Thirty Years of Lessons: Women and Gays in the Community of Christ

Recently I was invited by the moderators of the liberal Mormon blog Wheat & Tares to be a guest contributor on issues related to Community of Christ. This post, published earlier today, is my first contribution for them.

By Rich Brown

Thirty years to the week after approving priesthood ordination for women, the Community of Christ is extending the sacraments of ordination and marriage to gays and lesbians in the United States. A two-year interim period begins on Monday, March 31, after which it will be reviewed and considered for permanent status. This follows similar action resulting from national conferences in Australia and Canada.

Lessons learned from what turned out to be a tumultuous (many might say disastrous) beginning for the 1984 landmark event have been put into place by CofC leaders today. Although a few church members in recent months have either turned in their priesthood cards or left the church, it’s nothing like the major exodus that took place three decades ago.

Aspen-TreesFor starters, this time there was a three-year preparation period leading up to a special USA National Conference held right after World Conference in Independence, Missouri, last April. The 2,000 USA delegates spent several days listening, testifying, and worshiping together before overwhelmingly recommending that the First Presidency and the USA Team of Apostles issue the changes. The official conference report is here.

Here’s the specifics: The marriage sacrament is authorized for individuals in a same-gender relationship wherever such civil marriage is legal. Elsewhere CofC congregations may celebrate a special covenant/blessing worship experience. And ordination can be extended to individuals with same-gender orientation who are either in a committed, long-term relationship or who are celibate. For those wondering, the same rules apply to straight folks.

Thirty years ago World Conference delegates were caught off guard when RLDS President Wallace B. Smith presented an inspired document to priesthood quorums and orders on April 3. Two days later the document was approved by the conference as a whole and it became Section 156 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The document was mostly about a proposed temple to be built in Independence. But the last few paragraphs brought general counsel regarding priesthood, including the following:

I have heard the prayers of many, including my servant the prophet, as they have sought to know my will in regard to the question of who shall be called to share the burdens and responsibilities of priesthood in my church. I say to you now, as I have said in the past, that all are called according to the gifts which have been given them. This applies to priesthood as well as to any other aspects of the work. Therefore, do not wonder that some women of the church are being called to priesthood responsibilities. –Doctrine and Covenants 156:9

“Wonder” wasn’t exactly the operative word for traditionalists and conservatives. Already suspicious of what they viewed as dangerous liberalizing tendencies in the church for at least two decades, they were incensed and vowed to fight the move every way possible. Business meetings in congregations, districts, and stakes where priesthood calls for women were presented often turned into angry shouting matches. People made sure every one of their baptized children was on hand to vote yes or no depending on the parents’ direction.

My own stake (Blue Valley, which included a portion of Independence and eastern Jackson County) had its rules of operation suspended because people simply couldn’t get along. It was a sad, ugly, and unfortunate time even while marking a new era of broadened ministry in the church. Today women and men serve alongside one another. If you didn’t know what happened decades ago, you’d probably never suspect there was anything unusual about the way priesthood functions now.

Numerous resolutions on same-gender issues were submitted to the past few World Conferences but were ruled out of order by the First Presidency, mainly because they were considered important to church members in a select few nations rather than as something critical for the international church. The CofC has an official presence in more than 60 nations.

In 2010 inspired counsel to the church called for creation of national conferences, specifically to consider issues related to same-gender orientation. With somewhere around half of all CofC members living outside the Western, industrialized countries in North America, Australia, and Europe, this was believed to be the only way same-gender issues could be dealt with in the church.

Delegates at the USA National Conference engaged in a unique process aimed at reaching “common consent.” This meant that a significant majority (at least 66 percent) would have to make a recommendation for top church leaders to act.

In mid-March of this year, the five apostles responsible for USA mission centers sent a copy of President Stephen Veazey’s “Statement to the Church: National Conference Recommendations and Interim Policies” to priesthood members. It was mailed to all USA pastors and high priests, evangelists (referred to as patriarchs before women were ordained), bishops, and seventy. They presented the president’s statement as “inspired by the Holy Spirit.” A DVD titled “President’s Reflections” will be available in April to church members and include four sections: Let Me Be Clear, What Does the Lord Require of Us, My Personal Testimony, and Room for Everyone.

