By Prophet-President W. Grant McMurray
2002 World Conference Sermon / Address, April 7, 2002
A few weeks ago I went to the Ozarks for several days to begin the process of writing these words. I took two briefcases jammed with papers, a large box filled with books, a couple of sacks of groceries, and a mind brimming with a multitude of ideas, strategies, and programmatic initiatives emerging from months of planning and goal setting. I went to a place by a lake, mostly because water is where I usually turn to calm my soul.
My soul needed calming because I had so much to say that I barely knew where to begin. I was feeling the burden of expectation because church leaders had spent a long time in a process of visioning and now it fell to me to encapsulate those months and months of work into one address that was to be both a declaration of institutional direction and a spiritually uplifting and motivating call to discipleship. At the same time I had my own inner turmoil-my unworthiness to be calling anyone to discipleship when I am such an inadequate one myself, my own issues burning deeply within that I knew I needed to proclaim, my own hopes and dreams for the church I love so much.
We have been on a journey these past few years. We have sought ways of being both faithful to a marvelous heritage and open to a challenging future. We have embraced a call to transformation, acknowledging that to build a Temple dedicated to peace and reconciliation and healing urges forth from us something we had never fully imagined. We have called ourselves by a new name and taken very seriously what that means to our lives and our church. To truly be the Community of Christ is serious business. It is not a label or a sign or an inscription on letterhead. It is a call to a new understanding of discipleship. Two years ago we talked about how we must go deeper into ourselves, truly learning what it means to walk the “Path of the Disciple.”
And now it is the year 2002. We have entered the third millennium of the Christian era. It has been 172 years since Joseph Smith declared that a “great and marvelous work is about to come forth.” Eighteen years since we were called to build a Temple dedicated to the pursuit of peace. Five years since we began a journey of transformation. Two years since we declared ourselves to be the “Community of Christ” committed to walking the Path of the Disciple.
And so I came to the lake, my mind ablaze with thoughts, my heart filled with desire, my soul yearning for the words that are equal to this moment in our church’s history. Along the way I stopped for a few provisions and there I found a DVD of the marvelous, Academy Award-winning 1982 film, Gandhi. I bought it and I took it with me to the lake, knowing that I could watch it with my laptop computer and headphones.
I knew myself too well. I knew I would twist in the wind much of the time I was there. I knew I would put off facing the questions I had to face. I knew I would seek alternate pleasures (the NCAA basketball tournament, works of suspense fiction, walks by the lake) rather than confront the issues I knew I would eventually confront. I decided that if I was going to escape the difficult assignment I faced, perhaps I could do it in part by watching the chronicle of a disciple, albeit a Hindu one.
And so I watched the story of Gandhi, a fragile and imperfect man who somehow came to understand what it took to live with integrity and purpose. Strangely, there was no point at which my mind connected to the idea that this very week we would be honoring his granddaughter, Ela Gandhi, with our International Peace Award. It was entirely serendipitous, at least to the extent I can consciously recall, that my renewed encounter with the film converged with that award.
I watched the film with fresh eyes from my initial viewing of it twenty years ago, and even from a time or two since when I caught it on video or cable. This time I watched Gandhi as a model of what it meant to be a disciple, recognizing that his own religious vocation was markedly different from ours. But still, it provided me much by way of instruction.
About two-thirds of the way through the film, a remarkable scene occurs. Gandhi has returned to his home, a city by the sea, to contemplate his next steps in the struggle for independence for the Indian people. There he is met by a reporter whom he has known since he was a young man in South Africa.
After reminiscing about their time together in South Africa, Gandhi ponders, “I have traveled so far and thought so much. As you can see, my city is a sea city, always full of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Persians…. In our temple the priest used to read from the Muslim Koran and the Hindu Gita, moving from one to the other as if it mattered not which book was being read as long as God was being worshiped.”
