Wednesday, March 31, 2004

World Conference - Tuesday
"Do Greater Things"

Good Morning Readers,

World Conference 2004 is well under way. We have already experienced some of the detours and distractions.

Tuesday started out rather slow. There was no early morning worship scheduled, and this reporter missed beginning the day in corporate worship.

As the Quorums and Caucuses met for their morning sessions there was much discussion in small and large groups about the content of the "Words of Counsel to the Church". All of the various Quorums, and Caucuses completed their discussion and voted on acceptance of the document during their sessions. So the official action by the entire conference began.

As part of a long standing tradition, the President of the Church, Grant McMurray, leaves the conference during deliberation and discussion. This frees the delegates to speak more freely on the issue and also removes the possibility of endless questions from the body, "What did you mean by . . . . . . .?"

The process begins with the document being moved and seconded, officially bringing it to the floor for action. The entire document is read and then the reports by each of the Quorums and Caucuses as to their action. Many were unanimous in their approval, others used words like strong or overwhelming majority. Concluding that process the entire conference begins to discuss the document. It is read a paragraph at a time and each paragraph is discussed. The Conference has not authority to change or amend, only to accept or reject approval of the entire document. As you can imagine, there is often spirited discussion on various words, phrases, and occasionally paragraphs of the document. As it turns out, even extending the time of Tuesday's afternoon business session, we didn't quite finish business of the document, and will take it up again in the morning business session on Wednesday.

We got as far as the final discussion on the individual paragraphs, and the entire document was ready to be discussed and voted on, but the number of persons seeking the floor for comments was far too long to be completed in the allotted time. So we adjourned until Wednesday.

Tuesday's evening worship was a special evening. Part of the Worship was an Ordination. There are seven Quorums of Seventy in the Community of Christ. The Seventy are the missionary focused ministers of the Church. Each Quorum has a leader, or President, of their quorum. A vacancy in the Presidents of Seventy initiated the need for the election, within the Seventy, of a new President of that Quorum. Sam Kumar, from India, was elected by the Seventy to fill that position. Sam's "Setting Apart", or ordination, was historic for the Church.

The Worship also included wonderful music, preaching, drama and imagery that helped us focus on "Doing Greater Things" than even Jesus did during His earthly ministry.

That promise and challenge was given to His disciples as he was preparing them for life after his crucifixion, and has been handed down to us as His current disciples, as a way of showing us the power resident in those who seek to do the Lord's work, for Him, in the communities in which we work, and learn, and play and live. As we become the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities today, may we recognize His power working in us to make those communities of Joy, Hope, Love and Peace.

Don't forget to check out the church web site www.cofchrist.org for the latest in the progress of conference. Also stop by www.imageevent.com/jimdoty for current photography of happenings at conference.

Seventy Bob

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

World Conference - Monday
"Believe In Me"

Morning Readers, It is another Glorious day - another day to celebrate God's goodness. Here's a couple items and places you may want to visit for conference reports and also photos by fellow journalist and photographer extraordinaire Jim Doty.

Dozens of conference photos are posted in the albums here.

Well readers, Monday was indeed a day of surprise. Our President and Prophet, Grant McMurray, brought to the church, "Words of Counsel" (see note above).

In our faith tradition, we believe God still talks to us and provides direction for us as a church through our President/Prophet. This process involves much prayer, listening, questioning, and seeking for clarification and confirmation. After conviction that the insights and ideas are from God, and for us now in this time and place, the President brings an "inspired document" with "Words of Counsel" to the World Conference. Various Quorums, and caucuses are given copies of the counsel with the express direction to read, study, discuss, compare, and vote on the willingness to accept these words of counsel as representing for us "the mind and will of God". This is a process that may take a day or two to process. After all the individual approvals are received, the conference as a whole is formally given the document to discuss and ultimately vote on. If approved, this document will be given the status of "scripture" for us and entered as a new section in our Doctrine and Covenants - one of our three accepted books of scripture, along side the Bible and Book of Mormon. The vote is seen as part of a process of "Common Consent" used to govern the Church.

The day dawned early as the morning worship, in the Temple, was led by the Native Americans, with drums, flute, gourd rattles, feathers, beads, singing and dance. A chalk artist drew the entire time and created a living worship setting for the service of worship. It was a festive and yet solemn worship with moments of emotion and feeling. We celebrated and greeted "The Directions". We faced East, West, North, South, Up, Down, and within. Even if the words and symbols aren't expressly understood, Worship is universal in Spirit.

