Monday, April 19, 2010

Seekers on the Journey

Over the last couple of days, I have been reflecting on a comment made by John Hamer on a thread over on Saints Herald. John said that, "I believe that the Community of Christ is being called to provide a spiritual home of disaffected Mormons who have left their church but remain spiritual seekers." It reminded me of a series of discussions I had on the eve of my appointee career. The process of entering appointment was very different than it was now and there were more internal discussions/debates within the Council of Twelve about the allocation of appointee resources (this was before Transformation 2000, of course and there were largely no field ministers funded by the World Church, only appointees).

I was finishing seminary in Denver and Jac Kirkpatrick was my apostle and his field also included Salt Lake City. Jac wanted me to be placed in Salt Lake with part of the thrust of my assignment being outreach to these disaffected seekers that John speaks of. I was far more involved with groups like John Whitmer and the like than I am now, so he thought it was a good fit.

Grant McMurray was a counselor in the First Presidency and he reflected negatively on the proposal. Grant had a historical perspective to draw from knowing that since the early days of the Reorganization there has always been an attempt by the Community of Christ/RLDS to peel off members from the LDS. It was his observation that often the cultural ties to Mormonism were too great for any large scale (or medium scale) effort to be successful.

While there is solid connections between intellectuals between the LDS Church and Community of Christ, how would the average Community of Christ congregation do with welcoming a LDS seeker? In order for this to happen would some more specialized resources or more importantly resource persons be available to serve as a guide for those Mormons that might be open to the church?

I write this as my own spiritual journey has led me currently to be involved with both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Community of Christ. Yet both the book of Revelation and the Book of Mormon says that in the end their are only two churches. I think it is arrogance on our part to believe that either of those churches exist in their present form today. Could it be that the Community of Christ could serve institutionally to serve as a bridge between the Mormon Church and the larger ecumenical community? It seems that the prevailing opinion of Community of Christ leadership is willing to side with those who reject the LDS claim to be Christian in order to advance the Community of Christ place in the ecumenical world (another approach which has a long history).

I don't have an answer to these questions, but instead think that it is one of those "we make the way by walking" efforts. If we are open about spiritual path and outreaching to others, it might be hard to say how the Spirit leads us.

(I did not check with either Jac Kirkpatrict or Grant McMurray before I wrote this. I don't think there are any confidentially issues here. It was 15 years ago, so I think I'm safe.)


Rich Brown said...

I think the divergent paths taken by the Community of Christ and LDS Church have now gone beyond just a "fork in the road" to quite different trails entirely. Yes, these two groups will always share a history of founding experiences, but even there we view and understand them in radically different ways. Those trends will only continue, I think. Probably much more of the movement has been undertaken by Community of Christ, so while some disaffected CofC members (Restorationists, etc.) might find a more comfortable home with the LDS (and even that's by no means certain), I doubt if there would really be many moving the other way. Theology, culture, and worldview in the two faith communities have fewer commonalities each year.

Todd said...

I don't know how important the Temple rituals and rites are to most LDS, but we clearly have nothing to compare that to.

But we are family. And sometimes we need some sort of family.

bewarethechicken said...

I like the diversity within the Community of Christ, but the remnants of our old LDS ways are often at the heart of our most vitriolic and insidious disagreement. I think it would be a mistake to pursue LDS seekers on the notion that, as Rich so rightly puts it, we have merely taken another fork in the road.

The Church cannot handle taking on new membership who are sold on the false premise upon which so many of our current disgruntled members rest their faith: (a) one true church (b) historicity of the Book of Mormon (c) endowment (d) etc.

For it is in a very real way these souls that are currently holding up progress - through no fault of their own. To invite others into this pseudo-restorationsit fold of the Community of Christ would only invite more upheaval.

Rich Brown said...

Sometimes "family" is an over-rated concept, especially when you're talking about distant cousins many times removed.

While we in the Community of Christ share some vocabulary in common with our LDS "distant cousins" (temple, priesthood, zion, endowment, prophet, revelation, etc.) they have completely different meanings for the two churches.

As somebody asked the other day, "Will the Community of Christ accept LDS baptism as a Christian baptism?" I think the answer to that could be yes only if the definition of Christian baptism is a very basic one in which the Triune name of God (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) is used.

John Hamer said...

Todd --- I think Jac was right and I'm sorry he was dissuaded. We would be a lot more prepared had the church got going back then.

To address Chicken's concerns, I'm not talking about people stuck in literalism. Mormons stuck in literalism already have a church, the LDS Church. The seekers I'm talking about already understand that (a) exclusivity claims are baseless, (b) the Book of Mormon is not an ancient document, (c) that the particular LDS endowment derives from Masonry, and (d) etc. (where "etc." very clearly includes that sexism and discrimination against gay people are wrong). The fact that they share those views is why they are disaffected and are not at home in the LDS Church.

In North America, there are over a million people who have left the LDS Church over issues like these. Some of them are done with religion; some of them are done the Restoration; however, some of them long for a spiritual home, where they can continue to discuss and share this historical and theological heritage in an open, honest way --- the way people do in the Community of Christ.

bewarethechicken said...

Ok John - yes, I was going down the wrong path. I was thinking of more liberal LDS who may be open to GLBT, but still longed for the one-true-church; BOM literalism.

As you clarify, I am more aligned with your analysis of the fruitful ground. Maybe even more fruitful after 2012 as the US moves closer to inclusion of homosexuals.