CofConomics 2: Exit, Voice and Loyalty

When we are dissatisfied with an organization, said economist Albert O. Hirschman, we have three basic options:

1. Exit: We can leave it, either physically, or by mentally and emotionally disengaging,

2. Voice: We can voice our discontent through protest or dialogue, or

3. Loyalty: We may stick with what we have. This might be because our freedom of exit and/or voice is limited (e.g. in an authoritarian state). However, we may stick with it  because we feel that the world would be a worse place without the organization, even if it is broken, and that weakening it would be worse that the current situation.

For example, Britain is facing an upcoming general election. I am not particularly happy with the Labour Party’s recent performance in government. However, I am afraid that if I vote for someone else (exit) or express too much dissatisfaction (voice) I could contribute to a Conservative Party win — a worse outcome for me. So I will probably begrudgingly vote for Labour and tell others to as well (loyalty).

Of course, these options are not mutually exclusive. One can express voice by exiting, or while one is exiting. Or one can express voice while remaining loyal.

It has struck me recently that this is an interesting analytical framework with which think about how different people react to their dissatisfaction with the Community of Christ. Some people leave the church altogether (exit). At times, I have tried to do this, by emotionally disengaging. But I have actually found that it is pretty hard to leave. I am so embedded in Community of Christ culture and social networks that I wouldn’t be able to leave if I wanted to. Some people stay with the church because they feel that they can do more good in it than out of it (loyalty). Personally, I have moved toward the option of voice — expressing how I feel about and think of the church in forums like this one, in hopes that I can be a small part in its positive transformation (e.g. this article or this one).

I thought this would be a good way to frame a discussion here about how readers have decided to deal with their dissatisfaction with the church. Please share your thoughts, feelings and stories in the comments section below….

-Matthew Bolton

(For another article applying economic theory to the church, click here).

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39 comments on “CofConomics 2: Exit, Voice and Loyalty

  1. Rick Collins says:

    I’m totally with you on the voice option. Our church used to be much better at this option than it is now.
    Today we defer a lot of power to the church’s leadership, whereas historically we have mistrusted power. I think the non-conformist attitudes of the early Reorganites provide an excellent example of the kind of democratic culture we should seek yet again.

  2. I’ll give you my own thoughts, based on my own experience. I have three young children and I try very hard to expose them to positive things. It was disconcerting when, at a very early age and dispite our best efforts, they demonstrated a strong awareness of things which were “girl” (long hair, pink, princesses) and things which were “boy” (short hair, blue, sports). Society, television, friends, are powerful influences.

    And yet the church to where I drug them each Sunday or more, did not reflect the theology or values of my wife and myself. There were hierarchies of priesthood with some sort of authorities which differed depending upon which level one attained. There were physical rituals which were “required” in order to belong (baptism, communion, confirmation) that also implied a magical power (confirmation “gave” the holy spirit). And, obviously, each Sunday you’d hear different theologies ranging from the most liberal, to the most televangelical, depending upon who’s turn it was to stand up front and pontificate.

    But the stance of the CofC with respect to homosexuals was the most difficult to bear. Notwithstanding the relative tolerance of our particular congregation, there would be no ordination of homosexuals or marriage of homosexuals. It’s difficult to pretend to try to teach your children good things and then simultaneously envelope them in an environment where they could not help but see injustice.

    So I had two choices. I could explain to them why I disagreed with so many of the things about church, while also justifying why they had to go each Sunday. Or I could take them somewhere where they could see what we actually preach.

    So we attend a church where there is no limitation on who can be up front. They have friends with two mommies or two daddies and they don’t see any problem with that. They sit next to a woman who used to be a man and they attend GALA retreats and understand fully why some men like to dress as women and vice versa.

    Maybe it’s a cop out, and my wife and I should just take it upon ourselves to explain to them why the society we expose them to is wrong, and we are right -but I don’t trust my influence enough. I prefer they see for themselves.

    Meanwhile, I do continue to work within the church to the best of my abilities to effectuate change. If I didn’t have kids, I’d probably still be attending. But I figure the more kids that are exposed to diversity, the better.

  3. FireTag says:

    This post triggers several different tracks of thoughts in me.

    The problem of being constrained by the culture even when you don’t feel satisfied by the organization is something I read about all the time in the LDS blogs. I think the number of people in that category in the LDS might easily be larger than the entire North American Community of Christ.