Then Gandhi’s eyes looked out to the sea. “When I was a boy I used to sing a song in the temple: ‘A true disciple knows another’s woes as his own. He bows to all and despises none.’ Like all other boys I sang the words, not thinking what they meant or how they might be influencing me. I’ve traveled so far and all I’ve done is come back… home.” And then, in a moment of insight, Gandhi’s face brightens, his troubled and pensive eyes become clear and focused, and he strides hurriedly off into the conflict that will become his legacy.
We have traveled so far. Have we, too, come back home where we began? That thought has been working on me these past weeks as I have reflected on the call to discipleship of the Community of Christ in the Year of our Lord 2002.
A few years ago my family and I made a journey to my homeland of Canada. We went to visit various places of importance to me and, as is often done at such times, I went to houses where I had once lived, so as to show them to my children (who were, of course, intensely interested).
And so on one day I was driving down Woolwich Street in Guelph, Ontario, seeking a house I had lived in when I was five. I knew it would be easy to find because it sat way back off the street, with a huge front yard where I had romped with our two dogs, first Skippy and then Kim, prior to the latter’s permanent exile to a dog pound for crimes against humanity.
I had not been back to Guelph for many years and had not lived there as an adult, so I had to find my way by intuition and childhood memory. As I drove on Woolwich Street I knew I was close to my destination. I could feel it in my bones. I could sense it, but I could not see it. It just has to be near here, I thought to myself. I know it is right here. I’m sure of it. But I could not see the house with the big yard.
Finally, in frustration, I pulled into the parking lot of a beauty parlor to get my bearings. Everything felt so familiar, even though it had been almost fifty years since I had lived there. Why couldn’t I see it? Had it been torn down or destroyed?
And then, in a moment of recognition I can vividly recall even now, I suddenly realized that I was standing in my own front yard. Transformed into a parking lot, the yard fronted the house where I had once lived, now painted white and changed incongruously into a hairdressing salon. I had traveled so far and seen so much, and now I had come home. But I barely saw it until suddenly it came into bold relief. It was home, made altogether new by the transforming experiences of five decades since I had last played with my puppy on the grass outside that house. Now I stood and viewed it with new eyes.
This evening, in a time of unceasing change, I call the Community of Christ to come home to the fundamental principles of discipleship, to recapture the spirit of the Restoration movement, to walk with me for a few moments on the “old, old path, made strangely new.”
Make no mistake; this is not a call to return to the past. This we could not do even if we willed it. Although we sometimes are nostalgic about them, I would remind you of a much-admired book title I once encountered, Them Good Old Days, They Was Awful. We do not have the luxury of languishing in the past, whether real or imagined. The church is called to live prophetically, joyfully, and creatively in the unfolding present, which evolves invariably into God’s future, and ours.
But that future is rooted in the journey we have been on together as disciples of Jesus, as a Restoration church, as the Community of Christ. Jesus said it first, when he commissioned his followers with the words that have been at the heart of the church’s calling from its very beginning: “Go therefore to all nations and make them my disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. I will be with you always, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:19-29, REB). That declaration both sends the disciple into the future and promises that the Spirit of God will accompany us as we go.
For the Restoration movement, the same call is reiterated in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say, Hearken ye people from afar, and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together; for verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape, and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated…. –Doctrine and Covenants 1:1a-b
The call to discipleship is the call to Christian vocation in every generation. It is not old-fashioned or passé, nor is it quaint or trendy. It is spoken to young and old, male and female. It is spoken in the language of every land and in the vernacular of every age. It is not complex or convoluted. It is the spiritual home of the Christian. It is simply these words of Jesus: “Come, follow me.”
The task of the contemporary church is not to figure out what our mission should be. That has been provided with stark and compelling clarity. Instead, the task of the church is to define precisely how we propose to fulfill that mission in our own time. And more importantly than even that, the task of the church is to nurture and empower individual disciples who walk the path pointed to by the one we have chosen to follow.