President Veazey’s statement, which spills over onto a fourth page, is essentially a point-by-point counter to criticisms of the new same-gender policies.

To those who argued that these new policies were in opposition to previous revelation given to the church, President Veazey had this to say:

Doctrine and Covenants 111 provides instruction regarding marriage in the church. It is a statement written in the mid-1830s to counter rumors about adultery and polygamy in the church. Same-gender marriage was not conceivable, much less a question, in early 19th-century thought. To conclude that Doctrine and Covenants 111 definitely resolves the question of same-gender marriage ignores its historical context and stated purpose. Also, although Section 111 was included in the Doctrine and Covenants, its historical preface clearly states it was not a revelation.

To those who have pointed to certain Bible verses used to condemn same-gender orientation and relationships, he offered this:

Let me be clear. Continuing Revelation approved by the World Conference means those particular Bible verses are not the final word on these matters. Such verses now are understood through insights offered in Continuing Revelation approved by the church…. However, the real issue was not just several Bible verses, but how we understand and apply scripture.

He identified Doctrine and Covenants Section 163 as important counsel in these matters:

Scripture is an indispensable witness to the Eternal Source of light and truth, which cannot be fully contained in any finite vessel or language…. Scripture has been written and shaped by human authors through experiences of revelation and ongoing inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the midst of time and culture. Scripture is not to be worshiped or idolized…. It is not pleasing to God when any passage of scripture is used to diminish or oppress races, genders, or classes of human beings. Much physical and emotional violence has been done to some of God’s beloved children through the misuse of scripture. The church is called to confess and repent of such attitudes and practices. –D. and C. 163:7 (excerpted)

President Veazey concluded that Section 163:7

applies to the verses used to deny persons of same-gender orientation access to all sacraments. It also applies to situations where scripture verses are used by some to dominate, oppress, or exclude others who are different from them. Because the World Conference approved Section 163:7 as an expression of God’s will, the Bible verses most often used to categorically denounce same-gender orientation and relationships no longer should be presented as the final word on these matters.

He said it “is clear that God is maturing us as a `prophetic people’ who discern divine will by responsibly engaging scripture, tradition, Continuing Revelation, knowledge and reason, personal and community experience, and Spirit-led consent…. I believe more-than-sufficient revelation has been received to resolve issues about same-gender relationships in nations where those issues are pressing matters.”

Near the end of his official statement, President Veazey wrote: “As I have continued to seek direction on behalf of the church, the Spirit has brought assurance that questions about same-gender orientation and marriage are primarily related to life on Earth. They do not have necessary bearing on salvation, the divinity of the church and the sacraments, or the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purposes.”

No doubt people both inside the CofC and outside it will be examining these words and trying to read between the lines. For me, it’s clear that “Continuing Revelation” is the most important consideration for the church as it deals with these and other critical issues.

It reminds me of an essay by theologian David Ford who described religion as God speaking to us from the past. Think of that as the accumulation of scripture, church tradition, and wise people who’ve used reason and intelligence to bring the church to where it is today. Ford identified revelation as God speaking to us from the future.

If God is free to open history from the future then the future need not mirror the past. In the Church this combines with the message of the cross to allow for discontinuities and innovations. –David F. Ford, `Faith in the Cities: Corinth and the Modern City’ in “On Being the Church” (1989)

Ford cited the example of the apostle Paul who claimed authority as an apostle through direct revelation from the risen Christ rather than an institutional authority handed on to him from Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem. To that I would add the experience of Joseph Smith Jr. in the early 19th century, who served as God’s instrument in bringing forth a “great and marvelous” new work.

We are all caught somewhere in between religion and revelation, and every church/denomination finds its own point on the continuum. With this “Statement to the Church” President Stephen Veazey is not only prompting the Community of Christ in an obvious direction but in a curious way he mirrors the examples of Apostle Paul and Joseph Smith in challenging the church to understand more fully what it means to be a prophetic people.

