GA-1906

GA-1906

COUNCIL ON CHRISTIAN UNITY

Rev. Paul S. Tché, President

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8I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Psalm 85:8-10, NRSV)

 

Reflection on Today’s Ecumenical and Multifaith Landscape

Early in November, I was invited to be a panel member for the workshop “At the Intersection of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations,” along with my colleagues from the United States and Canada at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada. Amidst the rapid social and cultural changes in this global religious landscape, Christian communions, churches, denominations, and councils of churches are increasingly exploring what it means to be a Christian, and, more important, what it means to seek Christian unity in this multifaith world. It seems to me that surely, considering today’s religious landscape, it is time for us to take this question seriously!

For almost ten years, I served in Kentucky at various local churches, big and small, urban and small-town. While I was serving as a solo pastor at a historic church in a small town in Kentucky, I had about ten new members who joined my congregation, and interestingly, none of them were from the faith tradition called the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Not a single person! What did my new members look for when they consider joining the church? Simply put, it was who the church members were as a collective body and what they were becoming as a group of Christians.

To live in this post-denominational era, however, does not mean that we need no longer seek Christian unity. Rather, we must sit down together as one body of Christ; then, we must ask what it means to engage, as Christians, with our neighbors of different faiths and how we will work together for the world that God so loves.

The most distinctive feature of Christianity is, in my understanding, its mandate to care for the marginalized and to value every person as we value ourselves: that is, to treat others as humans Created in the image of God. I do not believe that such a minority group as Christians in the early first century would see only those who joined this new faith movement as God’s children. No matter who they encountered, they simply treated one another as if they had seen God in them. Everyone was equally a divine being in the eyes of these newly converted religious “zealots” in the Roman Empire.

Those who were treated as God’s children for the first time in their lives probably wanted to know why these followers of the guy named Jesus—a very common name in Judea at that time—valued and cared for them in such a way that was suspicious and strange. When disciples of Jesus explained how they had been treated by other Christians and how transformative these encounters and new relationships were, people also wanted to join this “Jesus movement.”

Christianity is all about relationship: relationship with God, relationship with neighbors, relationship with power and with oppressors, and relationship with the marginalized and the oppressed. Likewise, the ecumenical movement is all about relationship: relationship among churches, communions, denominations, institutions, parachurch organizations, and Christian movements, and now, most important, relationship with people of other faith traditions.

I believe that our multifaith engagements are all about relationship. The more we meet with our interfaith neighbors, the better we understand each other. The more we understand each other in deep relationships, the more we will speak of each other with high regard. The world will then be transformed, I am certain. Isn’t this what Jesus envisioned as he prayed for the unity of his followers in chapter 17 of the Gospel according to John?

We should not listen to what people in the world—including, of course, many Christians—say about one another. If Christians do not see God in every human being in this world, regardless of their religious or life convictions, God’s glory would not dwell in our land.

When I was given a moment for my last comments at the workshop of the Parliament of the World’s Religion, I finally had to say who I think I am as an ecumenist. I regard myself an “ecumenical Don Quixote.” My biggest challenge now is that I do not have Sancho Panza at my side while charging windmills. I do not know whether I am fighting what I am supposed to fight. No one has told me how I, once again as an ecumenist, could participate in the good fight for the right causes in this rapidly changing religious landscape.

I do not believe that I am alone in this sentiment. As a matter of fact, we, as an ecumenical movement, do not know whether we are fighting for what we are supposed to fight for. Now, God is calling us to listen to a wise Sancho, and I believe that we’d better listen to him well. Who is our “Sancho”? Our interfaith friends!

Now, let me share some highlights of the ministry of the CCU—Christian Unity and Multifaith Relations.

 

Multifaith Endeavors

Last summer, the CCU published a curriculum for a group study, Disciples of Christ in a Multifaith World. In the lesson plan for the first session, Rev. Daniel E. H. Bryant, pastor of First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon, describes the purpose of this study guide:

This study is not a study of world religions; rather, our goal is to understand why we, in the tradition we call the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), should engage in interfaith relations, how those relations intersect with our Christian witness, and what gifts we as Disciples have to bring to such relationships (page 4).

When we engage in any multifaith activity, we do so as “disciples.” But who do we say we are as a collective body? This study guide will help our congregations reflect on our tradition and the gifts we can offer to other multifaith neighbors as one of our countless Christian traditions.

This study guide was published thanks to the generous support of the Oregon E. Scott Foundation. You can download this study guide with other resources on our ministry website: https://councilonchristianunity.org/

Currently, the CCU is planning another study series in the coming years. The purpose of the next study guide will be to listen to voices from a multifaith world. Basically, we will invite people of other faiths and ask them why they believe it is important to have a relationship with other people of faith. For example, why do Muslims in an Islam-dominant country think it is important to establish and maintain a relationship with and protect their Christian friends who are a minority? In the same way, we will listen to Christians in the land of Islam, Hindu, or Buddhism. We will try to understand the religious and cultural contexts in which a religious minority is living under a dominant religious hegemony. Also, if we go to Latin America, especially, a dominantly Catholic country, we had better listen to Catholics tell us why they value relationships with Protestants and how Protestants feel and live in a Catholic culture.

I am thrilled that the CCU makes this study guide more accessible using new media, such as video clips and multimedia tools, along with a hard-copy study guide. Please note that you can make this project possible by praying or providing intellectual gifts or financial support.

The CCU has also been engaged in various interreligious conversations through the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCUSA): Jewish–Christian Conversations, Christian–Buddhists Dialogue, Christian–Hindu Dialogue, and Muslim–Christian Dialogue.

I personally continue to work closely in various areas with Rev. Dr. Peniel Jesudason Rufus Rajkumar, Program Executive of the Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

 Central Committee Meeting and 70th Anniversary of the World Council of Churches

The Central Committee of the WCC met in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2018. One highlight of the meeting was Pope Francis’ visit to the WCC to celebrate this historic ecumenical institution and to urge us to go further as one body of Christ for the sake of Christ and the world. Also, the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew I, delivered a sermon to the Central Committee members congratulating us on this historical milepost. In 2018, the WCC, with its member communions and partners, offered various opportunities to celebrate the birth of ecumenism and to focus on “envisioning our common future: united in faith, eager for witness, and fearless in the quest for justice and peace” (WCC Brochure, 70 Years of the World Council of Churches: Walking Together, Serving Justice and Peace). You can learn more about this celebration at www.oikoumene.org/wcc70.

One important agenda item for this Central Committee meeting was the location for the 11th General Assembly of the WCC, and Karlsruhe, Germany, was chosen for the 2021 General Assembly. In 2020, the WCC will welcome a new General Secretary as Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit exits.

For me, personally, the highlight of the Central Committee meeting was to sing a hymn and a traditional Korean folksong with the delegates of the Korean Christian Federation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. Impressively, the four-person delegation included two young female leaders of North Korean churches for the first time since they have been engaged in this ecumenical movement.

In the declination of the Disciples Mission Fund, the Disciples do not contribute to the WCC financially as much as we used to. However, the Division of the Overseas Ministries and the Week of Compassion also supports WCC programs, and I have been serving on the Central Committee on behalf of the Disciples since the retirement of Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins.

Toward a Full Communion Relationship with The United Church of Canada

In July 2018, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens and other representatives of the Disciples in the US and Canada attended and participated in the 43rd General Council of The United Church of Canada, Oshawa, Ontario, where they were introduced and welcomed along with other ecumenical partners. At one morning session, the Council passed the resolution to endorse the full communion relationship with the Disciples. The resolution was passed by 98 percent of the voters.

The Disciples are looking forward to ratifying this relationship in July 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Meanwhile, the Disciples and The United Church of Canada are in conversations about the reconciliation of the ordered (or ordained) ministries, local and regional cooperation, and opportunities to celebrate our full communion relationship. This is for the first time since 1989 that the Disciples has entered into full communion with the United Church of Christ.

I was deeply impressed by the efforts of our United sisters and brothers to respect and preserve indigenous groups and culture in Canada. They officially apologized to the indigenous people, especially for the boarding schools that the United Church opened to assimilate indigenous children into Western culture and languages, which has been regarded as “cultural genocide.” They have acknowledged their sin and faults toward the First Nation people, and now they are working together to promote the rights of indigenous people.

Christian Churches Together in the USA

The Christian Churches Together in the USA had its annual convocation in October 2018 in Wichita, Kansas, under the theme of “Let’s Talk About Life.” At the gathering, participants discussed the document “Unity Statement on Poverty and Racism.” You can read a full report from Rev. Carlos Malavé, director, as well as the statement, at http://christianchurchestogether.org/cct-annual-convocation-2018/.

 National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

The annual Christian Unity Gathering (CUG) and the Governing Board meeting of the National Council of Churches took place in the US in November 2018 in College Park, Maryland. These events were dedicated to searching for the next steps in the NCC’s main campaign, “A.C.T. to End Racism.” Our own Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins now serves as a staff member for this initiative.

With the theme “A.C.T. Now to End Racism: Hard Truths in Beloved Community,” Rev. Dr. David Anderson Booker led the plenary sessions focusing on anti-racism. He pointed out that, to end racism, its costs would include 1) institutional structure; 2) theology; 3) personal privilege, power, prestige, and identity; and 4) financial commitments. He also pointed out that the church is not yet willing to pay these costs.

Two Disciples seminarians from the Claremont School of Theology, Eula Nicola Pagdilao, and Taulau Tupua, were present for the seminarian program at the CUG, and other Disciples attended these events.

The four Convening Tables also met during the CUG and discussed whether this new structure of the NCC is suitable for the tasks that the Convening Tables have undertaken in replacing commissions. The Governing Board had an opportunity to hear what was discussed during the CUG and reflected upon the mission and the stewardship of the institution.

Canadian Council of Churches

I was invited to be a presenter at the Canadian Forum on Inter-Church Dialogues of the Canadian Council of Churches. Along with Canadian colleagues Rev. Dr. André Lavergne of the Lutheran Church in Canada, Dr. Gail Allan of the United Church, and Rev. Canon Dr. Scott Sharman of the Canadian Anglican Church, I shared what it means to be in full communion with one another and its challenges and promises.

Ministries of the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council [DECC] (i.e., Disciples of Christ World Communion)

The meaningful mile marker for the DECC was that it concluded the fifth phase of the International Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church in June 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The current phase began in 2013 on the theme, “Christians Formed and Transformed by the Eucharist.” At this point, each communion is carefully reviewing the final report of the fifth phase. I anticipate that the report will be published in early 2019. You can learn more about the history of the International Dialogue between the Disciples and the Roman Catholic Church here: https://councilonchristianunity.org/disciples-roman-catholic-dialogue/

As General Secretary of the DECC, I attended the Executive Committee meeting of the World Communion of the Reformed Church (WCRC) in May 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. The DECC urged the Executive members of the WCRC to find ways to strengthen the relationship between the WCRC and the DECC, two world communion bodies, in mission and ministries as they presented the new organizational strategy.

The journey toward becoming a world communion as a global body continues. The first step has been to change the name to the Disciples of Christ World Communion (DCWC) because the name DECC is no longer relevant to its own members and the ecumenical community. In relation to the World Convention of Churches of Christ (WCCC), the DECC represents only national bodies of the Disciples Churches and the United Churches into which the Disciples merged, while the WCCC represents individuals, local churches, and global partners of the Stone Campbell movement. The evangelical and missional zeal of the Puerto Rican Disciples and other member churches in the Global South have expanded the global presence of the Disciples, and these newly established national churches are firmly rooted in their identity as Disciples of Christ—not as the Stone-Campbell tradition. As historical Disciples churches struggle with membership and finance challenges, those churches are vibrant and evangelical. It is my strong conviction that the Disciples of Christ, as a world communion—that is, a distinctive global Protestant tradition—will together fulfill God’s calling for us in this world: praying for, promoting, and bringing unity to Christians.

I have contacted our current members about this change. With the exception of one member communion, most churches have welcomed this direction. I also visited and contacted new potential member communions, and so far, the Disciples of Christ in Colombia and the United Church of the Philippines have expressed their intention to join the DECC.

Becoming a Just, Peacemaking Church

The CCU—Christian Unity and Multifaith Relations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remains to urge our churches to be engaged in actions for peace that entail justice. With ecumenical partners, the CCU and the DECC work with the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification, and Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum for Justice and Peace.

The Ecumenical Forum for Korea had a meeting in Geneva last June 2018; and, as I shared above, the KCF of North Korea fully participated in the meeting.

I was also invited to the Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, organized by the Korean Methodist Church, World Methodist Council, and the United Methodist Church in November 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Jimmy Carter, former US President, and Rev. Dr. James Laney, former US Ambassador to South Korea, welcomed participants to the Jimmy Carter Center and shared their insights on the Korean Peninsula. The NCC Korea, the NCC Japan, the WCC, the NCCCUSA, and the WCRC also participated in this event.

As a Korean American, I have fully endeavored to bring our ecumenical efforts together for peace in northeast Asia. Japan is about to pass the amendment to the so-called Peace Constitution, which will allow Japan to engage fully in military actions and warfare. Taiwan is caught in a struggle between two global superpowers, the US and China. North Koreans are dying of hunger mostly because of economic sanctions imposed by the UN. Many traces of colonialism remain in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Indigenous peoples in Taiwan and the Philippines are struggling to be heard and recognized And, as you can imagine, many issues require ecumenical responses in Northeast Asia. I believe this is time for the ecumenical community to act together to bring peace to this region. And my role is to point out the intersectionality of these regional issues—how they affect one another.

Let me conclude my report by reminding us of our calling: Christ urges us to live life in unity not for ourselves but for the world that God so loved that God gave Her only begotten son!

 

GA-1901

GA-1901

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

Including the Office of General Minister and President

Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President

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Office of General Minister and President

Administration

I am pleased that the Rev. Lee Hull Moses will join the OGMP staff in February 2019 as Chief of Staff.  Rev. Moses most recently pastored a congregation in Greensboro, NC, and brings expertise in non-profit management and fundraising to her ministry with the OGMP.

Regional and Congregational Ministry Engagement

During 2018, I attended and preached at the majority of Regional Assemblies across the church, including Canada.  I was honored to preside at the installations of new regional ministers: the Rev. Dr. Andy Mangum, (Southwest); Bishop Valerie Melvin, (North Carolina); the Rev. Dr. Betsy Goehrig, (Florida) and the Rev. Chris Morton, (Nebraska).  When possible, I have preached at a local congregation at the conclusion of Regional Assemblies.   I have also preached at several congregational milestone anniversary celebrations.  It has been important to engage as widely as possible across the whole church in order to hear and learn, and to bear witness to local ministries, local challenges, and connect with Disciples where they are.  As I stated in my Advent message, despite the challenges we face, the spirit of hope permeates our church.

I continue to work closely with the College of Regional Ministers in support of regional minister search processes, and as part of the CRM itself in its regular meetings.  The focus of Several regions are in search for a new Regional Minister, including Pacific Southwest and Arizona, with Virginia having just completed a search.  The Ohio region has collaborated with the four contiguous regions for congregational, clergy and Commission on Ministry support. A new Regional Transitional Team leads the work of visioning the future for Ohio.  I, along with general ministry leaders, have been engaged as Ohio charts a new course.

I am working with the College of Regional Ministers (CRM) on a church-wide education plan to revive and renew spiritual practice across the church, particularly Biblical literacy.  The goal is a collection of resources across various media that can be utilized by congregations to promote spiritual formation and practice, and theological reflection.  A small group of Regional Ministers will work with me to identity resources and prepare to launch the program.

Data Initiative

I have convened a small group of Disciples laypersons with information technology and data backgrounds.  We have identified 2 phases of priority: 1) the Yearbook data gathering and data mining functions, and 2) gathering data to assess clergy well-being and flourishing.  We are preparing a proposal for external funding for this venture.  The Yearbook phase will include database and query design, including standardized reports.  Access must be both easy and useful, and providing congregations with valuable feedback is a key objective.  We are also benchmarking with other mainline denominations to see what currently exists elsewhere.

