The Community of Christ 2004 Conference
By Richard Price
If those who attended General Conferences in former years would have attended the 2004 conference, they would have immediately recognized that there were so many changes in doctrine and practice that it is no longer the same church. For instance, the Independence Examiner featured a picture on the front page of teenagers dancing “during the worship service at the Community of Christ World Conference Thursday evening. The program was called ‘How Do We Learn from the Spirit?’ Marshall [one of the dancers] characterized their dance as ‘ballet meets hip hop'“ (Examiner, April 2, p. 1). In former years such spiritual stalwarts as Apostle Arthur Oakman, Patriarch Elbert A. Smith, and Patriarch Roy Weldon preached stirring gospel-filled sermons to the Saints during the evening services.
A New Document for Their Doctrine and Covenants
President Grant McMurray presented a long document to the delegates to be added to the Community of Christ’s Doctrine and Covenants, calling it “Words of Counsel to the Church” (World Conference Bulletin, 258–259). In the document’s introduction, McMurray said the document was not received directly from the Lord:
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. (ibid., 258)
Among other things, the document instructed the membership to give up past beliefs and accept the new order:
2b. ... 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.
The document was accepted by the delegates on March 31, and was included in their Doctrine and Covenants as Section 162 (WCB, 286). (WCB—World Conference Bulletin—was issued to those who registered.
The Communion Service
A study of the program for the Communion service on March 28, 2004, shows that the Community of Christ has departed from the way those services have been conducted from 1830 until the ecumenical suggestions in the Position Papers were enacted. Those papers surfaced in 1969. The emphasis at the March 28 service was upon people and cultures, rather than upon Jesus Christ.
For instance, five different kinds of bread were served on the Sacrament trays. The service’s program included a paragraph describing each kind of bread and the reason it was selected, including the following extracts:
- unleavened bread, "This bread unites us not only with our Jewish brothers and sisters but all exiles";
- rye bread, "Dark grains of ancient origin . . . , a symbol for workers and for the unemployed, for the struggle of those impoverished";
- corn tortillas,"Let corn tortillas symbolize the Latino and Hispanic communities throughout the world";
- rice cakes, “For many a symbol of happiness and long life" ; and
- wheat bread, “May wheat bread symbolize for us the hope of children everywhere."
Three kinds of liquids were used for the serving of the “wine.” The program instructed, “Each tray holds a mixture of the wines offered. The center cups are water,’ coconut juice is in cups at the rim.“ The program stated:
- grape juice, "In this unfermented wine is the affirmation that God can, indeed, do a new thing";
- coconut juice, "May the sweet, pure liquid from the heart of the coconut unite us with our island members in remembering the sacrifice of Christ"; and
- water,"The Lord’s Supper is a simple meal revealing to us our essential nature, the truth of our humanness."
The Sacrament Prayers to Be Changed
The Community of Christ’s official publication, the Herald, for December 2003, page 37, published resolution G-1, ‘‘Prayers for the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” which was submitted for the consideration of the World Conference by the Australian Mission Centre. This resolution called for a change in the words of the Sacrament prayers which the Lord commanded should be read over the bread and wine before they are served. The new resolution stated:
Whereas, The First Presidency has the authority to interpret the scripture and law of the church, including our understanding of the contextual use of language; and....
Whereas, Translations of these prayers are currently being used in scores of languages (both classical and tribal) other than English; and
Whereas, These translations are already being used in jurisdictions comprising over half the total active membership of the church; and
Whereas, Some of these translations include language that is both less gender specific and in far more contemporary language; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the World Conference request the First Presidency to create and authorize optional alternative Communion prayers, containing contemporary language. (Published in the World Conference Bulletin as Resolution G-1, page 126; and as Resolution 1282, pages 330 and 335.)
This resolution, as Resolution 1282, was approved April 3, 2004 (see page 335).