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John Hamer in Mormon Podcasts

I’m continuing to update this post, originally posted by in 2013, to have a convenient place to list the various podcasts in which I’ve participated.  Over the years, the list has grown to include a vast number of shows and a wide array of topics within the field of Restoration history, culture, and theology. If you’re interested in listening to me talk about a host of issues for hours on end, you’ve come to the right place.

podcasting


Mormon Stories

Mormon Stories Episode 116: “John Hamer (Part 1) The Succession Crisis of 1844 and the Beginnings of the RLDS Church”. January 24, 2010. John Dehlin and John Hamer talk about the succession crisis from the RLDS perspective, including the early history of the Reorganization.

Mormon Stories Episode 117: “John Hamer (Part 2) From RLDS to Community of Christ”. January 27, 2010. John Dehlin and John Hamer continue their discussion about the history of the Reorganization and its modern transformation into Community of Christ.

Mormons Stories Episodes 422–423: “John Hamer on Returning to Mormonism through the Community of Christ”. June 14, 2013.  In a 2-part series, John Hamer tells his own “Mormon Story” to John Dehlin.

Mormon Stories Episodes 426–429: “A Visual History of the Community of Christ (RLDS)”. July 9, 2013. John Dehlin and John Hamer engage in a 4-part YouTube video series on Community of Christ history, including dozens of original maps and charts, along with historic images.

Mormons Stories Episode 503: “Discussing the New LDS.org Polygamy Essays (Part 1)”. October 23, 2014.  John Hamer joins John Dehlin, Jay Nelson-Seawright and Lindsay Hansen Park to discuss the LDS Church’s essay about polygamy in Kirtland and Nauvoo.

Mormon Stories Episodes 526–527: “John Hamer on Community of Christ as a Church Home for Transitioning Mormons”. March 19, 2015. John Dehlin and John Hamer engage in a 4-part YouTube video series that discusses the differences between Community of Christ and the LDS Church in the 21st Century, examining the case for Community of Christ as a spiritual home for Latter-day Seekers.

Mormon Stories Episodes 586–587: ” Responding to the LDS Church’s Clarification on its Same-Gender Marriage and Children Policies”. November 13, 2015. John Dehlin is joined by John Hamer, Debra Jensen, James Ord, and Daniel Parkinson to respond to the LDS Church’s “clarifications” of its policies on marriage equality and children of LGBT people in committed relationships.

Mormon Stories Episodes 612-613: “Reviewing 2015 with J. Nelson Seawright, John Hamer, Jamie Hanis-Handy, and Marisa Calderwood”. January 12, 2016. John Dehlin assembled a panel to discuss the events of Mormonism in 2015, including the November 2015 LDS policy change naming same-sex married individuals as mandatory apostates, and preventing their children from membership in the church.


Gay Mormon Stories

Gay Mormon Stories Episode 43: “John Hamer talks more about being gay and his journey as a gay man in the Community of Christ”. July 8, 2013.  In a follow-up to Mormon Stories Episode 423, Daniel Parkinson talks to John Hamer about how being gay has informed his path in the Restoration.


Mormon Stories Sunday School

Engaging Gospel Doctrine Episode 40: “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You (D&C and Church History Lesson 13)”. March 22, 2013. Jared Anderson lays out information for LDS Sunday School, including a discussion on the nature of the scriptures composed by Joseph Smith with panelists Jessica Duckett Finnigan, Ben Bernards, and John Hamer.

Engaging Gospel Doctrine Episode 62: “Brigham Young and the Succession (D&C and Church History Lesson 33)”. August 28, 2013. Devery S. Anderson lays out information for LDS Sunday School, including a discussion on the Succession Crisis and Brigham Young, with panelists Konden Smith, Cami Alex Thurman Ashby, and John Hamer.