Communications

We are working with a communications firm to help assess the clarity and consistency of our messaging, and to help improve both our communications across the church, but also our messaging in the public square about the ministry of the Disciples of Christ.  A series of interviews with Disciples, lay and clergy, across expressions of the Church has highlighted that common language such as the identity statement, and other historical “mantras” are widely known and used.  We also understand ourselves to be theologically diverse, welcoming all to the Lord’s table, and striving to live in the tension that that diversity and welcome often bring.  We do , however, struggle with how to share that message beyond these formulated statements.  We will continue to work on the messaging in preparation for a wider roll-out in the coming year.  This consulting engagement is not just to deliver a new “campaign”, but rather to work with us on an ongoing basis to optimize communications re: key issues and events.

On another front, Communications Ministries will be reviewing and revising our web presence in the coming year to improve access and navigation across the site as we strive to make information more readily available across the church.

Racial/Ethnic Ministries

I attended the National Convocation, the Bi-Lingual Hispanic Assembly, and the NAPAD Convocation this summer.  The leaders of these ministries are planning to co-locate their assemblies in 2020, as we all seek to live into our calling to be a church that reflects the family of God.

I was honored to preside at the installation of the first woman to lead La Obra Hispana as the National Hispanic Pastor, the Rev. Lori Tapia. I also presided at the installation of the Rev. Chung Seong Kim as the Executive Pastor of NAPAD.

Cabinet

The HR Task Force, comprised of General Ministry representatives, drafted language to be submitted to the General Board and General Assembly as recommended minimum standards for General Ministry policies on harassment, including sexual harassment.  The Cabinet approved the recommended draft language, and some general ministries have already revised their HR policies accordingly.  This language is presented to the General Board as a resolution for adoption and referral to the General Assembly.

Justice Ministry

The participation of Disciples in the Poor People’s Campaign during 2018, both within state-based campaigns and Disciples’ ministries, has generated organic energy for social justice advocacy and ministry.  Not only were Disciples present in state Poor People’s Campaign actions, but Disciples were collectively present on several occasions with the national Campaign in Washington, DC.  In September, Disciples who have been engaged in local justice work were invited to meet in Iowa at the “Disciples Public Presence” conference.  Having witnessed the power of our collective presence and work, the goal was how to organize so that we can educate about social justice issues, informed by people in their own local contexts, and leverage our work together across the church.  A team of small groups is working now to create a plan for future communication and collective action around social justice issues.

Disciples continue to engage in advocacy around immigration policy, across many expressions of the church.  While there are specific human impacts on US soil, we also seek to educate and advocate about the root causes of global migration.

Recent trips to Good Samaritan Ministries (a ministry of the Southwest Region) in Texas, as well as to Tijuana, Mexico, with Global Ministries Partner, the Daniel F Romero Center for Border Ministries and Strategies (Centro Romero) allowed opportunities to see the challenges ministries face to provide relief and assistance as global violence, war, and poverty force many to seek safety and peace for their families.

Ecumenical Ministry

Along with Paul Tche, President of the Council on Christian Unity, and Jen Garbin, Regional Minister in Canada, I attended the General Council of the United Church of Canada.  They approved our proposal to enter into a full communion relationship.  A resolution is before the General Board and the General Assembly to approve this relationship in 2019.

I will attend the Puerto Rico Disciples Assembly later in February 2019.  I will also attend the United Church of Christ General Synod.

I will be the Sunday Morning preacher for the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, in April 2019.  I continue to be active as a representative of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada at meetings of the National Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.

General Assembly

The work of the General Assembly Futuring Task Force has been key to the planning of the 2019 General Assembly in Des Moines. In addition to working to keep costs down and raise sponsorships, we have added value via educational offerings. Pastors who need boundary training or anti-racism training to maintain their standing can get those classes at the event. Commissioned ministers can get their Disciples history. Elder training and classes for college students navigating campus life are planned. That is in addition to the many workshops on administration, Global Ministries and even a panel discussion on the first 50 years of The Design.

Other innovations for this assembly include:

  • Opening and closing celebrations
  • Starting on Saturday afternoon and ending Wednesday morning to potentially save one night’s hotel cost
  • An open call for sermon submissions
  • MissionFest! in the exhibit hall where congregations and ministries can share their ministry successes with other congregations and ministries looking for inspiration.

Recommended Action

The General Board receives the report from the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) including the Office of General Minister and President and forwards it to the 2019 General Assembly for consideration and discussion.

 

Center for Faith and Giving
General Board Report
Spring 2019

Our Vision: To create a culture of generosity across the life of the whole church

Our Mission: To provide resources that teach stewardship as a spiritual discipline and a whole life response to the abundance of God.

Standing Committee Members: Eric Farris (LWM Kentucky); Denise Bell (CBF Georgia); Samuel Ramirez (CHM California); Melissa St Clair (CWF Central Rocky Mountain); Daphne Gascot Arias (CHF California). Serving ex officio: Randy Johnson (CWM Indiana); Sotello Long (CBM G-COM); Terri Hord-Owens (CBF G-COM).  Bruce Barkhauer, Director (CWM, G-COM)

The Center celebrates with the church our ninth anniversary and the many ways we have been privileged to serve you.  2019 marked our sixth year of producing annual campaign materials for the church, including two years of partnership with the United Church of Christ (2017 & 2018) and our current partnership with the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.  These popular resources offer complete guidance in the task of developing a successful annual fund in congregational life and encourage strong biblical and theological study through sermon and small group curriculum.  They have also provided a necessary income stream for supporting the Center’s operational budget, only 48% of which is projected to be underwritten by Disciples Mission Fund in 2019.  We are grateful for the many partnerships we enjoy that strengthen our witness and provide the resources to empower this particular mission of the Disciples of Christ.

We are pleased to report that CFG was awarded an Oreon E Scott Grant to work extensively with congregations in the Ohio Region  Following the economic crisis in Ohio, the Center’s leadership felt a keen awareness to join with other parts of the church that have come together to support these congregations and pastors while the Ohio Region reorganizes.  Our efforts will focus on delivering stewardship and fiduciary “best practices” education for clergy and laypersons, including “generosity coaching” in up to two dozen congregations who apply for Generosity Plus.  Participants will receive two intensive study sessions at the regional camp ground (one spring, one fall, two days each session) that include the pastor and at least two lay people from each church.  For those that do not apply for Generosity Plus, a series of six webinars will be available for all of the Ohio Disciples during 2019 and the first half of 2020.  The goal is to improve both clergy and congregational financial wellness and to equip future leadership for regional and general church service on boards with administrative responsibilities. Increased financial health will expand the capacity to practice generosity at the local, regional and wider expressions of the whole church, in keeping with our stated vision.

The Generosity Plus program is being piloted in Ohio and will become available to both regions and individual congregations in 2019. This fee for service coaching platform will allow the CFG to expand its capacity and provide a deeper level of assistance for parts of the church that wish to increase their generosity profile.  We will still continue to provide our high-quality level of resources to the whole church via our website, in addition to this new program.  We have hired (on a contract/part-time basis) the Rev. Janet Long, past Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who has just retired from her 33 1/3 years of service to Washington Avenue Christian Church in Elyria, Ohio.  We are excited to have her join our Generosity Plus team.

Our Director continues to impact those studying for the ministry and vocational service to the church through teaching at several of our Disciple seminaries, including Lexington Theological Seminary which requires students to take a stewardship and church finance course in order to graduate in the MDiv program.  In May of this year, Rev. Barkhauer will give the 4th James Reed Seminar on Stewardship, as a part of the Stalcup School of Theology, one of several recognitions that speak to the respect the Center for Faith and Giving has developed across the life of the church and amongst its peers.  He has worked in consultation with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at the Indiana University School of Philanthropy, assisting in both the NASCEP (North American Study on Congregational Economic Practice) Study and the redevelopment of their ECRF (Executive Certificate in Religious Fund Raising) Certificate program.  He also has participated as a mentor over the last three years to participants of Indiana Flourish (a clergy and congregational financial wellness program funded by the Lilly Foundation).  Additionally, Rev. Barkhauer was recently elected President of the Board of Directors of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.  Bruce will complete the necessary requirements to earn his ECRF designation this spring.  He continues to be a sought after speaker and presenter among our ecumenical partners in the field of generosity and stewardship, particularly as it relates to the biblical and theological practice of stewardship as a spiritual discipline.

The Standing Committee bids farewell to the Reverend Erin Wathen who has completed a five-year term and twice served as chair.  We welcome the Reverend Daphne Gascot Aries as she begins her term that will end in 2023.  Our gratitude goes to those willing to serve and lead in this capacity.

 

Christian Church Services
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN  46206
317.713.2405
Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, president
Rev. Dr. Todd Adams, board chair
John Goebel, financial services
Cherilyn Williams, interim staff

Christian Church Services (CCS) is the umbrella corporation that coordinates the shared services of the Disciples Center such as building lease, phone system, reception and insurance. Since the last report to the General Board in April of 2018, longtime staff Sharon Coleman moved to another position within the Disciples Center in June 2018. Cherilyn Williams and John Goebel have filled the gap until the anticipated arrival of a chief of staff for the Office of General Minister and President, Rev. Lee Hull Moses, in February 2019.

The board met in June and December of 2018 to review operations. The following are highlights:

  • A new phone software system task force, led by Pension Fund’s Rick Mahoney, selected Level365 as a vendor. The software transition occurred in December 2018.
  • Meetings also included updates on finances, procedures, manuals and training cycles as well as schedule of holidays for the building.
  • Gary Kidwell was elected as board chair for 2019-2020.

 

College of Regional Ministers Report
President Greg Alexander, Kentucky
President Elect, LaTaunya Bynum, N. California-Nevada
First Vice President, Nadine Burton, Great River
Second Vice President, Bill Rose-Heim, Greater Kansas City
Secretary, Christal Williams, Tennessee

The College of Regional Ministers is made up of lead staff members of each of the 32 regional churches and the leaders of the three Ethnic Ministries and meets 2-3 times annually for spiritual renewal, mutual encouragement, continuing education, and matters of church oversight and service.

On non-General Assembly years, the CRM holds a meeting in the summer which includes the Moderators of each of the regional churches for community building and skill building.  The CRM also meets for a meal function at each General Assembly and invites the former members of the CRM and their spouses to the function at a reduced cost to continue the ties of friendship and fellowship within this group of church leaders.

The officers of the CRM, known as the CRMX, meet 6-8 times a year online for business between the formal meetings of the CRM.  Officers of the CRM are elected for a two-year term of service during the off General Assembly year gathering in the summer.

The CRM is divided into five fellowship groups based on geography.  The Fellowship Groups meet in person once a year for community building and program coordination.  Two of the five groups are currently meeting together for this function.

The funds of the CRM are managed by the OGMP Office.  The CRM work is funded through annual dues contributed by the regional churches, invested funds, and regional church budgets through voluntary work done by its members.

One of the challenges/opportunities of the CRM is the high level of turnover in the membership.  The report submitted to the 2018 General Board listed this range of service of the regional ministers in regions by their amount of tenure. Add a year to each category for 2018.

  • Five regions have been served for 14-22 years;
  • Six regions have been served for 6-11 years;
  • Six regions have served for 3-4 years;
  • Seven regions have been served for 1-2 years;
  • Two regions called permanent staff in February 2018,
  • Six regions are served by interim ministries/strategies.
  • In addition, two regional churches have changed their models to have multiple regional ministers as teams. This reality means adding five more persons using the title of Regional Minister for ministry. While the college only has one member per regional church that attends its meetings, this still translates into exceptional transitional movement in the CRM.

Highlights of 2017-2018

  • The CRM developed “An Ethical Covenant for Regional Ministers.” The members of the CRM believed Regional Ministers must be held accountable to appropriate ethical standards. At the February meeting of the CRM, all the Regional Ministers will participate in a signing service in the context of worship.
  • John Mobley (Alabama NW Florida) works as Chairperson of the Calling, Advisory, and Orientation Committee to assist Regions in leadership transition.  He works with the General Minister and President to recommend persons to serve in positions of interim leadership.  He assigns CRM members to partner with search teams in Regions that are seeking new regional ministers.  Since the beginning of 2018 the following Regions have benefited from this assistance:  Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Mid-America, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northeast, Ohio, Pacific Southwest, South Carolina, Southwest, and Virginia.  Currently five regions are in various stages of search processes and are working closely with members of the CRM in the process.
  • Five of the CRM members serve on the General Commission on Ministry.
  • Teresa Dulyea-Parker (Illinois Wisconsin) and Bill Spangler-Dunning (Upper Midwest) represent the CRM on the Administrative Committee.
  • The CRM maintains a webpage for the public to learn about their work with a private area for confidential business. The CRM also maintains an active listserv system for fluid and quick communication.
  • Susan Gonzales-Dewey (Pacific SW) represented the CRM in the planning and implementation of the July 2018 FORM (Fellowship of Regional Moderators) meeting in Birmingham, Alabama in the days preceding the National Convocation gathering. The CRM meets in the same time frame with part of the time spent with both groups together. This date and location allowed many of the CRM members to stay for all or part of the Convocation.  A strong and vibrant network of the Regional Moderators emerged that will continue to develop identity and purpose in this next biennium.
  • The CRM is preparing to address some challenging conversations that it must have. The CRM has become very intentional to build greater degrees of trust and transparency into the developing relationships among all its members. These conversations will address the deeper systemic issues of institutional racism that still haunt the structures of our denomination; the challenges facing our current regional structures and the need to explore alternatives that will carry our witness and work forward for generations to come; the changing landscape of congregational life and its impact on our current ministry structures (education, ministerial identity, recruitment, and Search and Call).
  • Twelve of the General Units have at least one Regional Minister on their Board of Directors/Trustees. Regional Ministers serve on all of the Ethnic Ministries boards, Disciples Women Leadership, Reconciliation, Week of Compassion and General Commission on the Ministry. Four Disciples Colleges and six Disciples Seminaries have Regional Ministers on their boards.
  • The four Regional Ministers from the five contiguous regions to the Ohio Region (Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania/West Virginia) have entered into a covenant to provide Regional Ministry support services to congregations/ministers of the Ohio Region during this time of transition and renewal for that Region. Four geographic areas have been identified and one assigned to each of the four Regional Ministers.
  • The eight regions of the Southeast Regional Fellowship (AL/NWFL, FL, GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, and VA) received a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation to bring key leaders and regional staffs together at Christmount in a three-day retreat to explore areas where ministry/resources could be shared among the eight regions. A follow-up retreat is planned for late February, 2019.
  • WWOW Event – In April 2018 The Wild Women of the West event was a multi-regional event that included worship, workshops, good food and good fellowship. Joined by women from the Office of Disciples Women, leaders of the Disciples Women’s Leadership Conference, and General Minister and President the weekend was rich in community and enhanced by visitors from Puerto Rico and Latin America. It was a wonderful weekend. Another Wild Women of the West gathering will take place in June 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Goals moving into 2019 – 2020 remain the same as for 2018-2019 as they are a continuation of intentional self-reflection and the actions they call forth:

  • Continuing to form a deep and collegial relationship with the new GMP;
  • rewriting our training manual for regional ministry;
  • reengaging at a deeper level our anti-racism work;
  • re-examining the distribution strategy of the regional church pool of DMF;
  • creating innovative methods for regional churches to work together in new partnerships;
  • taking better advantage of on-line meetings to share resources and training;
  • initiating a monthly online conversation about one aspect at a time of regional ministry work;
  • creating a covenant around search and call practices with representatives from CRM and all three Ethnic Ministries’ leadership;
  • rewriting the CRM bylaws;
  • redefining the CRM identity in light of new emerging models of regional ministry leadership; and
  • continuing to find ways forward in collaboration with all the ministries of our whole church that we may be a CRM that helps to bind together the work of the whole church and the congregations through mutual relationship, vision and action.

Rev. J. Gregory Alexander, President
January 31, 2019

Communication Ministries
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206
317.713.2496
Cherilyn Williams, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Emily Martin, Communication and Disciples Mission Fund Coordinator

General communications

  • Supported the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival via social media, web page and e-letters, as instructed by the 2017 General Assembly resolution
  • Began work with grassroots Disciples Public Presence group based in the Upper Midwest region; attended conference in September
  • Began work with West End Strategies Team on communication audit and additional communication projects
  • Convened general ministry communicators for a retreat and monthly meetings that included targeted discussions of shared challenges such as social media practices and policies
  • Consistently distributed of Disciples News Service weekly and Disciples Together bi-monthly e-letters for general and pastor audiences respectively
  • Posted daily on Facebook and Twitter general accounts, consistently posted and monitored special interest groups: General Assembly, Disciples Local Impact and Disciples Exchange
  • Produced original stories for Disciples News Service highlighting a number of notable congregational and other ministries
  • Gathered data on audience response for electronic communications. Now that we have approximately 18 months of consistent data we will be able to begin a more careful analysis of audience preferences.
    • Statistics (January-November 2018)
      • Facebook: 1,559 new page likes in 2018; 3.2% average engagement rate (industry average is 0.17%)
      • Twitter: 534 new followers; 2% average engagement rate (industry average is 0.055%)
      • E-mail open/click rates:
        • Disciples Together: 37% average open rate; 13.7% average click rate
        • Disciples News Service: 33.1% average open rate; 14.5% average click rate

(industry average for religious organizations: 26.3% open rate, 7.3% click rate)

Website traffic:

  • org: average 2,349 page views per month, 425,176 total. The most clicked link from the home page is Our Identity
  • org: average 195 page views per month, 25,332 total. The most clicked links from the home page are What Is DMF and Special Day Offerings

Disciples Mission Fund

  • Implemented new practice of featuring related stories in Disciples News Service during offering periods; coordinated the production and distribution of Disciples Mission Fund special day offering materials (Easter, Pentecost, Thanksgiving, Christmas)
  • Set strategic goals for DMF development; at the time of this report, we had exceeded goal for increasing number of new individual donors in 2018
  • Refreshed Disciples Mission Fund website organization, creating two new pages for worship resources and online giving
  • Increased touch points with Disciples Mission Fund donors (both congregations and individuals) by sending quarterly letters and email solicitations
  • Developed informational Disciples Mission Fund brochure

Year Book & Directory

  • Supported the Year Book & Directory operations of gathering data and updating records, in partnership with regional ministers, and in layout and print production of final product.
  • Connected with Year Book staff of several other denominations to compare best practices and share ideas
  • Revised year book form and data gathering plan for 2019 cycle

General Assembly

  • Coordinated 2019 General Assembly preparation of
    • Bible studies
    • Educational offerings
    • Promotional mailings, ads and videos
    • Website update
    • Local Arrangements Committee, including missions
    • Sponsorship solicitation and ad sales
    • Exhibit booth sales
    • Initial space allocations for education, child care, etc.
    • Mobile app for the event via a third-party vendor

 

The Disciples Center for Public Witness
December 2018 Report for the OGMP
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Executive Director

Introduction:  The Disciples Center for Public Witness (DC4PW) is a justice advocacy ministry within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.  Originating as a shared ministry of National City Christian Church and the Christian Church Capital Area, DC4PW is now a shared ministry of seven founding congregations and several other partner congregations.  (We are continuing to reach out successfully to new congregations).  DC4PW has official status as a recognized organization through the Office of the General Minister and President; and our finances are handled by Disciples Home Missions.

The mission of DC4PW is two-fold:  to use our denomination’s passion for justice and vision of true community to evaluate and influence the laws and policies that affect all of us—especially marginalized persons and communities—in the United States, Canada, and around the world; and to inform, connect, and empower Disciples and other people of faith for ecumenical and interfaith justice advocacy in the United States and Canada.  Our larger goal is to promote and help achieve the Beloved Community envisioned by Dr. King, a vision based on the Biblical promise of shalom and Jesus’ proclamation of the inbreaking reign of God.

 Overview:  This year has been a year of increased investment in increased capacity and further expansion, especially in two areas of our ongoing work:  communications and fundraising.  With the help of consultants, contracted staff, and volunteers, we have increased our social media presence, revised our website, published weekly enewsletters, and developed a database that better allows us to segment and communicate with our donors and grassroots advocates. Two of our contracted staff have taken fundraising courses, and the executive director has been helped on a regular basis by both a fundraising coach and an informal network of fundraisers within the denomination.

At the same time, we continue our program activities in many issue-areas, including racial justice, gender justice, worker justice, health care, mass incarceration, gun violence, domestic violence, torture (including solitary confinement), religious liberty, drone warfare, Cuba, and Palestine/Israel.  In most of these issue-areas, we work with our ecumenical, interfaith, and secular partners.  We also work with our denominational partners on racism, immigration, refugees, women and children, criminal justice reform, and care for God’s creation.

Special Programs:  Two special programs of DC4PW are the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative (EPI) and Let Justice Roll (LJR).  EPI is an anti-poverty ministry of DC4PW that is shared with the ecumenical community.  It pulls together national and local religious leaders to work on a variety of racial and economic justice issues:  exposing the negative effects of pay day lending, opposing budget cuts to programs that help people who are struggling economically, opposing the increasing debt for college students, and promoting more equal distribution of the resources available to public schools.

Let Justice Roll (LJR) is currently a virtual organization that uses its online presence and social media to inform and empower people of faith to do three things:  promote a living wage on the national level, get more involved in state campaigns that are working to increase the local minimum wage, and oppose disparities in pay between different ethnic, racial, and gender groups.  LJR’s motto is: “A job should keep you out of poverty, not in it.”

Special Projects:  In addition to our regular activities and the activities associated with EPI and LJR, there were a number of special projects in which DC4PW was involved this year.  One of these was Journey to Justice (J2J), a project in which a new pastor of African descent was given the opportunity to learn more about diverse forms of social witness by engaging in three areas of witness:  public policy advocacy, justice-oriented networking with other church leaders, and faith-based activism.

Another special project was Labor in the Pulpits.  In this project, we encouraged Disciples to invite labor leaders or people of faith involved in some form of worker justice ministry to speak in their congregations on or around Labor Day.

Still another special project was our involvement in Torture Awareness Month.  Throughout the month of June, we encouraged congregations to do three things:  give a sermon and/or host a discussion on torture; show a film about U.S. participation in torture; and hang a banner declaring opposition to torture.

Finally, we were actively engaged in Faithful Democracy, a project where we collect and distribute useful information about voter registration, voter education, and voter mobilization to regions, congregations, and faith-based groups.

We were able to accomplish the work necessary for the success of these special projects with the help of college students participating in our summer internship program.

Campaigns: DC4PW has been very involved in three major campaigns:  The Poor People’s Campaign:  A National Call to Moral Revival, where we attended planning meetings and participated in public gatherings and events in Washington, DC; the National Council of Churches’ ACT Now, which began with an event on the U.S. National Mall in which DC4PW organized and staffed a Disciples booth that received a good deal of traffic from participants in the gathering; and MLK50, where we encouraged participation by Disciples in events around the United States that were sponsored by the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.

Collaboration with other Disciples ministries:  In terms of DC4PW’s collaboration with other Disciples ministries, we worked with Refugee and Immigration Ministries and the coalition to which it belongs, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, to oppose such things as the separation of undocumented immigrant children from their families, the tearing apart of immigrant families by our current immigration policies, the severe limiting of the number of refugees who are allowed to enter the United States, and the changes in statutory and regulatory definitions that make it even harder for immigrants legally to enter our nation.

We also worked closely with Green Chalice with and through the coalition to which we both belong, Creation Justice Ministries, on clean air and water, the preservation of national parks and monuments, the protection of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR), a quicker transition away from fossil fuels, and opposition to both the Keystone Pipeline and increased offshore drilling.

And, finally, we worked with Family & Children’s Ministries with and through the coalition to which we both belong, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. Alongside other people of faith, we actively promoted universal background checks, the banning of assault weapons, restrictions on high capacity ammunition magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

DC4PW also collaborated on a number of projects and events with Reconciliation Ministry, Week of Compassion, the National Benevolent Association, the Council on Christian Unity, the Division of Overseas Ministries, the Office of the General Minister and President, and the National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Conferences in which DC4PW actively participated:  Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, Black Ministers Retreat, the National Convocation, Winter Talk, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Asamblea Nacional Hispana Y Bingue, the Christian Unity Gathering of the National Council of Churches, Festival of Homiletics, National Immigrant Integration Conference, MLK50 Gathering for People of Faith.

Regional Assemblies where DC4PW had a strong presence:  Canada, Florida, Tennessee, and the Christian Church Capital Area.

Coalitions with and through which DC4PW works: The Poor People’s Campaign:  A National Call for Moral Revival, Interfaith Worker Justice, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Creation Justice Ministries, Paycheck Fairness Coalition, Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, International Religious Freedom Roundtable, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, Heads of  Washington Offices of the Washington Interreligious Staff Community, Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court, Domestic Human Needs, Coalition on Human Needs, Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare, School of the Americas Watch, Medicaid Coalition, Jubilee, USA, Bread for the World, the Interfaith Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, the Interfaith Health Care Coalition, and the Committee on Religious Liberty.

 

European Evangelistic Society
PO Box 24560
Indianapolis, Indiana
www.eesinc.org
317-299-0333
Tony Twist, President
2018 General Board Report

The European Evangelistic Society (EES), incorporated in 1946, has now been in existence for 70 years.  The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins was established in Tübingen, Germany in the early 1960s. Its purpose is to encourage and guide research in the earliest church and to focus the application of that research on the church today. Over the years the Institute has gained the respect of the faculty of theology at the University of Tübingen and as a result occupies a place of honor among scholars of the New Testament and early church history around the world.

The mission of EES in its 70 years of history has not changed.  It remains:  To develop Christian leaders for significant service through higher learning. The vision of EES is that every nation has effective leaders of disciple-making movements making a global impact on their churches, cultures, and countries for Christ. This vision reflects the common mission priorities of the Disciples of Christ as a movement for wholeness that welcomes all to the Table, and fulfills the last command of Jesus – “. . . as you are going, make disciples of all nations immersing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching obedience to all that I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The mission of EES is focused on this concern of leadership development necessary to realize the Four Priorities of the Church as outlined in the 2020 Vision of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  EES views its priorities in terms of developing Christian leaders and future Christian leaders that have unique access to the University for significant service, especially international students who are coming in increased numbers.  This is done through providing practical assistance, counsel, and hospitality when they arrive on campus in order to establish relationships; then through prayer, fellowship, and studies as they get more involved.

Through the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins at the University of Tübingen, Germany, EES is actively involved in research supervision and publication. In conjunction with the Protestant faculty, a doctoral colloquium is offered in which international doctoral students have the opportunity for research supervision at a major European University. This mission expresses itself in three primary areas of ministry:

  • To develop international leaders through advanced studies
  • To assist emerging leaders in research and publication of relevant national articles, books, and other materials
  • To help encourage the establishment and development of churches, colleges, and agencies focused on evangelism and disciple making.

At the present time, the educational ministry at The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins, led by Director Dr. Beth Langstaff, continues to function alongside Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. The Institute has a long and productive relationship with the prestigious and influential University. The influence of this ministry has been felt all over the world, as international students have come to the University for academic purposes and have been a part of the Institute.  It pursues basic New Testament research, offers colloquia through the academic year, and engages in continuing dialogue with professors and students from around the world.

The English-German Colloquium in New Testament serves as a forum for visiting professors and scholars to read works in progress. The Colloquium also provides an opportunity for doctoral students to present their work (dissertation proposals, chapter, conference papers, etc.) and to receive feedback. Moreover, it offers an unusual opportunity for scholars at all levels—master’s students, doctoral candidates, post-doc fellows, and professors—to meet and to discuss current research with one another.

A few special lectures in 2018:

  • In January, colloquium members went on a guided tour at the Bible Museum in Stuttgart, which had a special exhibition on “Gott und Geld (God and Money)”. In the evening, Professor Marius Reiser gave a guest lecture on the intriguing topic of “The Bible and Money.”
  • Another fascinating and timely topic—German theology during the Third Reich—was addressed at a well-attended guest lecture in June; Professor Anton Segev, from the Philosophy Dept of Loyola University in Chicago, read a paper on “Gerhard Kittel: Religion and Politics”
  • In July 2018, Gregory Fewster from the University of Toronto gave a talk on “Origen, the Alexandrian School, and Critical Philology of the corpus Paulinum in Egypt”.

Courses in Theological German and Theological English are taught at the University with some translation and linguistic work.  The classes include readings from a variety of Christian authors, in addition to Scripture, all with a view toward deepening relationships with God and others.  Both classes and colloquia provide good opportunities for probing questions as well as opportunities to meet outside of class for deeper discussions.  Increasingly the colloquium is serving international scholars as well.  The position that the Institute has by being part of the University officially gives them a great advantage and status as they develop these ongoing relationships.  In order to serve more effectively as Bible college professors, presidents, mission directors, and in other high capacity positions, many from these networks will need the type of advanced preparation that EES can provide.

The Theological German class has included students from all over the world: during the past year, the participants came mainly from the UK and USA. In the winter semester (2017-18), we read and discussed the 2012 book, Jesus, written by the famous Catholic theologian Hans Küng, who has spent many years here in Tübingen. In the summer semester, we focused on the writings—poems, notes, sermons, prayers—that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote during his imprisonment from April 1943 to his execution in April 1945.

The Theological English class is made up mostly of German students, some of whom are preparing to head overseas for an exchange semester/year. During the winter semester (2017-18), we explored “Theologies of the Global South”—getting to know a range of Christian theologians from Peru to Papua New Guinea, from South Africa to South Korea. The topic for the summer class was “J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: Story and Theology”; we discussed theological motifs such as creation, good and evil, death and eternal life, and redemption in their fantasy writings. The Tolkien/Lewis class was so large that we had to use a seminar room at the University—and it included a good number of native English speakers, as well.

During the past year, the Institute has also offered guest accommodation to visiting scholars, such as Ronald Heine, one of the speakers at the Symposium on the Lord’s Prayer, who was here in Tübingen with his wife Gill.

The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins is being positioned to help develop dedicated leaders for significant service throughout Europe, Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and beyond.

EES Goals:

  • Develop relationships between EES and other universities to help provide access to resources and research opportunities for the growing number of graduate students needing advanced studies.
  • Provide more doctoral mentoring, supervision, and opportunities for graduates and others through the EES networks.
  • Provide opportunities for
    • Mentoring doctoral students
    • Teaching theological English and theological German to students at Tübingen University
    • Preparing students from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to conduct research, write, and publish quality materials in their own languages
  • Continue to conduct the Doctoral Colloquium in conjunction with Protestant Faculty at Tübingen University.

On the basis of the respect earned by EES, the Institute has been able to sponsor, with the help of Tübingen’s New Testament faculty and that of the University of Munich, two symposia with scholars from around the world. These meetings help to fulfill the mission of the EES to stimulate study of early Christianity among scholars so our movement to restore New Testament Christianity can be taken seriously at the highest level. The volume of papers from the 2014 Symposium (“Make Disciples of All Nations”) is being published by Mohr Siebeck. A third symposium was held in Tübingen in October 2018. The symposium focused on the Lord’s Prayer in the context of Judaism, the New Testament, and early Christianity. The symposium was organized and sponsored by Prof. Michael Tilly (Universität Tübingen), Prof. Loren Stuckenbruck (LMU Munich) and Dr. Beth Langstaff (Institute for the Study of Christian Origins). Once again, speakers were invited from other regions of the world (e.g. Eastern Europe, North America, Israel, South Africa) and from a variety of religious traditions (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish).

