My Reflections During President Veazey’s Address
It’s 9am Monday morning and I’m sitting here at work, checking my emails, sipping a latte, and listening to the live audio stream of the service at the Temple in Independence, Missouri where President Veazey will address the church. It’s autumn (fall) here in Melbourne, Australia, and it’s warm and rainy outside. The air is filled with that lovely smell of humid clouds, and people are hustling into the building to begin their week.
John Wight is welcoming everyone to the worship in the sacred space of the Temple, and welcoming those around the world who are joining in, also in sacred spaces. I hadn’t thought of my desk as a sacred space before. He is now praying, that we might be the good news in the far flung places of the world, pursing the mission of Jesus the Christ. As he prays, I read an update about conflict in the Middle East – the clashes in Syria, and wonder about the Good News there.
President Veazey is now reading the children gathered a story, “We Share” – a new book the church has published. The children around are paying attention, fidgeting a little bit, looking around at all the people gathered, who are their family in Jesus Christ. The little girl on his knee is looking around too, I don’t think she realizes that thousands of people around the world have their eyes on her (probably better that she doesn’t know.) President Veazey is talking about how anywhere in the world when you come across a church member you come across family. I can testify to that. Throughout my travels, I have been the recipient of the hospitality of strangers, who are my family in the church, countless times. I hope to repay that generosity.
The congregation gathered are now singing “Now in this Moment”. I’m sure that for many of us, this is a favourite. It’s nice to “see” the Temple again. I haven’t been since about 2004. What a special place it is. I remember my late Great Aunt, Margaret Naylor, and one of her paintings that hangs in a stair way there – a portrait of a decimated child in the hands of an elder. A reminder of the potential for destruction we can cause amongst our human family. A choir sings, enchanting, creating sacred sounds for our ears. A reminder of the peace that is possible.
I’ve had to move myself to a small meeting room so that my co-workers don’t spot me tearing up a little.
President Veazey has just delivered his address. Wow, what a mixed bag of frustration, passion, encouragement and prayerful reflection on the ‘State of the Church’. I’ll try my best to reflect on some key points through my dampened eyes right now.
I’ll post a general summary below. It’s a bit long, so in the event you stop reading here I’ll reflect now:
To boil it down to a few words, what I heard him say was: enough already. Love, each other, fully. LOVE! We, collectively as the Christian faith community, have always struggled with those who are ‘different’ from us in our cultural and historical contexts. Time and time again, we have been reminded that we are One Body in Christ. Time and time and time again. It’s clearly time for another reminder. We need to get out of the way of the work of God. We need to put down our prejudice, our egos, our systemic beliefs, our politics, to come together to partner with God in the Good News of the Gospel. I am pleased that this is the platform we are reminded to put ourselves on when we are discussing at our National Conferences. I am challenged. How can I identify my own beliefs that are limiting the flow of the Spirit through me, and through the church? How am I blocking that? What do I need to set aside? How am I contributing to this ongoing struggle?
I am encouraged that the Leadership are feeling frustrated – I am, in a good way. Because that’s what moves us. I hear that. I can’t imagine the difficulty. But it’s time to move. I’m so glad we’re moving. I’m so glad to end the discrimination that so many are feeling – that I even feel sometimes as a heterosexual, de facto relationship priesthood member who is inactive for that very reason (the de facto part). I can’t imagine what others are feeling. And I completely acknowledge that this is going to be very hard for a lot of people.
Really, I was most moved by a closing comment: We will turn to each other and immerse ourselves in the reconciling and healing waters of oneness in Christ and say, “Why did it take us so long to get here?” Amen.
Actually being part of this worship from afar was really meaningful, something I wasn’t expecting, It has renewed my commitment to what I can do today to bring the Good News to those around me.
My Summary of President Veazey’s Address
He addressed a few key issues, so I really recommend you view and read the address, if you haven’t already. But there were obviously one or two issues that stuck out. Before that though, a scene was set (paraphrased):
He uses a scripture to remind us that it is hard to break free from our personal opinions and beliefs to turn to the wider mission of what God calls people to do. The Holy Spirit was calling Peter to be in community with the Gentiles. Peter loathed Gentiles. His upbringing screamed “No!”, but the Gospel screamed “Yes”. His conversation reflects that just as the Church is preparing to do, people throughout Biblical times came together to discuss, and seek guidance for the future. He talks about the Holy Spirit breaking into the status quo, challenging perceptions, attitudes, beliefs.
He witnesses that the Holy Spirit is working in the church today, right now, to deepen our vision of what Oneness in Christ means. Defining people by class, sex, gender, ethnicity are no longer primary. Through the Gospel, community, reconciliation, unity, diversity, love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God. Through baptism we commit ourselves to come to a new kind of community. No longer Jew nor Greek, man nor woman, for all of you are one through Christ Jesus. What does that really mean? We see each other from Christ’s perspective – Christ sees capacity, giftedness for discipleship and ministry as the same for each person, the whole spectrum of humanity. We simply refuse to label people and assign worth and opportunities for ministry according to those labels. To do that is to return to the old world that we stated we left behind when we were baptized and confirmed. Call to Oneness. To live with each other as God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit live together. In love, oneness, mutuality, unified purpose through sacred community. That the world may believe in the Mission and Message of Christ. If we are no different than the world around us, what is there to believe in in a world of fear and hate? It’s hard to let go of what we’ve been taught about other people, our culture, politics – except through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Firstly, the continuing discussions on issues around homosexuality and ordinance. I’ve paraphrased his message here, some reminders in the time of preparation now upon us for National Conferences:
We cannot continue to ignore these questions. They are growing in intensity in many areas of the world. Only through humble listening to the Spirit’s witness will this be resolved. The question is: What is the Spirit saying and doing today? Give attention to these fundamental questions. No matter the outcomes, some will be disappointed, afraid and angry. This prospect weighs heavily on me. Some will want to separate themselves from the faith community. Regardless of the outcomes, how will we continue to live as loving communities of Oneness in Christ, while some have such strong differences? We all need to feel the weight of those questions now.
Secondly, we need to pay attention to the serious reality of the situation today. Some are already receiving priesthood calls who are in monogamous committed same sex relationships. Those people are committed, passionate servants. Their lives are evidence of the Holy Spirit. To be clear, these calls are not now being approved in compliance with 2002 World Church Leadership Council statement that there would be no more processing of such calls unless policies are changed through common consent of the people. What does it mean that pastors and leaders in some nations continue to receive these calls, are we hindering what the spirit is trying to do to provide for needed ministry in some congregations?
Thirdly, the majority should not decide the status of a minority (homosexuals) without first fully hearing them. Hearing the minority who are feeling discrimination in the church. The need is for ethical discussion and deliberation that does not further wound, alienate, or mute people who are already feeling judged and condemned. Are we willing to go, to talk, and to listen, even when some are so uncomfortable with the topic? Are we truly willing to listen before we decide? Here again, do not be fearful of one another. Respect each life journey. Be ready to listen and slow to criticize. We must prayerfully prepare. Don’t confuse egos and thoughts with guidance from Holy Spirit. Diversity is a gift that helps us more fully understand God’s will.
Our primary focus will be on pursuing and funding the 5 Mission Initiatives. We must not become distracted from living mission. the full mission. The future is full of joy and blessing and love and peace for all. We will turn to each other and immerse ourselves in the healing waters of oneness in Christ and say, “Why did it take us so long to get here?” The spiritual journey toward oneness with Christ is our home.
View and read the address
What are your thoughts and reflections on this address?