Tonight, on behalf of the leadership of the church, I will outline some challenging four-year goals to move us forward on the path of the disciple. These are built around the six essentials of the path we first discussed two years ago. We have recast them in personal rather than institutional terms. We are asking each member of our church to embrace them as qualities of our discipleship:
First, to share your witness and resources
Second, to teach and learn the sacred story
Third, to create diverse communities
Fourth, to extend the hand of reconciliation
Fifth, to allow the Spirit to fill you
And sixth, to embody justice and proclaim peace
The specific supporting goals we will present tonight will be but whispers in the wind if these six foundational principles are not personalized by each and every one of us.
I remember as a young adult I used to faithfully watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon on Labor Day weekend, which raises millions of dollars each year to combat muscular dystrophy. I was intrigued by the variety of entertainment on the program, but particularly by the tote board that added the contributions as they moved inexorably toward achievement of the ambitious financial goal. I cheered them on, fervently hoping that the goal would be reached. But to the best of my remembrance, I never once called and made a pledge. I apparently saw no relationship between achievement of the goal I supported and my own participation.
There is a story told about a little boy who wasn’t getting good marks in school. One day, he tapped his teacher on the shoulder and said, “Now I don’t want to scare you, but my daddy says if I don’t get better grades, somebody is going to get a spanking.”
It is easy for us to pass over the relationship between what you and I do and the achievement of goals to which we may be emotionally or intellectually committed. But let us make no mistake about that tonight. The call to discipleship is intensely personal; it is about you and me. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.
In the remaining minutes of my time tonight I must do three things. First, I will introduce the specific goals that have been developed over more than a year of prayerful planning and reflection, including widespread consultation with people in many settings around the church. I will be able to do that in only a very cursory fashion, but as you leave the chamber tonight you will receive a packet of resources to expand on the goals I share. In other ways throughout this week there will be detailed presentations and other materials that will provide a basis for communication and dialogue. We have processed our budget with these goals in mind, reallocating resources and personnel so as to address the priorities we have identified. We are serious about these goals. With your help, we intend to make them happen.
Second, I will linger for a while on one goal with twin components that will become the very highest of priorities for us during this next biennium. Even among the things we have decided we want to do, there must be choices made as to where we put our primary emphasis. I will share that essential priority with you.
And third, as we move through the goals there are some things we need to talk about in terms of complex and difficult issues before the church. I am going to ask for your indulgence to permit me to reflect aloud about those for a few moments here and there.
As we present these goals, we affirm that the Community of Christ continues its journey of transformation into a new century, proclaiming Jesus Christ and promoting communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. In Section 161 we are directed to an awareness that “…the road to transformation travels both inward and outward. The road to transformation is the path of the disciple.” We commit ourselves to walk that path in each of the following ways, through specific initiatives and ministries, centered on scriptural principles, to be accomplished over the next four years.
First, we will be disciples who share our witness and resources, those who “heed the urgent call to become a global family united in the name of Christ, committed in love to one another.” To accomplish that goal we will commit ourselves to become a witnessing church, calling every member to “each one, reach one,” so that every single one of us feels a personal call to bring at least one other person to Jesus Christ. The other piece of the sharing goal is equally important: we will honor God’s call to tithe.
Here I must pause and make it very clear that the sharing goal is the heart of the matter and will be our priority for the next biennium. With all the exciting things we want to accomplish, our achievement will be measured on how effectively we embrace these two principles of the sharing goal-the effectiveness of our witness and the generosity of our response.
The call to be a welcoming, witnessing church is easy to say and very difficult to do. It is not sufficient for us to just be “nice people.” We will be required to develop Christ-centered and person-oriented congregations that are inclusive, outreaching, and missional. This is not just about missionary work; it is about being the community of Christ.
The Council of Twelve has been charged with and has accepted the responsibility of leading this churchwide effort. Tonight, as a part of this goal, we are prepared to launch the Mission to North America in which we challenge the church on this continent to be as effective in our growth as our brothers and sisters in the so-called developing nations of the world have been. A strategy has been prepared and specific training will be offered, including “Mission 2003: A Conference of North American Leaders,” which we are calling for next summer to equip leaders of the church in North America to undertake this effort.
We will be announcing assignments of the Council of Twelve so as to support this initiative, and we are restructuring our workload and field minister assignments so as to limit administrative tasks by the Twelve and free the apostolic witness for dynamic expression throughout the church. With your approval of the new Bylaws we will be prepared to organize the field around missional principles, providing structural support to congregational witnessing communities.
If each one reaches one, as the goal suggests, it will have the effect of doubling the active membership of the church. We did not express it in those terms largely because we knew this was not about numbers, but about discipling. It is the joyful response of the disciple to witness, in word and deed, to what he or she has discovered in Jesus Christ.
Some might ask how this relates to our focus on social justice these past few years, and my response is that it is connected to it in every respect. Our declaration of the gospel calls us to follow the teachings of Jesus, which articulate the undeniable worth of all persons. We must be mission driven, not market driven, never forsaking the poor, disadvantaged, and marginalized in pursuit of a goal to grow the church.
We are called to be an evangelizing, compassionate, peace-and-justice church. We must recognize that sometimes the struggle to be prophetic works against the desire to grow. We saw that in 1984, when the inspired provision for the ordination of women–absolutely the right thing to do–set back substantially the “Faith to Grow” initiative of the church at that time. We paid the price of being in tune with God’s prophetic call. Now with a longer view we have experienced the fruits and recognized the blessings that have come to the church. The growth comes not when we set numerical goals, but when we choose to witness to the truth and exemplify that in our daily lives.
And so, “each one, reach one” comes as a personal challenge to every one of us. Can we make that commitment?
The sharing goal has twin pillars: becoming a witnessing community and honoring God’s call to tithe. The sharing of our lives and the sharing of our resources are the two primary ways in which the Christian disciple responds to God’s call; they are inextricably connected to each other. Section 147:5a movingly reminds us that “stewardship is the response of my people to the ministry of my Son and is required alike of all those who seek to build the kingdom.”
For over a dozen years now several Presiding Bishoprics have worked diligently on the “redefinition of terms” and “greater understanding of the stewardship of temporalities” called for in Section 154 of the Doctrine and Covenants. They have done so with an awareness that the key principle is in yoking stewardship and discipleship, seeing each as a reflection of the other.
This week, the Presiding Bishopric, with the full support of the First Presidency and the Council of Twelve, will be presenting new understandings of the principle of tithing as A Disciple’s Generous Response. I am very aware that they have been consistently prayerful, respectful of tradition, open to new insights, and responsive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I want to add my personal testimony to what my colleagues of the Presiding Bishopric will present later this week. I believe their work has been blessed by the brush of spiritual insight and creativity. It respects our long heritage and yet provides a disciple-centered understanding of stewardship that forms solid foundational principles by which each individual can respond in accordance with their own desires and commitments.
I invite your prayerful consideration of what they will share with you, your attentive reading of the material to be provided, and your generous response to honor God’s call to tithe.
Each one, reach one. Honor God’s call to tithe. These two components, uniquely interconnected, compose the sharing goal. It will be our priority these next two years and is the underpinning of all else that we do.
Second, we will be learners and teachers, those who “listen attentively to the telling of the sacred story.” To support that goal we proudly announce that the Community of Christ Seminary, operated by Graceland University in partnership with the church, will open in September of this year. The seminary and other learning programs will be utilized to assist us in training 3,000 congregational leaders and all full-time ministers so as to significantly enhance their ministerial effectiveness.
In addition, recognizing our commitment to being a global family, we will expand the church’s field resources operations to provide discipleship resources appropriate to the language and cultural groups within the church. To demonstrate our commitment to this task, we have asked Apostle Lawrence W. Tyree to relinquish his responsibilities as a member of the Council of Twelve and accept a new calling in the development of international resources for the church.
We remain committed to the church school and will explore ways of revitalizing its ministry, while developing new models for discipleship education and scriptural literacy for all ages.
The treasured, sacred story of our faith must be transmitted anew to each and every generation. We will be learners and teachers. We will be disciples equipped for the journey.
Third, we will embrace our historic call to be God’s people, those who “create diverse communities of disciples and seekers.” To accomplish this goal, within four years we will establish 1,000 congregational partnerships to enrich discipleship through cross-cultural sharing. We will expand the WorldService Corps to 100 persons annually. We will take steps to strengthen the relational ties that support and empower families in all their diversity.
Goals such as these only begin to touch on the call to community that is so central to our heritage and to our contemporary mission. We have much yet to learn, but we have learned some things along the way and can begin to share from out of that experience. It is in our name; it is who we are.
Josiah Royce said these words:
I believe in the beloved community and in the spirit that makes it beloved, and in the communion of all who are, in will and deed, its members. I see no such community as yet, but none the less my rule in life is: act so as to hasten its coming.
May that spirit accompany our efforts to establish diverse community in God’s name.
Fourth, we will be agents of reconciliation, “those who feel conflict yet extend the hand of reconciliation.” To accomplish this goal we will expand cooperative efforts with other faiths, recognizing that we have much to offer as well as to receive from such endeavors. Aware of the conflicts that abound in church and world, we will also increase the number of trained mediation/conflict resolution specialists available to support the church’s ministries and community service.
In the past two years a number of our people have been involved in reconciliation efforts with members of Restoration churches. That has been a satisfying process, resulting in much open sharing, several hymn festivals commemorating our common heritage, and the building of bridges of understanding that have blessed all involved. This process is ongoing.
But we recognize that there continue to be significant issues that divide people within our fellowship, in the larger Christian body, and between persons of faith around the world. We are committed to being voices of reason and hope, to be listeners and reconcilers, not those who divide and exclude.
So now let me speak to one such issue that threatens to divide us. In the past few weeks I have been the recipient of scores of letters, e-mails, and phone calls generated by the resolutions before our Conference dealing with homosexuality. Some have been thoughtful and reasoned, but many have been desperate and angry, sometimes accompanied by symbolically crumpled paper or copies of offending text besmirched with bold, black lines. And this weekend we have been faced with pickets proclaiming a hateful God I do not recognize and describing good people in vile and contemptible terms.
To all of this, I say to you, “No, no, no.” We must not succumb to our fears nor fail to respect those who disagree with us. We must instead be voices of reconciliation and ministers of healing. In the midst of our differences, there just has to be a better way. There is no issue that divides churches around the world in our time like the issue of homosexuality. It is for us to decide whether we will be rendered asunder by it, or whether we have the spiritual courage to face it together.
Tonight I am going to take a risk. What I am about to say is my personal statement to you on this issue, joined in by Ken and Peter, my colleagues in the First Presidency, after many hours of conversing together. I have not consulted with other church officers or asked for their consent. What I say does not change church policy. It does not require action or agreement. It simply describes the present situation openly and honestly, expresses our own thoughts after prayerful and extensive reflection, and points to what we believe is possible for us to do as a diverse community of God’s people.
Gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are walking with us on the path of the disciple. They have chosen to be there because they feel God’s call to them. Some have struggled throughout their lives with questions and uncertainties about their identity, their acceptability, their status as children of God. Some have dared to tell their story, resulting at times in warm acceptance and other times in cold rejection. Some have come to understand that God loves them unconditionally and embraces them as valued members of the human family; others are not so sure.
Our church, like all churches, has struggled with how to be inclusive, agreeing that God’s love comes to all persons, but differing on what behaviors and lifestyles are deemed acceptable. Because there is no social consensus, no moral agreement, no definitive psychological explanation, we have all cast about in search of answers. For some, that answer is provided in one of the seven biblical passages that seem to condemn homosexuality as a sin. For others, the answer is in compassion upon seeing the face of a man or woman who simply says “this is my story.” For our brothers and sisters in some cultures of the world, it is not something to be discussed nor is it thought by them to exist in that culture to any appreciable degree. For families and friends the answer comes only in the call to love a loved one, which has precedence over virtually every other call.
