Queer Inclusion for a Global Church
Many of the nations that Community of Christ is in are still dangerously and rabidly queerphobic, and to solemnize queer marriages or give queer folks the priesthood could put them and the entire congregation in real danger in many places around the world. However, many other nations are fully inclusive and accepting of queer folks.
This was a tension that existed for many years leading up to the 2010 World Conference. During this Conference guidance came from the First Presidency in what would end up being canonized as D&C 164. Verse 5-6 affirmed queer dignity and our right to healthy relationships, but verse 7 recognized the complexity of that recognition being applied globally.
Verse 7, in full, says:
A. A worldwide prophetic church must develop cultural awareness and sensitivity to distinguish between issues that should be addressed by the World Conference and those that are best resolved nationally or in other ways.
B. Fundamental principles of ethical behavior and relationships should be addressed by the World Conference. The Conference should not decide specific policies for all nations when those decisions likely will cause serious harm in some of them.
C. However, timely resolution of pressing issues in various nations is necessary for the restoring work of the gospel to move forward with all of its potential. Therefore, let the proper World Church officers act in their callings—as already provided in church law—to create and interpret church policies to meet the needs of the church in different nations in harmony with the principles contained in this counsel.
D. Where possible and appropriate, convene national or field conferences to provide opportunities for broader dialogue, understanding, and consent. In those gatherings, let the spirit of love, justice, and truth prevail.
When the World Conference delegates opted to canonize this we essentially collectively agreed that a global policy no longer exists. Instead, we would develop more nation-specific resources which better cater to the needs of those individual nations.
This approach would prevent violence from being inflicted upon queer folks in queerphobic countries while also not discriminating against queer folks in queer affirming nations. I personally think this is a Divinely inspired approach.
In the 2010s Canada and the United States, among many other nations, held national conferences and voted to be fully inclusive of queer folks, including us participating in all of the sacraments and priesthood.
Temple School Background
In Community of Christ priesthood must go through training classes to be ordained, and many choose to go through the classes again as a sort of continuing education. The classes are commonly called “Temple School”. This is a fantastic way to ensure that priesthood is trained for the services they will be performing for the community.
Traditionally Temple School is done with congregational or Mission Center leaders. However, Developmetrics is a business that provides a digital format for priesthood training and chiefly serves those in the US and Canada. This resource has been especially helpful during the pandemic.
While I do not have a formal call to priesthood yet, I do feel like one is on the horizon. So, in preparation for this call, I am taking all of the Temple School classes that Developmetrics offers. The last couple months I took 2 courses entitled “Introduction to Priesthood Ministry” and “Ministry of the Elder”.
As I was going through the Ministry of the Elder course we had a week that was dedicated to learning about the church’s sacraments. I enjoy the ritualistic aspects of our community and enjoyed learning about how I may one day facilitate them.
However, I was incredibly disappointed when I read the section on how to perform the sacrament of marriage. Right upfront we are trained that the definition of marriage is heterosexual, and then later we are given a cop out for inclusiveness nearly as an after thought. This is frustrating and irritating. The phrasing suggests that LGBTQIA+ marriages are not on par with heterosexual marriages.
The Harmony Table
I decided to ask in the Harmony Table facebook group, which is the official FB group for CoC’s queer advocacy group, about who I needed to contact to get this rephrased. It turns out that other people taking the course with me also recognized this and were uncomfortable by it. Several people in Harmony Table suggested I reach out to the administrator of Developmetrics, and I did so; more on that in a minute.
A common response that I see whenever queer advocacy occurs in CoC circles is to remind us that there are many queerphobic countries in which it is dangerous to be inclusive and affirming, and imply that further progress shouldn’t be made on that account. Unfortunately me posting in Harmony Table was no different.
However, it was here that I gently reminded the implications of D&C 164:7, and how this meant that simply because other countries are queerphobic doesn’t mean we have to resort to the lowest common denominator. I also reminded that the nations that Developmetrics serves have already determined that they are inclusive and affirming. Once this was said, most people changed their mind and agreed this resource needed to be changed.
He responded to my email and told me that when this resource was originally written it was inclusive and affirming. However, he was asked by International Headquarters (IHQ) to revert it to what it is today. He said he would also like to see it changed and suggested I reach out to my apostle (Art Smith).
I told him that it was disappointing to hear that IHQ had pushed for more exclusive verbiage, and thanked him for his help.
I procrastinated reaching out to Art, but in my Temple School class there was a lesson entitled “Ministry Within a Diverse Community”, which quoted scriptures like D&C 161:1-4; 162:2C, 6, 7D; and 164:5-6, 9. After reading these scriptures I felt compelled to write to Art. I wrote out a whole thing which summarized the situation and then concluded with asking what we could to to make the change.
However, I didn’t send it because I wrote this the night before I went on vacation, and I wanted the final draft to be more fine tuned.
However, while I was on my vacation I received an email from the administrator of Developmetrics. In this email he said that he ended up talking to IHQ himself and everyone he talked to said that it was time to change the verbiage in the Developmetrics courses.
I thanked the administrator for his support and solidarity with the queer community and he said “It’s what’s right. What are we if we don’t live by our own mission, right?” He also went on to say that he is going to continue to advocate that all western nations have this verbiage change in priesthood training resources.
Frankly, I am a little stunned at how all of this unfolded. I saw something that was discriminatory towards queer folks, I spoke out about it, and now its being changed and other resources will also be changed. I was not expecting this to happen so quickly and so many people to come to peak out with me. It was jarring how much support I felt.
However, my experience within Community of Christ has been one that is marked with inclusion and love. One of Community of Christ’s “Enduring Principles” is “Worth of All Persons”, and I truly feel like people in CoC align their actions with their beliefs.
This is a pretty cool place.