Although EES does not work specifically in any one congregation, it seeks to promote the cause of reconciliation throughout the world by developing leaders who will demonstrate our commitment to the idea of a faithful, growing church that exhibits true community, deep Christian spirituality, and a passion for justice. The work of EES in Germany at the University of Tübingen is truly a multi-cultural community. Since 2000, doctoral colloquium presentations have been given by visiting professors and doctoral students from Australia, Canada, Germany, Finland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Africa, The United Kingdom, and the United States. EES seeks to be an international witness for the Christian gospel in one of the most significant theological settings in the world.  In keeping with the original vision of the European Evangelistic Society, the goal is to see churches thriving and flourishing throughout the world by equipping capable leaders to serve.

EES is characterized by a deep and abiding interest in the oneness of the Body of Christ.  The original purpose of the organization was to effect a channel through which it might cooperate in accomplishing the divine mission transmitted to the Church through the New Testament, and that its fraternity in this cause should be recognized as a fellowship for advancing the Christian mission. That interest has not changed with the passing of 70 years of ministry. The European Evangelistic Society is one of the few ministries among Stone-Campbell churches that has historically sought to work among all three streams of the American expression of this ideal.  For over half a century, the dream of a united Church, bound by its commitment to the New Testament as the revelation of God about the person of Jesus Christ, has been the unchanging focus of its mission.

 

General Commission on Ministry
D. Newell Williams, Chairperson

The General Commission on Ministry [GCOM] of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is composed of members appointed by the General Minister and President in consultation with various constituencies across the life of the church.  In odd-numbered years, the General Minister and President may present a slate of members to the General Board for confirmation.

In 2018, the following persons served on the General Commission on Ministry:  Cynthia Adcock, pastor, Northwest Christian Church, Columbus, OH; Greg Alexander, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Kentucky; William Almodovar, local pastor, Indianapolis, IN; Linda Brown, layperson, Main Street Christian Church, Parker City, IN; LaTaunya Bynum,  Regional Minister, Christian Church in Northern California; Eugene Fisher, Pension Fund Representative; Pam Holt, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Oklahoma; Eugene James, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Michigan; Timothy James, Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation; Chung Seong Kim, Executive Pastor of the North American Pacific/Asian Disciples; Sotello Long, Disciples Home Mission President; Holly Miller-Shank, United Church of Christ Representative; Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President, ex-officio;  William Rose-Heim, Regional Minister, Christian Church of Greater Kansas City; Matt Rosine, Pension Fund Representative; Glen Stewart, retired Regional Minister, Nashville, TN; Lori Tapia, National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries; D. Newell Williams, Seminary Representative [President, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX]; Tom Yang, pastor, Glenview (IL) Christian Church.  In addition, Warren Lynn, Director, Office of Christian Vocation, met by invitation with the Search and Call Committee to share information directly related to his work and Beth Sullivan, Executive Assistant to the General Minister and President, provided staff support to the Commission as a whole and in particular to the Support Committee which reviews applications for ministerial standing.

GCOM meets twice per year. In 2018, we met February 12-13 in Indianapolis and August 27-28 via electronic conferencing. By the time this General Board gathers, GCOM’s first meeting of 2019, January 7-8 in Indianapolis, will have concluded.

Since GCOM last reported to the General Board, it has addressed the following issues:

  • Policies and Procedures for Responding to Clergy Misconduct: Several editorial changes were approved for the sake of increased clarity. This document is reviewed annually. The Commission approved a motion that the current document be reviewed by legal counsel.
  • Revision of Standing Form used by the Commission: The Commission recommended that all persons applying for standing from the Commission be sent a link to two documents: Policy and Procedures for Responding to Clergy Misconduct and Ministerial Code of Ethics, and that applicants be required to check a box for each of the documents indicating they have read the document. Since August, this addition has been included in the standing forms used by the Commission.
  • Standing for retired regional ministers: GCOM affirmed that standing for retired regional ministers is held in the region where the retired regional minister resides.
  • Potential benefits across the church of a “Ministers’ Registry” distinct from Search and Call that could be created by a standardized annual minister’s standing form adopted by all regions: GCOM appointed Greg Alexander to request the College of Regional Ministers (CMR) to take this issue under consideration.
  • Use of Search and Call by racial/ethnic pastors and congregations: Challenges include: language barriers, length and content of the current profile, regional differences among commissions on ministry and policies of search and call, and overlapping responsibilities of regional and racial/ethnic pastors that can create tension and confusion.  Three action steps were approved: 1) Issue to Suran Systems a request for development (RFD) by which a pastor entering Search and Call could fill out multiple language profiles to be circulated simultaneously, allowing congregations to review their profiles in their native languages and allowing pastors to be considered in congregations beyond their native languages; 2) Initiate a conversation within the CRM about the development of a shorter and more appropriate Search and Call Ministerial Profile; 3) Request the CRM to name those elements they have in common in doing Search and Call and elements that could be done in a more consistent format to bring more consistency to our practices.
  • Standing granted to clergy for whom Standing is lodged with GCOM: 166 clergy were granted Standing. Specific joys and needs were noted and responded to, as well as requirements for Boundary Training and Diversity Training.

We welcome your input, comments, questions, ideas, and concerns.

Respectfully submitted, Newell Williams, Chairperson

 

National Christian Missionary Convention
Donald K. Gillett, III, President
Timothy M. James, Corporate Secretary

And its Subsidiary
GREENWOOD CEMETERY OF NASHVILLE, TN., INC.
William Lee, President
Dwayne Bell, General Manager

The National Convocation Board of Trustees is elected by the General Assembly as the Trustees of the National Christian Missionary Convention, Inc.  The Trustees are basically tasked with the oversight of the resources bequeathed to the National Christian Missionary Convention by our founder, Rev. Preston Taylor.  From these resources, funds are contributed to the Black Disciples Endowment Fund and to the continued growth and development of Greenwood Cemetery.

THE NATIONAL CHRISTIAN MISSSIONARY CONVENTION:

The funds of NCMC are invested with the Disciples Church Extension Fund and Christian Church Foundation.  Transactions related to NCMC operations are handled in the office of the National Convocation.

The Black Disciples Endowment Fund is owned by NCMC. The BDEF is purposed to strengthen the ministry of Black Disciples.  The BDEF assists in sponsoring the African American School of Faith and Life, offered during the Biennial Session of the National Convocation.  The fund sponsors scholarships and funds for Black Disciples congregations and leadership development.

A portion of the Lillian Merchant Fund held by Christian Church Foundation is allocated to the BDEF for ministerial recruitment and nurture.  The Office of African American Clergy and Leadership Development recruits and nurtures prospective ministers and work to continue the training legacy of our founder through the Preston Taylor Institute, William Lee, Director.

Trustees of the National Christian Missionary Convention are:  Donald K. Gillett, President; Irie Session, Vice President; Pamela Dubose, Secretary; James Vertreese, Treasurer; Milton Bowens, Ken Brooker Langston, Delesslyn Kennebrew, Joanne Walker Flowers, William Smith, Cicely Staton-Holt, Juanita Greene, and Beverly Goines.  Ex-Officio officers are: Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President; Sotello Long, President Disciples Home Ministries; and Timothy James, Corporate Secretary.

GREENWOOD CEMETERY:

The Greenwood Cemetery of Nashville, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation organized to manage the cemetery properties owned by NCMC.  Under the able leadership of Dwayne Bell, the cemetery operates three separate sites which are becoming well known by its historic significance.  It has become more attractive to the people of Nashville and we would like for it to be  recognized and used by more Disciples of Christ.

Members of Greenwood Cemetery Board of Directors are: William Lee, Chairman; Freddie Lawton, Vice Chairman; Juanita Greene, Treasurer; Pat Penelton, Dale Braxton, Norman Reed, John Tiggle, Beverly Dickason, Ahmed White, Marvin Owens.  Ex-Officio Officers: Timothy James, Corporate Secretary; John Foulkes, Investment Committee Chair; and Dwayne Bell, General Manager.

 

National City Christian Church Foundation
John Arterberry, Chairperson
Stephen Gentle, Senior Minister
5 Thomas Circle, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Telephone: (202) 232-0323
Web site: www.nationalcitycc.org

National City Christian Church was created to live out Alexander Campbell’s vision to uphold a momentous church facility in the city known for its national and world leaders so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be proclaimed. National City Christian Church Foundation is honored to be one of the recognized organizations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. The Foundation holds in trust the ownership of the church property and its facilities on behalf of the wider church. It is led by a national Board of Trustees and reports to the General Assembly. The Foundation is yoked in partnership with the congregation of National City Christian Church to provide a national facility for worship, study, ministry, and mission in the U.S. capital.

The Foundation of National City Christian Church (“The Foundation”) exists for the purpose of maintaining the financial and physical assets of the Foundation so that the congregations and/or wider ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) may pursue mission at 5 Thomas Circle. In order to accomplish this, the Foundation shall: preserve and grow the endowment; manage its facilities and property to maximize its use by tenants whose purposes are consistent with the values of the Foundation and its donors; and maintain the facilities in a manner that protects the Foundation’s assets and honors perpetual care agreements. For the purpose of reporting to the 2019 General Assembly, the following information includes activities in 2017 and 2018.

Richard L. Hamm led the Foundation as the chairperson for the Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2017. In November, 2017, National City Christian Church thanked Dr. Hamm for his eight years of distinguished leadership which has brought the Foundation to a place of strength and vitality. The Foundation is grateful for Dr. Hamm’s continued service on the Board of Trustees. John Arterberry became the new chairperson following many years of dedicated service as the vice chairperson. Mr. Arterberry, now residing in Nashville, Tennessee, is the retired Deputy Chief for the Department of Justice Fraud Section and longtime member of National City Christian Church. For Mr. Arterberry’s depth of institutional knowledge and longstanding, gifted leadership in the Foundation and the congregation, National City Christian Church is truly grateful. In March, the Foundation was delighted to welcome Steven Baines to the Foundation staff as Senior Strategist for Foundation Development, Outreach, and Spiritual Formation. The Foundation is appreciative and humbled by the remarkable leadership and generous support from the Board of Trustees, Disciples of Christ leadership throughout North America, the National City Christian Church staff, and the congregational leadership.

National City Christian Church Foundation, in partnership with the congregation, completed a two-year capital campaign called “Renew and Transform” with the purpose of addressing deferred maintenance and repairs to the facilities. The goal of $800,000 was overwhelmingly supported with over 1.1 million dollars being raised. The following projects were completed: boiler replacement, Beasley Building roof replacement, air conditioning repair, security entry system installation, carpet for the Sanctuary and the Beasley Building, courtyard pavers replacement, courtyard fountain repair, portico railings replacement, flat roof of the Sanctuary repair, exterior Sanctuary doors restoration, and the front steps received some much needed repair to its damaged limestone. The Foundation is grateful to the capital campaign leadership team led by chairperson Kathleen Burger Gerada and consultant James Powell. In conjunction with the capital campaign, the congregation launched a new permanent fund policy for legacy gifts that will support both Foundation and congregation in its future work and ministries. Christian Church Foundation Vice President Randall Johnson gave superb leadership and skilled guidance in this endeavor, and the congregation commends the work of Christian Church Foundation to all congregations interested in establishing permanent funds.

The Board of Trustees is in the midst of a discernment process concerning the sale of the 64-year-old education building that was formerly occupied by a public charter school. With expert assistance from Rock Creek Properties, the Foundation has been able to successfully navigate the complicated D.C. requirements of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the Zoning Board, and the Historic Preservation Board. Presenting before each board or commission, we were delighted to hear board members and commissioners speak so highly of National City Christian Church and its contributions to the Washington, D.C., community. We were impressed that municipal organizations valued our ministries and wanted to preserve – what one commissioner described as – “the jewel of Thomas Circle.” The education building has been cleared, and the asbestos abatement and other demolition work has been accomplished.

The Foundation is grateful to the staff and congregational leadership that is engaged in ministry and mission in the greater Washington, D.C., area. In 2018, the congregation entered into a time of strategic planning with Hope Partnership through the Epiphany program. The congregation has enjoyed many highlights, including the 175th anniversary of Disciples of Christ worshipping in Washington, D.C., the ordination of Chaim Abramowitz Rodriguez and his installation as Pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Nacional, and the PhD graduation of Assistant Pastor Beverly Janet Goines. National City opened its doors to share with many neighbors: 10,000 bags of food were distributed to those who were hungry; hundreds of persons were welcomed with hospitality and face-painting at the church booth at Capital Pride; and many neighborhood pet owners and their canine companions joined in the annual blessing of the animals on the portico steps. In 2018, the congregation began hosting “My Neighbor Ministry” to employ an advocate to work with the poor and teach members how they can extend greater hospitality and care to those who live on the streets.

The first weekend of November, 2017, was yet another historic moment for National City Christian Church. Newly-elected General Minister and President Teresa Hord Owens preached a challenging message on the importance of knowing one’s history. The Foundation dedicated the Oscar Haynes Exhibit on permanent loan by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. This new exhibit celebrates 100 years of the African American Convention movement that is now called the National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Associate General Minister and National Convocation Administrative Secretary Timothy James, Central Rocky Mountain Regional Minister Joan Bell-Haynes, National Convocation Board President Patricia Penelton, and Historical Society President Emeritus Peter Morgan each spoke eloquently and powerfully on behalf of the National Convocation and the Oscar Haynes family. During that same weekend, National City was honored to host the installation of Historical Society President Richard Lowery and the Kirkpatrick Lecture presented by the Reverend Dr. Delores Carpenter.

The facilities of National City Christian Church continue to be a gathering place in the U.S. capital for Disciples of Christ and ecumenical partners. Some of the gatherings and significant events that have occurred in the past two years have included:

– Disciples Home Missions Board of Directors meeting; Higher Education and Leadership Ministries Fellows annual training; U.N. Youth Conference of the Ohio region, Moral Revival of the Poor People’s Campaign teach-in led by William J. Barber II and James A. Forbes; Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, National Interfaith Prayer Service for Marriage Equality, National AIDS Conference, National Masonic Day of Thanksgiving and Remembrance, and D.C. Interfaith Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Service with Sister Simone Campbell speaking.

– The Festival of Homiletics welcomed 1,600 clergypersons to National City Christian Church for four days of preaching and worship, lectures and fellowship. During one of the evenings of the Festival, Sojourners hosted Reclaiming Jesus candlelight vigil, filling the sanctuary with nearly 1,000 people and hundreds more listening out on the steps of the church building. Disciples speaking that evening included Teresa Hord Owens, Sharon Watkins, and Dick Hamm, along with other impressive ecumenical leaders including Bishop Michael Curry, Jim Wallis, Barbara Williams-Skinner, Richard Rohr, James Forbes, Walter Brueggemann, Otis Moss, and Tony Campolo.

– National City hosted several musical events, including weekly Friday organ concerts for the community and quarterly two-day Heritage Festival choral adjudication events for high school groups from across the U.S. Musical groups from around the community also performed in the sanctuary: the 120-voice Congressional Chorus, Fessenden Chamber Ensemble, Heritage Signature Chorale, Thomas Circle Singers, and the National Children’s Chorus (which is housed at National City).

– Partnering with the Christian Church Capital Area, National City hosted a region-wide leadership training event called “Salt and Light” and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worship service with CTS Professor Frank Thomas preaching.

As a partner with the General Church, National City is pleased to provide offices and meeting space for the Disciples Center for Public Witness, Disciples Home Missions’ Refugee and Immigration Ministries, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, and the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. In 2017, National City Christian Church shared worship materials for the Sunday before the U.S. Presidential Inauguration that were made available to Disciples congregations and ecumenical partners for worship experiences.