    This raises an issue in your framework of exit, voice, or loyalty that’s implicit in BTC’s comment about the UU and about your example of Labour or Tories: what the disaffected do depends a lot on what good alternatives are available.

    Find a good alternative, and you’ll put up with a lot less nonsense (subjective) with the original organization.

    Loyalty also comes with subdivisions. CofChrist culture drops off very fast outside of Independence. (To some extent, it even drops off real fast away from those caught up in the HQ organization in Independence: I’ve had the experience of coming into town for some official event, attending my parent’s congregation, and not even have most of those there aware the WC event was underway.)

    So for those away from “Zion”, CofChrist culture, mission, and organization can all mean different things, and can demand very different measures and kinds of loyalty.

  4. Rich Brown says:

    The past few months I’ve been dealing with what I’ll affectionately term a “Brokeback Mountain response” to the CofChrist: No matter how much I might want to disengage from the church, “I just can’t quit you.” It’s very deeply ingrained in my self-identity. And that’s not a bad thing. At the same time I’ve come to appreciate the valuable and necessary role played by Web sites such as this one as I’ve attempted some blogging myself. I certainly am exposed to a wider range of perspectives and viewpoints than I did when I was employed by the church and part of its communication effort.

    A good friend pointed out to me the irony of church leaders who increasingly devalue the printed word (it’s assumed by many at IHQ that it’s not just young adults but a lot of the older ones who will not pick up a printed page, whether it be in magazines, newspapers, or anything else) but who at the same time tighten their control over everything published in the Herald. And so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to see that the newly redesigned Herald (with the April issue) has dropped the Letters to the Editor section. Curiously, there is room to include a recipe page (for a potluck-ready broccoli casserole; our diets must need more Ritz crackers and Velveeta; go figure).

    The magazine is much more attractive and finally includes some color photos inside. So my hearty congratulations to the team that redesigned the magazine. It’s perfectly clear, however, that the Herald (as well as all other IHQ communication efforts) exists for the First Presidency to speak to the church membership, not the other way around. I understand that, especially considering the somewhat-fragile, immediate future for the church.

    In regard to the different cultures in the church (“involved” Independence members & then everybody else), this week offered another step in the church’s evolution from a focus on Independence and a turning outward to the world (or maybe just “away”) church. In an Independence Examiner report on the sale of The Groves to an outside corporation, PB Steve Jones noted first of all the difficulty for the church in operating a stand-alone nursing home (the core reason the hospital was sold years ago, which proved to be a wise decision). Then he added a second reason, as reported by the news writer: “a recognition that The Groves competes for church resources with many other church ministries, some of them around the world.” This may indicate that when church leaders are faced with choosing between Independence and the “away church,” the former will not automatically get the nod.

    • FireTag says:

      I am sorry to hear about the Groves. It was the place where both my father and mother spent their last hours. When I was a boy, it was one of the places we visited on a youth retreat from Detroit Stake to show how our tithes made a difference (to use a modern term :D) in concretely building up the social services in the Center Place as part of building Zion. We expected it would be the first of many such concrete witnesses in the Center Place, just like the San. It wasn’t.

      Now the church consumes the infrastructure of a previous generation to create, or at least maintain, infrastructure for a new generation. Necessary, but not exactly the happiest news for a “growing” church. May the vision for this generation of the church be more substantial.

    • John Hamer says:

      I think the mention of the “away church” is essentially rhetorical; ultimately, all non-sustainable investments will be cut and the church will have to focus on leveraging its ministry where allocated resources bring returns.

      Yes, past generations built infrastructure like a hospital, a nursing home, a hotel, a printing press — but this was back in an era where inefficient conglomerates were able to have centralized, planned economies. Now it’s impossible for a church to compete in the printing press business or the hotel business. The church needs to be in the church business — and it needs to get better at its core church business now, while it still can. And part of the process of doing that is ceasing to be in businesses that aren’t directly related to the church business.

      • Rick Collins says:

        While I agree that the church needs to focus on being better in the “church business” it is my hope that when the church sells property to commercial interests, it does so with a concern for the ethics of those companies.
        In this instance I am referring more to the sale of property in Independence for an industrial park. While the church may not be so interested in building up Independence as the City of Zion, its role in the development of the Independence area should be to develop as Zionic conditions as possible, rather than to make the as much money as is possible.

    • Rick Collins says:

      It is indeed concerning to hear about the Herald. I don’t read the Herald all that much these days. Largely because I don’t find reading it meaningful enough to be worth the subscription costs (considering my rather tight budget for such things). So, as a young adult, its not that I won’t read a published page, but rather that I would rather focus my reading time on publications I can gain greater benefit from.

      The more the church leaders take tight control, it seems to me the content suffers. I would hazard a guess that my article (stating in a nice way that the April 2009 address was mostly hype with little new to say) that you published back in July last year was one of most critical thing of the Presidency that has been in there, outside of the letters section, for a while.

      I’m not for criticism for criticism’s sake, but doesn’t the church affirm as a principle that there is strength in our diversity? Shouldn’t that be embodied in our publishing efforts?

    • Rich Brown says:

      I’m afraid I have to backtrack a little on my comments regarding the newly redesigned Herald, now that the printed copy has arrived in the mail. Although the e-Herald has full-color on many pages, the printed version continues a two-color approach (black plus one other color) on the same poor quality paper stock as before, which tends to soak up ink and make even the best photos muddy. But this is obviously a money issue (as is so much else in the church right now) rather than having anything to do with the expertise of those in-house who did the design.

      • FireTag says:

        I agree. I’m afraid many blue pages just lacked sufficient color contrast for my eyesight to register them at all.

  5. John Hamer says:

    Whereas threat of “exit” can be powerful, if you do choose to exercise that basic option, you forfeit your influence. If you don’t have skin in the game, your voice really doesn’t matter to everyone who does. This is something the Restorationists learned when they misplayed their hand. When they left the church, their voices were gone — or at least gone outside. They hoped the church would turn around and go backwards, but there’s no chance of that now that they aren’t inside pulling it the wrong way.

    Likewise, it’s very sad that any liberals left the church because they believed (wrongly) that it was moving too slowly. In fact, it’s moved as fast as it can without experiencing total collapse and it’s still headed in the right direction at the quickest speed an institution of its size can safely move — probably a little quicker than is safe.

    That said, voice is incredibly important. Everyone in the church should have a voice. I wish everyone was blogging and all the blogs were connected here, and that half the life of the church operated as connections in an independent, online nervous system based on peer-to-peer member contact.

    • John – I disagree with you here on many levels. First – I can’t see how my ceasing to pay tithing to the Community of Christ and ceasing to attend a Community of Christ congregation has diminished my influence. I don’t necessarily think I have tremendous influence over church policy, but whatever influence I do have has been through communication with leadership and voicing concerns on board such as this, the church board and elsewhere. I’m still in touch with the memebers of my particular congregation and if anything, my overt act of leaving and my public statements as to why, have caused them to evaluate the situation more seriously. They have even discussed becoming a welcoming congregation in no small part because they see the actual negative effects of continuing discriminatory policies. When those individuals go to Conference and the other side stands up to say that people will leave the church if it opens it policies, those in my congregation will know that the reverse is also true.

      I also think that simplifying the reasons liberals leave to their belief that the church is moving “too slowly” is a little condescending (although I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way). You know homosexuals who left because of the pain they feel at not being accepted, or worse. I agonized over leaving, but could not reconcile my love for my children with the thought of raising them in a discriminatory church. I think it’s a little callous to minimize these decisions to something that sounds sort of, politically calculated.

      Finally, I think the more we can get away from “in the church” or “outside the church” the better off we’ll be. I am and always will “belong” to the Community of Christ, as Rich pointed out above. I have family there, both blood and non-blood. My “soul” (for lack of a better word) is still there. And for those reasons, and others, I continue to voice my concerns as to policy.

      Frankly, I don’t hink my decision to attend another denomination on Sunday and to let the church know that they cannot assume decisions that injur others will not have real consequences has actually increased my influence. It certainly has increased my passion.

      • John Hamer says:

        I’m sure it comes as no shock that we don’t agree, especially on process issues, since (as far as I can remember) we never do.

        Being “in or out” isn’t just an ethereal question that we can dismiss by saying “we’re so enlightened now that we’re above such things.” As you point out, we’re talking about very practical tangibles (attendance, effort, donations) that are, in fact, existential imperatives for a volunteer-based organization like the church. It’s not the concepts of in and out that we need to reject — we have to have categorization if we are to say anything meaningful. We just have to remember that our categories are not intrinsic, with absolute fixed boundaries, based on some platonic ideal — they are merely constructions that are useful only to the degree to which they are useful.

        Yes, the fact that liberals are willing to leave gives some strength to the voices of liberals who stay. But no, it does not add weight to your personal voice. It’s very nice that folks in your former congregation are talking about being a welcoming congregation because they lost you, but on scales it should be obvious that if you were there every week, committed to the congregation, and doing the work of helping it become a welcoming congregation, your capacity to accomplish that goal would be infinitely greater. I think that’s self-evident.

        You bring up the question of people leaving because they were personally in pain and then you conflate it with my sadness at people who have left because they were dissatisfied with the institution’s capacity to change at a given velocity. The former is a critical personal issue (that I hadn’t been speaking to), the latter is a political/process issue (that I was speaking to). For the personal, I absolutely believe that everyone has to put themselves first and not destroy themselves over being a part of some group. People who are personally finding themselves damaged need to address the cause — and if the cause is the church, they should root it out of their lives.

        Your own calculus, however, seems to have been not wanting to raise your children in a discriminatory church. Obviously, your children are your responsibility and you must raise them as you deem best. But overall, I see your complaint as valid only if there is no hope of reform. Instead, we have a church whose leadership is committed to becoming a non-discriminatory church and an institution that is clearly moving toward becoming a non-discriminatory church. Since reform is possible (and is going to happen), you can raise your children in a non-discriminatory church by making the church non-discriminatory.

        So I do think this is the “I want everything my way right now or I’ll take all my marbles and go home” argument. Some battles have to be won step by step. Even if you know where the finish line will be, it doesn’t always work to just run over there and leave everyone who can’t make it behind. Would I prefer there was already no discrimination against gay people in U.S.? Of course. Do I think we’re going to get there? Yes. However, if Congress or the Supreme Court were to decree it today — which of course they won’t — we wouldn’t actually be there tomorrow. And such actions might actually be counterproductive to the current, inexorable movement of society in the correct direction.

        Finally, yes, I agree that you have more passion, or rather, yes you are mad at the church. And now, even though you’ve physically disengaged, you’re still mentally engaged in order to work through that anger. However, in my view, the object of your criticism is no longer to help reform the church; your criticism’s goal now seems to be to justify your decision to reject the church. As a result, I think your criticism isn’t particularly constructive for the church.

    • FireTag says:

      “In fact, it’s moved as fast as it can without experiencing total collapse and it’s still headed in the right direction at the quickest speed an institution of its size can safely move — probably a little quicker than is safe.”

      I must confess that when I read the above, John, the picture that flashed through my mind was one from all the natural history documentaries you see about dinosaurs: the T. Rex or raptor futilely trying to flee the blastwave from the asteroid strike. Sometimes the fastest you can move just can’t be fast enough to matter.

      I grew up being taught that the RLDS/CofChrist tradition was the one true church. OF COURSE, preserving and, if necessary, reforming the church had the highest priority. Otherwise, we’d be no better than any other church in “apostasy”.

      Eventually I figured out that we were part of — and not necessarily at the center of — some much larger work of Christ, and our prophets confirmed that interpretation was fairly close to the mark.

      So, since the tradition was MY tradition, I put every skill I had in helping the church play its part in that larger work. But then I came to understand that the preservation of the church could be quire superfluous to the larger purpose of which we were part, that I needed to think of the question of where I as an individual should serve that larger purpose and question the assumptions I still subconsciously carried from my early upbringing that “where” should be in the church of my youth.

      If I believed in the one true church model, I’d sadly calculate that preserving the church justified deferring addressing gay issues because they are the smallest group whuch could be sacrificed, and I have no power to avoid some group being sacrificed. I would do so in the best of faith.

      Until someone in the Presidency or Twelve calls a national conference in the US or Canada to actually address gay issues — a wildly impractical action compared to mission center conferences — I am forced to assume that they are acting in the same honest “best of faith” that I would. I’m sure they’re sorrowing, but I’m equally convinced that trying to preserve the church is a criterion that leads inevitably to the WRONG answer.

      So I’ll help individuals get to the places they are supposed to be, inside or outside this denomination. It’s the little dinosaurs that can burrow deep that can prosper as their world changes.

      • John Hamer says:

        Firetag — I believe this reduces to the baby with the bathwater position: If the church isn’t the one and only true church, it isn’t worth preserving. I understand that the church is not the one and only true church and yet I think it is worth preserving. Yes, when we find out that once-cherished beliefs are myths, the easy response is the rejectionist response: If such-and-such wasn’t so, then the whole thing has no value. This is usually wrong — most things actually have multiple layers of value and throwing them away just because the most overt of these is valueless is a mistake.

        On the question of whether the gay issue should now be deferred any longer, the answer is that it shouldn’t. Twenty years ago, it certainly did need to be deferred and it probably still needed time ten years ago, but now it does need to be handled properly. And not merely because of people are threatening to leave or have left — but rather because the church needs to embrace good consistently in order to attract new members.

      • FireTag says:

        I will need to amend the above statement. The Q&A page on the counsel on the church website has apparently been edited since I last looked at it. The statement that conferences would not be allowed at smaller than national level has been removed. It has been replaced with a statement that now acknowledges the possibility of field conferences at sub-national levels when there are multiple fields within a single nation.

  6. John, I find your analysis uncharacteristically shallow, twisting complex shades of grey into a predetermined paradigm of black and white.

    You say:

    “You bring up the question of people leaving because they were personally in pain and then you conflate it with my sadness at people who have left because they were dissatisfied with the institution’s capacity to change at a given velocity.”

    But I didn’t “conflate” it, I rebutted the assumption upon which your entire anlysis is based – that there are liberals who leave the church because the church is moving too slowly to accept homosexuals. I know many people who are in various stages of “leaving” (defined by you apparently as Sunday attendance), none of whom have stated there rational this simply. Sure one could boil down my rational into this statement as it is, indeed, factual, but one could also say the issue of abortion is because a mother doesn’t want to have a baby – it is equally misleading, and equally demeaning.

    The idea that I can raise my children in an non-discriminatory church by making the church non-descriminatory is either contradictory to your thesis (that moving too fast could be harmful to the church) or it is just insensitive to the duration of childhood. My eldest was born the year Grant McMurray first gave a glimmer of hope that reform might happen. Now, as an 8-year-old, I’m seeing Pres Veazey take procedural steps to further delay the issue and extend a time-frame for any change.

    While I sincerely hope (and generally agree) that change will happen, I’m sure you would agree that, based on Pres Veazey’s general unwillingess to (a) present sudden change via edict or (b) allow immediate global change via Conference action, that it would not be unlikely that real change is years off. My child will be discovering her own sexuality within 5 years, and the “raising” her occurs on a daily basis, and cannot be put off.

    By way of illustration, I recall a phrase from Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail:

    “,…;when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?””

    As for your labelling of my activism as “angry” and “rejecting” I can only say you’re wrong. As a matter of fact, I am much less angry now that I do not bombard myself with the weekly or more frustration or attendance. Granted, the anger was my own doing, but I can approach things from a much calmer way now that my own spirituality has taken a step back from that which was the cause of my angst. An unexpected blessing derived from leaving regular attendance.

    I encourage and applaud those who continue to attend Community of Christ congregations and work toward change. I stand by them as I stand by you. The biggest dissapointment upon leaving was the reaction by those who I thought would understand and support me – many of whom, I have for years been working to build bridges of understanding and support. For those, I continue to wish well, and hope that with change, will also come an easing of their bitterness.

    I am also reminded of this passage from MLK’s same letter. It was written, I believe, to people who, like you, disagreed with others’ “process” in fighting oppression:

    “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

    This blog has no function to bold – so allow me to repeat:

    “who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.””

    Of course, that was just one man’s opinion.

    • John Hamer says:

      “But I didn’t ‘conflate’ it, I rebutted the assumption upon which your entire anlaysis is based – that there are liberals who leave the church because the church is moving too slowly to accept homosexuals.”

      In fact, my original statement had nothing to do with homosexuality — I was thinking specifically about liberals who left long ago over issues like honesty about history, the origin of the Book of Mormon, and about women in the priesthood. Some of my first encounters with liberals who had left the church were at JWHA with activists involved in the position papers/presidential papers. By the time I had met them, the church had already long since reconciled all of the concerns that they had been worried about.

      Be that as it may, you absolutely have conflated these two distinct situations. There is a difference between activists promoting good within an improving system that hasn’t yet gotten where it should go, and individuals who are suffering in such away that it is causing personal harm. The latter need to consider their own health and well being above all. The former, while they are very free to throw in the towel (as you have done) at will, aren’t necessarily deserving of applause when they do so.

      Your reference of Grant’s misstep is an example of how the very actions you’re calling for are often counterproductive — while well intentioned, Grant caused a setback. Things are gray in the world, not black and white as you would have them. The smart action, in terms of results, isn’t always the quick and easy action. Failing to take this reality into account is why your angry policy recommendations are consistently counterproductive and nonconstructive.

      Thanks for the MLK quotes. We’re not talking about another man’s freedom in the abstract. Since I am a gay man, we are talking about my own.

      • Not sure what policy recommendations you are referring to (or what disagreements on policy we’ve had in the past). Perhaps I am misremembering.

        Anyway – you don’t seem to be able to get past the notion that (non-gay) liberals can leave without being “throw-in-the towel, quitters, rejecting the church rather than working to change it.”

        While your closed-mindedness is discouraging, I will say that it’s much easier to justify myself as a liberal rejecting a discriminatory denomination for the cause of justice than it would be to defend myself as an institutional apologist willing to sacrifice justice and my own brothers and sisters in favor of a shaky status quo and the comfort of a familiar pew.

  7. FireTag says:

    John:

    Instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water, I’m trying to get people to see that there are many babies in many bathtubs all around us, and our Heavenly Father didn’t tell each of us that our first priority should be taking care of the baby in this particular tub.

    He expects us to optimize our care for all, not maximize the care for this denominational church.

  8. Doug Gregory says:

    There is no small amount of discomfort in reading the thoughts expressed above. We are all wired so differently, and it is so easy to “see the elephant” from our own point of view.

    As I was preparing to hear the broadcast of the recent counsel, I prayed that God could somehow break through our individual agendas and demands for activism to reveal a wisdom that would transcended those things, a wisdom that could speak to His church, not our church.

    THAT is what I heard in the counsel. I heard other messages as well:

    – God is working in the world, often through CofC, often not. It is His (forgive the gender) purposes that are being worked out, not ours.

    – God is pleased with our willingness to struggle, for that provides clay to work with instead of rock.

    – Each of us has much to consider in our personal walk with God, including our own responsiveness to baptism, the nature of our relationships, our view of communion, etc.

    – Rise above our own concerns on sexuality (gay rights) and consider the concerns of the rest of the world as well. Speaking to gay rights to those in India means about as much as speaking about cleansing to those in Indiana.

    In the way the gay rights debate was being framed, I found little hope for the church to successfully address this issue. In the counsel, I found a path that we can walk under the Spirit’s guidance, and I am more willing to follow that path than that of anyone with an agenda (I have NO trust in agendas).

    I will admit that at one time I considered whether I would remain in the church if practicing gays were called to the priesthood (not counting Grant’s debacle). As I prayed over this, the words of Peter came back to me – Where would I go? You have the words of eternal life. For all of the nit-picking any of us can do about whatever group we affiliate with, work for, support, etc, we belong because we believe it is on a path of redemption. BTC, I hope you find the perfection you are searching for – I will admit you will not find it in me. I am, however, struggling to create it, and welcome all who will struggle with me.

    That, I believe, is what God is asking us to do.

    • FireTag says:

      Doug:

      I can agree, I think, with every one of your bullet points, and yet not agree with your conclusions.

      Is it not possible to accept that BTC, or I, or other Christians, or members of non-Vhristian religions, or those who do not believe in a God at all, can still be struggling for the cause of the Kingdom as you are?

      I am not asking you to go somewhere else. I am not even asking you to stop marginalizing gays in the West at the expense of any of the other issues mentioned. Those issues are already being addressed by other denominations than ours with much greater impact than our own can. Our growth in the wider world, while impressive, generally is riding the tails of those denominations. God is working out his agenda, not the agenda of individuals OR OF THE DENOMINATION. Our own prophets do not any longer teach otherwise.

      If we dare not stop marginalizing people within the denomination — even if for what we think are Godly reasons — then we owe it to our brothers and sisters here to help them find a place that does not marginalize them at all, even if that is WITHOUT the denomination. The “words of eternal life” for them may lie elsewhere, just as they have for 99.99% of the rest of Christianity.

      • Doug Gregory says:

        FireTag, I believe many believers – and not just Christians – are struggling for the cause of the kingdom. Not sure I precluded that stance in my comments.

        I think we can all accept that Christ shared those words of eternal life, CofC has no special claim to them. I will claim for CofC – at least for me – that those words have a context, an expression, and a medium within this movement that I have not witnessed from any other Christian in my acquaintance outside of the church. Lots of amazing people outside of CofC provide a better life witness of Christ than I do, so I am not naive about that.

        I don’t care that much about the institution, but the spirit of the people in our collective expression of those words of truth – I am not interested in leaving behind.

  9. FireTag says:

    Doug:

    No one is asking YOU to leave them behind. No one is asking you NOT to let others in. But if the church can not LET others come in, it is abusive not to HELP others get OUT.

    • Doug Gregory says:

      Wow. Your leaps of logic and blame are stretching my ability to walk with you.

      I know of no one who has been refused entrance into the church. There are certainly branches where some are less welcome than others (I remember my brother-in-law was made unwelcome in a branch because he and his wife had young children, etc), and we have at times practiced intolerance. We struggle with membership in priesthood, but we have similar issues with potential candidates and alcohol, living together outside of marriage, etc. We used to call these standards that we expected those in leadership positions to be accountable to (I can just hear how that is going to go over). “Let”ting people “in” is one thing, letting them lead is another.

      So, if I don’t encourage people to leave the church, I am abusive? First I’m guilty of racism because I am a white male, now I’m guilty because I don’t guide people to the exit of the church. I can’t wait to find out what’s next.

      These are more reasons I buy into no one’s agendas, and I accept no one’s emotional turmoil as my cross to bear. TTFN.

      • FireTag says:

        Doug:

        I’m not even asking you to let them lead in the church. I know how the math works out: extending full sacramental privilieges to gays increases hardship in the church as a whole and may rip the church apart. THAT is why the leadership has resisted addressing this issue, even though many in the church’s gay community have had private assurances that most of the leadership do NOT oppose such sacraments in principle on theological convictions.

        But look at the counsel’s own internal logic:

        The problem is among those calling for urgent resolution.

        Resolution must be culturally dependent.

        The Holy Spirit legitimately expresses itself in covenental sacraments that need not be administered by the priesthood commissioned within this church.

        Some, but not all, are called to express their mission within this denomination, the Community of Christ.

        If we in the church apply those principles about sacraments to all of our other brothers and sisters but oppose their application to gays in our own culture, then we need to let gays take their God-given priesthood and desire for life partners and go to a better home for them.

  10. Doug – I don’t understand where you are getting blame from FT’s posts. I’m probably just misreading, but wanted to let you know as a third party observer, I don’t get your posts.

    I don’t think FT is talking about encouraging people to leave, but about not hefting scorn upon them, like John is above. Rather easing up on the guilt, acknoweldging that, if Christ can be expressed in different denominations, then we should be free to find those more in sinc with our position along the journey.

  11. Bryan Monte says:

    As one of those “in and/or out people,” who has waited for the last 25 years “for a more convenient season” the clearest signal to me that the church is concerned about my well-being and that of my same-sex partner of 11 years, will be if it actually debates the more than 15 resolutions concerning LGBT priesthood and marriage at World Conference rather than tabling them and passing the FP’s resolution (G-28) to hold field conferences.

    I joined this church in 1975 because I found a loving “branch” of approximately 50 that provided refuge for me from an abusive family. The church kept me from running away from home at 16. It also gave me what I would consider my first real introduction to spirituality.

    Unfortunately this branch split in the mid-‘80s due to the then women in the priesthood “issue” and closed, like many branches in the mid-West, in the ‘90s. Over the years, I have tried to find the love and connection that I felt with that first congregation, but the only place I have found it is the congregation bewarethechicken describes (I’m assuming he’s talking about Walnut Gardens in Independence.) There, during the winter of 2007/2008, I felt a love similar to that which I experienced when I joined the church — a feeling of sanctuary, acceptance and hope for the future. This love sustained me when I gave tours of the Temple and I described the sacramental paintings in the Peace Chapel, realizing every time that I was banned from two of the eight ordinances depicted there. This love helped me stayed “on message” in that sacred space as the tour continued through the rest of building — a building which I find uniquely inspiring and about which I discover some new detail every time visit.