Engaging Gospel Doctrine Episode 71: “Continuing Revelation through Prophets (D&C and Church History Lesson 42). November 2, 2013. Jared Anderson discusses the topic for LDS Sunday School, followed by a panel discussion with regulars Brent, Amy, and Patrick. John Hamer joins in to bring a Community of Christ perspective.

Excavating Scripture Episode 39: “Deeper Introduction to the Doctrine & Covenants, Text and Context (Part 1)”. March 19, 2013.  Hosts Laura and Brian discuss the history of the early D&C along with the LDS, Community of Christ, and other variants with John Hamer.


Project Zion Podcast

Project Zion Episode 3: Redefining Faith. September 29, 2015. Host Seth Bryant joins John Hamer and Miles Fuller in an exploration of how believers can navigate Restoration faith apart from institutional definitions and culture. This means something more than just “cafeteria Mormonism”—which might fall within the ruts of traditional definitions, even if involvement is selective. Instead, we’ll examine the ways in which frustrated members of the Restoration, and those who have moved beyond faith, can redefine terms and claim new forms of interaction that—despite the unorthodox journey—are deeply rooted in tradition, community, and identity.

Project Zion Episode 8: Supporting LGBTQ Individuals in the Wake of the LDS Church’s New Policy. November 10, 2015. Katie Langston interviews Seth Anderson, Michael Ferguson, and John Hamer on what it’s like to grow up gay and Mormon, how Community of Christ has evolved as a denomination to support full inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in North America, and what all of us can do to support our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who are most harmed by the LDS Church’s exclusionary new policy targeting the children of same-sex couples.

Project Zion Episode 40: Problem of Evil — Suffering with John Hamer. August 16, 2016. Josh Mangelson sits down with John Hamer after the 2016 Sunstone Symposium to revisit the topic of the problem of evil-suffering, following up on a previous Project Zion Podcast with Tony and Charmaine Chvala-Smith on Community of Christ understandings of the Problem of Evil.


Feminist Mormon Housewives

FMH Podcast Episode 36: “An Elect Lady, the Story of Emma Smith (Part 1)”. February 15, 2013. Lindsay Hansen Park talks to John Hamer about Emma Hale Smith Bidamon.

FMH Podcast Episode 37: “Meet Emma Hale Smith Bidamon (Part 2)”. February 16, 2013. Lindsay Hansen Park and John Hamer continue their discussion about Emma and her life.

FMH Podcast Episode 42: “The Succession Crisis and LDS Priesthood”. March 4, 2013. Kaimipono Wenger hosts a discussion on the 1844 Succession Crisis with panelists Ben Park, John Hamer, and Danielle Mooney.

FMH Podcast Episode 94: “Polygamy Controversies: Joseph Fought Polygamy?”. April 24, 2015. Lindsay Hansen Park and John Hamer discuss the actual historical evidence that counteracts the faith claims made by Richard and Pamela Price in their book, “Joseph Fought Polygamy”.

FMH Podcast Episode 95: “Dueling Cousins: How Two Smith Cousins Shaped Modern Polygamy”. May 19, 2015. John Hamer and Don Bradley join Lindsay Hansen Park to talk about Joseph Smith III and Joseph F. Smith, first cousins who were adamant opponents on the issue of Mormon polygamy.


Mormon Expression

Mormon Expression Episode 36: “Mormon Schismatic Groups”. January 5, 2010. John Larsen and Tom talk to Newell Bringhurst and John Hamer, co-editors of Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism, to discuss the various branches of the Latter Day Saint movement.

Mormon Expression Episode 58: “The Doctrinal Differences in the Community of Christ”. May 25, 2010.  John Larsen, John Hamer, and David Howlett discuss differences in doctrines and practices between the LDS Church and Community of Christ.

Mormon Expression Episode 92: “The Kirtland Temple”. November 9, 2010.  John Larsen, John Hamer, and Barbara Walden (former site director of the temple) discuss the history of Kirtland Temple.

Mormon Expression Episode 192: “Myths Concerning the Community of Christ”.  March 19, 2012. John Larsen and John Hamer discuss popular Mormon myths about Community of Christ.