Church Historian Peter Morgan and Videographer John Scott Williams have created a four-part educational DVD on the history of National City Christian Church in the context of the Stone-Campbell movement. Copies of the DVD may be obtained by contacting Church Administrator Colleen Walsh at cwalsh@nationalcitycc.org.

As a multiracial/multicultural, bilingual, open and affirming congregation, National City Christian Church enjoys welcoming and worshiping with Disciples from all around the world. National City is your church in the U.S. capital. Tours of these facilities are available during the week upon request. All are invited to learn more about this unique Disciples witness at www.nationalcitycc.org or by visiting 5 Thomas Circle, N.W., in Washington, D.C.

 

Reconciliation Ministry
2019 General Board Report

Mission StatementReconciliation Ministry advances the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s journey toward wholeness by empowering each expression of the Church to implement structural change to address historic fractures caused by racism and the systems that perpetuate it.

Context:

As one of the four mission imperatives of the 2020 vision, “becoming a Pro-Reconciling and Anti-Racist Church”, we are well on target to achieving this identity.  The Church is living a new normal, a church that is both transformed while it is transforming.  We have made significant qualitative and qualitative progress toward embracing this identity.

Ministry Highlights

Equipping:  Training in the analysis of anti-racism has become embedded in our institutional identity.  In the 12-month period that encompasses this reporting period, our ministry has facilitated full day or two-day training events in every regional expression of the Church.  At this juncture in this component of the equipping program of our ministry, over 75% of our Regions have an anti-racism educational requirement either for clergy and leader standing or as part of their Region’s healthy boundaries cycle. Of the seven Regions that do not currently require this educational element, all are intentionally addressing ways to incorporate an ongoing commitment to AR training.  We have officially turned a corner in developing the capacity for self-examination of our policies and practices as well as building our capacity for structured dialogue about the continuing impact of our racialized histories.

Engaging:  Two of our newer projects were designed to invite Disciples to creative engagement toward our anti-racist identity.  One Bag of Tea, One Conversation, One Relationship, launched at the 2017 General Assembly, has provided opportunities for our congregations to learn about their own socio-cultural history as well as that of their inter-faith and ecumenical neighbors. It has had a warm reception and a moderate implementation.  Congregations have also been invited to make this conversational model their own.  A follow-on project from One Bag of Tea launched last Fall was our “What’s the Tea with Reconciliation?” bi-monthly podcast.  It has featured guests included Terri Hord Owens, our General Minister and President, Rev. Debbie Griffin of Downtown Disciples in Des Moines, IA a new church start, and Phil Snider, Pastor of Brentwood Christian Church and author of Preaching Resistance published by Chalice Press and has been shared broadly on social media.

Empower:  We have spent significant social media bandwidth re-presenting Reconciliation as a mission fund.  This means that the most visible presence of our ministry rests in our capacity to fund anti-racism and pro-reconciliation activities and projects in the three expression of the Church through our granting program.  We awarded four diverse projects that included intentional dialogue between four historic Disciples congregations in Atlanta, GA; a racial justice conference and an organizing and equipping training in Mid-America; a mentoring program with NBA Prison and Jail ministries; as well as a story-telling project in the Coastal Plains area of the Southwest Region. Part of empowering the saints for a pro-reconciling identity has allowed us to also support an immigration attorney in collaboration with Disciples Home Missions and other ministry partners through this granting program.

Funding:  Attention to promoting Reconciliation Ministry as a Mission Fund resulting in a small increase in overall giving. This in light of Disciples simultaneous generosity during a devasting hurricane season in September.

Opportunities:  As we live into this new reality of equipping, engaging and empowering the Church to embrace our 20/20 vision’s missional identity, we are inviting Disciples to pray and support our future-ing efforts to build capacity to continue to interpret reconciliation in every expression of the Church.  In order to accomplish this re-visioning of our current and future reality, the Reconciliation Ministry Commission with our ministry partners will begin a planning process to structure a response to Resolution 1721 – “A Renewed Commitment to Reconciliation Ministry.”

Submitted by,

Rev. April G. Johnson
Minister of Reconciliation
January 2019

 

Treasury Services

John Goebel, Vice President of Finance

 

OGMP Treasury Services’ (TS) team has grown to 7.5 members as a new position (Controller) was created.  Our HR consultant, Gregory & Appel, has been a great assistance in hiring the Controller, improving our evaluations, job descriptions, and professional development. We look forward to enhancing our ministry to the church.

We are thankful for the following partnerships as we provide accounting services:

  • seven ministries of OGMP (as Year Book and Promotion merged with TS & Communication Ministries (CM)),
  • six general ministries: Council on Christian Unity, Christian Church Services, National City Christian Church Foundation, College of Regional Ministers, Disciples of Christ Historical Society, and Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries, and
  • 20 regions: Florida, Greater Kansas City, Upper Midwest, Illinois-Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Northwest, Mid-America, Capital Area, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Central Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Oklahoma, Great River, Ohio, Arizona (2018), Michigan (May, 2018), Nebraska (September, 2018) and Virginia (2019).

 

 

United Christian Missionary Society
1099 North Meridian Street,
Suite 700, Indianapolis, IN 46204-1036
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986

Sotello V. Long, President
Julia Brown Karimu, Vice-President
Email: shansen@cef.disciples.org

The United Christian Missionary Society continued to furnish financial support for the Division of Homeland Ministries, dba Disciples Home Missions (DHM), and the Division of Overseas Ministries (DOM), by investing and managing its endowment and permanent funds for the benefit of the two Divisions.

During 2018, there were three gift annuity contracts released. The total residual released amount was $9,904. There was no activity on released life income contracts. When gift annuities or life income agreements are released, the funds are either distributed outright to DHM and DOM or added to the permanent endowments of the Society depending on the beneficiary designation. The Society received $84,625 through 8/31/2018 in Miscellaneous Unrestricted Receipts with $15,000 each distributed to DOM and DHM and the remainder is invested in the pool of the Campbell Multi-Strategy Fund and Beasley Growth Fund at the Christian Church Foundation. A small undesignated mineral interest in Lincoln County, OK was also received. The Society received $16,616 in Estate Distribution from the Ethel Hartman estate designated for overseas ministry and the Cloe Kelly Estate was $1,402.

The Society continued to be involved with ethical issues which related to its investments and was active with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). ICCR is an ecumenical organization of 17 Protestant denominations and approximately 200 Roman Catholic orders which cooperate concerning ethical and social concerns as expressed by actions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Society, which has eight trustees and four officers, has no active employees. Beginning in 1993, the Society contracted with the Christian Church Foundation, Inc. to perform the treasury services for the Society. The current officers of the Society are as follows: Sotello V. Long, President; Julia Brown Karimu, Vice President; Kathy Watts, Corporate Secretary, and Lonna Owens, Treasurer. Four trustees are nominated by each of the two Divisions served by the Society. They are elected by the General Board of the church and serve a term of four years. Their responsibilities are to oversee and determine policies concerning the investments of assets owned by the Society. The protection as well as the income realized from these assets is of paramount concern for the trustees. Their invaluable service is recognized and this report is submitted on their behalf.

The Society distributed the following from the investment pool in 2017:  DHM – $735,710; DOM – $1,038,021; and other entities – $59,205.

The Society distributed the following from the investment pool in 2018:  DHM – $726,429; DOM – $1,022,942; other entities – $59,000.

 

Week of Compassion
Cindy Kim-Hengst, Chair, Board of Stewards
Vy Nguyen, Executive Director
P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206
317-713-2442
www.weekofcompassion.org

Mission: As the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Week of Compassion works with partners to alleviate suffering throughout the world.

Vision: A world where God’s people transform suffering into hope

Core Values:

CONNECTION-                 Partner with individuals, congregations, and organizations to serve the needs of the world

INTEGRITY-                      Honor the commitment to faithful stewardship, ensuring gifts entrusted to Week of Compassion are making the most impact

ACCOMPANIMENT-          Embody God’s grace by committing to a long-term presence with communities in need

As the number of displaced people worldwide rises daily as a result of natural disasters and civil and political conflicts causing millions of people to seek refuge, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), through Week of Compassion, stands in solidarity with these families and communities.  By working with international partners we not only provide immediate and long-term relief, but also we continue to be the church serving and caring for our most vulnerable neighbors at home and around the world.

Severe natural disasters and global conflicts continue to displace more people every day.  By the end of 2018, we were faced with the highest levels of displacement on record—an unprecedented 68.5 million people (an increase of 2.9 million since our last General Assembly in 2017). Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 44,400 people a day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution; that is roughly one person every two seconds. This has been largely fueled by new crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Myanmar, as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Week of Compassion is grateful for our partners, especially Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, Disciples Home Missions’ Refugee and Immigration Ministries and Legal Counsel, Church World Service, and ACT Alliance. These ministries work closely on the ground with internally displaced people and refugees here in North America and around the world, especially in Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa. Through these partnerships, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) accompanies those forced to flee encroaching danger by walking with them as they seek refuge in different countries. In Central America, many mothers and children are fleeing imminent threat and severe poverty by walking thousands of miles to reach our southern border, only to be turned away. Our partners at Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries in South Texas and Global Ministries partner, Centro Romero Center in San Diego continue to provide emergency medicine, food, shelter, and protection for these individuals.

At home in North America, Week of Compassion continues to respond to myriad small- and medium-scale disasters that affect communities where Disciples have a presence, as well as to large-scale disasters. In the fall of 2017, powerful Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria impacted Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, causing extreme flooding and destroying billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure and homes. 2018 saw another damaging hurricane season with Hurricanes Michael and Florence causing extreme damage in Florida and North Carolina. Today, Week of Compassion is working with communities in these places to help rebuild through Disciples Home Missions’ Disciples Volunteering and other partners.  With Disciples Volunteering, we have established a mission station at First Christian Church, Texas City, Texas, that continues to receive volunteers. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, our response has been through the Disaster Recovery Support Initiative, a collaboration among Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries, and Brethren Disaster Ministries to provide support, mentorship, and encouragement in the development of local Long-term Recovery Groups through a sustained on-site presence.

In Puerto Rico, we continue to provide grant support to the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico,  a bilateral partnership through the Division of Overseas Ministries. This grant supports repairs to buildings and campus infrastructure, cash-flow assistance (due to decreased tuition income),  tuition assistance for students, and emotional and spiritual care for students, staff, and faculty. Home repairs continue through the Programa Edifiquemos of the Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo). With Week of Compassion’s support, ICDCPR hired a full-time program director, Jose Molina, and a part-time construction manager, Rev. Rafael Rivera Bidot. They have created and assessed work plans for more than three dozen homes and have acquired materials for at least half of those projects. Our partners in Puerto Rico continue to be in need of more volunteers, and they are ready to receive Disciples from the mainland to help rebuild.

Climate change is creating more powerful hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and other major disasters on a more regular basis. In the fall of 2018, one wildfire in Northern California wiped out 95% of the town of Paradise, while two other major wildfires simultaneously roared in the southern part of the state. In Zimbabwe and Kenya, extreme droughts block communities’ clean water access, forcing many to migrate to new areas. In India and Bangladesh, severe flooding continues to destroy homes and roads, making rebuilding more challenging for volunteers. We are grateful for our partners at ACT Alliance and Church World Service who are on the ground providing relief and long-term recovery in many of these areas. Disaster response organizations, especially in the United States, have collected concrete data showing that destructive natural disasters have increased in the last several decades. A comprehensive report was recently released stating that climate change could soon imperil our way of life, changing every part of the world, imposing frustrating costs on the global economy, and harming the health of virtually everyone. Climate change will have a major impact on Week of Compassion and how we will be able to respond to many of these ever-stronger disasters, thus making our disaster preparedness initiatives more crucial in the near future. It is vital to help many of our churches, regions, and general ministries prepare to serve communities when severe disasters hit.

Our partners continue to provide crucial, sustainable infrastructures that are improving lives in many communities. Week of Compassion’s Women’s Empowerment Fund has provided vital resources to many women who have gained entrepreneurial skills that have lifted their families and communities out of extreme poverty.  Our partner at IMA World Health has been providing vital health services in Africa to women, while our partner at Prosperity Catalyst is providing livelihood skills to Iraqis to generate revenue to support their families.  From providing access to clean water in Mexico, to girls being able to go to school in Cambodia, to mothers receiving loans to open up businesses, the impact the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) through Week of Compassion is making a difference in creating peace and justice around the world.

Financially, Week of Compassion continues to remain strong due to the many generous donations from local churches and individuals, enabling this ministry to have an important impact in vulnerable communities. As of the end of November 2018, Week of Compassion’s year-to-date undesignated giving totaled over $1.7 million, a decrease of 19.14% from the prior year’s giving.  This is a result of the extremely generous giving in 2017 for the various hurricanes in the Caribbean. Comparing the undesignated giving of 2018 to our budget, Week of Compassion giving is slightly up, by less than .10%.  Designated giving at the end of November 2018 is at $550,000, a decrease of 75% from the prior year.  Again, the designated giving in 2017 was for major hurricanes, which accounted for that significant difference.

The nature of relief, refugee response, and sustainable development continues to shift and change in significant ways. Week of Compassion continues to build strong partnerships and position itself to respond to the greatest needs in our world.  In 2019, Week of Compassion welcomes a new full time Associate Director for Communications and Marketing to help us better share our impact, stories, and resources with our partners and congregations.  As we work together through this life-saving ministry, we serve as a vital, visible sign of our witness to Christ in the world, so that we can bring healing, reconciliation, and wholeness in a fragmented world.

 

World Convention
(CHRISTIAN – CHURCHES OF CHRIST – DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)
Gary Holloway Executive Director/General Secretary
PO Box 50998, Nashville, TN  37205-0998 USA
Phone: +1 (615) 830-7210 Email:  office@worldconvention.org
Home Page:  http://www.worldconvention.org

2018 REPORT

Plans for Global Gathering

In 2018 World Convention continued its mission of embodying and encouraging fellowship, understanding, and common purpose within the global family of Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ churches in 199 countries and territories. We did this through personal visits to national meetings, through our website and newsletters, and through planning for our next Global Gathering.

As I reported last year, the World Convention board approved holding our Global Gatherings more frequently. They accepted an invitation from churches in Swaziland to have our next Global Gathering in Manzini, eSwatini, April 18-21, 2019. However, internal tensions among Churches of Christ in southern Africa made it impossible to have our planned Global Gathering in eSwatini.

Our board has accepted an invitation from our churches in Poland to have our next Global Gathering there in June 2021.

Third Global Christian Forum

World Convention related our churches to other Christians in many ways in since our last meeting. The most notable was participation in the third gathering of the Global Christian Forum, held in Bogota, Colombia April 24-27, 2018. Paul Chimhungwe, President of World Convention, and I were blessed to attend, along with 251 other Christian leaders from 64 countries and 24 church families. Paul Tche and Angel Luis Rivera-Agosto from the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council were also there.

The Global Christian Forum (GCF) is a unique gathering of global Christian churches and organizations bringing together all the major streams of world Christianity. The GCF is an open space where all Christians can meet to nurture unity by fostering mutual respect and understanding as well as by addressing together common challenges.

The formal sessions in Bogota were of great benefit. Some of the greatest blessings were informal discussions around meals and between sessions. For me, these included:

  • A Christian from China sharing how the church has been faithful there even though local political leaders are destroying church buildings and Christian schools.
  • Testimony regarding a woman who walked four hours to receive a Bible in her own language for the first time.
  • Christians in Athens, Greece who feed 2500 hungry people each day.

The list of blessings goes on and on, from uplifting worship together to sharing our faith stories to fellowship around dinner tables to discussion of how to work together.

