On October 12th, 2022, a friend asked this in a group for members of Community of Christ who come from an LDS background:
“This is a question that I’ve wanted to ask for a while, but…from your experience, what is the level of trust between seekers and world church? If you would have asked me that question 6 months ago, my answer would be different than it is today.
What has your experience been?”
This was my response:
My relationship with IHQ has always been rocky at best. To be frank, I’ve always seen them as a bit of a stumbling block for progress, instead of helping it. The last 6 months has been especially difficult, and I have had a lot of thoughts regarding it. I have done my best to articulate them, but this is a huge topic for me.
Here are some of the highlights:
Despite National Conferences being conducted 6+ years ago, LGBT folks still do not have official rights in CoC. The National Conferences endowed “Interim rights”, and it was IHQ’s responsibility to finalize them as official rights. IHQ seems uninterested in making my rights official, because it has broken promises to do so in the past. Activists spent years asking for this process to occur, and it wasn’t until the marginalized created a public petition for IHQ to do their job that they reluctantly agreed to do so. The first Presidency made sure to demonize activism when it is aimed at them. I wrote a full history of this here.
From 2009-2011 IHQ did a huge survey called “VisionProject“, which surveyed young adults and what was important to them. In the aftermath of this survey, I feel like the church has ignored everything that folks my generation told them, which has largely alienated us from the church. Its no surprise that the majority of the church’s membership is over 60 years old and less than 15% of the church’s priesthood is under the age of 50.
I have heard of church leaders asking how they could get younger people to pay tithing. The answer should be obvious: be an institution that we feel is worthy of being financially supported. The numbers should indicate that that is currently NOT the case, because not only are we not giving IHQ tithing, we are not even active in church life. The church has chosen to die, from my point of view, by not listening to its inheritors.
Priesthood and Authority
Priesthood is an absolute mess in Community of Christ. People claim that the church isn’t hierarchical and that we practice “Common Consent”, but there are some HUGE caveats to that. There are a couple of GLARING examples:
1. Those who are higher in the hierarchy appoint those in the lower administrative levels. For example, the President of the church picks who the members of the Council of Twelve are, and has the ability to release them without notice. In the past, apostles have been released for voicing opinions contrary to the President’s. This creates a system where people in the hierarchy are only accountable to those higher in the hierarchy. This in turn creates an echo chamber where the whole hierarchical direction of the church is ultimately at the mercy of the President.
2. Those who are higher up in the hierarchical structure define what is acceptable and moral conduct for both priesthood and membership, and there is nothing that those lower in or outside of the priesthood hierarchy can do to change church policy. This has often meant a supremacy of the existence, perceptions, ideals, and beliefs of monogamous, straight, White, American-midwestern men who are often from the Smith family. If you stray from this, you risk losing status in the community. In many ways, this feels eerily similar to how the LDS church has conducted itself. I made this graphic to really depict what it has felt like:
3. Legislation initiated from any administrative level which is brought forward to the World Conference can be vetoed by the First Presidency before it even reaches the Conference floor for discussion. This reiterates the long-held administrative belief that the First Presidency has “Supreme Directional Control”. A recent example of this is when multiple resolutions were introduced at the 2016 World Conference to do away with the secretive “Co-Habitation Policy”, which is a topic many younger people are directly impacted by due to cultural and economic circumstances. However, instead of discussing this as a church, the First Presidency outright ruled these resolutions out of order. A history of this policy can be found here.
CoC has catered to ExMormons under the guise that CoC is progressive. In reality, CoC does the absolute bare minimum. After any baby step is made the church institutionally pats itself on the back for years before making any other progress. Women having the priesthood and LGBT people (interimingly) having the priesthood are the two that most immediately come to mind. The church claims that all is well in Zion by pointing to those two facts, and in their mind this justifies not making anymore progress until a breaking point is reached. The church does not proactively seek progress; it does so reactively.
To be frank, I don’t encourage my friends to look into Community of Christ because I see IHQ breaking promises for equality to marginalized people, actively disregarding and alienating those who should be starting to take on leadership roles, enforcing secret or non-existent policies to justify their hierarchical sense of authority. In good conscience I can’t recommend this community to people who are hurt and need community, because I see IHQ being guilty of the very things that hurt people in religion.
Admittedly, with the IHQ ecclesiastical abuse that has happened in SLC, I have been thinking more about saying adieu to CoC and exploring the Unitarian-Universalists, who seem to ACTUALLY practice what CoC preaches.
However, I feel a sense of duty to try improve the church. For the time being, I think that is possible, and have found some friends who also think its possible. However, any more heavy-handedness from IHQ may dissipate that hope. IHQ needs to get out of the way of progress if it wants the church to resurrect from its death.