Infants on Thrones

Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Part 1).  September 30, 2013. Hosts Glenn and Randy interview John Hamer about the authorship of the Book of Mormon, outlining the evidence for Joseph Smith as the author and why the Spaulding Theory can be discounted.

Nauvoo Polygamy Smackdown.  October 23, 2014. John Hamer joins hosts Glenn, Jake, Matt, and Randy to discuss the Mormon Church’s recent LDS.org essay “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo.”  Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

King Follett Revisited.  November 18, 2014. John Hamer joins hosts Glenn, Chelsea Shields Strayer, and Jake Frost to discuss the theology of Joseph Smith’s famous King Follett Discourse. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

The Problem Makers.  December 7, 2014. Hosts Glenn, Randy, Alison are joined by Mike Bohn and John Hamer to discuss Mormon doctrine and the difference between doctrine and theology, including the difference between the Mormon concept of afterlife and godhood and the concept of God and afterlife in the broader Christian tradition. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

The Christmas Jesus and Stuff.  December 21, 2014. John Hamer joins hosts Glenn, Bob, and Alison to discuss the question of the historical Jesus, the origin of the Christmas stories, and how progressive religion differs from fundamentalism. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

Excommunication the Musical.  December 21, 2014. Glenn, Jake, Matt, and John Hamer give a dramatic reading of the transcript of John Dehlin’s disciplinary hearing, prior to his excommunication from the LDS Church. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

Saturday’s Warrior Smackdown.  March 29, 2015. John Hamer joins the cast of Infants on Thrones, joining Glenn, Matt, and Randy to perform a sing-along smackdown of the campy 1970s Mormon musical, “Saturday’s Warrior”. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

John Hamer PPI.  May 26, 2015. Randy and Glenn interview John Hamer about his Mormon childhood, leaving the Mormon church, and present-day metaphysical explorations. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

Church House Rock: Priesthood Power.  June 10, 2015. Glenn and John reminisce about School House Rock and sing a song that parodies the ideas that priesthood in the Restoration includes exclusive keys of authority and physical magic to the tune of “Elbow Room.” Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

De-Romancing The Stone.  August 11, 2015. In order to fill out the complete story of Joseph the Seer and his recently unveiled seer-stone, John, Glenn, Matt, Randy, and Jake dip into the rich historical record and read witness accounts of Joseph’s contemporaries, in a documentary minisode that “De-Romances the Stone.”

Disney Songs for Alienated Mormon Kids.  November 9, 2015. In response to news of the LDS Church’s new policy of denying baby blessings, baptism, and priesthood ordination to the children of gay parents, John and the Infants have produced a satirical singalong to Disney favorites. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

The Historical Easter. March 27th, 2016. It’s Easter. And that means it is time for John, Randy, Heather and Glenn to talk about Easter. And Easter customs. And the historical Jesus. And death. And chocolate. And The Life of Brian. And a bunch of other stuff, too. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

Priesthood Power and the Magic Worldview. June 26th, 2016. John Hamer teaches Glenn, Randy, and Jake a thing or two about the LDS priesthood. And its origins. And its authority. And its power. And the magical-ness of the Mormon Worldview. And it is funny. And informative. And will tickle your ears, warm your hearts, and engorge your brains. Do not seek the treasure (we thought you was a toad). Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

Apocalypse.  October 9, 2016. Randy, John, and Heather welcome siblings Jimmy and Ben to talk about the End of the World and to laugh and giggle.  A lot.  It’s a smart, funny discussion that will have you hoarding wheat, powdered milk, and liquor in no time.  Enjoy. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.

The Definitive Meaning of Life. Period.  November 27, 2016. John and his brother Ben Hamer join Randy & Jimmy Snyder Heather Craw to discuss The Meaning of Life: both the Monty Python movie and the actual meaning of life. Caution: This program’s intended audience is adult ExMormons and may contain NSFW language.