 

Year Book & Directory
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206
317.713.2453
John Goebel, Vice President of Finance
Cherilyn Williams, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Emily Martin, Communication and Disciples Mission Fund Coordinator

The editorial team worked to review many of the data collection and production processes as the 2018 Year Book & Directory was produced. Generally, Treasury Services staff process orders, financial data and relate to the database providers. Communication Ministries staff gather congregational data and produce the final document. Regional ministers and staff are vital partners in connecting directly with congregations.

Changes in 2018 included:

  • Inclusion of the 2018 General Board reports. In past years, those reports have not appeared until the following year. The 2018 book included both the 2017 and 2018 reports. The 2019 Year Book will include the 2019 General Board reports.
  • Payment for Year Books occurred at the point of order, saving invoicing and collection costs.
  • Fonts and format were updated slightly for legibility.
  • Forms were translated into both Spanish and Korean.
  • No CD versions of the year book were produced. Electronic access is provided via PDF files of the various sections of the book.

Changes in processes for 2019 include:

  • Additions to the reporting form to include information about mission participation and giving that has not been requested before. There are also a few opportunities to connect to ministries for additional information.
  • Elimination of full page pre-filled forms mailed to congregations that will be replaced with postcards encouraging online submission (Paper forms can still be downloaded.)
  • More frequent information provided to regional staff to assist in raising response rates and offer opportunity to connect

General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens is encouraging several ministries of the Church to integrate the data that makes up the Year Book with the hope that we will be able to access real-time data in the next biennium. This will involve cooperation between the databases currently maintained in at least four formats and locations.

With sadness, we report that our communion had some losses in numbers for 2018.

  • 7 were removed by their region for inactivity (lack of reporting or contact with the region or general ministries)
  • 14 were reported as closed
  • 16 formally withdrew

With great joy, we report that we have added to our numbers with 20 congregations recognized in the following regions:

  • Alabama/Northwest Florida (3)
  • Canada (1)
  • Central Rocky Mountain (1)
  • Florida (1)
  • Illinois-Wisconsin (1)
  • Kentucky (1)
  • Mid-America (1)
  • North Carolina (2)
  • Northwest (2)
  • Oklahoma (1)
  • Oregon/Southwest Idaho (1)
  • Pacific Southwest (2)
  • Southwest (2)
  • Upper Midwest (1)

 

 

 

 

GA-1921

GA-1921

 REPORT FROM THE SOCIAL WITNESS TASK FORCE

  Download PDF 

At the 2015 General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, GA 1524 called for a task force to be formed by the Office of General Minister and President, Disciples Home Missions and the Division of Overseas Ministries for the purpose of:

“…bringing to the 2017 General Assembly, meeting in Indianapolis, IN, a jointly sponsored process for discussion of and education about important religious, ethical and social issues.”

The resolution stated “the task force shall include representatives of, but not limited to”: Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries

  • Council on Christian Unity
  • Disciples Home Missions
  • Diverse congregations throughout the United States and Canada Division of Overseas Ministries
  • General Board
  • Historic justice and peace advocacy groups in the church
  • National Convocation
  • North American Pacific/Asian Disciples
  • Office of General Minister and President

The Social Witness Task Force made a progress report at the 2017 General Assembly in Indianapolis, IN, (GA-1731) with the intent to present a finished proposal to the General Assembly in July 2019. The Task Force met via video and conference call on multiple occasions over the past 2 years.

A small working group worked to ensure that various issues and concerns with regard to the previously developed and reported working document were noted and addressed. However, there are still elements of the working document upon which the Task Force has yet to achieve consensus.

The Task Force has continued to discuss the working document, and work through issues upon which there is not agreement. The Task Force will continue its work with the intent to bring a finished proposal by the 2021 General Assembly.

The Social Witness Task Force

Task Force Members

Robert Cayton
Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder
Shannon Dycus
Jeff Goodier
Sekinah Hamlin
Richelle Himaya
Mark Johnston
Julia Brown Karimu
Fiyori Kidane
Scott Kinnaird
Ken Brooker Langston
Rebecca Littlejohn
Sotello Long
Terri Hord Owens
Vangie Perez
Dean Phelps
Katherine Raley
Paul Tche
Tawanda Wilson

__________________________________________ 

The General Board has reviewed GA-1921 Report from the Social Witness Task Force. The report is submitted to the General Assembly for presentation and discussion. No action is required. (Discussion time: 12 minutes)

GA-1731 report

GA-1922

GA-1922

RESOLUTION ON FULL COMMUNION BETWEEN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST) IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA

(Operational, Policy and Organizational)

Download PDF

WHEREAS, Jesus prayed in his last prayer with the disciples, “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21, NRSV); and

WHEREAS, the desire for the visible unity of God’s one church is at the heart and commitment of the ecumenical movement, and the essence of the ecumenical movement is to seek to find unity in diversity, creating the space to engage divergences and convergences through ongoing dialogue and engagement; and

WHEREAS, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada affirm this biblical understanding of unity that continues to guide ecumenical commitment and engagement with other churches; and

WHEREAS, the two communions in North America envision full communion as a mutual commitment to grow together toward a vision of the church that enriches our theological traditions, enhances service and mission and deepens worship, and the two churches pledge to find diverse expressions of what it means to live in full communion in Christ as we experience life together; and

WHEREAS, the two churches understand that unity and mission are inseparable, which is understood that Christ calls us to unite in one mission in and to a suffering and divided world, and the two communions acknowledge that we are partners together in God’s mission to and for the whole world;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, meeting in Des Moines, Iowa (July 20-24, 2019) makes the following mutual declaration with the 43rd General Council of The United Church of Canada, meeting in Oshawa, Ontario (July 21-27, 2018):

  1. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada acknowledges and celebrates before God that The United Church of Canada is an authentic, faithful part of the one, universal body of
  2. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada commits itself to work, with God’s help and together with its partner churches, to effect greater unity in the whole church of Jesus
  3. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada declares and celebrates that a relationship of full communion now exists between The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, by which is meant that both churches will pursue with intention ways of expressing the unity of the Church. This includes commitment to mutually recognizing ordained ministers of each partner church as truly ministers of word and sacrament, and ways of manifesting the common mission of witness and service; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, together with The United Church of Canada, encourages study of the biblical, theological, and practical implications of the full communion agreement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada authorizes the Ecumenical Partnership Committee to give guidance to this process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada agrees to commence the full communion agreement with the signing of the common agreement by the two Heads of Communion at a joint service of celebration that will include opportunities for people across the two churches to celebrate in meaningful ways; and

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the 2019 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada receives the final report of the planning group, including the possibilities presented for common life and witness together, which is attached to this resolution.

Council on Christian Unity (A Disciples Ministry for Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations)

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 The General Board recommends that the General Assembly ADOPT GA-1922. (Discussion Time: 12 minutes)

Full Communion:

Ecumenical Partnership between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada

Introduction

In 2016, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada identified an interest in exploring greater fellowship and potentially a closer relationship between our two denominational bodies. Preliminary conversations suggested there were distinct benefits in greater partnership, not only on the Canadian side of the border, but in our two nations.

In December 2016, a formal meeting of leaders in both denominations took place in Toronto, Canada. Over the course of two days, both sides decided that working towards a full communion relationship is desired. There are, of course, many local, regional, and international implications of such an arrangement, but the leaders determined that this provided an ideal opportunity to bear witness to the importance and power of Christian unity in North America and to strengthen the ministry of both of our denominations. Each denomination named six representatives to explore further the issues involved and prepare a proposal for a full communion agreement. The group met twice in person and in video conferences. This report offers their reflections on issues and implications relating to full communion, as background to the proposal that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, and The United Church of Canada undertake a full communion agreement.

Although many Disciples in the United States may not know The United Church of Canada well, the Canadian Region and the United Church have a long-standing history together. Our relationship spans from local congregational partnerships where United and Disciples have presence together in various towns and cities, to educational (a cooperative agreement with Emmanuel College in Toronto from 1930s-60s), to ecumenical (both founding members of the Canadian Council of Churches), to an unsuccessful union talk which took place between 1969-1985. A lasting and blessed product of those conversations and cooperation are two joint United-Disciples  congregations—one in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and one in Calgary, Alberta. In addition, many Canadian Disciples clergy are still educated at United Church seminaries, and some Disciples clergy now serve in United Church congregations and in general church leadership. Theologically, we both have a passion for justice and mission and hold similar “statements of faith.” There are significant differences in governance and the administration of the sacraments, but the Planning Group has discerned that these are not barriers to a full communion relationship.

The United Church of Canada reached a full communion agreement with the United Church of Christ (USA) in October 2015. The relationship between these churches is encouraging a closer relationship between Global Ministries, including the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and the Church in Mission unit of The United Church of Canada. An agreement between the United Church and the Disciples of Christ would “close the triangle” and mark a new era of ecumenical partnership in North America.

The two denominations have understood a full communion partnership as a living and growing relationship. This partnership doesn’t simply mean that we accept one another. Rather, we embrace each other fully in the witness of Christians, the ministries of the Church, and the mission of God. In this covenantal relationship, we commit to being one Church, not in merger but in God’s gift of unity, that serves the world that God so loves. The two churches will learn how to live in this covenantal relationship through rich theological conversations, enhanced witness and mission, and diverse spiritual life and worship.

The gospel of Jesus Christ calls on the followers of Christ to live life in unity for the sake of the world, so “that the world may believe….” (John 17:21) The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada have been committed to the visible unity of the church and one ecumenical movement for decades. As the two denominations enter this closer relationship to participate fully in God’s mission for this world, may God lead this journey with divine wisdom and in grace.

Brief History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada traces its beginnings to the early national period in the United States of America. Disciples point to the work of four founders to describe their origins. All four men had ties to the Presbyterian Church. Barton Stone (1772-1844), the only one born in America, served as the sponsoring pastor for the Cane Ridge revival, drawing 10-30,000 attendees during the Second Great Awakening. The camp meeting revivals brought controversy. Stone withdrew from Presbyterianism and, with others, formed a loose association of congregations resolving “to sink into union with the body of Christ at large.” These congregations took the name Christian and gained strength in North Carolina, Southern Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and his son, Alexander (1788-1866), were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who arrived in the United States in 1807 and 1809 respectively. In 1808, Thomas withdrew from the Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania when he was rebuked for serving the Lord’s Supper to Christians not associated with his brand of Presbyterianism. A year later, he formed the Christian Association of Washington, Pennsylvania. Shortly after this event, his family arrived. Alexander, 21 years old, quickly became a leading figure. Members of the Christian Association adopted the name Disciples. By 1830, with the help of evangelist Walter Scott (1796-1861), who had arrived from Scotland in 1818, the movement grew rapidly and formed congregations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

The earliest Disciples congregations included African Americans as members, though Disciples also included members who participated in the enslavement of others. Disciples were able to hold the church together during the Civil War. Yet, when the Churches of Christ (Non-Instrumental) separated from Disciples in 1906 by arguing that Disciples had become a denomination through the creation of national missionary organizations, the majority of those associated with the schism were located in the South. Black Disciples formed a separate, but cooperating, organizational life in 1917 known as the National Christian Missionary Convention. During 1969, as part of the formal restructuring of the Disciples life, a merger was enacted that brought the National Christian Missionary Convention into the newly established Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The resulting National Convocation continues to meet to discuss special concerns affecting African- American Disciples.

In 1812, Alexander Campbell affirmed believers’ baptism by immersion as the proper Christian baptism. This led to a brief (1815-1830) affiliation with Baptists. Disciples disrupted Baptist life by seeking reform and urged Baptists to eschew denominational names in order to unite around the simplicity of the apostolic faith, illustrated by the Disciples commitment to ‘no creed but Christ.’

The first signs of these Disciples-like commitments in Canada appeared in the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) by 1810 in the form of mostly Scotch Baptist connections. Most of these early leaders (John R. Stewart, Alexander Crawford, James Murray, and John Stevenson) had some connection to Scotland. By the 1820s, an American, William W. Ashley, married a Canadian and carried Alexander Campbell’s writings to Halifax. During the 1830s, a number of the Scotch Baptist congregations established connections to the Disciples congregation in Halifax. By the 1850s, a more formal association of Disciples congregations emerged in the Maritimes. The first Disciples congregation in Ontario appeared at Cobourg in 1836. By 1943, some twenty-four congregations in Ontario were associated with Disciples. It took a number of decades before Disciples life appeared further west in Canada, in the area of the Prairies.

During the 1820s, Campbell’s Disciples and Stone’s Christians discovered one another. By 1832, they had worked out a formal union that combined about 22,000 members. This union left a legacy of two names. Present-day congregations are known as ‘Christian’ churches, while their members are called ‘Disciples.’ In 1968, the denomination adopted its current name, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

In the United States and Canada, Disciples membership stands at around 455,000 (around 274,000 participating members) divided into some 3300 congregations. Around 10% of Disciples members are African-Americans, with much smaller percentages of Hispanics and various Pacific Asian Disciples. The states of Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio contain about one-third of all North American Disciples. In addition, the church’s Common Global Ministries Board (with the United Church of Christ) oversees work among some 2.7 million indigenous Christians across the world who call themselves Disciples.

Early Disciples hoped to unify the church by restoring the faith and practices of the earliest congregations described in the Bible. For this reason, their worship included the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, open to all who professed Christ. Contemporary Disciples continue this practice. Their early commitment to believers’ baptism also continues, though contemporary congregations welcome infant-baptized persons into church membership without rebaptism. Essentially, early Disciples members expressed their commitment to four principles:

  • the Interpretation Principle represented their commitment to the Bible, primarily for its testimony about Christ, who, as revelation of God, has always represented the ultimate authority for Christian life. Disciples affirmed the role of interpretation in reading the Bible, as public process, informed by the ideas and understanding of the whole of Christianity;
  • the Restoration Principle emphasized the purity and simplicity of earliest Christianity as guide. Today, Disciples recognize apostolic Christianity possessed far more diversity than earlier Disciples understood, and this principle currently underlines the task of the ecumenical church to understand together the voice of God in the midst of the human voices that surround them;
  • the Ecumenical Principle stressed their longstanding commitment to church unity; and
  • the Eschatological Principle pointed to their confidence that God is at work in human history and their belief the church appropriately responds by working toward the realization of the kind of justice that is promised when the reign of God is

Disciples ordained women to ministry as early as the late 1880s. During the late 19th century, leaders among Disciples embraced the scientific spirit that swept American Protestantism after 1870. They fashioned a critical approach to the Bible open to the newest developments in scientific understanding and human knowledge. As Disciples shared this budding “liberal” vision, they began to doubt that any group of Christians, even the ancient Christians, could truly capture the divine message in its entirety. This realization strengthened their historic commitment to ecumenism.

Disciples are perhaps best known for their deep yearning for Christian unity. Disciples often quoted John 17:21, “that they may all be one . . . so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Both the United States and Canadian Churches are founding members of the World Council of Churches (1948). Canadians were founding members in the Canadian Council of Churches (1944), and the Disciples in the United States were founding members of both the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ (1910) and the National Council of Churches (1950). Disciples have served key leadership roles in all these organizations. In the late 1980s, Disciples and the United Church of Christ formed an ecumenical partnership. Together, they have helped to shape Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC), the partnership of nine denominations that grew out of the Consultation of Church Union (COCU).

Today, Disciples sponsor seventeen colleges and universities and four theological seminaries. Each of these schools is diverse, with the vast numbers of students coming from religious affiliations other than Disciples. They also maintain support for three ‘foundation’ houses located at the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt University, and in Claremont, California. These houses support Disciples masters and doctoral students in non-Disciples institutions.

Brief History of The United Church of Canada

The United Church of Canada came into existence as a denomination in 1925, through a union of the Methodist Church, Canada, the Congregationalist Churches, and about two- thirds of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. These three denominations were joined by a number of local union churches or congregations that had formed, particularly in Saskatchewan, in expectation of such a union.

The driving forces for church union were largely practical, not theological. Chief among them was the challenge of finding the resources, both of finances and personnel, to serve a Canadian population growing rapidly in the early twentieth century, especially on the Prairies, as a result of heavy immigration.

