Disciples of Christ Moves Toward Inclusion

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2013

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), during their General Assembly this week in Orlando, approved resolution 1327 in which the church declares itself “a people of grace and welcome to all“:

…WHEREAS, the 1997 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) called for the church to give continuing research and reflection “concerning the participation of gay and lesbian persons in the full life and ministry of the Church”; and

WHEREAS, persons continue to be devalued and discriminated against within society and more sadly, within the church because of their sexual orientation and or gender identity; and

WHEREAS, Disciples find identity at the Lord’s table, sharing as the body of Christ, valuing each other in covenantal relationship even when we disagree; and

WHEREAS, Disciples historically affirm that individuals and congregations hold differing interpretations of scripture, but that all are called to transcend differences and claim one another in Christian unity;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly meeting in Orlando, Florida, July 13-17, 2013, calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither is grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but we celebrate that all are part of God’s good creation; and

The resolution, which passed with 75% of the vote, does not address same-sex marriage or ordination of LGBT clergy. The church’s decentralized church structure leaves questions of ordination to its regional bodies, and resolutions like this one are non-binding. According to Wikipedia:

Northern California is the only region labeled as Open and Inclusive; however, the Ohio Commission on Ministry (the body that grants ordination) has decided that sexual orientation is not a criterion for ordination. At the 2012 Regional Assemblies, a number of Disciples regions (including Kentucky and Indiana) joined Ohio in eliminating sexual orientation as a restriction for ordination. Other regions are in the process of investigating the matter, mostly on a polity (since congregations determine ethical fitness for candidates and hire their ministers) and not a theological basis.

revchicoucc

July 19th, 2013

I am delighted my sisters and brothers in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have passed this resolution after 16 years of research and reflection. I’m United Church of Christ. The UCC and the DOC have many affinities and partnerships.

On the other hand, as pleased as I am with their action, the United Church of Christ first took a position in support of lesbian and gay equality in April, 1969, a couple of months BEFORE Stonewall. A sub-region of the UCC (called an association) ordained an openly gay man as a minister in 1972. In my region (called a conference), I’d estimate a third of our active clergy are gay or lesbian. By the time I was ordained in 2000, my being gay was simply not an issue.

The UCC first expessed tentative support for marriage equality in 1997, and fully supported marriage equality in 2005, when Massachusetts was the only state it was legal.

So, as glad as I am for my DOC friends, at this point, it is not a prophetic action.

Hyhybt

July 19th, 2013

I’d have *sworn* I put a comment here this morning…

Oh well, here goes again. I’d thought that Disciples of Christ was generally *more* conservative than the Southern Baptists. Combining this article with Revchicoucc’s post… is this issue an exception?

Joyce Miller

July 19th, 2013

revchociucc – I’m UCC, too, though a member of the laity. Thanks for your comment on behalf of the UCC’s long support of LGBT issues. I’m proud to say I’m UCC.

Hyhybt – The UCC is probably considered by those who label such things as left-wing. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which is the way they refer to themselves formally, and the UCC are covenant partners, sharing missionaries. We have a close relationship, and many similarities. Thus, I think they may share some of our “liberal” beliefs.

Unfortunately, there are several Protestant denominations that have similar-sounding names. I also thought there was a very conservative group called the Church of Christ, but I couldn’t distinguish it from other groups with similar names. One such group is closely related to the Disciples.

Russ

July 19th, 2013

Just an FYI to all, there are quite a few outfits of widely varying doctrinal and sociopolitical persuasions that call themselves “Church of Christ.” I’m no expert on all that, but if anyone is curious, the disambiguation page at Wikipedia will help you sort through them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Christ

revchicoucc

July 20th, 2013

Well, it’s all very confusing, even to Christians. The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 through the union of two denominations in the US — the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. http://www.ucc.org has a description of this union. The UCC is unabashedly a liberal and progressive Christian body. Ten page essay possible on what that means, but one aspect is we like LGBT people and have for a long time.

The Church of Christ or, more accurately, the Churches of Christ, are conservative and fundamentalist Christians. They place a high emphasis on the independence of each local congregation, so high, they sometimes do not have dealings with each other. Fundamentalist and anti-modern tends to describe the Churches of Christ. The UCC and the Churches of Christ have nothing to do with each other (even at the local level — the local Church of Christ minister considers me a heretic.)

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Churches of Christ have similar historical roots in the revivalism of the American frontier in the early 1800s. The American frontier at that time being Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee. There was an emphasis at the time in trying to restore a unity to Christianity. Over time, some of the local congregations that formed from this era adapted more to American cultural norms while others maintained and strengthened their separatism. The “adapters” gradually (like over 150 years) formed relationships between congregations and those relationships in 1968 coalesced into what is today The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The “separatists” maintained their anti-denominational stance and their rigid fundamentalism.

Christianity is very diverse in its expressions and practices. Actually, it has been since its earliest days. Christian ministers like me who have honestly studied Christian history know this. And, speaking as a liberal and progressive Christian, I resent it when the Pope and the high-profile, conservative and fundamentalist celebrity preachers are presumed to speak for all Christians.

My comments here are a very, very simple version of complex histories over two centuries.

revchicoucc

July 20th, 2013

@Hyhybt: The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is not more conservative than the Southern Baptists. Women can be pastors in the Christian Church (Disciples) for example. They cannot in the SBC. The Churches of Christ tend to be more conservative than Southern Baptist. Some Churches of Christ congregations do not allow musical instruments in worship because they are not explicitly authorized in the New Testament.

revchicoucc

July 20th, 2013

Quick reference guide for LGBT folks:

United Church of Christ: almost all United Church of Christ congregations will welcome you — Open and Affirming is the designation for congregations that have voted to welcome LGBT folks to full participation in the the life of the congregation — more than 20% of UCC churches are ONA. Many more have just never voted, but are ONA in practice.

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): many DOC churches will welcome you, but there is variation, moreso than in the UCC. Open and Welcoming is the designation to look for.

Churches of Christ: Do not go there.

Sorry to take so much of the comments thread.

TampaZeke

July 20th, 2013

Russ, to put it very simply, the UCC has absolutely NO relation to the Churches of Christ.

I was moderator of my local UCC for three years. Just goes to show you how progressive the UCC and our congregation were/are considering the fact that as I was/am BUDDHIST and they knew it. Our youth director was also Buddhist. I was drawn to the UCC not because of their Christian association but because of their long and storied commitment to social justice taught by the Christ and the Buddha.

Russ

July 20th, 2013

They are certainly ecumenical! I used to know some people who went to UCC and they were all very cool, progressive people.

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