The day also included the business session in the morning where two pieces of legislation were ruled out of order by the Presidency, meaning that they contained language or provisions that the church couldn't implement, or didn't have that authority to enact by previous church law and policy. It was a slow news day on the business front.

The evening worship was again an extraordinary experience. It was a service formed around baptism, and several testimonies were shared by persons recently baptized or anxiously awaiting baptism. The Tahitian's brought an explosion of color and joy to the music ministry. Members of the Seventy, our missionary focused Priesthood Officers, were on hand to answer questions from any who might want information about the process of baptism and membership in the Community of Christ.

The days are filled with laughter, tears, hugs, conversation, renewal, reconciliation, fellowship, crowds, noise, singing, worship and praise. We are indeed a people who trying accept the Lord Jesus' challenge to, "Believe in Me!"

As we continue to become a prophetic people, a people on the "Path of the Disciple", we will continue to be challenged and directed by God's Spirit. Will we answer the challenge, will we make the journey from the cross to Community?

Tomorrow - "Do Greater Works"

Seventy Bob

Conference photo albums are here.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Monday morning, March 29, "Words of Counsel to the Church" were presented to the various councils and quorums of the church for their consideration.

Words of Counsel to the Church

For many months I have struggled with a persistent conviction that God is calling the church to a clearer understanding of what it means to be a prophetic people. I have sensed as never before that we are uniquely called to be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ and to claim again the principles of Restoration in our own time. These thoughts have haunted me, perhaps in part because I have resisted expressing them, painfully aware as I am of my own sinfulness and personal shortcomings. But still the urgency rested upon me, until one night I tossed fitfully in my bed, unable to yield to the sleep that needed to come. Finally, I arose and in the silence of the night tried to embrace what was written on my heart.

The words did not flow as if dictated, but were wrested out of my own encounter with the Spirit that had been working with me these many months. I wrote, and then in subsequent days I pondered the words, recasting them here and there as further clarification would come. Even as I present them to the church, I do so sensing that there is more to be said. But the same Spirit that leads me to write these words also compels me to invite the church to join in the task of discerning God’s will for us. I am not yet sure what form that will take, but I believe it is our next step as we continue the process of becoming a prophetic people.

To the Councils, Quorums, and Orders, to the World Conference, and to the Church:

1a. Listen, O people of the Restoration—you who would become a prophetic people, embodying in your life together the ministries of the Temple. Listen to the Voice that speaks from beyond the farthest hills, from the infinite heavens above, and the vast seas below.

b. Listen to the Voice that echoes across the eons of time and yet speaks anew in this moment. Listen to the Voice, for it cannot be stilled, and it calls you once again to the great and marvelous work of building the peaceable kingdom, even Zion, on behalf of the One whose name you claim.

2a. Listen carefully to your own journey as a people, for it is a sacred journey and it has taught you many things you must know for the journey yet to come.

b. Listen to its teachings and discover anew its principles. Do not yearn for times that are past, but recognize that you have been given a foundation of faithful service, even as you build a foundation for what is yet to be.

c. As a prophetic people you are called, under the direction of the spiritual authorities and with the common consent of the people, to discern the divine will for your own time and in the places where you serve. You live in a world with new challenges, and that world will require new forms of ministry. The priesthood must especially respond to that challenge, and the church is admonished to prayerfully consider how calling and giftedness in the Community of Christ can best be expressed in a new time.

d. You have already been told to look to the sacraments to enrich the spiritual life of the body. It is not the form of the sacrament that dispenses grace but it is the divine presence that gives life. Be respectful of tradition and sensitive to one another, but do not be unduly bound by interpretations and procedures that no longer fit the needs of a worldwide church. In such matters direction will come from those called to lead.

e. Again you are reminded that this community was divinely called into being. The spirit of the Restoration is not locked in one moment of time, but is instead the call to every generation to witness to essential truths in its own language and form. Let the Spirit breathe.

3a. Do not be discouraged. You have not been promised an easy path, but you have been assured that the Spirit that calls you will also accompany you.

b. That Spirit is even now touching alive the souls of those who feel the passion of discipleship burning deeply within. Many others will respond if you are persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.

4a. Listen carefully to the many testimonies of those around the world who have been led into the fellowship of the Community of Christ. The richness of cultures, the poetry of language, and the breadth of human experience permit the gospel to be seen with new eyes and grasped with freshness of spirit. That gift has been given to you. Do not fail to understand its power.

b. It is for divine purpose that you have been given the struggles as well as the joys of diversity. So must it always be in the peaceable kingdom.