Another key motivation was the conviction that a united Christian Church could help produce a “Christian Canada.” The primary supporters of church union in all three denominations would have described themselves as liberal evangelicals; they held a strong attachment to both evangelism and social service. It is not accidental that these three denominations were key players in the Moral and Social Reform Council, founded in 1908, and its successor body, the Social Service Council of Canada (1912). Advocates of church union saw a “united church” as a stronger force to tackle social ills in early twentieth century Canada. These advocates were heavily represented among moderate Social Gospellers, but church union had significant support in both the radical and the conservative wings of that movement.

Practical motivations notwithstanding, these uniting denominations also shared a conviction that the lack of unity in Christianity was a scandal needing to be overcome.

They saw church union as a step in that direction. John 17:21, “that they may all be one,” served as a guiding scriptural text and underlying theological rationale for this enterprise.

While most Methodists and Congregationalists entered the new United Church, church union proved sharply divisive among Canada’s Presbyterians. Noticeable opposition in the Presbyterian Church was present from shortly after church union talks began in 1904. It grew in strength and intensity after the completion of a draft Basis of Union in 1908. In 1925 about two-thirds of the Presbyterian membership and about seventy percent of its clergy came into the United Church, those not entering remaining as a continuing Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Two things marked the period from 1925 to 1939. The initial years saw a consolidation of the church union process as the denomination put together new pastoral charges, worked out governance details, and produced both a hymnal and a service book. The Great Depression also dominated these years. The United Church had many congregations in the southern Prairies, an area buffeted doubly by low commodity prices and severe drought.

The two decades after World War II saw immense growth for the United Church by almost every statistical measurement, e.g., candidates for ministry, the formation of new congregations, church membership, Sunday School enrolment. The mid-1960s to the present has seen a gradual but steady moving away from participation in organized religion in Canada; indeed, Canada could now be rightly described as an increasingly secularized society. The United Church has, along with many other mainline denominations, seen a steady decline since the late 1960s in all those statistical measuring points where it had seen growth in the immediate post-World War II era.

The 1970s saw the first wave of what would be a dramatic increase in the number of women being ordained. While the United Church approved the ordination of women in 1936, relatively few women were ordained prior to the early 1970s. In 1988, the United Church declared, after bitter debate across the denomination, that no impediment existed to the ordination or commissioning of self-declared gays and lesbians.

Similar to other Canadian denominations that operated residential schools for Canada’s Indigenous population, the United Church has apologized to that Indigenous population for its role in the residential schools and also for its participation in efforts to destroy Indigenous cultures, a goal of both the missionary efforts among Canada’s Indigenous population and the residential schools. As part of its commitment to reconciliation, including with its own Indigenous membership, in 2012 the United Church added the words “All My Relations” (in Mohawk) to the United Church crest. This action, and the apologies by the United Church, stand within a broader effort by Canadian governments and Canadian society to engage in a reconciliation process with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

From its beginning, the United Church has committed itself to ecumenism, declaring in the 1930s that it saw itself as a united and a uniting church. The 1960s probably represent the high point of the United Church’s lived commitment to ecumenism. In 1968, a significant portion of the Evangelical United Brethren denomination in Canada joined with the United Church at the same time as its American counterpart joined the Methodist Church in the United States. Discussions toward church union with the Anglican Church of Canada began in 1943. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined those talks in 1969. The Anglicans withdrew from the conversation in 1975. Conversations between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada continued until 1985 but ended without reaching the hoped-for goal. In recent years the United Church entered into a full communion agreement with the United Church of Christ and mutual recognition of ministry agreements with several other denominations.

The report of a “Commission on World Mission” to the twenty second General Council (1966) signaled a significant re-thinking of the United Church’s approach to world mission and to its understanding of Christianity’s relationship to other world religions. Among other things, the Commission recommended that “[t]he church should recognize that God is creatively and redemptively at work in the religious life of all [hu]mankind.” That re- thinking led to a new emphasis on interfaith relations and subsequent reports, beginning in 1997, on United Church relationships with Judaism, Islam, Indigenous Spiritualties, and Hinduism.

Context: Why Now?

The context to which we bring this conversation of full communion is one of an increasingly diverse society, rural depopulation, expanding secularism, and in the case of The United Church of Canada, an incredible amount of denominational change. As with a full communion agreement, this is not a backdoor to the union; it is an attempt to find common ground in which to plant seeds for God’s mission and ministry.

Because the Disciples of Christ has an existing presence in Canada, it is important that both denominations are clear that this is a partnership not an amalgamation. We must show that together we are stronger and able to continue the work of Christ’s church in our varied communities while maintaining our own unique identities.

Specifically, in the Canadian context, our two denominations share a common land and social context. We may even think that we are the only progressive voice in our communities. A full communion agreement can benefit both denominations in supporting one another, possibly sharing resources at all levels of the church, giving congregations permission to reach out to one another on common issues or projects when in the past our differences might have kept us apart.

Although both denominations are distinct entities within the one body of Christ, we recognize a number of commonalities that encourage us to pursue greater collaboration and partnership:

  • Our ministries are rooted in the gospel imperative to work for justice, personally but more importantly systemically;
  • Mission is at the heart of who we are as Christ’s church. We are aware of the centrality of mission to our identity both globally and We are likewise critically cognizant of the damaging impact of colonialism on our shared involvement in the world, and therefore a renewed emphasis and intentionality to live and interact differently with our global partners. We also repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery;
  • We are both engaging diverse heritages and changing overall contexts and are challenged by the question “how do we speak and move with integrity in this new landscape?”;
  • Mission and partnership are part of the important, reconciling interfaith work in which we are both actively engaged. We recognize that we live within a landscape of religious pluralism and that as Christians, we are not the center of the universe. We share a common cause in the desire to live into the equity of all faiths and find ways to partner across the spectrum for the greater good;
  • God is working in ways that have humbled both denominations and have called us to seek greater collaboration across the body of Christ, living into the call to be one body, and to seek unity not uniformity;
  • In the local context we are already working together: we share two joint United Church-Disciples of Christ pastorates (Campbell-Stone United, Calgary, and Broadway Disciples United, Winnipeg); in many rural and urban settings where the Disciples of Christ and the United Church exist within close proximity our congregations have been working together in public witness and service for decades;
  • We face similar challenges and strategies which include but are not limited to: the challenge of generational splits; the challenge/opportunity of new technology and communication patterns; the opportunity of engaging immigrant and marginalized communities, recognizing the diversity of the gifts they bring into the body of Christ;
  • We are both in full communion relationships with the United Church of Christ in the USA;
  • We share global partners through Global Ministries and Church in Mission;
  • We have gifts to share with respect to the justice work we have done independently of one another: the Disciples of Christ with respect to anti-racism/pro-reconciliation in the life of the church, and the United Church with respect to full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ in the life of the church; and
  • We recognize that being Christian today is counter-cultural, and that there are abundant blessings and challenges as we engage the rich diversity of belief, worship, theology, and Christology exhibited in different generations and cultures. We are committed to being open to the movement of the Spirit as we work to greater inclusivity, acceptance, and

Many of our congregations are in a rural context where they are the only Protestant denomination in the community. Those of other denominations may or may not feel welcome or comfortable. The more we can identify our commonalities, the greater the chance that those who feel isolated in their faith may cross the threshold and find a supportive Disciples or United Church community.

The Bigger Picture: Why “Now” is Exactly the Right Time for These Talks The immediate context out of which we have emerged, namely, the “modern” period, worked under a different set of principles and realities than those we are embedded in today. A time of building and reinforcing institutions and ideologies within a technological framework vastly different from today, the recent past celebrated the triumphalism of Christianity in identity silos which provided little opportunity to truly engage in the partnership models we explore today. We mistakenly believed that we were all successful doing our own things in our own denominations and whatever unions we dreamt of and pursued were perceived to be about compromise and competition rather than collaboration, assimilation rather than mutuality and celebration of difference. We, perhaps, were unable to conceive of this kind of partnership in our recent past.

The future for the church in North America is uncertain at best and bleak at worst, as our nations appear to continue on the journey of public secularization. At its bleakest, many denominations will merge with great compromise, hurt, loss, and some measure of humiliation until there are only a handful with the resources to continue to function. At its best, the continued persistence of denominations is called into question as more and more post-modern thinking Christians question their validity in light of the call to Christian unity. The continued erosion of denominations leads to a weakened universal church in North America with few able to muster the energy and resources to effect significant transformation in the public sphere, focusing instead, on survival or at least how to have dignity in death. To wait until some undecided point in the future to have these courageous conversations, may indeed, be too late.

The context we must embrace at this point in our shared life together is that the church is not ours but belongs to the Divine who uses as much of it as has heart and openness to be so used. As such, we are stewards of the resources—human, infrastructure, wealth, creativity, compassion—that have been entrusted to our care. In this age of lightning-fast technological change, communications that we could not have dreamed of 20 years ago, and seemingly limitless information at our fingertips 24/7, we have an unprecedented opportunity to be leaders in the restoration of Christian unity to the heart of the church and in the minds and hearts of the children of God under our care. We do so not for our own survival, but so that the gospel of Jesus Christ might be lived out anew, impacting and transforming communities and lives in ways we could not have accomplished in the past. We have always been called to be one body; now is the time to believe it and live it.

To answer the question, “why now?” we ask, “if not now, when?” Our young adults and mature adults are already exploring options to be church differently in this post-modern age. Many of the systems that served us well in the past are in the process of becoming obsolete and something new must take their place. The demands of ministry and mission in the world are infinitely more complex while financial and other resources are reduced.

Why would we wait any longer to embrace the call to be partners, joined together more intentionally to accomplish the task of being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world?

Full Communion

What does an ecumenical partnership or “full communion” mean? These terms do not define a merger between different denominations. An ecumenical partnership emphasizes more a style of pragmatic unity in terms of witness, service, fellowship, worship, and the proclamation of a common faith. Both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the UNITED STATES and Canada and The United Church of Canada each currently have a full communion agreement with the United Church of Christ. These ecumenical partnerships or “full communion agreements” generally rest on five pillars of acceptance and cooperation. Each of these pillars is rooted in scripture and based upon theological understandings reached and explored by both COCU Consensus: In Quest of a Church of Christ Uniting (1984) and the Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry document (1982).

The Five Pillars of Full Communion
  • “Common Confession of Christ.” This pillar is built upon the common faith shared by both churches, that God is in Christ, reconciling the world to God’s self, and is the One in whom “we live and move and have our being.” (2 Cor. 5:19; Acts 17:28) In an ecumenical partnership, both churches covenant to be mutually accountable in their witness to Christ in the world
  • “Mutual Recognition of Members.” Both churches believe that we have much to learn from the expressions of faith found in other Christian communities. In this second affirmation of full communion, both the United Church and the Disciples of Christ recognize and affirm one another’s baptisms, and also affirm the members of one another’s churches. In full communion, both churches would agree to the “transfer of membership” between their local congregations “by letter.” Neither church would give up its own approaches to the practice of baptism or church membership. Instead, their commitment to one another represents a desire to express their commitment to the fact that any differences in practices in this area should not divide them as
  • “Common Celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion.” Since these churches confess Christ in common, and since they recognize one another’s baptism and accept one another’s members in each other’s congregations, it naturally follows that they should encourage congregations to cross borders where they might be geographically close to one another and to share worship and communion together. Both churches celebrate an open table, open to all who are connected to Christ, and both recognize the table calls us into community and toward a commitment to justice for all God’s
  • “Mutual Recognition and Reconciliation of Ordered Ministers.” In full communion, the two churches would affirm one another’s ordered ministries as belonging to the one ministry of Jesus Christ. Such ministers in one church will be recognized as ministers in the other church. Each may serve, when invited, as minister to the other. Though ministerial credentials are immediately recognized, each minister will need to go through the standard processes established by each denomination to gain official “standing” within the denomination.
  • “Common Commitment to Mission.” This fifth pillar of full communion between our two churches recognizes that mission is not an option for the church; rather it, like unity, is part of its very essence. When churches are not engaged in mission, they cease to exist as a church. As our two denominations enter into full communion, we will explore ways of supporting each other in God’s mission in our own countries and around the
The Local Congregation as the Incarnation of Full Communion

One of the great gifts of the Christian faith is the knowledge that God became one of us. The incarnation is a demonstration that God cares for us enough to be one of us. Another insight given to the Christian faith is that the church is the Body of Christ, and as such is another manifestation of the incarnation.

Within The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, full communion is an important aspect of our witness to the world about God’s desire for us to “be one, so that the world might believe.” (John 17) However, there is a tendency within the ethos of the church to think of full communion as something “out there” or “up there,” rather than being an action with local currency. In other words, one might say that full communion needs an incarnation of sorts to bring what might seem to be an ethereal concept into a living, breathing reality.

This concept will become real when congregations actually embody full communion. Both communions have within their local worship a faith-filled recitation of the elements of their faith in the proclamation of shared truth. A New Creed of The United Church of Canada begins with the words “We are not alone, we live in God’s world.” These words tend to bring the transcendent quality of God’s existence into the physical everyday world in which our people live. However, these same words might also have a reference to our sisters and brothers the planet over, and a particular reference to those denominations with whom we share a close walk of faith through ecumenical bonds. As the Preamble to the Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) puts it “we enter into newness of life and are made one with the whole people of God.”

In order to help incarnate the oneness of the church, we recommend that congregations be invited to consider the practice of reciting the statement of faith from their own denomination alongside the statement of faith of those other communions with whom they share a formal ecumenical relationship. The worshipping life of Broadway Disciples United Church (a shared ministry in Winnipeg) was enriched by rotating our statements of faith along with the historic Nicene-Chalcedonian Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. This would not be limited to The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, but would include statements of faith from other communions with whom they share this ministry, such as the United Church of Christ (USA), the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. It might also be possible to develop membership/confirmation materials based upon these shared affirmations of faith to learn more about what we share and to value how God has made us unique. Neighbouring congregations could develop studies for Lent or Advent exploring our respective and historic creeds. This would be a major and noticeable move within the life of local congregations to show that something new is happening within the life of the church. As Isaiah 43:19 reports God’s intention, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

It is important to note that both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada extend an open invitation to the Lord’s Supper. “All are welcome” is a common ground in which the Disciples of Christ and the United Church endeavor to mirror God’s invitation to a ministry of healing and wholeness to the world. Both denominations affirm an open table where we come together in unity with our Christian brothers and sisters to remember Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and that he will come again. For Disciples, a weekly tradition of sharing the Table is part of their Christian nurture, and it might be commended to sisters and brothers within the United Church. United Church congregations are invited to remember the affirmation made by The United Church of Canada following the adoption of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Faith and Order Paper no. 111, World Council of Churches, 1982) in the wider church, in which the United Church urged an exploration of the move towards a weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Whether a weekly part of Christian nurture or “[a] taste [of the] mystery of God’s great love for us” to be enjoyed on special occasions, in the words of A Song of Faith, “the open table speaks of the shining promise of barriers broken and creation healed.”

Our two denominations also differ in their usual practice of baptism. To bring these varying perspectives within the life of the local congregations, one might teach the gifts of “infant” baptism and “believer’s” baptism again, as part of membership/confirmation classes—to place these perspectives within the setting of the ecumenical Church and help us come to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love.

While we share much in common, our differences can offer one another new perspectives. One of the gifts of The United Church of Canada has been its placement within one country with a localized and incarnational sense of mission and ministry. One of the gifts of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada is that because it is not rooted in only one country, it has some sense of its allegiance to the whole world.

Our existing shared ministries, Campbell-Stone United Church (Calgary) and Broadway Disciples United Church (Winnipeg), are invited to tell their stories, including the gifts and challenges of worshiping and serving together, to help others imagine ways for our partnership to become a living, breathing reality.

