Disciples Soar!

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  August 1, 2015

The 2015 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) meeting in Columbus, Ohio truly did soar! Inspired by the scriptural theme of Isaiah 40 where God says we will spread wings and soar like eagles, the entire event focused on essential themes from that chapter of Sacred Scripture. The daily worship and workshop themes were Comfort, Prepare, Call, Challenge, and Soar.
Much of the time was invested in educational workshops and focused conversations on church renewal, transformation, and revitalization. Many churches in the Disciples are, like us, enthusiastically embracing the excitingly rejuvenating opportunity for missional transformation. Most notably, the preacher for the final evening worship inspired the Assembly with the Good News that Mainline denominations such as the Disciples that we are particularly well-positioned to be the relevant church for the modern age. He noted that people are hungry for genuine spirituality and a faithful connection with our Creator, but without all the narrow-minded and judgmental theology that permeates many Christian traditions. We have the right theology, he noted. What we have forgotten is how to get out of our churches and actually share our faith with confidence and passion.
In the business sessions our church faithfully engaged some difficult and challenging issues facing the Christian Church in our modern, global context.
We voted to support a public affirmation and official support of president Obama regarding peaceful negations with Iran in nuclear talks.
We voted to support the efforts of our General Minister and President, Sharon Watkins, in condemning the massacre of our Brothers and Sisters at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston as well as a call to end the culture of racism and hatred that motivated their killer.
In further support of continued efforts to become a fully Racially Reconciling community of faith, we voted to fully support and embrace the national “Black Lives Matter” campaign as a faithful application of Christ’s Gospel in our modern context.
In addition to our support of racial reconciliation, we passed a resolution denouncing the scourge of environmental racism. As a matter of both ecological and social justice, this resolution calls on all Disciples to become aware of how a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities and impoverished people are forced to live near and around the most environmentally degraded areas and support causes the both clean up ecologically disastrous industries, as well as prevent the concentration of disenfranchised humans in areas that are unhealthy.
As a denomination we have now officially commemorated, and publicly acknowledged the sin of the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago in an effort to name the sins of history in prayerful anticipation of preventing further senseless destruction of human life.
In acknowledging the destructive rise of gun violence in America, the Assembly passed a resolution calling for dialogue, cooperation, advocacy, and action that faithfully works for a reduction in gun violence as a matter of faithful obedience to God’s value on all life.
A vital resolution passed calls for education, inclusion, grace, and understanding, as well as proactive support and encouragement regarding people with mental health issues, as well as their caregivers.
One Resolution calls for official denominational support for reunification of Korea, and another called for education and advocacy working to reduce the sin of solitary condiment in America’s prison system.
Some structural resolutions addressed regional binderies, our denominational handling of the resolution process, the election of the our denominational leadership until 2017, and a reaffirmation of the our commitment to starting 1,000 new churches and revitalizing 1,000 new churches by 2020. We also received full updates regarding the denominational progress in addressing the resolutions from 2013.
A final decision regarding the proposed 2019 Assembly tentatively scheduled to be held in Des Moines, Iowa, was referred to the General Board for further consideration due to decreasing attendance, rising costs, and prayerful consideration of the General Assembly model and process.
The overall tone of the Assembly was among the best I have ever seen. The focus on church transformation and renewal was particularly exhilarating. Church in the modern age will certainly not look like the church we have always known and love, but it will be exceptionally vibrant and more relevant than ever. One workshop facilitator and speaker also noted that as congregations prepare for the future and hold prayerful and faithful conversations regarding the future of God’s church, the critical voice that we must hear is the one voice that has given up on church, has no use for church, and expresses no desire to be in church. These are the people God calls us to reach!
A highlight (there were too many to detail in this small article) was a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. William Barber from North Carolina. As a Disciples preacher and prophetic voice on the cutting edge of social, racial, and spiritual transformation within our denomination, he called for all Disciples to “shock” the heart this nation and bring a revival of authentic Christian faith, justice, equality, mercy, and love to our communities.