Mormon Expositor

Mormon Expositor Episode 54: Who are James J. Strang and the Strangites?  November 6, 2013. Hosts Clay Painter and Brandt Malone talk to John Hamer about the 1844 succession crisis, why and how James J. Strang emerged as a serious rival to Brigham Young and the history of the Strangite Church since Strang’s martyrdom.


Sunstone

Sunstone Symposium 2013 Session 111: “Neither Protestant nor LDS; Community of Christ’s Unique Understanding of Scripture”. August 1, 2013. In a presentation at the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City, John Hamer discusses the ways in which the Community of Christ conception of scripture differs from both the LDS and Protestant conceptions.


Radio West

James Strang’s Brief Kingdom. February 19, 2014.  Doug Fabrizio of National Public Radio and KUER interviewed John Hamer about the history of James Strang and the Strangite Mormon Kingdom on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.


Back Story with the American History Guys

A Strangite Time. March 20, 2015.  As part of their exploration of the history of American islands for NPR, the American History Guys interview John Hamer about Beaver Island and James Strang’s kingdom in Lake Michigan.


Interesting Canadian Mormons

Interesting Canadian Mormons Episode 12a: John Hamer and Community of Christ (Part 1) and 12b (Part 2). August 3, 2014.  Host Sampson Nordquist interviews John Hamer about misimpressions Mormons may have about Community of Christ.


Naked Mormonism

Naked Mormonism Episode 43: Schism Grenade with John Hamer. November 1, 2016. Beginning with the transition time from Kirtland to Far West in 1837-38 host Bryce Blankenagel and John Hamer have a wide ranging discussion that includes major moments of schism in Mormon history.


Rational Faiths Episodes 22, 30, and 39: “Diverse Mormons at Sunstone”: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 2014.  Brian Kissell interviewed John Hamer and 33 other individuals at the 2014 Sunstone Symposium to create an audio mosaic of the diversity of thought present.

Rational Faiths Episode 32: “Scriptures What Are They Good For?”  November 9, 2014.  John Hamer joins host Brian Dillman along with Mormon scripture scholars Colby Townsend and Joseph Spencer to discuss the purpose of scriptures in the Restoration context.

Rational Faiths Episode 40: “Seek ye out of the best [podcasts]”: Charity 101 January 3, 2015.  John Hamer joins host Brian Dillman along with Lori Burkman and Paul Barker to talk about charity and ways to maximize giving.


Mormon Matters

Mormon Matters Episode 1: “An Introduction, PBS’s ‘The Mormons’, and an Ensign Article”. June 7, 2007. In this initial podcast, John Dehlin introduces Mormon Matters and discusses the PBS documentary “The Mormons” with panelists Julianne Hatton, J. Nelson-Seawright, Ann Porter, and John Hamer.

Mormon Matters Episode 3: “The Mountain Meadows Massacre”. June 25, 2007.  At the 150th anniversary, John Dehlin recalls the history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre with panelists John Hamer, J. Nelson-Seawright, and Ann Porter.

Mormon Matters Episode 6: “LDS Church Finances and the ‘Approaching Mormon History’ Press Release”. July 14, 2007.  John Dehlin discusses whether the LDS Church should be required to reveal its finances with panelists Ann Porter, John Hamer, Paul M., and Blake Ostler.

Mormon Matters Episode 9: “Big Love and Mormon Fundamentalist Polygamy (Part 1)”. August 7, 2007. John Dehlin talks about fundamentalist Mormonism and its depiction on the HBO series “Big Love” with panelists John Hamer, Ann Porter, and Tim Grover.  The discussion was continued in Episode 10 (Part 2).

Mormon Matters Episode 13: “Our Discussion on Inoculating the Saints (Part 1)”. August 29, 2007. John Dehlin reviews a Sunstone presentation on the idea of teaching Mormons uncomfortable truths (rather than white-washing history) in order to “inoculate” them against later faith crises with panelists David King Landrith, Blake Ostler, and John Hamer. The discussion continued in Episode 14 (Part 2).