Where congregations of our two denominations are close geographically, we encourage shared worship or pulpit exchanges and shared mission projects such as refugee sponsorship or shared studies. Including one another in correspondence about special events and regular programs and activities will help relationships develop and open possibilities to imagine new ways to be the church together. Where congregations are at a distance geographically or in different countries, a relationship could develop through social media, exchanges between groups from congregations and longer exchanges between clergy. As the United Church moves to clusters and networks, neighboring Disciples congregations could be invited to be a part of clusters and Disciples and the United Church of Christ (USA) congregations could be included in networks where there are shared passions for mission and ministry.

It is our belief that without some local incarnation of full communion with methods such as those outlined above, and others, as discovered within the life of our shared faith, that our ecumenical partnership will be wanting in the crucial life-lived of our local congregations.

During Vatican II there was the talk of aggiornamento – a new, refreshing wind of the spirit blowing through the life of the church. This putting a word to the name for renewal helped the church grasp what was being attempted. Perhaps for The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, we might adopt the Western Canadian notion of the Chinook wind as blowing warmth within our lives as people of faith.

National, Bi-national, and International Possibilities for Partnership

Our two churches have long understood engagement in God’s mission in the world to be a primary responsibility of our ministries. In its framework document Mending the World, the United Church affirms that “the churches are called to make common cause with individuals and institutions of good will who are committed to compassion, peace, and justice in the world…. God, who loves this world, works for its mending, and calls the church to make this work its first priority.” Thus, the church has committed itself to a vision of ecumenism that is world-centered, understood as “whole world ecumenism,” calling us to work in partnership with all who seek the health and well-being of the whole creation.

Similarly, the Disciples of Christ have stated in The Church for Disciples of Christ: Seeking to be Truly Church Today that “[t]he church exists for the sake of praising God and participating in God’s mission in and for all the world.” The Disciples of Christ also affirm that it is the world that God so loves and in which the church finds its purpose and mission to exist as a faith community. The Disciples clearly understand that God has given unity as God’s gift to all followers of Christ, and in unity, Christians must work together to bring just peace to the world.

Both denominations have strong national and international program work and relationships that may be enhanced through full communion. This includes some global partnership work in which both churches are already involved, such as membership in the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Communion of the Reformed Churches (WCRC), and the Global Christian Forum (GFC), and global partners who relate to both the Global Ministries, which belongs to the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ (USA), and the Church in Mission unit of The United Church of Canada. In this area many possibilities exist for further cooperation, and where some joint work is already underway. Staff members of Global Ministries and Church in Mission have met to share their work and review avenues for increased collaboration. These avenues also include particular global issues where we may support each other in our education and advocacy, such as peace and justice in the Middle East, North and South Korea, and Colombia.

Another area where collaboration with both national and international dimensions may be possible is a response to the challenges of migration, immigration, and refugee issues. The Migrant Church Task Group of the United Church is addressing the ways that migration is re-shaping the church. It is endeavoring to develop structures and processes that will enable the church to be more welcoming and supportive of people migrating to Canada. The Church in Mission unit includes staff working in the area of refugee sponsorship, settlement, and support, as well as advocacy on immigration and refugee issues. The Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM) addresses similar concerns, including the particular challenges of immigration in the present United States context. Refugee and Immigration Ministries equips the church to respond to Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger through refugee resettlement, ministering to immigrants and advocacy. RIM provides resources for local congregations, legal consultations, and connections to hands-on mission work. In the rapidly changing political current, this office has promptly responded to certain U.S. policy changes. The Disciples have also provided legal services to the church and community members with Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel, which helps congregations protect their rights, understand their options, and work through the U.S. immigration system.

Significant aspects of refugee and immigration issues in our two countries are impacting each other at this point, and the potential for joint work on this issue is great. In addition to the work that members of both churches in Canada might do in our own context, there may be opportunities for joint advocacy and action that would include the concerns of both countries, as well as for learning from each other about best practices in our work.

A range of program work offers opportunities for cooperation, for learning from each other, and for action together. The youth and young adult networks and ministries of both churches might meet together or attend each other’s regional or national gatherings (e.g., the United Church’s Rendezvous event and the joint National Youth Event of the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ). Opportunities for learning and collaboration may arise from meetings or other connections of those working in the areas of stewardship, human resources, and communications. These might include ideas for sharing or joint production of some resources or shared planning of educational events. Collaborations in communication could include partnering on social media, a joint website, or an agreement to include newsfeeds from ecumenical partners on each denomination’s website.

Possibilities for resource-sharing may be numerous. Many of the justice issues in which both churches are engaged may involve the development of resources (and in some cases campaigns) that could invite collaboration. As well, those developing liturgy and producing worship resources might work together on some projects or share with each other resources created by members of their particular denomination.

One of the most important (and complex) outcomes of a full communion agreement will be the development of a process for implementing mutual recognition of ministries. This will involve national and regional offices in both denominations, as well as local congregations open to the possibilities of being served by a minister from the partner denomination. The bi-national nature of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and the already existing flow of people across our borders suggests that as these processes are put into place new and creative opportunities for ministry together may be opened.

As well, ministry personnel may find ways to meet with and learn from each other, such as through joint continuing education events. Theological colleges related to each denomination could also be encouraged to participate in the development of relationships arising from full communion. A meeting of Deans and Principals could identify possibilities for partnership or exchange that would enhance students’ education.

As we journey together in the spirit of full communion, other ways of accompanying each other in the challenges and joys we face could be explored. The appointment of representatives to each other’s regional or national governing bodies, meetings, assemblies, and other significant gatherings, would recognize that a full communion relationship implies a new dimension of accountability to one another as we make decisions about the life and work of each of our churches. Supporting connections among local faith communities and ministries with similar contexts and commitments (e.g., Indigenous ministries, outreach ministries, migrant or ethnic ministries, African- American and Afro-Canadian communities, etc.) would be one way to bring the resources of partnership and accompaniment to local communities.

One of the marks of full communion is mutual recognition of members. What are the practical implications of this commitment? A national implementation team could consider situations where such recognition would have an impact and processes for giving it meaning. Examples include individuals participating in the other denomination for a period of time, or Disciples members in Canada attending the United Church in a community with no Disciples congregation, or United Church members who live part of the year in the United States and choose to participate actively in a Disciples congregation.

Finally, it will be important to be aware of the implications of our partnership for our involvement in wider ecumenical and interfaith networks. Might we encourage the networks of ecumenical officers in both countries to meet together on occasion? How does our involvement in the ecumenical and interfaith councils of Canada and the United States (as well as globally) inform our relationship, and what do we bring to those bodies as full communion partners? How will we share with each other the gifts, resources, and challenges of our ecumenical and interfaith engagement?

The energizing and creative possibilities in our relationship are many, and others will be discovered only as we live into a deeper understanding and vision of our mission and ministry together.

Challenges to Full Communion

Any Full Communion agreement between denominations presents challenges as well as opportunities. That these challenges are shared by the partner churches indicates that both have much to gain through increased collaboration.

Institutional Capacity

Both denominations face a future of declining resources and a decreased ability to carry out the full range of mission and ministry activities, including ecumenical work. Both denominational offices are likely to become smaller, with fewer staff and less funding. In the United Church much institutional time and energy has been and will be devoted to major changes in the church’s governance, structure and funding. This may affect not just commitment to full communion at the national level, but enthusiasm in local communities of faith to work alongside their full communion partners in Canada and across the border.

Knowing Each Other

The Disciples of Christ congregations in the United States may know very little about The United Church of Canada. In Canada, United Church and Disciples communities of faith may know each other if they are in proximity. Otherwise, it is doubtful if the more numerous United Church congregations have much familiarity with the Disciples. As well, some Canadian Disciples may still think of the United Church in terms of the end of talks in the 1980s. An increased knowledge of each denomination’s full communion partner, at local and regional as well as national levels, is essential to a rich relationship and affirmation of both churches’ ecumenical visions. Presenting the full communion agreement to both partners must include upholding that such an agreement is not a “backdoor” to union. The local contexts of each partner church are not seen as incidental, but rather as central, to their identities, and each denomination has been called to God’s mission and ministry in its own distinct location and context.

Immigration

In recent years Canada has tightened visa requirements for foreign clergy being admitted to Canadian churches. In the United States, restrictions on immigration are increasingly common. A full communion agreement, with its mutual recognition of ministries and embrace of mobility between the two partner denominations, may encounter obstacles to the movement of ministry personnel across borders.

Diversity

Both the United Church and the Disciples of Christ are, as North American denominations, predominantly white in their makeup, although both are committed to an intercultural vision. Yet the worldwide church is shifting its center of gravity to the global South; by 2050 white, non-Hispanic Christians will be only one-fifth to one-sixth of the world’s Christian believers, while both the United States and Canada will see increases in the non- white proportion of their populations. Although the dynamics of race, ethnicity, language and culture are different in Canada and the United States, both denominations must grapple with how to move from their current base into becoming more intercultural, during a period that will likely see resistance to these shifts in racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural makeup.

Justice

Justice is an essential part of our respective identities. Both the United Church and the Disciples of Christ are known to have a deep passion for justice. Both churches heed the biblical mandate, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) The two denominations may explore means of collaboration and cooperation across borders when called on to denounce injustice and oppression. As both denominations consider justice in society and the world, it is vital not to forget justice in the Church. There are concerns of a “take over” when it comes to numbers, reputation and the size of the respective churches in Canada. It is important to be cognizant of the concern that “mission” has different connotations in both countries, especially for Indigenous persons. The term “mission” for some brings irredeemable memories. Opportunities to make full communion a reality in global missions and ecumenical relations and activities need to be explored.

Conclusion

Movements of faith always involve openness to the Spirit. The Planning Group offers the hope that this full communion agreement might be led by the Spirit. The two denominations should put in place structures to allow the experience of full communion to grow into deeper relationships. This will mean intentional efforts to develop opportunities to learn, to worship and to engage together at denominational, regional, and local levels. While structures seem contrary to the experience of movements, in fact all movements require organizational attention. Most importantly, structures enable this full communion agreement to keep before the churches the vision of the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one” and through them the world might be blessed.

The Planning Group believes this journey of full communion may be an opening to something truly transformative for us and for others.

Members of the Planning Group
The United Church of Canada

Nora Sanders, General Secretary, General Council

John H. Young, Executive Minister, Theological Leadership

Gail Allan, Coordinator, Ecumenical, Interchurch and Interfaith Relations

Shannon McCarthy, Executive Secretary, Alberta Northwest and Manitoba Northwestern Ontario Conferences

Heather Leffler, Minister

Daniel Hayward, Minister, Chair of Theology and Interchurch Interfaith Committee

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the UNITED STATES and Canada

Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Minister and President

Timothy James, Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation

Paul S. Tche, President, Council on Christian Unity Jennifer Garbin, Regional Minister of Canada Mark G. Toulouse, Historian and Theologian Raymond A. Cuthbert, Minister

GA-1731

SOCIAL WITNESS TASK FORCE PROGRESS REPORT

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At the 2015 General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, GA 1524 called for a task force to be formed by the Office of General Minister and President, Disciples Home Missions and the Division of Overseas Ministries for the purpose of:

“…bringing to the 2017 General Assembly, meeting in Indianapolis, IN, a jointly sponsored process for discussion of and education about important religious, ethical and social issues.”

  • The resolution stated “the task force shall include representatives of, but not limited to”: Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries
  • Council on Christian Unity
  • Disciples Home Missions
  • Diverse congregations throughout the United States and Canada Division of Overseas Ministries
  • General Board
  • Historic justice and peace advocacy groups in the church National Convocation
  • North American Pacific/Asian Disciples Office of General Minister and President

In addition to representatives of those ministries, the final task force also includes an equal number of congregational representatives. They have met twice face-to-face and numerous times by conference call and email.

Consensus has been reached that a process favoring wide conversation and learning is desirable. To facilitate the ongoing conversation within the task force and across the life of the church, a working document of what such a procedure might look like is in development. The document does not yet represent a consensus of the task force at every point, but it does put ideas into writing, so that it is easier to determine where consensus exists, where it does not, and how the process, as it is shaping up, would actually work.

The working document proposes that pastoral “statements of witness” replace “resolutions” for matters of social, theological and ethical concern. The “statement” format acknowledges the wide diversity of opinion church-wide on most issues and makes it clearer that the General Assembly is speaking to the church and not for the church.

The working document describes three “tracks” for statements of witness:

  • a Direct Track to be used when the church is believed to be at substantial consensus;
  • an Assembly Prayer and Study Track, calling for resource groups and plenary conversation at General Assembly; and
  • a Whole Church Prayer and Study Track, calling for longer study and review of a concern in congregations between

The statement of witness would provide for “alternative points of view” to be expressed both at assembly and in writing. It would include a living “call to action” section that would grow over time (possible in our electronic age) as more and more congregations and ministries respond to the statement.

Though much headway has been made, there are many questions yet to be answered and consultation to do across the life of the church before the task force is ready to present a finished proposal to the General Assembly. Therefore, we offer this report, along with our statement of intention to continue the work, with progress reports being made to the Administrative Committee and General Board over the next biennium, with the goal of bringing a finished proposal to the 2019 General Assembly.

The Social Witness Task Force

Task Force Members

Ken Brooker Langston
Julia Brown Karimu
Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder
Robert Cayton
Ron Degges
Shannon Dycus
Charisse Gillett
Jeff Goodier
Sekinah Hamlin
Richelle Himaya
Mark Johnston
Fiyori Kidane
Scott Kinnaird
Rebecca Littlejohn
Vangie Perez
Dean Phelps
Katherine Raley
Paul Tche
Sharon Watkins
Twanda Wilson

The General Board has reviewed GA-1731 from the Social Witness Task Force. The report is submitted to the General Assembly for presentation and discussion.

No action is required. (Discussion time: 12 minutes)

 

Moving a Statement of Witness through the General Assembly Summary of Process Currently Under Discussion (rev. 02/2017)

 A Statement of Witness must be submitted to the OGMP 180 days prior to a General

    • It should include information about the topic or issue being considered and provide a few suggestions for action steps that one might
    • Regional endorsement is not required but should be part of the dialogue throughout the process
  • A Review Committee, chosen by the Moderator, with input from submitters, will be appointed to help prepare the Statement for review and inclusion in the General Assembly Docket and to select a GA
    • This includes developing accompanying documents, engaging in conversations with Regional Minister(s), and exploring alternative
  • The General Board reviews the Statement, offering its recommended action and determining the proper General Assembly
  • The submitters, in consultation with the Review Committee, broaden the circle of conversation by seeking the endorsement of diverse congregations and groups within the
  • As presented in the General Assembly Docket, the Statement should include:
    • Statement(s) of Endorsement
    • Suggested Action Steps
    • Discussion guide & additional information to enhance smaller group study
    • Summary of discussions that produce a different perspective from the submitters
  • The Statement will be placed in one of three tracks:
  • Direct Track:
    • For Statements assumed to have already built a substantial consensus on the topic and are ready for a vote to Affirm or Not Affirm. A two-thirds majority is required for
    • Motions may be made for twelve (12) minutes of floor
  • Assembly Prayer, Study, and Reflection Track:
    • For Statements that have not built a strong consensus yet but the topic is still of great importance and warrants
    • Additional study, prayer, and reflection time at assembly needed to hear multiple perspectives.
    • Workshops will be provided and additional summaries (alternative perspectives) may be included as part of the
    • Motions are made to accept any additional
    • As with the Direct Track, motions are made to conduct floor discussions and same majority needed for
  • Whole Church Prayer, Study and Reflection Track:
    • For statements that warrant further study over the coming
    • These statements are still of great importance to the church but a significant consensus does not yet exist for
    • Submitters will have the option for workshop discussion and motions can be made for floor discussions
    • The Assembly will only vote to accept the item for further study. A simple majority is needed.