General Assembly Wrap-Up: Ranging from the Civil Rights Voting Act to Trayvon Martin to Becoming a Church of Grace & Welcome to All

Last week representatives from Disciples of Christ churches in the United States and Canada gathered in Orlando, Florida for the denomination’s biennial General Assembly (for those of you who may not know, Brentwood shares a covenantal relationship with the Disciples). We gathered for continuing education, workshops, worship, and, yes, business items — namely “sense of the assembly” resolutions. While resolutions may sound boring, they are actually quite lively and important. In large part, they provide congregations an opportunity to faithfully think through incredibly important and timely topics. While none of the resolutions are binding for Disciples congregations (they speak to the church but not for the church), they do provide a sense of the denomination’s direction and thought on a variety of matters.

While a full recap of all of the Assembly resolutions can be found here, the resolutions that received most of the attention were two emergency resolutions (#1337 & #1338) as well as resolution #1237, which encourages the church to become a people of grace and welcome to all (all of the resolutions before the assembly were adopted):

  • Emergency Resolution #1337, “Concerning the Decision of the United States Supreme Court to Dismantle the Voting Rights Act”: This resolution calls on “members of the church and our ecumenical partners to work for legislation that ensures equal access to the right to vote for all United States citizens” and that “the members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) stand in solidarity with groups and organizations who are seeking justice and equal voice for all persons in order that all may participate with equal opportunity in the decision making processes of the United States.”
  • Emergency Resolution #1338, “Concerning the State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman”: This resolution called on the General Minister and President of the Disciples of Christ, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, “to work ecumenically with her colleagues in supporting the Justice Department’s inquiry” into the Zimmerman verdict, and that “the words of our General Minister and President, shared in worship pertaining to this case on Sunday evening July 14, 2013, be broadly distributed to the church.” As you can imagine, Dr. Watkins’ words on Sunday evening’s worship were very moving. We will obtain a DVD of her talk and find a time to share it with the Brentwood community. In the meantime, you can click here for an MSNBC interview with Dr. Watkins as she reflects on the racial justice in relationship to Trayvon Martin.
  • Resolution #1327, “Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All,” encourages the 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” and “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.”

Resolution #1327 was passed by an overwhelming majority. Here are a couple of blog posts that describe its implications more fully:

As Disciples of Christ, our identity statement says we are “A movement for wholeness in a fragmented world,” and the General Assembly encouraged us to live out this statement more fully. For all of the frustrations that one sometimes feels toward the institutional church, during this assembly I found myself very proud to be associated with it.

– Phil