process around 50 years ago.

  35. This certainly means MUCH more than the “sustaining” votes we have in the LDS Church, which are pretty much just going through the motion.

    It is also exciting to see actual NEW revelation being added to the canonized scriptures, something that is EXTREMELY rare in the LDS Church since Joseph Smith’s time.

    Thank you for the report. I too have “holy envy”. It seems much more like a “body” of Christ.

  36. Dan Weston:

    The RLDS/CofChrist tradition does not conceive of the “eternal family” the way the LDS does, so gender and sexuality in the afterlife are not a theological issue. The Book of Abraham is NOT considered Scripture and the vast majority of CofChrist members may not even know of Joseph Smith’s connection to it.

  37. Mike S, just to make this point and move on:

    You know full well that if the description of this revelation and its ratification applied to the LDS Church adding something to its D&C you would be saying clearly that this is great example of how the LDS Church doesn’t receive actual revelation. You’ve said that over and over again about everything we might claim as revelation, so it’s a bit of a double standard to accept this and nothing that’s been said in the LDS Church over the last 100 years.

    Thanks for this report, John. It really is fascinating. I appreciate the update, but I also have a hard time seeing how this was a radical, pro-active action – based only on what you provided and the comments of the other CofC members who have commented here. It seems like much more of an “official non-action” to me (kind of a “You do whatever you want, and we won’t get in the way” statement) – and I hope that isn’t taken as a criticism. It’s not meant as one.

  38. Gilgamesh says:

    While the LGBTI issues are interesting, I am more interested in the shift in the understanding of baptism. For example, does the new interpretation mean only immersive baptisms are accepted from any denomination or all baptisms, including spirkling, pouring and infant. If the latter, this is a huge shift from the founding theology that heavily opposed infant baptism and that baptism is a function of the priesthood.

  39. Steve Evans says:

    What Ray said in his 1st paragraph, though I am a bit more excited than he is in his 2nd.

  40. http://www.cofchrist.org/wc2010/counsel/QA3.asp is the link for the only thing so far published to explain what will happen. You can see that the interpretation of infant baptism is unclear, but pouring and sprinking will be accepted.

    I’m not even sure from this whether we just took away the right of priests to perform baptism, or gave it to teachers and deacons.

  41. Cynthia L. says:

    John, it’s fascinating to have you as our “front row seat” connection to this. Like Gilgamesh, I too am interested in the baptism issue. Separating the baptism and confirmation like that is an interesting way to leverage the fact that we do have two separate ordinances for initiating membership. It actually makes good sense to me intellectually. Although, I think if I were joining a church, I would want to get “their” baptism even if I’d already had one that I still valued.

  42. On gay marriage, I have my doubts as to whether this will affect the ability for Community of Christ ministers to perform gay or lesbian marriage.
    Section 111 of the Community of Christ D&C (an 1835 statement on marriage that is no longer included in LDS D&Cs) describes marriage as being between a male and a female. As this is in scripture, I suspect this may take more than local conferences to overturn, and could lie with the First Presidency to make a determination (as the official interpreters of scripture in regards to church policy).

    Again, I could be wrong, just giving my understanding given what I know of church policy and procedures.

  43. Thanks for this, John. Historic indeed.

  44. Aaron R. says:

    Like others here, I think this is a fascinating and exciting development in the CofC. I am curious to see whether there is any sort of official response from the LDS Church on this issue.

    Moreover, I suspect that on a local level at least this might be seen as a further sign of ‘apostasy’. I wonder how this will be received in LDS wards and branches?

  45. I remember encountering “restorationist” RLDS (pre CoC COC members) and wondering what was happening. It is interesting to watch the RLDS basically begin to fade dramatically in numbers.

    It is striking to watch the process.

  46. #44. A fraction of Latter-day Saints will find out about this, a smaller fraction will care. If my own experience is any indication, most Latter-day Saints who hear this little bit of information will roll their eyes and comment on how this just goes to show you how pointless and far gone the Church of Christ is, though I imagine a significant number will ask, “The Church of Christ is still around? Didn’t they go bankrupt or something?”

  47. Ron Priddis says:

    I like the enthusiasm, candidness, and engagement of CoC members. It’s contagious.

  48. #37: Ray

    I did NOT say just new revelation. I think there is personal revelation to millions of people of many faiths, obviously including our own. If you read my comment, it is revelation added to our CANONIZED scripture. There is actually a BIG difference.

