by Dustin Davis
Re-blogged from: CofChristOrange
“When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be” – Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a
We were enveloped in the spirit of worship from the first moments delegates gathered from all over the United States in the conference chamber of the Auditorium in Independence, Missouri. Hundreds of voices joined together with organ song to praise God. Words of prayer were offered asking for open hearts and minds, seeking insight and guidance. Moments of silence and blessing let the Spirit move and breathe among us. As a community we were journeying together into an unknown future with the hope of the Peaceable Kingdom held high.
The journey to that point had been three years in the planning and many decades more for some. The task was complex: provide a recommendation to the First Presidency and the Council of Twelve Apostles regarding the marriage of same sex/gender couples and the ordination of those in committed and monogamous same sex/gender relationships in the United States. The process was new and unfamiliar, and the possible outcomes were weighted with many implications. It was a historic and profound gathering.
With tension and excitement buzzing through the air, fellow disciples began sharing about these proposals from the many different perspectives that have informed and influenced each’s faith journey. Some shared the stories of family members and friends. Some shared stories of hours spent in preparation, study and prayer. Others still shared stories of the history of our faith movement and what they hold most dear. All stories were respectfully heard. All stories enriched the body of listeners. But there was also pain, sorrow and real heartache.
Again there was song. Again there was praise. Again there was silence and blessing. The Sprit moved.
Final recommendations were made. We wept with those who wept, and we rejoiced with those who rejoiced recognizing and honoring both feelings of deep sorrow and deep gladness. Then the most astounding thing happened! We worshiped together. We shared and received the peace of Jesus Christ together. We began the transformational process of healing together. And it is together that we continue to journey – more fully committed to the principles of unity in diversity and blessings of community than ever before – toward God’s ultimate vision for all of creation.
After it was all over, I was clapping and dancing with Erin Logan to the song “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” in one of the aisles in the conference chamber when, all of a sudden, a complete stranger from the Greater Northwest Mission Center pulled us both into a tight embrace.
“Let some of us old people get in on that, too!” she exclaimed. The three of us remained, hugging and laughing, in the aisle as others tried to squeeze around us.
“I have been a member of this church for 71 years,” she told us as we broke apart, “and this church has changed a lot! I have been here for every decision the church has made, big or small. Now, I haven’t always agreed with those decisions at the time they were made, but there isn’t one of them that hasn’t been a blessing once I lived it out.” We thanked her for her testimony and faithfulness, but she wasn’t done.
“You see, once I’m looking down on this conference from above and you two are the old ones, you’ll be able to handle whatever big decision the church is making because you were here today, and you’ll know that it was really a blessing even if you don’t see it now,” she said with tears in her eyes. Our fellow sister’s testimony is humbling and overflows with a wisdom that can only be found after a life spent in faithful discipleship.
The lady’s story speaks to the power of deep commitment, not to policy or procedure, but to each other. As her words pressed more fully on my heart I realized I was able to stand in that conference chamber and participate because of her faithfulness. Because of her understanding of unity in diversity and blessings of community, I am able to enjoy and experience those same things in this moment. If she, or any others, had left when she disagreed at some point along the journey there would not be a community for me to enjoy today. But she hung in there. She lived into the tough questions because of her strong faith and was blessed. She loves me, us, more than she loves her position on policy.
As the news of the policy recommendations is sent back to congregations all over the country many people will struggle with it, and there will be even more pain as brothers and sisters discern what to do next. I do not doubt that some will make the choice to find another faith community. But when that happens it is important to remember that nothing is final. Our churches have revolving doors, and if someone leaves our community for a while they my find that at some point their journey brings them back. This is the reconciling power of God found in loving community.
Regardless of where I stand I am more committed than ever to the cause of God’s Peaceable Kingdom, more committed than ever to you. I know the blessings of community, and I want to ensure that loving community remains intact for all who seek it. There is pain and suffering, but it is only from this place of brokenness that we can experience the Spirit’s healing power as we are transformed from the inside out.
Just as we have done throughout our history we have taken a big step into an unknown future, trusting in the Spirit. But we take that step together, unified by our deep love. There will be more difficult decisions to be made in my lifetime and beyond as we struggle toward beautiful Zion, decision that are unimaginable today. But we make that journey together, committed to God, to each other and to Christ’s mission.
Recommendations made by the conference can be viewed here: http://www.cofchrist.org/usaconf/