Community of Christ NCC Membership Approved
By Elder Larry C. Harlacher
The Community of Christ, on its official web site recently, issued the following announcement to "All Community of Christ Users" under the following heading: "NCC Membership Approved. On November 10, 2010, delegates at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) approved Community of Christ for membership." The announcement also stated that "President Becky Savage, Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer Dale E. Luffman, and former Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer Gail Mengel represented the church at the NCC's historic Centennial Conference." Next it was noted that the Community of Christ's "membership in the NCC culminates a journey that began at our 1980 World Conference when delegates approved World Conference Resolution (WCR) 1157 Participation in Interdenominational Christian Ministries," and this journey continued in 1992 with the approval of WCR 1222 "Interfaith Organizations," and in 2002 with WCR 1275 "Ecumenical/Interfaith Memberships."
One week prior to the above reported NCC decision, a letter was sent to the 2010 General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service, bearing the date of November 3,2010. The letter was signed by Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, NCC and John L. McCullough, Executive Director & CEO, CWS. The letter stated that "The Membership and Ecclesial Relations Committee (MERC) is recommending that the Community of Christ be approved as a member of the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service." It should be remembered that the Reverend Michael Kinnamon gave the opening address at the Community of Christ 2010 World Conference, which was reported in Vision magazine (see #66, page 12). In that address Kinnamon stated: "I would not have accepted the gracious invitation to be with you today if I, as general secretary, did not strongly support your application [for full membership in the NCC]." This letter was the fulfillment of that pledge of support.
Attached to the letter was a two-page memorandum from Rev. Dr. Robert Welsh, Chairperson of the NCC's Membership and Ecclesial Relations Committee (MERC). In the memorandum it was stated that MERC "recommends to the 2010 General Assembly that the membership application of the Community of Christ (COC) be approved." It was also stated "that the COC meets the eligibility requirements set forth in Article III, Section 2 of the General Assembly Constitution and Article II, Section 1 of the General Assembly Standing Rules," and that "the COC has expressed its acceptance of the nature and purposes of the General Assembly (and, thus, of the NCC and CWS [Church World Service]) as set forth in the Constitution; and the COC has demonstrated ecumenical commitment through its participation in various state councils of churches" and by some of its representatives participating in NCC groups and commissions.
Two areas of concern that had to be discussed and resolved to the NCC's satisfaction (which was apparently accomplished) were then listed. The first was quoted in a "supportive letter from Fr. James Massa, Executive Director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs." In it he wrote: "It is always important at the onset of any discussion of the spiritual roots of Community of Christ to note that its founder is not [Joseph Smith] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), but his son, Joseph Smith III, who was not part of the community's migration with Brigham Young to Salt Lake City in 1847."
The second area of concern that had to be discussed and resolved was "the authority accorded the Book of Mormon." According to the memorandum this was resolved as follows: "Leaders of the COC—including the President, Ecumenical Officer, and Dean of the church's seminary—affirmed without qualification that the Bible is the foundational, authoritative Scripture of the church. They acknowledged that 'the Book of Mormon is in our DNA,' and suggested that it confirms God's revelation in Jesus Christ as testified in the Bible. But it is not, in any sense, equivalent to the Bible in the life of their communion. Subscription to its teaching is not required for membership or ordination [italics added for emphasis]. While the Book of Mormon is sometimes used in worship, there are parts of the COC that seldom refer to it." From the above quotation the reason becomes crystal clear as to why the Community of Christ has distanced itself from the Book of Mormon. It is now not even considered to be on the same spiritual level as the Bible, and that would include most, if not all, versions of it, with the exception of the Inspired Version, since it never seems to be used by any of the leadership of the church. Why? Remember the first listed area of concern by the NCC was to note that Joseph Smith, Jr., was not the founder of the Church. And since, under God's direction, Joseph, with the assistance of Sidney Rigdon, made corrections to the King James Version of the Bible which was published after his death by the Reorganization, that very fact certainly has diminished its status and value in the eyes of the leadership of the Community of Christ, as well as by the NCC. Also, since over a hundred sections in the Doctrine and Covenants contain revelations given to the Church through Joseph, what will the Community of Christ do with these sections in the future? Will they remain in their Doctrine and Covenants, or will they eventually be removed?
It should come as no surprise that the Community of Christ has been granted full membership in the NCC. There have been warning signs for many years that the leadership of the Church (then known throughout the world as the RLDS Church) was becoming involved with the NCC. Richard Price published a book in 1974 entitled The Saints at the Crossroads, in which he warned in great detail about the dangers of Church involvement with the NCC (see chapters 14–16, pp. 161–200; this book is still available from Price Publishing Company).
