America’s Disciples of Christ church has become the latest mainline protestant denomination to welcome gays and lesbians as members and to allow them to serve openly as clergy
The Disciples of Christ church, also known as the Christian Church has resolved at its General Assembly in Orlando, California, that it will openly welcome LGBTs into the church and allow them to be ordained as clergy.
‘Be it resolved that the General Assembly meeting in Orlando, Florida, July 13-17, 2013, calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective,’ the resolution passed by the assembly states.
‘Be it further resolved that the General Assembly calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither is grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but we celebrate that all are part of God’s good creation.’
However the Disciples of Christ will not be forcing LGBT clergy on congregations that do not want them and it will be up to individual church regions whether to ordain them.
‘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,’ Disciples of Christ president Rev Dr Sharon Watkins explained in a letter to church members.
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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, bisexual 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.’
The Disciples of Christ has more than 600,000 members.
The Disciples of Christ church joins the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and United Church of Christ as mainline protestant American churches that are welcoming of LGBTs.
In 2009 the Disciples of Christ church took the radical step of no longer issuing marriage licenses because they weren’t available to same-sex couples.