A letter from our General Minister and President regarding the call to become a People of Grace and Welcome to all

By The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins |  July 19, 2013

Grace and peace to you in the name of the living Christ who lives and moves among us, who calls us to the Table, then sends us forth to serve. I write to share a word with all Disciples congregations following an important vote at the 2013 Orlando General Assembly.
In these days following assembly, my heart is prayerful; my spirit hopeful; and my love for our church is strong. Surely, God has given Disciples a blessing and a mission for wholeness, welcoming all to the Lord’s Table of reconciliation and love. That blessing and mission for Disciples begins in a congregation. In congregations we come forward and make or reaffirm our confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There we are baptized, our babies are dedicated, we are married and our parents buried. Our faith is nurtured and sometimes challenged in a beloved community of other Disciples we know and love.
We extend the blessing as we join hands with other Disciples congregations to share God’s love in our communities and around the world. We offer words and prayers of comfort and challenge, as well as hands-on help, to our neighbor in times of need. In many diverse ways, we learn the story of Jesus and invite others to walk in his love.
The recent vote to “adopt” Resolution GA1327, Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All, has significance for the Church, but it is important to recognize the nature of that significance. The intent of the resolution is to urge Disciples to welcome into our congregations and other ministries all who seek Christ. It serves as a reminder that among Disciples we do not bar the church door or fence the table from those who desire the embrace of God’s love.
Here is what this “Sense of the Assembly” resolution is not:
It is not a statement of “unwelcome” for Disciples who did not support the resolution. All who confess faith in Jesus Christ are welcome. All means all.

It is not a policy change. The congregation where you worship and serve will not be requested to establish (or change) a policy on gay or lesbian persons in the life of the Church. The region where your congregation is affiliated is not required to change its policies on ordination. Your pastor is not required to bless same-gender marriages.
It is not a theological mandate. It does not say that we have the same biblical understanding of sexual orientation or gender identity. Disciples, prayerfully and with biblical study and other research, come to their own understanding on these matters.

This resolution does, however, carry symbolic importance in the life of our Church. It reminds us that our baptism into the living Christ continues to be our common ground.
It points out that within the broad membership of Disciples, among the many congregations in covenant with each other, there have always been gay and straight, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender persons who participate fully in the life and leadership of the church. It urges us to treat each other with gospel hospitality as we seek to understand each other better.
My deepest hope is that, in the coming weeks and months, with God’s help, we will continue in worship and mission together even when we profoundly disagree – as we have so often done before – recognizing that it is God’s covenant of love that binds us to God and to one another in Christ. My prayer is that together we will continue to witness to God’s gift of reconciliation and wholeness before the brokenness of the world.

United though not uniform, diverse but not divided, let us name our differences, then claim our common calling to be and to share the good news of Jesus Christ who came “that the world might be saved”. (John 3:17)

Your sister in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada