The below is taken from: http://www.cofchrist.org/news/2010/july/councils.asp and page 4 of the September 2010 Herald.
“The World Church Leadership Council (general officers, presidents of World Church quorums, and directors) and the Standing High Council will meet in retreat September 18–19, 2010. The retreat’s purpose is to discuss the 1982 Standing High Council statement on “Homosexuality” and the 2002 World Church Leadership Council statement on “Community, Common Consent, and Homosexuality.”
This discussion is in response to confusion in some areas about which parts of the statements are official policy and which parts describe perspectives on homosexuality when the statements were written. In response to requests for clarification, the groups will work together to provide helpful information to the church as discussions about same-gender and sexual-orientation issues continue and plans are made for national or field conferences.
The Presidency invites members and friends to remember the World Church Leadership Council and the Standing High Council in your prayers as these leadership groups discuss extremely complex issues in the church’s life.
As a reminder, all church administrative policies prohibiting priesthood from performing same-gender/sex marriages and prohibiting the ordination of non-celibate homosexual people remain in place during this time of discussion and study.
THE FIRST PRESIDENCY”
The 1982 statement can be read here
The 2002 WCLC statement can be read here
I don’t care what they decide to do nearly as much as I care WHY they decide to do what they do. See Matt Bolten’s previous post on cheap and costly peace.
In May of 2009, the FP said they were working with the EWCLC to come up with new policies. At the GALA retreat in September of 2009, Pres Veazey said he had asked the Standing High Council to re-examine the 1982 statement that he said was inadequate.
This doesn’t even get into all the committees and task forces the past 2 Presidents have commissioned to examine the policies. I see no reason to beleive this current examination will be any more fruitful than past efforts.
Strategies to date seem to involve appeasing the conservatives by doing nothing and appeasing the progressives by saying they are working on it.
I personally don’t see the need for a retreat-conference. People in the CofC who support homosexual activity will defy any guidelines that run counter to their agenda.
For years, leaders have baptized and ordained practicing homosexuals depite the church’s recommendations. (I always thought the “you can be a homosexual; just don’t practice it” was like being a farmer who’s asked not to plant anything)
Homosexual members/investigators are not asked to modify their behavior in any way at the risk of offending them. So I agree with BTC that whatever comes from the retreat will be an appeasment only worth the paper it’s on.
“Homosexual members/investigators are not asked to modify their behavior in any way at the risk of offending them.”
I believe that is a correct statement, but there are two other major groups who are also to be appeased. Conservatives in America must also be appeased, or they will leave the church (as you did) because you found more conservative principles to be truer. The non-American church also finds conservative sexual principles to be truer, and so must be isolated from publicity about the discussion (per Section 164). I have no reason to believe that any of the three groups are insincere in their beliefs about what is the morally right choice.
So, as long as the leadership is primarily concerned with maintaining the institution, at least one of those groups is going to be increasingly disappointed.
Eventually appeasement breaks down — unless, IMO you change the decision criteria.
By the way, we don’t enforce any law of chastity against heterosexuals either. Its only when behavior impacts the reputation of the church do we take notice. We prefer to deal with personal behavior we do not support as quietly as possible. Whether that’s good or bad is a matter for another discussion.
Very good observations, FT.
The policy/doctrinal changes for the last 30 years have increasingly alienated conservatives in the church. Many in the leadership had little regard for their opinions until they realized conservatives were the ones paying the bulk of tithing.
Nowadays, conservatives (my extended family among them) feel that appeasement given them is a case of “we’re just waiting to have enough votes at a world conference to pass this”. Remember how many attempts were made on women’s ordination and the church name.
I know there’s no enforcement of chastity law in the church on a admin level; probably not even discouragement or a mention. At his 1990 conference address, Wallace B. Smith mentioned a “silly rumor” about the church allowing group sex as long as it was kept quiet; incredulous how it could be taken seriously. Well, thinks I, give it a little more time!
Let me correct a false impression I left. The quote is correct as long as the behavior doesn’t become public. The key is always plausible deniability. The church will look the other way as if our policy was “don’t ask, don’t tell” — and the policy is similar for other things than gay rights. I know of afinancial officer a long time ago, for example, that was allowed to quietly resign after using church funds to cover personal expenses. As in Mission Impossible, if caught, Mr. Phelps, the church will disavow all knowledge of your actions.
There is no church recommendation against baptising homosexuals. And the other rules regarding ordaining or marrying homosexuals have been stringently adhered to and enforced. Not only have members been asked to modify their behavior, but they have been punished if they have not done so.
And another point to the opposite – while those who are not homophobic have, for the large part, coward in acquiesence at whatever discriminatory edicts passed down from leadership, conservatives will not do so – in the same way that those opposed to 156 will never ordain women.
Well BTC. Perhaps you can cite some examples of modifications or punishments. I know of two practicing female homosexuals who received priesthood calls with no change in their lifestyle. I’m not sure if approvals go past the district/stake level, but nobody got in trouble for these.
Perhaps you can cite where baptising homosexuals is against church policy?
The church does not have any policy that enforces pre-marital chastity for heterosexuals OR homosexuals. It applies to ordination, baptism, and appointment. They will not notice unless forced to notice by events. (Beliefs about things as seemingly fundamental as belief in the divinity of Christ are not clearly requirements for ordination.)
Individual pastors can decide whether or not to initiate a call on the basis of their own conscience, of course, but higher authorities will not intervene.
That is what was so astounding when the church recently decided to take a stand that priesthood calls would not be approved, regardless of local contributions, unless tithing was paid to the World Church, as discussed on BTC’s blog. Over THAT they make a stand?
The cynicism directed here towards people I love and respect is appalling to me. Having authority in our imagination is quite different from having authority in reality. Get a grip, people.
A good and timely reminder, Doug. Thank you.
At a time when political discourse here in the USA continues to drop from cynical to snarky to vile, maybe it’s just too much to hope that within a group that dares to call itself “Community of Christ” there can still be ongoing conversation with a foundation of love.
Now, I’m generally not the first to come to the defense of CofC leadership (a whole other story), but I recognize and respect the challenging spot they’re in on the topic of LGBT rights, responsibilities, and roles within the church. As has already been pointed out, no matter what’s decided and done (assuming something will be), somebody’s going to be really upset—and probably threaten to march out the door taking their potential tithing contributions with them. Certainly it wouldn’t be the first time.
And if the choice comes down to keeping the institution patched together a little longer (a priestly role) or doing what we believe is right in God’s eyes (a prophetic role), then I’m apt to go with the latter. But, of course, choices are almost never that clear-cut. The church must have both priestly and prophetic functions. It’s people and organization/institution.
We human beings have a nasty habit of creating straw-men (straw-persons?) to either sway the crowd to our side or bolster our own conceits. In any event, I really like the sign Jon Stewart suggests: “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”
The assumption that goes unquestioned is that God is primarily concerned about accomplishing his work through the church. One thing I’m learning anew in reading your new book is that Paul saw his work and authority originally as being APART from the Christian institution then forming. His calling was to bring people into a larger community than the church. It was a later generation of writers who more fully formed an institution — and became entangled in its preservation separate from the original family of the covenant.
Today the prophets who sit in Independence seem content to speak to the needs of the church, while no one else listens. The prophets who sit in Salt Lake City seem content to prepare their flocks and investigators primarily for the next life.
What if it really is required of the institutional church to DIE for the Kingdom to be born? JS saw the church as a means to the end of Zion, not an end in itself. Who is the prophet today who speaks to the WORLD of building Zion and of restoring history to its intended goal?
I’m not seeing any snark or venom leveled at church leadership on this board – nor have I seen straw men. Perhaps I am so jaded as to miss it. One can certainly make an argument that preserving the church notwithstanding justice or theological arguments could be wise. I do not feel that way and neither does Mark – and I think we are arguing for our positions in a respectful manner.
What I find disrespectful is the leadership that claims to be making decisions solely for justice reasons and not at all for practical reasons (Brother Steve will violently deny any practical consideration or that money has anything to do with decisions). Dishonesty does not help anyone, in my opinion.
How do YOU know how he is making decisions? What may appear evident to you may well have absolutely nothing to do with reality. You just called a man dishonest because of how you interpret what you believe to be facts. Please retrace your logic steps and make sure they have the kind of integrity you are demanding of others.
If I know that the pain of gays is honestly bothering the leadership personally, yet they do not act to remove it, to what MORE noble purpose can I attribute it than that they’re trying to avoid pain to some other group in the church or preserve the church as a whole? Especially when they tell us preservation of the church and its expansion are important at every opportunity?
At the same time, everything I get from personal discernment is that God is doing His own work. And if I can’t trust my own sense of the Spirit, I certainly have no business in trusting someone else’s.
Rich stated his opinion that Leadership was acting pragmatically. President Veazey says that is not so. My opinion is that if this is the case, he is being dishonest. In either event, I do not KNOW how he makes his decisions nor whether he is being dishonest, however, my opinion is that IF he is being dishonest and doing as Rich believes rather than as Pres Veazey says, then that does not help anyone.
Prophetic utterance, counsel, and leadership that somehow exists in a [nonpragmatic] void cannot be considered prophetic. To be prophetic is to recognize and act on the divine impulse within a specific situation and/or moment. There must a context in which the “word” is spoken and acted upon. Prophetic and pragmatic are not polar opposites.
The leadership of the church is certainly bright enough and experienced enough to recognize that whatever path is chosen will upset somebody. Having said that, I don’t believe they are or will necessarily choose a path of either least resistance or one that will offend the fewest (or, for that matter, that money has much if anything to do with it). But they are aware of the options. I suppose you could interpret that as being pragmatic, but at the same time I wouldn’t say it ensures pragmatism. The Spirit does indeed work in wonderful and often weird ways.
This thread on Mormon Matters today is relevant to the difficulty and the pain of our own discussion of gay rights in the church.
The thread linked above has been taken down — but not before causing an implosion in Mormon Matters itself. Perhaps that shows the sensitivity of this issue. The implosion has been a lively topic on the LDS blogs all week.
In short, nearly all of the permanent bloggers at Mormon Matters (including their CofChrist contingent of me) have left MM and are launching a new vehicle called Wheat & Tares at
The launch will be Monday, October 4.
The link below was cited by Matt Bolton in his post here on Saint’s Herald announcing the Community of Christ announcing its new “official” Herald blog.
The link contains a discussion of the Mormon Matters implosion as well.
To whom do we trust when it comes time to listen to and discern the Holy Spirit? Paul? Joseph Smith Jr? W. Wallace? You, me, whom?
In the end, we must grow to trust the Spirit working within us to confirm or challenge that which we hear from any person. I may bear a testimony that I think would reflect the direction of the Spirit, but unless you confirm that, it has no value to you. This has always been the direction given within the CofC.
Spiritual growth, it seems, goes hand in hand with the gift of discernment. If we do not have or grow this gift, then perhaps we must leave ourselves at the mercy of faith in others.
The problem I have with leadership is that, according to Steve, he (a) doesn’t see homosexuality as a sinful act or conditions and (b) views current policy as innadequate. Unfortunately he also professes that his position does not provide him the ability to change policy nor choose not to enforce it (harshly).
The latter is just not true. SHC does not make policy, they advise as to policy and the First Presidency can choose to do with it as it will. Moreover, there was no policy regarding priesthood performing same-sex legal marriages until Leadership declared it policy, loosely based on a review of some out-of-context, unrelated D/C material. It would have been just as easy to point to our tradition of permitting priesthood to perform any civil legal marriage, but the First Presidency chose to make policy.
Notwithstanding, the FP, after saying it could not make policy, then elected to remove policy-making authority from the body as well, in the form of Section 164. Leaving it squarely back on leadership.
There is also the issue that the most obvious practice of this Presidency is delay. And it is practiced by misrepresentation, in my opinion. Committees are created as a means of telling people that the problems are being addressed – and then the committees go away. Task forces are charged with helping, but their advice is not disclosed. The SCH is said to be working on new policy, but members (and the lack of any progress) say otherwise.
If the FP wants to say that it will make a decision eventually, but doesn’t feel we are ready, or feels that taking more time will mean a less painful schism, that’s fine. But Pres Veazey denies this. It is this that I find dishonest. And ultimately more harmful.
So, what would you do?
I wouldn’t have taken the job in the first place.
I’ll answer as honestly as I can.
First, I’d make a realistic estimate of how long it will take before the liberal and conservative cultures within the United States can come to “common consent” on this issue, let alone develop a position that will align the church in a way that is consistent with maintaining communion with the church in other nations that can not even discuss the issue yet. I’m talking world-church-budget-development level of realism. Be truthful with themselves whether its two years or two decades.
Second, I’d compare that time to realistic estimates of several other numbers: 1) how long does it take for individual gays to give up on the church and drift away on their own from any connection with the church; 2) how long does it take before the membership decline of the church in NA that has been underway for decades destroys the infrastructure of the institution anyway; 3)how long before ongoing trends in the political system, economic system, or the environmental system WHICH post Sec 160 revelation has ALREADY identified fundamentally alters the cultiral issues beyond recognition.
Third, if the time-to-solve number in the first step is anything approaching any of the time-allowed-to- solve, I help my gay brothers and sisters find a new church home that has as much honor within the “beloved children of the Restoration” as we are willing to claim for ourselves. Because, when you count LDS gays, there are just as many of them as there are straight CofChrist members, if not many more.
Only if I know this can be solved quickly within the framework of the existing institution do I ask gays to continue to sacrifice for that institution. The essence of building a Christ-like community is not asking others to uselessly sacrifice themselves for a community.
Earlier today the First Presidency released what I’ll call a “nonstatement” statement, basically saying the Standing High Council and World Church Leadership Council met for a weekend retreat. I think it would have been good to hear something more substantial, of course, but probably that will have to wait at least until after the current round of leadership quorum (C-12, etc.) meetings at headquarters.
The FP has consistently used non-events to promote the notion that “something” is happening. Either starting a committee for recommendations that never are made, or commissioning a statement from a taskforce that is never revealed to having meetings the discussions of which are never discussed.
I do find it ironic that in this statement, they tout the historic nature of this meeting while simultaneously pointing out the same people met in 2002 to discuss the same issues – to no avail.
We get upset at imposed fiat, we get upset at dialog. We don’t want to drive away our G&L friends, but we’re perfectly OK with driving away those who hold what has been our historical view?
I’d love to live in a world where I can have it both ways, take shots at leaders while not being willing to lead… well, actually I wouldn’t.
I am no Cro-Magnon, but three years ago I may well have left the church if the church had approved gay marriage or ordination (scriptures tell us to beware of those who call sin good, and that is how I viewed homosexuality). I am still struggling with the whole issue, I don’t understand it, I cannot get my head around the idea because it is not who I am or how I was raised. It doesn’t fit into my world view.
For the past 20 months, I have wrestled with God on this, asking him to help me see as God sees and to love as God loves. I am fighting 55 years of who I am and 180 years of ancestry in the church, and I am unclear as to where God is leading me. What I am trying to do is to listen to the Spirit more than I listen to my hard wiring.
If the issue had been forced through, I would have been gone. Through the process we have been going through, I am engaged in the process. I appreciate the passion that is shared in this site, but I am not swayed by either passion or reason. I try to listen to the Holy Spirit, to identify and remove my filters, and to be open to loving everyone even if I don’t agree with their life or choices.
No matter the process we go through, we are going to lose members, and that should be viewed as painful and not in keeping with the Kingdom. All of God’s children are invited to be heirs to the promise, and that is a stewardship we cannot take lightly, no matter what perspective we are coming from.
“We get upset at imposed fiat, we get upset at dialog. We don’t want to drive away our G&L friends, but we’re perfectly OK with driving away those who hold what has been our historical view?”
I’m not sure who this describes. Not me, certainly.
All of us are trying to hear the Spirit; I came to my position because for almost 30 years I’ve been led step by step by what I believe to be God moving in my life to the professional projects and sources of data I needed to form that position. I understand now that we CAN lose members and still have it be consistent with the establishment of the Kingdom.
Our losing members doesn’t mean those who leave are no longer heirs to the promise. After 164, we no longer hold the doctrine that priesthood authority on the earth is limited to those tracing their ordination back to JS. (So it can certainly hold for those, conservative or liberal, outside our denomination who do.)
To paraphrase something from Conference, “The Restoration is not a moment frozen in time”, neither is it a structure frozen in a denomination.
Rather than force divergent cultures into a single entity — which we are already moving away from internationally in Sec 164 — just because they share national borders, isn’t it possible that we should be setting the example of being the community that pays the price to do what’s best for each individual?
“isn’t it possible that we should be setting the example of being the community that pays the price to do what’s best for each individual?”
How about being the community that really does stand for peace and justice?
Here is my letter:
Dear First Presidency,
I read the statement that was released this morning in our Mission Center.
“The Presidency took numerous comments and recommendations under advisement while emphasizing it would honor the commitment made in 2002 that church officers would not make exceptions to the policy prohibiting the ordination of homosexuals in active relationships unless policy is changed by the common consent of the people.”
This is a curious statement. If you recall, the conference presented a goodly amount of resolutions to express their readiness to not only deal with this question but also to settle it in the light of the present day understanding of homosexuality as an orientation…not a mental disease, as was previously believed.
It is my belief that if the presidency continues to do what can only be described as “stalling”, we are going to lose ten to fifteen percent of the membership . How much clearer can the membership make this question? In my opinion, you either need to make the hard decision to do the right and just thing for our gay brothers and sisters or risk losing not only their membership but also the membership of all those who support them. This is a justice issue. We are supposed to be a peace and justice church. The people attempted to change this policy by common consent at Conference but you overruled that attempt.
Under these circumstances, how can you continue to justify this position?
I applaud you and wish you would post this truth on the “official” blog. If there were more people like you on earth, evil and injustice would not be so prevalent. Thank you for your courage and truth-telling.
[…] to review and correct “confusion” regarding existing existing policy. As noted here the Presidency took a non-routine step of asking the church for prayer as the retreat dealt with […]