5a. Do not be defined by the things that separate you but by the things that unite you in Jesus Christ.

b. Over and over again you have been counseled to be reconciled, to seek the unity that is imperative to the building of the kingdom. Again the Spirit counsels the church to not allow the forces of division to divert you from your witness.

c. Listen together to one another, without judgment or predisposition. Do not assume that the answers to matters of conflict have yet been perceived. There is much labor to be done. Reason together in love, and the Spirit of truth will prevail.

6a. From the earliest days you have been given a sacred principle that declares the inestimable worth of all persons. Do not forget.

b. The One who created all humankind grieves at the shameful divisions within the human family. A prophetic people must work tirelessly to tear down walls of separation and to build bridges of understanding.

c. You hold precious lives in your hands. Be gentle and gracious with one another. A community is no stronger than the weakest within it. Even as the One you follow reached out to those who were rejected and marginalized, so must the community that bears his name.

7a. There are many lives waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel, or to be lifted from hopelessness by the hands of loving servants. But they will be lost to you without the generous response of disciples who share from their own bounty that others may know the joys of the kingdom.

b. Many are fearful and believe their security is to be found in the accumulation of possessions. The answers you seek are not inherent in the things of this world but in a faith that places its trust in the promises given to all who would follow Jesus Christ.

c. You have been given the principles of generosity, rightly interpreted for a new time. These principles call every disciple to tithe faithfully in accordance with means and capacity. Those values, deeply rooted in the Restoration faith, affirm that stewardship and discipleship cannot be divided and are dependent upon each other.

d. The call to respond is urgent. Look to the needs of your own congregations, but look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go. Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place.

8a. You are a good and faithful people, but sometimes you fail to see the power that is resident in your own story and fellowship. Look carefully, listen attentively, and sense the Spirit among you.

b. Do not be unduly concerned with numbers. Be fervent in your witness, passionate in your discipleship, and vigorous in your labor on behalf of peace and justice. Where two or three such disciples form community, there will the Spirit be. Many will come to see.

c. Continue your journey, O people of the Restoration. You have been blessed thus far but there is so much yet to see, so much yet to do. Go forth with confidence and live prophetically as a people who have been loved, and who now courageously choose to love others in the name of the One you serve. Amen.

W. Grant McMurray

President of the Church

Independence, Missouri

March 29, 2004

Community of Christ - World Conference - Sunday
"I Am The Way"

Morning faithful readers,

Here is today's update from conference. Wish you were here.

The daily theme for Sunday played itself out throughout the day, in the morning Worship, the opening of the legislative session, and President, Grant McMurray's sermon Sunday night. The Scriptures record a conversation in which Jesus is telling the disciples that he is leaving them, and that they will follow. He assures them they know where he is going. The Apostle Thomas asks the question that maybe many of them wanted to ask, but were afraid, "How can we know the way?". Jesus answers, "I Am The Way!"

Worship at Conference is truly an awesome experience. The International personality of the Community of Christ is so very evident at conference. Africans worship and sing with such an incredible energy and Joy. The Tahitians fill the sanctuary with colorful costume and rich music as well. Prayers are offered in many languages that this reporter doesn't comprehend, and yet the language of prayer is universal enough that the spirit of prayer transcends the words used.

Communion also carried the international personality as the sharing of the emblems of the Lord's sacrifice takes on an international "flavor". Where most of us in the United States are used to emblems of bread and grape juice, the international community uses emblems meaningful and specific to them. Unleavened bread, dark colored rye bread, and corn tortillas filled the trays. Grape juice, water, coconut milk, and even soda are used in nations where water is often unavailable and unsafe to drink.

Conference officially opened in the afternoon as the delegates assembled for the first of many business sessions. The session opens with the flags from the fifty nations that the Church is organized in being carried and displayed on the rostrum. It is an awesome and colorful symbol of the larger community we impact. Sunday's business session was mostly preparation to "do business". The Conference was organized, the Presidency was authorized to conduct business, and rules of order were presented as the official control over how we discuss, debate, and vote. Greetings were brought from several official and government entities, including a welcome from Rondell Stewart, Mayor of Independence. An inspiring and challenging opening speech was brought by Dr. Lovett Weems Jr., Professor of Church Leadership, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC.

Another highlight of opening day is the Worship Sunday night. Many people who don't participate in Conference, come to hear the President of the Church share his vision, insight, challenge, and direction. Grant didn't disappoint. Grant is a gifted communicator, warm and relaxed, who makes one feel as if Grant is speaking directly to them in the comfort of their own home. And, at the same time makes us uncomfortable to sit and stay in the same old spaces. Grant challenged us to move out, to build up, to create, to refine or remodel the ways we live in community. One line this reporter appreciated from Grant's sermon was, It is not the journey from Gethsemene to the cross, but the journey from the cross to community that Jesus calls us to. Jesus call all disciples of every age to the same journey. Will we follow on the path of the Disciple?