In 1830 our Lord gave to Joseph the Prophet specific words which are to be used in the Sacramental prayers, and which are found today in Doctrine and Covenants 17:22–23. G-1 called for the prayers to be altered so they will be “less gender specific and in far more contemporary language.” This means that God is not to be spoken of as a male, or as our Father.
The Sacrament prayers in the Doctrine and Covenants were given by divine revelation as commandments when the Gospel was restored in the 1830s, and therefore they must not be changed. But many in the Community of Christ prefer that God not be referred to as being masculine, but wish to use modern ecumenical and New Age terminology in referring to Him. The desire to change the God-given prayers is another evidence that the Community of Christ is moving to eliminate every vestige of the Restoration Movement and change into an ecumenical denomination. The changing of the Sacrament prayers is another step into deep apostasy.
Full Acceptance of Homosexuality Delayed
The Community of Christ leaders have been trying for years to have their church openly condone homosexual marriages, but they realize that if they institute the practice too quickly they will lose many members. Therefore “Listening Circles” (Herald, March 2004, page 39) have been developed to condition their members into accepting the new system. At the conference sixty-six listening circles on the subject of homosexuality were scheduled to encourage small group discussions (see “Opportunities for Discussion,” [10 pages]; see also WCB, 261).
Meanwhile the C of C leaders continue to encourage homosexuality by promoting an organization known as GALA. The World Conference Bulletin advertised a “GALA Worship Service,” to which “GALA members and friends are invited to a service of worship, celebration, and affirmation on Wednesday, March 31.... Richard and Barbara Howard will bring the ministry for this service. Stop by the GALA booth in the assembly room [of the Auditorium] for details” (WCB, 280). Yes, there was a booth in the Auditorium where homosexuals and their supporters could congregate and move their cause forward!
The leaders of the Community of Christ are in a difficult position, for they are determined to keep their church “in the forefront” of modern ecumenical trends (which currently insists upon accepting homosexuality), and yet they know that accepting the practice as a law of their church will cause the loss of thousands of their tithe payers. And their church is now so destitute for finances that they cannot allow that to happen. The liberal leaders worked patiently for ten years before introducing women’s ordination, and still lost thousands of Saints—and they will lose thousands more over the issue of homosexuality when that lifestyle is accepted by delegates as binding upon their church.
During the conference, the Restoration Bookstore was visited by a number of delegates from across the United States. Some of them brought up the subject of homosexuality and stated that if the practice had been accepted as a doctrine at this conference, they were prepared to leave the Community of Christ and start independent branches or groups.
There were several World Conference resolutions dealing with homosexuality, including G-4, G-5, G-6, G-10,G-11,and G-12. Resolution 1279 was passed which resolved that the other resolutions be referred to the First Presidency, and that the subject be brought before the 2006 conference, so the study could be continued “to look for ways to reach understanding and a compromise that can protect the church’s unity and be in keeping with our mission statement” (WCB, 334— 335). In other words, to allow more time to wear the Saints down to where they will accept homosexuality without splitting their church.
Efforts to Join the NCC and WCC
For over thirty years the hierarchy has been associating with the National Council of Churches (NCC) and World Council of Churches (WCC) (see The Saints at the Crossroads, published in 1974). At the 2002 conference the leaders had the delegates approve the official joining of those organizations (see Vision 40:10 and the World Conference Bulletin for 2002, pages 150— 151). The bulletin for this 2004 conference contained a four-page report of their investigation of the possibility of doing so (WCB, 263—266). The WCC told them to join the NCC first, and that among other things to join the WCC they would have to
- make contributions (of course),
- accept the baptisms of other churches as authentic,
- agree that the Holy Spirit works in other churches, and
- agree that other churches are also a part of God’s true church. In other words, that the C of C is just one church among many, all being equal in authority and in offering salvation.
These are goals which the liberal church leaders have been working to inject into their church for years (see the Presidential Papers, published in 1979). It is no problem for them to embrace these beliefs, but the orthodox portion of the RLDS Church could never accept them. It is God’s only true Church which Christ Himself restored in 1830, and these changes are entirely unacceptable. As an example, Christ did not allow the Pharisees to be a part of His New Testament Church.
