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.

Help Needed in Haiti

Outreach International is looking for a long-term volunteer with good research and writing skills to work in Haiti for 6-12 months. If you are interested in helping Outreach International’s school system in Haiti, which serves over 9000 students, recover from the January earthquake, click here to read the vacancy announcement.

Cheap Peace and Costly Peace

Last night I gave a talk at the Stone Church in Independence, Missouri on the “Pursuit of Peace.” I used the opportunity to explore an idea I have been thinking about lately — using Dietrich Bonheoffer’s observations on “cheap” vs “costly” grace to consider the different types of peace that people pursue.

I believe that too often, our society and our church, settle for pursuing “cheap peace” — that requires little commitment, little sacrifice and little chance of making sustained fundamental change. By contrast, I tell the story of grassroots peacebuilding efforts in Western Kenya, which have been conducted at great difficulty and personal risk (for those interested in learning more about these efforts, click here).

To read the sermon, click here.

Appalling…

The Quran

On September 11, 2010, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is hosting International Burn a Quran Day.

From 6-9pm “Christians” can burn the Quran at the local church.  The city of Gainesville has refused a burn permit for safety reasons, however the church has vowed, “BUT WE WILL STILL BURN KORANS.”

Dove World Outreach Center’s pastor Terry Jones is quoted by CNN as saying, “We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times.”

Dove World Outreach Center's Pastor Terry Jones

Some other local religious leaders have organized a Gathering for Peace, Understanding and Hope to occur near the same time to counter this book burning.  At least there is some attempt being made to counter the Quran burning.  This story is attracting some media attention, and likely moreso as the planned date approaches–assuming the Outreach Center sticks with the plan.

To me, this is appalling.  The very concept of this idea is contrary to everything I see the Community of Christ standing for, or atleast what it should stand for.  I see this as an attack to an entire religion of people, and just one day after the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan at that.  And worse yet, this is being done in the name of Jesus.  Shameful.

I’ve been blessed in my life to get to know many people intimately of very diverse religious backgrounds.  I have worshipped in Islamic mosques openly before, with no hesitation or concern.  I have celebrated Ramadan with Islamic friends three seperate years and endured the month-long fast, multiple times.  I know personally of three other Community of Christ members who engaged in Ramadan at least once as well.  It is a complete test of mind, body, and will.

I cannot believe that if Jesus Christ was with us at this moment that he would join in or approve of the burning.  Same as I do not believe, as others argue, he would join them holding up GOD HATES FAGS signs.  This is not the Christ that I’ve come to know.  And this is not the Jesus that the Community of Christ knows.  I pray this is not the Jesus known by most of Christianity.

We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.

We have a special calling, and the world needs to hear the “liberating truths of the gospel.”  Jesus is hope, not hate.

Blogging about Blogs

Blogs are everywhere now, and the number of people who have their own personal blog grows constantly. Its only logical that the subject matter on blogs should by now cover virtually every topic imaginable. Search any imaginable term in Google Blogs, or your search engine of preference, and undoubtedly someone’s blog will come up talking about it.

It is only fitting then that the amount of people blogging about the Community of Christ is growing. This site is merely just one example of people, some members/friends/associates/curious observers, blogging about their views and opinions on issues related to or involving the Community of Christ in some form or another. Many of the bloggers on Saints Herald blog elsewhere, too. Even Grant McMurray has his own blog:http://grantamused.blogspot.com/ Will it ever stop? Does it ever need to?

Community of Christ blogs are not only about the church from the inside, but growing more and more prevalent are blogs of others looking in on the church and examining it to varying degrees from their own set of life experiences. Personally, I see this most often in blogs from visitors to Community of Christ historic sites. People visit Nauvoo or Kirtland (mainly) then go home and blog about their experience with Community of Christ guides, or about their attempt to understand us. In a bizarre phenomenon, many of these visitors seem far more willing to pour their inner souls out to the entire world over the internet than they ever would on an anonymous comment card or simply to one volunteer.

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A Plea for Civilty

This article, by Bill Russell, a professor from Graceland University (the Community of Christ college) is a reprint of the 21 July 2010 installment of his ‘Political Scene’ column in the Lamoni Chronicle.

In past columns I have added my voice to that of many others who are anxious for a return to a politics in America where civil discourse is commonplace rather than rare. One of those voices is from the Mormon Church website: “The Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. . . . The Church hopes that our democratic system will facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing.”

At the church’s most recent General Conference, Mormon Apostle Quentin L. Cook said: “Many in the world are afraid and angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree.  The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught.”

It seems fairly clear to me that one person – and probably the main person — these communications were aimed at is Glenn Beck, himself an adult convert to Mormonism. A former alcoholic and cocaine addict, I think Beck’s conversion to the LDS Church made a lot of sense. The church’s strict teachings on alcohol and other drugs has probably helped Beck recover from these addictions.

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The Globalization of Zion

‘Zion’ has been a central theological concept and practical imperative of the Community of Christ, since its very beginnings.  Particularly in the first half of the 20th century, Zion (not to be confused with Zionism) represented a vision of ‘the kingdom of heaven on earth’ – not to be realized in some far off future, but to be built in the here and now. But the political and economic forces of globalization have significantly impacted the way the Community of Christ now thinks of Zion. Continue reading

Help Out in Haiti: Outreach International Needs Long-Term Volunteers

Outreach International, a humanitarian and development charity affiliated with the Community of Christ, is seeking help with post-earthquake reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Outreach International supports a network of 90 schools in Haiti.  Some 30 of these schools were destroyed or sustained major damage from the earthquake.  The reconstruction process goes far beyond the normal scope of work of our local partner, Organisation pour le Développement Social des Masses (ODSM), which administers the network of schools. It will take time, strength, and expertise to assess the situation, evaluate needs, negotiate with potential funders, and handle the details of rebuilding facilities and lives.

Outreach International has three broad objectives in post-earthquake Haiti:

  • Get kids back into school
  • Help rebuild families and community
  • Rebuild the schools program Continue reading

Anti-Nuclear Weapons Legislation will Test CofC Peace Commitment

At stake is whether I trust in God or the bomb. In nuclear war there are no winners. I therefore cannot agree that perfecting the bomb and developing the ability to use it first is a basis for my security and well being. It is certainly not an appropriate basis for my faith. … The fashioning of nuclear weapons and threatening to use them is a sin — a sin against God, against God’s likenesses (all humans), and against God’s creation. … Our security as a people of faith lies not in demonic weapons which threaten all life on earth. Our security is in a loving, caring God.

These prophetic words were delivered in a brave and remarkable sermon given by Charles D. Neff to the 1982 Community of Christ World Conference. Neff knew what he was talking about. He was in Hiroshima as a US Naval Officer just a few weeks after the city’s destruction by an atomic bomb. “What I saw there,” he told the conference attendees, “is indelibly etched into my  mind, my heart, my soul. The stark reality of death and despair everywhere in Hiroshima in 1945 was indescribable.”

Among the many contentious pieces of legislation that the Community of Christ faces at its upcoming 2010 World Conference is G-11, “Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” from the Central USA Mission Center. I believe this will be a key test of whether the church is moving toward becoming a peace church, something I have expressed doubts about on this blog.

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Reflections from Haiti

As of the last week in January, I have been working as the Haiti Emergency Coordinator for Outreach International, a charity affiliated with the Community of Christ. Since the 1980s, Outreach International has supported a network of about 90 schools catering to 9,000 students in Haiti. About 30 of these schools were in the earthquake-affected area, most of which are damaged or destroyed, affecting over 1,200 children. The following are links to reflections on my first visit to Haiti in early February, as serialized in The Examiner (Independence, MO):

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