Lack of space and an appreciation of your time compels this reporter to bring today's column to a close. But stay tuned. It promises to be a week of surprises, and challenges.

Monday's theme, "Believe in Me".

Seventy Bob

Dozens of conference photos are here.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Community of Christ - World Conference 2004
"Live Christ's Way"

World Conference. What is it? What causes several thousand people to converge in Independence, Mo. Every two years? They come from literally all parts of the world. They come at their own expense. They take time off from work. Some come officially as "delegates", others just come for the experience. What draws them? As this reporter goes through the week, we hope to provide answers to some of these questions.

As I drove the 10 hours from Denver, Co. to Independence, I was struck with some of the similarities between the journey "to" Conference, and past journeys "through" Conference. The journey starts out with blue skies, and smooth roads. As we begin the trip, the traffic on this four lane highway is all going along pretty much the same speed and people seem to be moving along well. We seem to have a sense of direction and a vision of the destination we are moving toward.

And then there is a shift in traffic. Some people begin to exit the freeway, caught up in one distraction or another, and the body of travelers begins to thin out. Some people race ahead, far too fast to be safe, or cautious. Are they paying attention to the road signs? Others lag behind, and to stay with them feels painful and arduous. I hate to leave them behind, but I can't travel that slowly.

Then the road narrows. Rough road ahead! Detour! We creep through the detours, switching lanes back and forth. The destination now seems somehow distant and out of reach. And yet we travel on. Finally, the detour ends and travel is easy and comfortable again - until the next.

I've had these same feelings at many past conferences. We meet, we greet, we begin the tasks at hand with a clear sense of direction and destination, and then some want to race ahead, faster than I can comprehend the ramifications of the details. Other times I seem comfortable with the pace, but others seem to want to drag their heals. Unjustly afraid of some unforeseen and often non existent problem. And so we detour. We go slow. We switch lanes back and forth and for a while seem, to lose track of the destination. Finally we get past it, and we move on, and the journey seems easy and comfortable again, at least for some.

Today, Saturday, is a day of preparation. Arrivals, registration, pre-legislative discussions, Quorum gatherings, fellowship. The meeting and greeting. Tomorrow, after a morning of Praise and Worship, the travel begins. Will the road be smooth? The travel easy? Or will there be detours? Collisions? Will we all arrive at the destination? Can we truly "Live Christ's Way?"

Tomorrow, "Opening Ceremonies - The Adventure Begins"

Seventy Bob

Photo albums of conference are here

Friday, March 26, 2004

Good News and Recognition

World church ministers from around the world gathered in the Temple sanctuary Friday afternoon to greet one another, visit, sing, pray, and share good news.

Most of the ministers present have lived in several different states and provinces, and in some cases, different countries, so it is very good to renew old friendships. Some new church resources were introduced including a new priesthood manual and a new members manual.

After a break, these same ministers along with their spouses, gathered back in the sanctuary for a special service of recognition.

Recent retirees and their spouses came forward to be recognized.

Then those with 25 years of service came forward to be recognized. Finally, there was a time of rememberance for those who have passed on since last conference. The Presiding Evangelist brought a challenge before the closing scripture, hymn and prayer.

Another conference has begun.

Seventy Jim

Conference photo albums are here.

Traveling to Conference

Thousands of delegates and visitors from all around the globe are heading for Independence, Missouri for the biennial conference of the Community of Christ. Many of them in the USA and Canada will have a one or two day drive. Others will be flying in to Kansas City. Some from Asia and other remote locations are spending two days on planes to get to conference.

A few delegates from around the world arrived last weekend for several dates of International Leaders Meetings that began Monday and ended yesterday. World Church ministers will have meetings this afternoon which will end with a special service of recognition for those who are retiring or have 25 years of service. There will be more pre-conference meetings Saturday, followed by a reception with major church leaders.

Sunday morning there will be two Communion Services and the first business session of the conference will be Sunday afternoon. Stay tuned for reports and photos.

May all those on the road and in the air be blessed with, as some of my friends phrase it, "travel mercies".

Seventy Jim

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Community of Christ -
World Conference Reports and Photos

Reports and photos from conference by Seventy Bob and Seventy Jim will be posted here when conference begins.

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