Because of these many differences, our church stands in the midst of much ambiguity and inconsistency. We have a twenty-year-old statement from the Standing High Council that serves as official guidance, but has not been universally adhered to throughout the church. I will be totally honest and acknowledge that I have myself participated in situations where its provisions were not honored. I have been present in conferences where persons I knew to be in long-term, committed homosexual relationships were approved for priesthood in jurisdictions where their lifestyle was known and their ministry was accepted. The conflict within me was between lawgiver and pastor. To enforce the policy would have required me to intervene and prevent the ordination of someone whose call to ministry I could not deny. This I could not do. This I will not do.
In fairness, you should know the hearts of those of us you uphold in leadership. I read scripture contextually. I believe that scripture carries a powerful witness of the love of God but that it has to be read in its totality and not in phrases and fragments here and there. When it comes to people and our many differences, I will always choose to love rather than to judge. My instincts are toward inclusion and not exclusion.
At the same time, I am fully supportive of our historic polity of theocratic democracy, which balances the priestly witness with the consent of the people. Ministry is not just about calling. It is also about acceptance of that calling by those who will receive the ministry. Therefore, it is not just my views but all of our views that must be weighed as we make decisions together.
The word “catechesis” is defined as “a dialogue between believers” (Westminster Dictionary of Theology). Hear the distinction. This is not a dialogue between faithful and unfaithful people. It is not a dialogue between saints and sinners. It is a dialogue between believers, between disciples, over differences that are real and honorable. I ask us, as members of the Community of Christ, to be willing to share with each other in that exploration.
I am not in the habit of telling our delegates how they should vote, but I am about to make an exception. I request the delegates to this World Conference to table or refer all pending legislation on homosexuality so that we can avoid actions that will be divisive and shape a process by which a broader understanding and consensus can be built. I will ask the Standing High Council to participate with others in looking anew at this matter, seeking issues on which we can surely agree (God’s love of all people, fidelity, the value of family, the sacredness of sexuality as part of creation) and shaping dialogue in areas where we do not agree (the blessing of same-sex relationships, standards for ordination, the interpretation and authority of scripture).
In the meantime, I ask the Community of Christ to be willing to live with us on the boundary for a while. To do this means that we may not have a policy that guides every decision, but we will have to trust the Holy Spirit to accompany us in our choices. It means that some parts of the church may function differently from other parts of the church and there will be distinctions that are occasionally unsettling but representative of the diversity of our body, both in terms of viewpoints and cultures. We recognize that certain national governments have requirements that our local church leaders in those nations will need to respect and interpret in accordance with their own cultural understandings.
And finally, I ask that we be prayerful and respectful and sober in our consideration of this issue so important to the well-being of our community of faith. I believe that these words from Henri Nouwen speak meaningfully to us in this time:
We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God. –Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1989), 43-44
Fifth, we will be a church composed of persons open to new understandings of spirituality, “embodying the hope and freedom of the gospel” and seeking “pathways for healing.” To achieve this goal, we will encourage each congregation to establish at least one covenant discipleship group that integrates spiritual practices, worship, scriptural literacy, and mission. The term “covenant discipleship group” will be new to many of you, and we will provide information this week and in the months to come on this innovative approach to discipling. It links the commitment to learning with the spiritual quest and supports us on our individual and collective journeys toward discipleship.
In addition, we establish a goal whereby each congregation, through careful planning and openness to the Holy Spirit, will experience vibrant and effective worship in support of the church’s mission. Tepid and poorly planned worship is not acceptable in a community striving toward discipleship. We must sing and proclaim, tap our feet, feel the Spirit move, and sense the call to the mission that we have embraced.
And now I want to share with you a personal dream, connected to this goal. You have all heard me talk about the importance of understanding our heritage, and of using our marvelous story to empower our contemporary calling.