In chapter 16, pages 190–192, Richard details three different attempts by the Church to join the NCC—in 1908, 1948, and 1970. The first two applications were rejected. Concerning the 1970 application, Richard states: "Without asking the World Conference for permission, the Church's leaders have actually applied to be placed on the 'eligibility for membership list' of the NCC" (The Saints at the Crossroads, 192). Richard received confirmation that the Church had been placed on that list in a letter dated April 18, 1973, which he received from Reverend Donald F. Landwer, Assistant General Secretary for Constituency Services, National Council of Churches (ibid., 190). News of this application and its acceptance was first revealed in a press release on February 14, 1970, in a newspaper, the Independent-Press-Telegram, of Long Beach, California (ibid., 192).
Eugene Walton, a Seventy in the Church at that time, "published a long article in the Zion's Warning for February, 1973 (pp. 4–5), [in] which [he] declared that there were dangers in such membership [in the NCC]" (The Saints at the Crossroads, 189–190). As a result the Saints made many inquiries to the First Presidency, and these in turn forced them to issue a statement that Richard labeled the "Denial Declaration," which appeared on page 4 of the Saints' Herald for May 1973. This statement needs to be read in its entirety. A key portion of it is as follows: "There have been some occasions when it has been in the interests of our own ministry, as we understand the gospel, to participate in some joint programs involving agencies affiliated with the National Council of Churches. We have never joined the Council. We have no pending application to do so. We have no intention of ever holding membership in the Council (see ibid., 196–197; italics added for emphasis). Remember, they had already been placed, at their own request, on the "eligibility for membership list" in 1970, three years before this statement was printed in the Herald. Now that full membership has been granted, it becomes very clear that the First Presidency did not want the Saints to know the truth that they in fact were seeking membership in the NCC.
In September 1991, the editors of Vision Magazine revealed in an article entitled "Secret Money Payments to the NCC Revealed by Documents from the Auditorium" that the RLDS Church had made secret payments to the NCC (see Vision #7 for September 1991, pp. 19–21). The editors revealed that "a few saints in the Center Place have known that the men of the RLDS Hierarchy were secretly sending money to the National Council of Churches, while keeping that fact from the Church members. But it was not until a few weeks ago [in 1991] that definite proof became available. One who had access to these documents at the Auditorium delivered them to the editors of Price Publishing Company. . . . Over one hundred pages of xeroxed copies of documents were delivered to the Vision editors. The documents all have to do with money which the RLDS Church leaders paid the National Council of Churches between 1974 and 1984" (ibid., 19). The editors then gave an example by noting that a check was issued "by Bishop John L. Midgordon . . . to pay the RLDS Church's membership in the NCC's Commission of Stewardship for the year 1980, for the amount of $2,044" (ibid., 19). Then the editors reproduced a copy of the check and also a copy of the receipt dated May 20, 1980, issued to the Church by the NCC which acknowledged receipt of a contribution of $2,044 (ibid., 20–21, Figures 1 and 2). Next the editors stated: "The total amount of the money which was siphoned into the NCC by the RLDS leaders is not known, but the Hierarchy belonged to a number of the NCC's departments or commissions and each commission evidently received an annual check similar to the one described in Figure 1" (ibid.,19). After noting that "The Saints at the Crossroads lists seven subdivisions of the NCC which the Hierarchy either joined or received materials or aid from" the following was suggested: "If all of these agencies received as much as the Stewardship Commission, the Church would have contributed $14,308 in 1980, and similar amounts for the other years—which would have amounted to $143,080 in a ten-year period. And whatever was paid, was spent without the saints having been informed!" (ibid., 19).
According to their official web site the Community of Christ's membership in the NCC, in their own words, "culminates a journey that began at our 1980 World Conference." In fact, that journey began many years before, even though the leadership made every effort to keep their plans a secret from the Saints, and even though they were spending the Saints' tithing money to pay for participation in NCC departments or commissions. They even denied in 1973 any desire to become a member of the NCC, when the First Presidency issued the statement: "We have never joined the Council. We have no pending application to do so. We have no intention of ever holding membership in the Council." It is said that actions speak louder than words. In this case, the Community of Christ has become fully immersed in the ecumenical movement. The following is one final quote from The Saints at the Crossroads, 133–134:
The saints should remember that one reason that God restored the Church in the 1820's and 1830's was because He did not like ecumenism. Jesus told Joseph Smith that the other churches "were all wrong . . . 'they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.' He again forbade me to join with any of them." (RLDS History, Vol.1, pp. 9–10). It is the duty of the Restored Church, then, not to join the ecumenical movement!