    In the past, when a prophet or apostle says something that then changes (ie. BRM and blacks, etc), the answer is that was just a leader’s personal opinion and wasn’t an “official” doctrine as it wasn’t in the canonized scripture. There is a big difference between a leader expressing something that may or may not be his personal opinion vs something that, like we did at one point in our own church, is presented and voted upon and subsequently canonized as official doctrine.

    To me, it is just exciting that there is actually a mechanism in place that is actually used to add revelations to our canonized scripture.

  49. The main problem with continuing revelation in the LDS church is that it is a lagging moral indicator. (Seriously, why can’t a direct link to God couldn’t get the priesthood ban rescinded before overt racial discrimination became utterly unacceptable in American culture?)

    I applaud the CoC’s willingness to continually re-examine it’s tenets in an effort to bring Christ’s message of peace, love, and unity to bear on the issues that confront us today. The LDS church is still too provincial and too protective of its hierarchy to share this approach, but there is hope.

    Thanks for reporting on this, John. You’re awesome.

  50. Wow. This is extraordinary in so many ways. Thank you, John.

  51. (And people say figuring out doctrine in the LDS Church is complicated. :))

    It is neat and interesting to witness the government structure and mechanisms of other faiths. Thanks, John.

    I think it is a bit of stretch, however, to suggest (not that the OP does this) that it has any bearing whatsoever on the LDS Church. The CoC bears little meaningful resemblence to the LDS–which suits most in both faiths just fine.

    It is intriguing, but no holy envy here.

    DKL (#49)–I suppose I never knew that the purpose of continuing revelation was to act as a vanguard indicator of social “morals.” I always thought it was supposed to be the mind and will of God for his Church and people, revealed through ordained and set apart prophets. But I could be wrong.

  52. DKL, there may be an answer to that question. From what I’ve read, David O. McKay specifically prayed about the issue of blacks and the priesthoods and got a “No, not yet” answer and I think he kept praying about it and got a “stop asking me” answer as well – though I may look this up to refresh my memory of the specifics.

    The LDS church leadership does amazing work. They seem to be offering welcome to celibate gays – what the CoC is doing is very, very different.

    As far as I can tell from what I’ve read here – and I’m not an expert on the CoC – the scripture is being formulated to respond to changes that have already begun to occur. It seems that gays were getting the CoC priesthood and were acting in leadership roles (on what levels, I don’t know) and the official policy and holy write is simply being updated to match that reality (and perhaps push it a little further along too).

  53. Matt (#31): I don’t like the framework “actively living a homosexual lifestyle” any more than I want to envision the details, for example, about how my heterosexual parents “actively” live out their “heterosexual lifestyle.” But for clarity, yes, I was including enforced celibacy in the euphemism “negative qualifiers and provisos.” The actual policies will be established on a nation-by-nation basis over the course of the next year and a half and beyond, and yes, it is anticipated that marriages between couples of the same gender will be celebrated by the church in many nations as a result of those policies.

    Firetag (#32):

    After all, it couldn’t hide a single marriage in the center of rural Iowa, which triggered the burst of proposed legislative activity which necessitated the counsel addressing more than the intended topic of conditions of membership. So, if there was reason not to act before, the reasons not to act are still there.

    I think you’re wrong here. The reason not to act before when the marriage took place in Iowa was because the leadership foresaw the fact that resolution of this issue would come by means of a conciliatory resolution at this conference and not through a potentially divisive act of civil disobedience last summer, however laudatory. The response of the leadership at that time was surely calculated to help prepare the way for the compromise embodied in this revelation. So the calculus and timing then and now quite different.

    Ray (#37): This action has not been taken radically. The Community of Christ and its leaders have learned from the experiences of 1984 when the issue of women in the priesthood was the straw that broke the backs of many conservative members of the church. What has impressed me with this process, in regards to a potentially more divisive issue, is the thoughtful way in which the church as a whole has approached the issue this passed year, and the schism-avoiding compromise that has been achieved.

  54. Rick (#42): While D&C 111 certainly talks about men and women marrying, and whereas it does explicitly prohibit “the crime of fornication, and polygamy,” it does not explicitly prohibit a man marrying man or a woman marrying a woman. On the conference floor many delegates speaking against the measure quoted scripture that talks about marriage where the scripture’s author simply presumes a marriage between a woman and a man, for example Jesus’ total prohibition on divorce in Matthew 19:4-6. However, I think it was clear that the marriages between persons of the same gender are within the scope of the relationships envisioned D&C 164:6a:

    As revealed in Christ, God, the Creator of all, ultimately is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable. Such relationships are to be rooted in the principles of Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness, against which there is no law.

