Thursday, August 1, 2013

The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada happens every other year.  This year, the Disciples gathered in Orlando, FL.  Tim and I, along with my father, Traverce Harrison were there from First Christian Church of Ames.  It was a week of worship, prayer, singing, hearing about the work and challenges of our denomination, and considering the business of the church.
We heard reports from Higher Education and Leadership Ministries, the Council on Christian Unity, Division of Overseas Ministries, Disciples Historical Society, Disciples Home Missions, and many more.  We passed resolutions on such topics as Clergy Parental Leave, Continuing our commitment to starting New Churches, Open Meetings Policy, Removing Racist Language from our Governing Documents, Encouraging People to Work for Equal Access to Voting for All, and many more.

One resolution passed by a large majority was on “Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All.”  Disciples have always professed an open table where all are welcome.  This “all are welcome” can be difficult to really live out at times when you have people with differing points of view.  That’s why we always say it is Christ who unites us, not our thoughts or opinions or even specific beliefs.  At the table we all gather in the love and grace of God.  So the question has arisen whether we really mean all are welcome.  This resolution seeks to say, “Yes!”  From the resolution:

the General Assembly meeting in Orlando, Florida, July 13-17, 2013, calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective…”

Also in this issue of The Call, you can read a pastoral letter from Disciples General Minister and President, Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins expounding on this topic further.  First Christian Church in Ames has been and will continue to be a “people of grace and welcome to all.”  Our tag line is, “Come as you are, you belong!”  And we add, “And we mean it!”  We do not have to agree to gather around the table and share the bread and cup of Christ.  And, as a matter of fact, we are better people because we dare to meet people “as they are” and offer welcome and hospitality and to treat each person as part of God’s family, our family, and trust that we all grow deeper in relation to one another and God when we don’t limit our interactions to people with whom we agree.  So this resolution, passed by the General Assembly, simply states what we already practice.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has a commitment to being a “pro-reconciling/anti-racist” church.  We have a historic and living commitment to building bridges between black and white people in this country.  While we were meeting in Orlando, the verdict of not-guilty in the George Zimmerman – Treyvon Martin case was announced.  That was a solemn moment to be gathered as church across racial lines and to see and feel and hear the experiences of African American brothers and sisters in Christ.  One of our African American Ministers shared that his son asked if what happened to Treyvon Martin would happen to him.  It was a sobering moment.  Whatever the “facts” of the case, the verdict has put a people in touch with how much reconciling work we have yet to do as a nation.  As Christians, and as Disciples, may we do what we can to be “pro-reconciling/anti-racist” in our language and our actions.  May we truly be a “movement for wholeness in a fragmented world” as our identity statement proclaims.

If you’d like to read more about the business of the General Assembly, you can go to:

Mark your calendar!  
The next General Assembly will be held July 18-22, 2015 in Columbus, OH. 

                                                                                                    Pastor Mary Jane

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