President Veazey, thank you.

Dear President Veazey,

I just finished listening to your sermon this evening at the 2010 World Conference.  I’m grateful, again, for your message and leadership.  Thank you for reminding me of who I am and reminding us, the church, of who we are.

As the baptized, we are first a new creation in Christ.  Before we are even male or female, Greek or Jew, any nationality or ethnicity, slave or free, we are one in Christ.  (Galatians 3:28)   Our oneness in Christ is first, prior to any other aspect of our identity.  Amidst every question about our identity, your prophetic leadership reminds us that the very meaning of our lives in in Christ.  The meaning of the Restoration is in Christ.

When you shared your leadings and meditation on Galatians 3:28 January 17th, I was spiritually moved.  My heart radiated with gratitude.  I, too, have been led to this scripture amidst Paul’s writings in my own study in consideration of the ethical and theological issues taking shape in the church.  I, again, received a personal testimony of the Holy Spirit at work in the church through your leadership.  After years of frustration with church and my own spiritual formation in ecumenical study, I feel affirmation for the church and personally deeply affirmed.  You are leading the church with a witness of Christ – a prophetic witness to Christ and call to discipleship in community that I share and know to be true.

President Veazey, thank you for prophetically leading the church and defining your prophetic leadership by your witness of Jesus .  Thank you for choosing not to lead by personal agenda about the church’s identity.  Thank you for not leading with your views on this or that issue.  Thank you for leading with a prophetic vision that transcends individual perspectives or generational bias.  Thank you for prophetically leading by the light and witness of your testimony of God’s work and purpose in Jesus Christ.  Thank you for reminding us of our call to discipleship, Christ’s call to mission and relationship, and our call to be God’s community in witness of him.  Thank you for prophetically leading by calling us to Christ in order to be the church.

Thank you, and Fred Craddock, for reminding us how to read scripture and what scripture is for.  Thank you for reminding us not to simply read scripture to answer our questions, but to utilize it in light of the grace and character of the God it witnesses to.  Thank you for prophetically pointing our spiritual attention to the church’s moral issues and theological questions, not as big problems, but as an invitation to go deeper with God.  Thank you for calling us and our witness forward to embrace these challenges.   Thank you for putting our lives amidst a Restoration journey that is still unfolding.  Thank you for reminding us that we walk with God amidst scriptural times.

Thank you for reminding us that people suffer and die unnecessarily of disease, hunger, and injustice while we haggle over ecclesial issues and concern over identity.  Thank you for reminding us that the work of Zion is with Christ amidst world– our world and its communities.

Thank you for calling the North Atlantic church to greater global awareness.  Thank you for calling us to become an international community of signal communities.  Thank you for calling us to become a Community of Christ.

counsel to the church

I was at the Temple yesterday for President Steve Veazey’s presentation of inspired counsel to the Community of Christ.   My soul was moved unexpectedly several times during the service.  I was first struck by the Spirit in our singing and words from the Gospel of John.  More than once, I was moved to tears.  But, I also felt a deep conviction of the Holy Spirit  in President Veazey’s words of counsel to us.  I want to share a portion of that testimony.

First, thinking about President Veazey’s counsel, I’m aware again about something unique about our tradition as a Christian people.  I’m not interested in drudging up old adages about Restoration distinctives.  Other movements, too, hear and respond to God’s call to prophetic witness.  But, I honor the faith and responsibility being called forth by our “theocratic democracy.”   Considering President Veazey’s inspired counsel in the light of the issues before us, we are amidst the profound moments of our theocratic democracy.  We’re being asked to discern and respond to President Veazey’s inspired counsel to us.  We are not being expected in some sectarian or cultish fashion to blindly accept or mindlessly follow our spiritual leaders.  Instead, the difficulty of the issues and call to witness before us in these words form a responsibility to faith that takes form in our personal response.  To believe the inspired counsel given yesterday, we are called closer to God, to act in faith in accordance to God’s will.  We are not only asked to consider President’s Veazey’s preparation, faith and discernment in some vote to agree or disagree.  We are also being asked to take responsibility for our common faith in the Holy Spirit’s direction.  Ultimately, the words offered ask us as a community to respond to our call to be disciples in response to his mission.  To accept President Veazey’s words of counsel, we must take greater responsibility for our sacraments and relationships with others.  But more, we are also asked to accept the stewardship of our common faith and its witness to Christ’s Gospel among the nations and cultures in which God’s prophetic Spirit flows and seeks expression.

After my experience yesterday, I reaffirm my testimony that God guides and moves among us as a movement.  The confirmation of my testimony will not be in the church’s consensus about the rightness or wrongness of President Veazey’s words, but in whether or not we respond as a people.  More than a church, the Community of Christ is called to be a movement.  We are being called in a way different than before to trust in God’s direction and pursue our faith in God’s mission to the World.

I also share my personal testimony of God’s Holy Spirit revealed in President Veazey’s words to us.  It is not the language or individual terms, themselves, that are divine or inspired.  It is the challenge and responsibility they offer to us…if we respond and believe.

In my personal study and discernment about the future church – particularly, the role of scripture in our life together and the disparate voices on issues before us –  I, too, have been called back to my personal witness and certain scriptures that President Veazey referred to.  In particular, I, too, have been drawn to listen to Paul’s witness in Galatians 3:28 and his testimony about God’s ongoing revelation and new creation in Christ.  Against the voices of division, the questions about identity and sexuality, as well as about just relationships, the role of our sacraments, and pursuit of peace in our neighborhoods and culture are not alien to the Gospel.  They are not “of man” or politically motivated, but matters central to our faith.   In other words, they are not questions of divine knowledge, but divine trust in God’s ongoing reign and movement.  As matters pertaining to life together today, they are a matter of our prophetic witness of Christ amidst the world.  To be called to discipleship, stewardship, and shared responsibility for that witness could be nothing other than prophetic.  For that, President Veazey, I offer God praise and you thanks.