  55. Who knew that God uses words like giftedness?

    Let holy envy be tempered with discernment. An open convention of the other Mormons might produce wholly different kinds of documents. Whether the Brethren lag or lead depends on who you talk to.

  56. John – it is offensive to all married people that you would call the wedding of a loving couple to be a “divisive act of civil disobedience.” I hope the feelings of love and companionship you have for you partner are never degraded by anyone in that callous manner.

  57. Firetag – many of the resolutions of mission centers – certainly Canada East, were in the process of preparing their resolutions prior to the “divisive act of civil disobedience” occurred.

  58. As far as D&C 111 – it says whatever the First Presidency says that it says. Currently – they have interpreted it to mean that it forbids not only same-sex marriage, but it forbids priesthood from performin same-sex marriage.

  59. BtC (#56): Since when, in civil rights struggles, are acts of civil disobedience degrading? I thought they were heroic and laudatory. By the way, I note that in keeping with your policy of being as divisive and callous as possible you fail to note that I called the act “laudatory.”

  60. MikeInWeHo says:

    “An open convention of the other Mormons might produce wholly different kinds of documents.”

    Yikes, that is a scary thought now that you mention it. From the looks of Utah politics an open General Conference might turn into a Tea Party event, with Sarah Palin ousting Sister Beck as RS President and Glenn Beck being called as an Apostle. Be careful what you wish for, Kevin!

  61. Gilgamesh (#38): The baptism part of this is also fascinating and so I shouldn’t be giving it short shrift. Yes, the answer is that all of these baptisms will be recognized as valid. Obviously, Community of Christ won’t be performing infant baptisms, sprinkling, or pouring baptisms — they’ll still be done the same way by the church, which is the same as LDS practice: immersion by priesthood holder of persons 8 or older, using the prayer found in the Book of Mormon. However, the church will be recognizing all those other forms of baptism as valid.

    The Community of Christ is asserting a couple of ideas here: (1) The importance of ordinances is not the outward act, it is the inner change that is merely symbolized by the outward act, and (2) It doesn’t consider itself to have a monopoly on truth or authority; it is a true church with a special calling, but it does not consider itself the “one and only true church” anymore, the way it had in 1960s and earlier.

    For the year preceding this conference, all the congregations of the church went through what the Community of Christ calls a “discernment process” on the subject of baptism, which included study, prayer, and informal meetings where members shared their ideas and understandings on the topic. I attended and observed several of these in different congregations and I was surprised by the incredible diversity of opinion, but also by the degree to which that diversity was not divisive (at least in the congregations I visited).

  62. John:

    The preparation for a world conference in a body as small and international as ours takes a couple of years. The various worship and legislative functions are carried out by various teams of HQ and volunteer members throughout the church. I know that such teams were told well over a year ago to expect guidance to be issued last winter in order to prepare the conference experience accordingly — and that direction referred ONLY to guidance about preparing people for the divisive issue of conditions of membership.

    There were numerous (extraordinary for us) signals (see some of Chicken’s older posts on his own blog) that the leadership did NOT want this issue addressed until after the church has absorbed the implications of the rebaptism issue. They did not want the mission centers to pass legislation dealing with the conference and had to go through intensive discussions before providing normal notification of pending legislation to the church.

    So, no, this was not a pre-planned compromise by the leadership. The primary issue for the leadership is protection of the third world church. (As noted in the link in 40 above, the Presidency recognized that an earlier world conference had already authorized the World Church Leadership Council to act to call a national conference in the US, BUT NO CONFERENCE ON ANY AGENDA has even started the planning process in the intervening years.)

    If the G-28 proposal that implements Section 164 provisions into the bylaws is amended today to allow mission centers smaller than nations to set policy for the MCs, then one might say that the Presidency intends to move actively on conferences. But the logistics of setting up a US national conference are impractical for us to even begin at this point.

    Between implementation of the rebaptism provisions and prep for the 2013 world conference, the church’s plate is already full.

  63. This has been very interesting. I love to learn about how the other (Mormon) half lives. Thanks for reporting on this, John. As Natalie said, it makes me wonder about the possibilities.

  64. John #60: “Since when, in civil rights struggles, are acts of civil disobedience degrading? I thought they were heroic and laudatory. By the way, I note that in keeping with your policy of being as divisive and callous as possible you fail to note that I called the act “laudatory.””

