Community of Christ and the telos of the Restoration

I want to introduce a word: telos. Telos is a Greek word that means “aim” or “purpose.” However, the “aim” or “purpose” in the meaning of telos is not the goals and objectives that defines today’s business or organizational thinking. Telos refers to the purpose or aim unfolding,  guiding, and innate within a thing or an event.

Telos indicates the essential aim of purpose of a thing as it comes to fulfillment in a process of growth and change. It points to the deep, even divine, purpose that is unfolding and fulfilled in the outcome of its evolution. Considering something’s telos is a way to grasp or understand how the change at work in something works itself out and is fulfilled in its life.  This telos connects a thing to its true being, its fulfillment, and origins. Continue reading

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

World Conference in the Blogosphere

The Community of Christ Blogitorium has been as lively as the conference chamber as the church’s World Conference gets underway. In addition to the thoughts posted on this blog, a variety of people have been posting their reflections:

John Hamer journals his positive impressions of his first conference here. Todd Elkins (here and here) offered concerns about the consolidation of power around the First Presidency, a theme that ‘Beware the Chicken’ seems particularly alarmed by (here and here). Matt Frizzell takes a more upbeat tone here, impressed by President Veazey’s sermon. Cross-posting some of his thoughts on this blog, Rich Brown has been doing some theological reflection on the issue of sexuality and the church. Lyle Anderson II has been offering a few initial impressions too.

As more people blog on World Conference, please post links to them in the comments section below.

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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What Would the Apostle Paul Say to the Community of Christ?

Rich Brown is the newest columnist here at saintsherald.com. He recently posted the following on his own blog, ForeWords, published at the Isaac’s Press Web site.

The letters attributed to Apostle Paul offer particular guidance to Community of Christ in its current struggles related to baptism and human sexuality. Of course, they need to be considered along with 2,000 years of Christian history and doctrinal development, almost two centuries of the same in Joseph Smith Jr.’s Restoration movement, and 150 years of the Reorganization.

Let’s begin with baptism.  One basic statement stands out in the seven letters just about everybody agrees were actually written by Paul (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon):

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” –Romans 6:3-8 NRSV

Clearly Paul positions the act of baptism as participation with Christ in being raised from “death” to “life.” Thus believers experience a symbolic death to the power of Sin and a rising to new life. Note what’s not in that passage: the idea that baptism washes away sins (meaning individual transgressions), the ministerial authority of the person administering baptism, the particular method of baptizing, any connection with an institutional church, and baptism’s relationship with confirmation.
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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.

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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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Veazey’s ‘Counsel to the Church’

Community of Christ President Steve Veazey presented his “Counsel to the Church” today in advance of the church’s World Conference in April. It deals with such hot topics as church membership, communion and human sexuality. Read the document here.

He also presented a “Letter of Counsel about the Presiding Quorums” regarding changes in the Council of Twelve.

Post your reactions in the comments below.