    In May 2009, two friends of mine, who are very active church members, took a lot of flack because they got married in the Graceland chapel because same-sex marriages are legal in Iowa. Two months before and without any prior knowledge of what they were about to do, I asked permission for my partner and me to be married in Rotterdam because same-sex marriage is legal in the Netherlands. I was told that my partner and I could have a blessing, but that unity candles and the exchange of rings or vows should be avoided, and that no sacramental language could be used. What was offered to us seemed like a poor substitute, closer to a reception than a real ceremony. In the end, my partner and I decided we didn’t want any type of ceremony in a church where we weren’t treated the same as marrying heterosexuals.

    Since then, I’ve been attending Quaker meeting on and off in Amsterdam. It’s awful quiet there, since no one gets up to speak unless they feel moved by the Spirit and that’s usually for four or five minutes out of the sixty. The rest of the time it’s silent meditation and prayer. I’m accepted there, though, but it isn’t where I’d really like to be on a Sunday. I do, however, come home much more at peace with myself than do if I go to a CofC congregation and I’ve been the elephant in the room for sixty minutes.

    At the end of Quaker meeting, everyone gets up to shake hands. I put my tithing money in the collection jar they pass around. It goes towards a children’s playground in Ramallah or to an anti-domestic abuse hotline in the Netherlands

    All in all, I guess the next few weeks will be very decisive in determining what kind of plans I’ll make for the future.

    • Your assumption is not accurate, but I have heard good things about Walnut Gardens. There are different levels of acceptance, as you note. How can one truly be accepted if they are treated differently? I don’t want my children experiencing the pain I know so many have felt when they grow up in the CofC but cannot be married there, or by a CofC minister because of who they decide to marry.

  12. Bryan Monte says:

    Thank you, chicken. I’m glad to know that someone shares my pain and concern.

    • FireTag says:

      Bryan:

      Many share your pain and concern.

      • I think it’s just difficult for some to see beyond their personal experience to empathize with others. Those in comfortable situations, with an open congregation, living in jurisdictions that allow same-sex marriage, who have employment based on the CofC, who don’t have children to concern themselves with, etc. I understand how they can wait for justice. And it’s a good thing, too – because we need these people comfortable enough to be patient – just as we need those who are uncomfortable enough to take a stand.

  13. I belong to a small congregation of 32. We are not in the center place but are in southeast Kansas. Our congregation is a welcoming congregation and we have a couple of lesbians who feel at home here when they are in town. One is a traveling nurse and the other a retired school teacher.

    Not every congregation is so welcoming but that is why I like ours. We don’t use priesthood titles and anyone who has a message to share is added to the schedule.

    I am one who would be happy to marry anyone where it is legal in the land.

    Several years ago, while we were denying the sacrament to anyone not of our denomination, I stopped taking the sacrament myself altogether. I considered it my protest. I was also out spoken about it. We have four people ready to join our church just as soon as the re-baptism issue is settled. We will transfer their letters and hold a confirmation service for them to confirm them members of the church.

    I do not leave the church because I feel I can be a better force for change from within. Besides, where would I go. I am a fourth generation RLDS.

    I resent the fact that Steve is dragging his feet in allowing our gay members to marry where the law of the land says it is legal. I think that should be the criteria.

    But I am not going anywhere. To me, leaving is not the answer.

    • FireTag says:

      Margie, I am happy if that is the right choice for you. You’ve made clear in previous threads that priesthood gives you opportunity and credibility to those outside the church that you can not otherwise have. I’m fine with you playing it that way. It’s your mission, so you make the call.

      I become uncomfortable, however, with recommending that as a general position for others. I can certainly imagine an analogous argument for “reform from within” being made to your great-grandparents. It was their REFUSAL to accept such arguments that made it possible for you to be fourth generation RLDS/Community of Christ in the first place.

    • Bryan Monte says:

      Happy Easter, Margie.

  14. […] reflect on the ways people express discontent in the church, using the economic model of “Exit, Voice and Loyalty.” However, I haven’t really had any meaty data to work […]

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