The report states that the church leaders have worked with the NCC by having “church members who have served on [NCC] committees locally, regionally, and nationally during the last twenty years” (WCB, 264). Actually, it has been over thirty years that RLDS officials have participated in NCC activities, as can be seen by studying The Saints at the Crossroads.
The report indicated that the C of C will continue to explore possibilities of membership in the NCC and WCC. Restorationists, however, will remember that the World Council of Churches has its roots in Marxist Communism, and is an ultra-liberal organization. The Communists founded the Federal Council of Churches in 1908, but it was so strongly Communistic that it fell into disfavor. Therefore, the leaders of that organization disbanded it and formed the WCC in 1948 and the NCC in 1950—the same people and organization with the same goals, but with a more subtle approach. (For more information, see The Saints at the Crossroads, 163—172.)
Conference Frequency Changed
Citing as justification that the “World Conference of 1998 expressed its desire for the church to consider broadening the focus of World Conference ‘beyond legislative endeavors to include such things as education and training components for leadership and spiritual development for all ages’ (WCR 1263),” the First Presidency introduced and received the approval of Resolution 1277 which changed the way conferences will be conducted in 2006 and 2008 (WCB, 333—334). The First Presidency also received authorization to “provide for a full evaluation of this [new] method of holding World Conferences ... and submit further recommendations to the 2008 World Conference” (ibid.).
Resolution 1277 specified:
- That the World Conference shall continue to be held biennially, but that these gatherings shall alternate between those with primarily legislative purposes and those with primarily educational and fellowship purposes,
- That Conferences with primarily legislative purposes shall continue to be conducted in a manner and format generally similar to current World Conferences,
- That Conferences with primarily educational and fellowship purposes shall have a restricted legislative agenda limited to consideration of prophetic documents submitted by the president of the church, changes in the leading quorums, budget projections, approval of ordinations, required elections . . . and such other items of business as shall be deemed by the First Presidency to be of such urgency or significance as to require their consideration sooner than the next legislative Conference. (WCB, 333–334)
Both types of conferences will require delegates. The 2006 Conference will be an educational and fellowship conference, and the 2008 one will be legislative. In all likelihood this changed format will continue indefinitely.
It appears that this new system will give the officials in the First Presidency more dictatorial control and make it even easier for them to obtain passage of any legislation they desire, regardless of its damaging effects upon the C of C. As an example, the First Presidency now has at least four years to continue to condition the people to accept homosexuality. Since legislation in 2006 can only be initiated by the First Presidency, this will effectively prevent anything on that subject from coming before the conference from the Saints before 2008.
With the passage of this resolution it becomes clear that the First Presidency has gained even more control of future World Conferences. Effectively they now have four-year periods to promote whatever they wish, and though they will appear to be considering the concerns of their members through their “listening circles,” they have reduced the delegates’ right of common consent. Now their membership will have to wait for four-year periods before attempting to express concerns by introducing any resolution at a “legislative Conference.”
Tithes Down in December
The Community of Christ’s Herald for March 2004 reported on page 23 that “Mission Tithes fell sharply in December , which historically has been the church’s highest income month of the year. December income was down more than $500,000 from last year.” (The Community of Christ no longer uses the term stakes. The stakes were dissolved and “missions” have replaced them. The term stakes is a Restoration term, so it had to be replaced by an ecumenical term such as other liberal churches use.) Their income has declined steadily for years because so many fundamental members have been forced out by the leaders’ liberalism.
The Community of Christ Church Is Shrinking
Even the Community of Christ leaders have published that their church is dwindling in numbers. This statement was published in the April Herald:
The church’s growth in recent years has been primarily in developing nations while its traditional North American base has generally declined or remained the same. If this trend continues, what impact will this have upon the church? (Herald, April 2004, 15)
The answer to their question, “what impact will this have upon the church?” is found in the simple words of Christ as written in Matthew 7:35:
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.