This article is a follow up to 2 of my previous articles:
- Community of Christ failed its commitment to policy transparency and failed the LGBT community in the process
- Our Ministry Tools 2022
Recently there was someone who had their priesthood suspended, and the order came down from the Council of 12 and the First Presidency. Putting aside the fact that this is an atrocious over reach by the high priesthood, it starkly highlighted another issue: Transparency. Members of this congregation searched desperately for the policies that had been broken. The documents that this congregation needed access to, in order to defend themselves from erroneous ministerial violence, was the 2004 Priesthood Manual and the 2005 Church Administrator’s Handbook.
However, these documents simply don’t exist on the church’s website, CofChrist.org. Some had hoped that they would be on the church’s policies and documents website, “Our Ministry Tools”, and despite there being a whole section of the website for policies, neither neither are found in English. In fact, you can’t even buy copies of the manual and handbook in English at Herald House Publishing.
These important documents explain the policies by which the church is governed. They had previously been on the church’s website at one point in time, but they have since been removed. The only reason why I found copies of them was because I had to dig through digital archives to find them.
Why are these things not easily accessible? Why are the Spanish and French versions easily accessible in multiple places, but the English copy isn’t available anywhere? Should we be expected to be beholden to policies that are completely inaccessible to us? Why should we take these people seriously when they can’t even be transparent?
This goes above and beyond access to these books, though. One thing I have not seen talked about enough is that these books are 18+ years old. These books can legally vote. The church has undergone massive changes in the last 18 years – 3 D&C sections and 33 World Conference Resolutions! The largest change of this has been the acceptance of the LGBT community – something that the ambiguous language in these handbooks was once used to oppress this community. Quite frankly, these books need to be revised. Its embarrassing for us as a church to have such out of touch policies.
Unfortunately, the church has declined to revise these policies, and instead attempted to create policies, but not put them in one location for us to read. The whole debacle with that congregation is a good example, but there are other big problems.
The most glaring issue is the Co-Habitation Policy. This policy is not found in either the 2004 Manual or the 2005 Handbook, yet administrators treat it as if it is. When the church pushed for this “shadow policy” to be abolished in 2016, the First Presidency ruled the resolutions out of order, and they weren’t considered on the Conference Floor. The First Presidency then put forward a resolution in 2019 which they publicly announced they intended to interpret in a way to legitimize their secretive policy.
Why is the church at the mercy of whatever the “Legal Authority” wants? Shouldn’t International Headquarters be held accountable to equitable rules that benefit the church?