    Acts of civil disobedience are heroic. But the marriage at Graceland was not an act of civil disobedience. It was a wedding. I note you also called it “divisive.”

  65. John, I know you study the Latter-day Saint movements … do you belong to any of them?

    [I was thinking maybe you were belonging to the CoC but realize that might not be correct.]

  66. Re: Holy Envy

    I thought john f.’s post yesterday, which to my mind essentially pointed out the problems of refusing to separate political beliefs from religious ones, is well-taken in this context. Or was that post only supposed to be applicable to right-wing nut jobs?

  67. FireTag (#62): While I agree that the leadership of the Community of Christ is very interested in protecting the members of the church in the developing world, this is clearly not their sole interest. The leadership is also extremely interesting in having the church live its calling to be wholly inclusive. You may not have seen indications that this core compromise (i.e., having different policy tracks in regards to these issues for the developed and developing world) was in the works, but I’ve spoken to many, many leaders in the past few years who have told me that this very compromise needed to occur during this conference in order to save the church in the developed world. Therefore, this was anticipated, this occurred, and the next steps are also anticipated, and they will also occur.

    National conferences did not occur previously because the step that occurred this week had not occurred yet. Yes, things could have been resolved many different ways in the past and the authority to do so was present. Theoretically, the First Presidency could have imposed a policy a decade ago. What is remarkable is that the path that has been and is being taken is so thoughtful of the journey of the membership in general. The time that has passed is obviously very painful and has prolonged injustices; however, it also allowed institutions on the ground like WCN and GALA, in conjunction with the leadership, to win hearts. This conference could have been as divisive as 1984. I wasn’t here in 1984, of course, but so many delegates have told me that compared to the days of painful chaos of 25 years ago, this has been a wonderful experience. And so I am finding the process remarkable to observe.

    BtC (#64): The definition I’m using for “civil disobedience” is non-violent refusal to accede to unjust laws or rules. This marriage — which is a marriage quite without regard to the say of the church or of the state (it did have government sanction, but it would still be a marriage without that sanction) — certainly defied unjust church rules.

    And, yes, I call the issue of marriage equality “divisive.” I think there’s ample evidence that from the perspective of our society in North America, and most of the world, and from the perspective of the Community of Christ, and most churches, marriage equality is an issue that can fairly be termed “divisive.”

    Danithew (#65): That actually deserves a full post and I will be posting about that.

  68. John, this is a fascinating development, and your report provided here is fantastic. Thanks.

  69. Firetag – I agree that the wedding feel within the definition of an act of civil disobediance. But it degrades the act to label it as such. The couple in question wanted to be married and, when the law changed to permit it – they did it. They were not out trying to prove any point other than their love.

  70. Mike S, if this had occurred in the LDS Church as it did in the CofC, you would be openly and actively using it as proof that the LDS Church’s “revelations” are nothing more than re-active policy changes. That’s all I said.

    I have NO problem with the CofC doing what they have done, since I believe passionately in letting people worship how, when or what they may. I applaud them for doing what they believe is best for their church, and I applaud the process by which they did it. I truly am happy for those within the CofC who are excited about it.

    Again, John, I appreciate the post. It would be nice to have something similar to this process when it comes to adding canonized scriptures to our D&C – but I don’t know how that would happen currently.

  71. Awesome post, awesome news. I have to admit I’m a little jealous of the CoC’s organization.

  72. OH HAPPY DAY!!!

    I am so happy, so grateful, and so encouraged that the Community of Christ has taken this frightening, courageous, and spirit-filled step into a brave new world. I honor Pres. Veazey and all the other high-ranking COC leaders for taking this issue so seriously as to approach the Divine with utter openness. May this prove to be an example to all the world (and especially the religion of my youth, the Utah LDS church) of God’s grace and abundant love for all God’s children, regardless of our sexual orientation! The Body of Christ indeed!

    Connell
    Santa Cruz CA

  73. BtC (#69): Fortunately, the marriage at Graceland cannot be degraded by my analysis any more than it (and, indeed, my own marriage that you invoked) can be cheapened by your attempts to wield them in rhetorical debate here. Both marriages are above that, and, of course, both have love as their foundation.

    Ray (#70) and all who have found this as interesting to read about as I’ve found it to observe: I’m very glad. Thanks!

    I need to leave you folks for now, so I can go back and observe more.

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