The February Policy ultimately gained the awareness of advocates on February 19th. While it did not explicitly say so, I believe that John Hamer’s February 26th sermon serves as an implicit response to the policy. While I highly recommend listening to the whole sermon, this excerpt was particularly impactful to me:
Throughout all of history, humans have claimed authority over other humans and even ownership of other humans. They have justified these claims in a number of ways: by birthright and inheritance, by power or wealth, and also by claiming the gift of God or of the gods — which is to say, “divine right.” This has led to every kind of evil and suffering throughout all of history: tyranny, exploitation, slavery.
Questions of authority are complex, in part, because it is in the interests of hierarchies that claim authority over others to make things complex. However, when we are attempting to answer the question “by what authority,” one simple test is to look at the results. Is the leader exercising their own interests, using power to put others down in order to build themselves up? If so, we can conclude that this is a very human exercise of human authority.
This applies to the highest councils of our own church. In Community of Christ, we understand that priests and apostles, evangelists and prophets are all human beings, saddled with the same human frailties as the rest of us: limited perspective, personal biases, and blindspots which prevent us from perceiving our own bigotries. When our leaders claim the authority to promulgate policies whose goal is to exclude, to judge, and to persecute, they are acting out of those human frailties we share. It is incumbent upon us as a prophetic people to discern God’s actual vision for the church, and like John the Baptist and Jesus to speak truth to individuals in places of authority, when their human frailties prevent them from seeing beyond their own blinders.
How do we perceive authority that truly comes from God? When we see someone inside or outside of our own priesthood and community leading by example, acting as a servant of God’s people, of God’s mission, and of God’s saving purposes, then we are seeing a person who is exercising true authority from God. As we seek to become a people of the temple, may we live out the Enduring Principles of the gospel together, restoring them to new relevance in the times and contexts we find ourselves. May we pursue the mission initiatives, Christ’s mission, in this world, as we hope to make it ever more Zion-like. Above all, rather than abusing authority by judging, persecuting, and excluding others, let us commit to service as servants of God’s saving purposes, ministering to the most vulnerable. Amen.