Part of my role as a full-time minister for Community of Christ is serving as the Invitation Support Minister for the Greater Pacific Northwest Mission Center. This post was my Invitation Support Minister article that was printed in the Autumn 2017/Winter 2018 edition of The Chinook, our GPNW MC Biannual Newsletter.
Claim your unique and sacred place within the circle of those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ. Be faithful to the spirit of the Restoration, mindful that it is a spirit of adventure, openness, and searching. – Doctrine & Covenants 162:2a
Over Labor Day Weekend, I had the honor to join with others who identified somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum as well as straight allies at a GALA Retreat at Camp Red Cliffe in Huntsville, UT. GALA is an organization whose mission seeks to “Providing sanctuary, spirituality, and transformation: For persons of ALL sexual orientations and gender identities through our shared faith experience in Community of Christ building bridges of understanding”. A common theme at the retreat was the concept of “coming out”. It was present while people shared their personal stories of faith and sexuality in their journey as a disciple. We occasionally wept tears of pain, hope, and even joy, as we listened to one another share their stories of courage. Stories that reflected the sharing of their authentic truth with others.
A profound moment for me was when I began to look at this “coming out” concept with new eyes. During one of the theme classes, our Guest Minister Michele McGrath, Counselor to the Presiding Bishop, shared how the creation story was essentially God’s act of “coming out”. It was the moment when God revealed God’s self to the universe. I found this provocative statement to be very profound. The truth within it stirred further consideration in me. As the discussions continued, I began to think more about our Restoration journey as a people of faith in Community of Christ. A journey that started with an inspired beginning in a grove in New York. That journey continued as we came out as a people of faith to others in Kirtland, Nauvoo, Plano, Lamoni, and Independence, and eventually throughout the United States. As our mission evolved, we shared the peace of Jesus Christ to people around the world. A journey that has taken us to more than 50 countries. We have gone through continuous transformations as we have discerned and sought God’s will. We aren’t the same church we once were and while that has created an understandable identity crisis for some, it has freed us to further our pursuit of living out Christ’s Mission in the world today.
Sixteen years ago, we adopted a new identity. We searched within to explore who we were as a faith community and came to an understanding that we were to be known as Community of Christ. Inspired counsel to the church in 2007 confirmed this as 163 was affirmed for inclusion in the Doctrine & Covenants. 163 opened with ““Community of Christ”, your name, given as a divine blessing, is your identity and calling. If you will discern and embrace its full meaning, you will not only discover your future, you will become a blessing to the whole creation. Do not be afraid to go where it beckons you to go?” And now, sixteen years after the name change and 10 years after D&C 163, are we still sometimes afraid to go where it beckons us to go? Are we hesitant or too comfortable to truly build communities centered on the teaching of Christ?
As new people come into Community of Christ, I continuously hear stories of joy and blessing. I hear of lives transformed in faith as they journey with us and God. I hear people wonder why we they didn’t know of us sooner. For far too long, we have been one of the best kept secrets in the Christian tradition. If someone is on a personal journey of understanding who they are as a child of God, then the call to lovingly support them without pressure to “come out” is important. In terms of who we are as a collective people of faith though, it’s time to come out! It’s time to become visible to your communities. It’s time claim our truth about the love of Jesus Christ for all people and pursue his mission in loud and quiet ways in the neighborhoods in which we work, live, play, and worship in.
We are Community of Christ. Our voice cannot be stilled. We were born into the Restoration movement for a purpose. It is a purpose that continues, maybe even more so, to have relevance today. So let us wake up and journey beyond the safety of our church buildings and go out proudly proclaiming who we are, and whose we are, as we live out the mission to which we have been called. Yes, we are Community of Christ. And with that understanding, let us build Zion, the peaceable kingdom of Christ, throughout all of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and beyond!