The Kirtland Temple is perhaps the towering symbol of that historic faith journey, a place beloved by our people because of its majesty and beauty and because we continue to experience the presence of the Spirit there just as our ancestors did when it was erected. This beautiful site, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been lovingly cared for by the Kirtland Saints and by the staff of the temple, many of them volunteers. But they work in a woefully inadequate visitors center that fails to meet the needs of the increasingly large number of people who come to see the temple. And worse, it does not represent the Community of Christ in a way that would make us proud.
About a month ago I traveled with several others to Kirtland in pursuit of an idea. We stood on the church’s property in the shadow of the temple and imagined what would happen if we could construct a facility on this marvelous site that would serve as both a visitors center for the historic property and a spiritual retreat center in support of the mission of the church. It will be both a place to interpret our story and a place where our people can come, individually and in groups, to experience spiritual growth, guidance, and insight.
We are still in the earliest stages of planning, but we want to make this dream a reality. The Restoration Trail Foundation has made it the highest priority and has committed to lead the effort to raise the funds. President Emeritus Wallace B. Smith and former Presiding Bishop Francis E. Hansen have agreed to chair this funding effort. We do not have resources in the World Church budget to devote to this task, but we believe it can be accomplished with the generous support of those who care about our story, who love Kirtland, and who sense the call to allow the Spirit to fill us and renew us as we walk the path of the disciple.
Sixth, and finally, we will be a community of people who embody justice, “those who see violence but proclaim peace” and who “feel the yearnings of [our] brothers and sisters.” To accomplish this goal we call every congregation to become engaged in some neighborhood project or projects of transformation and justice. A few weeks ago I visited the congregation at Seminole, Oklahoma. After dedicating a lovely new facility, enjoying a bounteous potluck, and horsing around with some terrific kids, I participated in their Sunday evening addictions ministry. Here several members of the congregation sat with twenty or twenty-five alcoholics and drug addicts in the process of recovery. For them, the congregation was a home, a place of safety. Several had been baptized and were now bringing leadership to the self-perpetuating program of Twelve Step ministry. It took little training, only a willingness to be present for one hour a week with those who had a need. These are justicemakers.
Additionally, we will recruit and train community development specialists equipped to lead ministries among the poor and dispossessed. We are in conversations with Outreach International to have them assist us in utilizing the skills of their unique Participatory Human Development program for our own congregational efforts at embodying justice. Our desires to work for justice must be matched with the skills to be effective in our endeavors.
And finally, in the shadow of the events of September 11, 2001, we pledge to stand as a global community committed to seeking peaceful solutions to the conditions that lead to war, international conflict, and injustice within the human family. We cannot dream small dreams. The path of the disciple leads to the kingdom of God. Such a kingdom can only be built by those with a vision of a better world and a willingness to tackle the huge issues that world offers up. And so, we choose to dream big dreams and we will seek ways of being peacemakers in a world embroiled in conflict and war.
It is a long litany of goals we propose. We will have to make some choices among them in the short term, but we cannot miss any of them in the long term. I worry that we might stagger a bit under the load of it all. Are we strong enough, wise enough, committed enough to walk on this path?
My mind returns to Gandhi. In another scene in the film, he is deep into a fast in protest of an injustice. He is frail and sickly. Even his followers are discouraged, concerned that while his cause is just his methods may be damaging to him.
He beckons a worried follower and invites her to place her ear near his mouth so she can hear these words: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always. Whenever you are in doubt that that is God’s way, the way the world is meant to be, think of that. And then try to do it [God’s] way.”
We have been on a long journey, this sometimes frail and occasionally despairing church of ours. We have traveled so far and seen so much. But now the journey brings us home to see what we need to do, who we need to be. Here, in the comfort and security of our spiritual home, we can look to the horizon and imagine where it is God would have us go.
Then we see it. The path of the disciple begins at the doorstep of our home and winds off into the far distance. Its ending place is beyond our view and it is hard to know just where it will take us.
But then there is a voice. A steady, unchanging, compelling voice. “Come,” it says. “Come, follow me.”
And we go.