Jim Slauter Resigns as C-12 President in Community of Christ

UPDATE 5/11/2011: First Presidency Fills C-12 Vacancy

On Wednesday, May 11, President Steve Veazey released a Letter of Counsel Regarding the Presiding Quorums in which Barbara L. Carter was called to be an apostle.

That priesthood call will not be considered until the April 2013 World Conference. However, the Letter of Counsel further noted that effective August 1, 2011, Barbara Carter will function within the Council of Twelve as an apostle designate. Because her ordination cannot take place until this call is approved, President Veazey took what is believed to be an extraordinary and unprecedented step by explaining that she “will be assigned by the First Presidency to provide leadership and supervision to an apostolic field. She will participate in Council of Twelve meetings and other World Church leadership gatherings according to the nature of her assignment and responsibilities.”

In a related move, Apostle Scott Murphy was named as Director of Field Ministry and Apostle Linda Booth, as C-12 secretary, will serve as acting president of the quorum until September when quorum members select officers. New field and ministry assignments for the Twelve are listed here.

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Earlier this week Community of Christ President Steve Veazey announced that Jim Slauter, president of the Council of Twelve Apostles and director of Field Ministries, has resigned from those positions and will be retiring from World Church appointment. The resignation and retirement will be effective August 1, 2011.

Brother Slauter requested this action so that he and his wife could give greater attention to the ongoing medical needs of their five-year-old grandson Matthew. Jim was set apart as president of the Council of Twelve at the Special World Conference in June 2005 (at that Conference Steve Veazey was called from his then-position as president of the Council of Twelve to assume the position of president of the church). Jim was called and ordained as an apostle at the 1996 World Conference. He first accepted World Church appointment 24 years ago.

The full text of the “Letter of Counsel Regarding the Presiding Quorums” is here.

Jim Slauter’s letter of request is here.

A letter of support from the remaining eleven members of the Council of Twelve is here.

Although no official announcement was made, it appears the vacancy in the Council of Twelve will not be filled until the next World Conference, scheduled for April 2013. The positions of council president and field-ministries director presumably will be filled by current members of the Twelve, at the direction of the First Presidency.

Veazey Blogs about Pilgrimage to Hiroshima

Community of Christ President Steve Veazey has a new blog and has been posting reflections on his experiences visiting the city of Hiroshima:

The scenes at the Peace Memorial Museum will haunt me for the rest of my life, as they certainly should. May I never forget them. If enough people could see what we saw and feel what we felt our mindset would change. We would do whatever is necessary to ensure that nuclear weapons (which a many, many times more powerful today) would never be used again for the sakes of all of our children and grandchildren.

The first article in the series is here. Click here for the second.

Veazey’s thoughts remind me of the following comments made by the late Charles D. Neff in a 1982 World Conference sermon, in which he called on the church to take a courageous stand against nuclear weapons:

My friends, I was in Hiroshima just a few weeks after an atomic bomb was dropped from an American military airplane onto that city. What I saw and felt there is indelibly etched into my mind, my heart, my soul. The stark reality of death and despair everywhere in Hiroshima in 1945 is indescribable.

Readers may also be interested to know that a retired Community of Christ minister and former editor of the church’s magazine, The Herald, Jim Hannah, was arrested at an anti-nuclear weapons demonstration in September this year. The charges against him were recently dropped and spoke at an anti-nuclear weapons rally earlier this month. To read Hannah’s justification for his participation in non-violent direct action against nuclear armament, click here.

For a previous discussion on this blog of the Community of Christ and nuclear weapons, click here.

Some Walls Just Came Tumbling Down

The boundaries separating Community of Christ from other Christian denominations have just gotten considerably more porous.

Item No. 1:
Last week CofC leaders released details on new procedures for church membership for Christians previously baptized in other denominations. An interim policy takes effect January 1, 2011, and will be valid through the following August 31.

On September 1, 2011, an official policy becomes effective. It is anticipated that a new church-members introductory course will be available by that time, and all new prospective members will be required to complete it. Until then existing resources (Walking with Jesus: Disciples in Community of Christ and Sharing in Community or We Share: Identity, Mission, Message, and Beliefs) may be used by local authorities.

A key element in both the interim and official policies is that this procedure is only for those people who were baptized (1) at the age of eight or older and (2) their baptism involved water [full or partial immersion, pouring, or sprinkling]; in other words: infant baptism does not qualify. All people seeking membership in Community of Christ in this way must agree to a Shared Understanding of Baptism statement.

Included with the official announcement of this significant policy change was a letter from church president Stephen M. Veazey. In it he explains how the policy came into being, its direct connection to Doctrine and Covenants Section 164 (approved in April 2010 at World Conference), and a brief personal reflection.

Item No. 2:
On November 10, delegates to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches U.S.A. unanimously approved Community of Christ for membership. A report by a NCC committee recommending approval is here (the report also includes the church’s “We Share” document). The NCC report makes for interesting reading, particularly the section that notes that the Community of Christ’s “founder” was not Joseph Smith Jr. but Joseph Smith III (admittedly, this information is provided by a representative of Roman Catholic bishops and excerpted from a letter by him to the committee).

The announcement on the church’s Web site is here. While this announcement is not totally unexpected (recall that the NCC’s general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, addressed the CofC World Conference this year and expressed his strong support for this step), it does represent a significant (some would probably substitute “radical”) development in RLDS/Community of Christ history.

These separate announcements are not simply administrative actions, of course. There are major theological and historical issues involved. Clearly there are those who view this moment in the church’s long history as a leap into religious maturity while others see it as damning proof of apostasy.

Perhaps in both cases this becomes a core question: Now that the Community of Christ allows church membership for Christians without requiring rebaptism and the denomination is a part of the National Council of Churches USA, what difference is that going to make as the church (understood as a worldwide communion, national churches, mission centers, congregations, and faith movement) moves ahead?

In its shortened form, it’s simply this: So what?

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.

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.

The Community of Christ is Becoming a Peace Church!

Please Note: This post is a response from Community of Christ Apostle, Andrew Bolton, to two blog postings by his son, Matthew Bolton: “The Community of Christ is Not a Peace Church” and “Managed Decline or Rejuvenation?” Matthew Bolton’s articles critiqued the church’s implementation of its peace mission. —Ed.

I want to respond to Matthew’s article.

Perhaps we should own up to being father and son straightaway. In recent years our relationship has become more like equal friends and that has been a real joy for me. I even look up to him — he is 6ft 5in and I am only 6ft 2 1/2 in. He writes better than I do and intellectually he is ahead of me. I like to think though that the thousands of conversations we have had over the years have helped shape not only his intellectual skills of analysis but his interest and deep convictions about peace and justice… and his outspokenness. Emily, his beloved wife, is also having a good influence on him. We both look up to her (5ft 5in) and she may, in her Mennonite convictions and personal courage, be even more committed to peace than either of us.

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Rebaptism, Boundaries, and the Journey Ahead

In his April 5th Address, “A Defining Moment,” President Steve Veazey tackled several pressing issues facing Community of Christ.  Most anticipated were his remarks regarding rebaptism and conditions of church membership.   A recent article in the Herald by Church Historian Mark Scherer indicates that this is not a new issue for Community of Christ, the church at certain times and under certain conditions recognizing the baptisms of another Restoration church.  These instanced included, under Joseph Smith III, recognizing the baptisms of those who had followed Brigham Young west if they had been baptized before the 1844 schism, and members of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) from 1918 to 1926.  A recurring issue, Community of Christ is now engaging it in new ways and with new eyes, considering whether baptisms of other Christian faiths are acceptable for new members entering into our community. Continue reading