Life After National Conference

This was written and circulated as an email after the Canadian National Conference, but is just as valid for those troubled by the results of the USA {or another} National Conference.

“Do nothing in haste” -Section 159:7

Dear friends,

I know that for many people, there is great sadness, disappointment, frustration and anger about the results of the national conferences.gtawest

Yesterday, when I got home, I posted the following on Facebook:

“I don’t agree with and am disappointed with the results of the 2012 June National Conferences, but I had a good time today at the Canadian conference, and laughed and joked and sang, and when I departed at the end of the day I had a smile on my face, and left my fellow brothers and sisters of this great church in friendship and love and peace.”

I meant every word of that, and I still do. Yet, today, as I write this, I’m in a rather surly mood, and feeling a little depressed. Maybe its just the fact that it is now almost 8:30pm, the day is soon to be over, and I have to go back to work tomorrow. Maybe it is the rain and the moody grey clouds. But, for whatever the reason, I feel unusually blah.

And I know there must be others who feel the same. So I wanted to let you know that you are not alone. You don’t need to struggle in solitude or silence, and I’m happy to chat with any of you.

The rain has already stopped, and a fresh breeze is blowing through my window. And I know that in time, I’ll be back to my normal stern (but not surly) self.  🙂

But I know that the frustration will remain, and there will be many questions. It has occurred to me that one of the questions that some people might be asking is “are we apostate now?”

Let me assure you, we are not. One of two things happened at National Conference. The first possibility is we did the will of God. If that was the case, we have nothing to worry about.

The second possibility is that we made a mistake. If that is the case, we also have nothing to worry about. Because that is all it is. A mistake.

God created the church for mankind, not mankind for the church. And although the church belongs to God, and Christ is the head of the church, the church is made up of mere human beings. Limited, flawed, imperfect, human beings.

God is perfect, but he deliberately made us imperfect. We need to remember this. According to scripture, we have the potential to become perfect, but we do not begin our lives perfect, and this is by divine design. God knows that we are not perfect, and therefore, any organization, including his church, will make mistakes, and God knows this to be true.
Other denominations (or factions) within the Restoration movement like to shout “apostasy” just for spilling milk. We have never been that kind of church. It would take something light years beyond anything that has ever happened in Community of Christ for us to be deemed apostate by God.

If we made a mistake yesterday, that is all it is. We’ve made mistakes before, and we may make mistakes again. Even if the mistake is never corrected, God will not abandon us, he will not forsake us, he will not turn his face away from us.

That being the case, we of course should not turn away from his church. For, despite being imperfect, despite stumbling, despite making mistakes, the church is still true. It is still my spiritual home. I hope it will always be yours.

That takes me to the next question I’m sure some people are asking: “do I still have a home here?” You have already seen my response, but the answer to that question will largely depend on you. What matters most?

I have been asked many times by Restorationists, who know that I have traditional viewpoints, why I remain part of Community of Christ. Quite simply, because I know the church is true. Nothing has changed that.

And I know that my calling, includes in part, the expectation that I will, in my own, way, in a gentle, non-confrontational manner, in a way that will hopefully be relevant and resonate with others, keep teaching the principles of the Restoration. As I understand them.

That might answer another question: “what is my role now?”

Several years ago, a member of the First Presidency attended a reunion in Northern Ontario, at Camp Noronto. And I attended a class or discussion he ran just in front of the chapel. I said to him that I felt very unsure if I even had a place in the church, because I had very traditional beliefs, yet the church no longer seemed to have such, and was very liberal.

He said to me that the church needs liberal people, to help push the church forward in directions that it *should* move towards. But then he said to me, “but we also need people like you…to make sure we don’t go too far”. It warmed my heart to hear him say that.

Obviously, I have never forgotten those words, and they have always remained with me throughout the years. That is part of my ministry. Section 17 tells us that the priesthood are to “expound” and “exhort”. That is part of my purpose. That is part of why I am still here.

Not to pat myself on the back, but the church needs me. And the church needs you. And yes, it needs those who are less conservative. It really, truly needs them. It needs all of our members, because it needs balance.

I can guess what some of you are saying. “But didn’t we go too far at National Conference?” Maybe so. But remember this: while it may be the calling of many of us to help prevent the church from going too far, that does not mean we will always succeed in that calling on every issue.

Sometimes the church might indeed go too far with regard to a particular concept. In other areas, we might not go far enough! But if the church has or does go too far on some issue, that does not negate our call to do what we can to try to prevent us from going too far in other areas. So you see, even in the wake of changes that we might not support, we still have a purpose, a calling, and a spiritual home.

Like I said a moment ago, we need balance. I don’t think we have ever had that. In the past, we were probably far too right and ultra conservative. Now, we are, in my own opinion, too left and liberal to a degree that is I must confess I find somewhat troubling.

We need balance, but we won’t get there without you. Over the years, I have come to realize that not only is Community of Christ my spiritual home it is also the only place where I can truly magnify my call as a disciple of Jesus Christ to the maximum extent possible. There is no home for me outside the Restoration movement. There is no home for me in the LDS or dissident factions.

So I will continue to respond to what I feel is God’s call. I will continue to give of my time, gifts, generosity and whatever wisdom I can, because I know God has not turned his back on his church, therefore, nor will I.

I’m sure some of you have picked up on the fact that over the last couple of months, a great concern of mine has been to ensure that conservative church members have a voice, have the courage to use that voice, and to participate. While conference is now behind us, that involvement in the daily life and pulse of the church cannot end. Despite the results of conference, I feel that progress has been made to give traditional members a voice. I really, desperately don’t want to lose that now.

I hope you will continue to walk with me on this journey of discipleship in Christ’s church. If you need time, take time. But please, I ask that no one, in these very early days after conference, do anything rash. Don’t make pledges or proclamations that you can’t take back or may need to break (remember the Ammonites!). Don’t turn in priesthood cards, or walk away from friends. The cause of the kingdom is larger than any of the issues that cause us doubt and fear, and the ocean of God’s love, compassion, and mercy is vast and deep.

I am here to listen. If you want to vent, vent. If you want to chat, even better. Let’s keep the conversations and friendships going. With *all* of our brothers and sisters. It is when the conversations stop, that greater issues arise.

June 17th, 2012

Please feel free to reply! :)

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