Mormon Matters Episode 14: “Inoculating the Saints — Listener Feedback”. September 9, 2007. Eric Soderlund (who blogs as “Equality”) and “Mayan Elephant” join the conversation on inoculation with John Dehlin, Ann Porter, and John Hamer.

Mormon Matters Episode 17: “Book of Mormon, Introduction, Lamanites and Native Americans”. November 9, 2007. John Dehlin talks about the LDS Church’s change in the wording to the introduction of the Book of Mormon and the implications for literalist interpretation that Native Americans are Lamanites with panelists Ronan James Head and John Hamer.

Mormon Matters Episode 18: “Same-Sex Marriage and Mormonism”. November 16, 2007. J. Nelson-Seawright discusses the controversial topic of marriage equality and Mormonism with John Hamer, David King Landrith, and Rosalynde Welch.

Mormon Matters Episode 19: “An Analysis of Mitt Romney’s ‘Faith in America’ Speech (Part 1)”. December 7, 2007. John Dehlin discusses Mitt Romney’s speech on his Mormonism with panelists John Fowles, John Hamer, Tom Grover, and Russell Walker. The discussion continued in Episode 20 (Part 2).

Mormon Matters Episode 209: “New LDS Statement on the Book of Mormon.” January 6, 2014. Host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by panelists Katie Langston, John Hamer, and John-Charles Duffy in a discussion about the LDS Church’s new statement on the Book of Mormon “translation” process.

Welcome All

Two Sundays ago I was invited to preach a sermon on the theme “Welcome All” at a congregation in Independence. It was just a few days after the passage of the marriage equality bill in New York State and so I felt compelled to preach on the importance of the Community of Christ becoming a welcoming church for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I also wanted to use the opportunity to publicly apologize for my own homophobia, which as a young adult I had accepted uncritically from those who had given me religious instruction. I show that the church has often struggled to be prophetic on human equality, using examples of race and the American Civil Rights movement. I call on Community of Christ congregations to become inclusive churches.

I wrote up a summary of my sermon for my column in The Examiner (Independence, MO). Click here to read it.

Violence Aimed at the GLBT Community

The following statement was posted on the Community of Christ Web site today (October 22, 2010):

First Presidency and Council of Twelve Statement

The First Presidency and the Council of Twelve Apostles want to be clear that while there may be disagreements over some issues related to sexual orientation, Community of Christ members and leaders should act firmly against any forms of violence, harassment, bullying, blaming, slurs, or jokes that dehumanize or degrade any human beings. The 1992 World Conference passed a resolution on Human Diversity (WCR 1226) that states: “…we accept responsibility to resist fear and hate in all forms and to strive continuously to eliminate expressions of prejudice and discrimination.”

The growing fear, intolerance, and violence throughout the world alarm the Presidency and the Council of Twelve. Recently, young people of homosexual orientation have been harassed to the point of suicide. In some areas of the world homosexuals are beaten, jailed, or killed. Also, some churches recently have increased the volume and frequency of their condemnations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people.

The church has not always provided clear assurance that our faith community and congregations should be safe places and sanctuaries of peace, where people need not fear embarrassment, harassment, or blame because of their sexual orientation. Our mission is to Proclaim Jesus Christ and Promote Communities of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace. Therefore, it is vital that we engage in words and actions that “uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:6a). We must work to ensure safe and peaceful congregations and communities for all of God’s children, including our GLBT members and friends and their families.

We may not agree on all questions related to human sexuality and sexual orientation. However, we are earnestly seeking more insight and understanding. We invite all members and friends of Community of Christ to join us on this journey.

Upcoming Retreat

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

D&C 164: My Response to John-Charles Duffy

Concerning my interpretation of the compromise underlying D&C 164, I’ve found my understanding to be in keeping with the understandings of the delegates and leaders I’ve interviewed here at World Conference in Independence. However, I have found that many folks on the internet don’t share this interpretation for various reasons, as we’ve illustrated in discussions here at SaintsHerald. I want to address a very thoughtful response that John-Charles Duffy posted on his excellent blog, Liberal Mormon Spirituality. You can read his post here. Continue reading