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The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
and homosexuality

About the denomination,
the issue and the GLAD Alliance

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The denomination:

The Christian Church [CC(DoC)] has its headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. It is a relatively liberal Christian denomination, numbering about 834,000 members in the U.S.

Their denomination is one of three to have emerged from the Stone-Campbell Movement which began in the early 19th century. The other two are the Churches of Christ, and the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. The similarity in their names leads to a great deal of confusion.

The CC(DoC) General Assembly has repeatedly taken a pro-choice stance on abortion access, and is opposed to capital punishment. They allows divorce and remarriage, base its policies and belief on their interpretation of the Bible, tradition, experience and reason. They have ordained women since the late 19th century; about one quarter of their ministers are currently women. Congregations welcome Christians of other denominations to share in their Lord's Supper. 5

Each congregation is theologically autonomous. Thus there is a wide range of beliefs and practices among denominational regions and individual congregations, on many topics, including sexual orientation.

They hold General Assemblies every otheryear, on odd-numbered years.

The issue:

In common with other mainline and liberal Christian denominations, they are experiencing a major internal conflict between their conservative and liberal members over the treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons/transsexuals (GLBT). The key points of conflict are:

bulletGLBT individuals' participation as church members.
bulletTheir participation in church leadership.
bulletChurch ceremonies that recognize GLBT committed unions.
bulletMarriage, in those states that allow same-sex marriage (SSM)

As for other Christian denominations, the fundamental disagreement is over the criteria for determining truth. Almost all agree that it is based on four factors:

  1. Interpretation of the Bible,
  2. Church tradition,
  3. Scientific knowledge, and
  4. Personal observation.

Conservatives tend to value the historical interpretation of the Bible and church tradition more heavily that scientific knowledge; they frequently have few or no friends who are GLBT.

Liberals tend to interpret the Bible passages that might bear on homosexuality differently from conservatives. They weigh scientific knowledge, and personal information more heavily than church tradition.

The result is that the two groups take polar opposite positions on the roles and rights of GLBTs in the church and society. Members on both sides are undoubtedly able to verify through prayer that their beliefs are in accordance with God's will.

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An early key policy statement:

In 1997, the Disciples of Christ urged the enactment of:

"...legislation on local, state and national levels which will end the denial of civil rights and the violation of civil liberties for reasons of sexual orientation."

The resolution specifically recognized that:

"The church, among other elements of society, has contributed to the persecution and suffering of homosexuals, and it is its culpability in this regard which provides one reason for seeking a more enlightened understanding." 1

The GLAD Alliance support Group:

"Gay, Lesbian & Affirming Disciples Alliance, Inc.", (GLAD) is a support group for gay and lesbian members and their supporters within the denomination. Its founding was first announced publicly in 1987. Their goal is "full dignity and integrity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and affirming people within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)."

Their vision is:
"Called by God,
GLAD Alliance is a sacred community.
Led by the Spirit,
we are a prophetic voice
and a living resource,
present with our gifts to the world." 2

Their mission is:

"... to be a safe and faithful place for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Affirming community.

"Relying on Holy Spirit, we speak truth to power, advocating for inclusivity, diversity, and justice in all manifestations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)."

"Committed to transformation, we offer ourselves through education, witness, and strategic action as a visible presence in solidarity with those marginalized within the Church."

"We stand boldly within the Church to proclaim and embody the gracious call to ministry for the whole people of God."

They have two quarterly publications, Crossbeams and Crosscurrents. GLAD has area chapters in many urban centers in the U.S. As of mid-2009., these included Colorado, the District of Columbia, Indianapolis, New York City, North Texas, Northern California, Pacific Southwest, and Puget Sound. 3  

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Douglas Allen Foster, "The encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell movement,"  Wm. B. Eerdmans, (2005). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. GLAD Alliance's home page is at: http://www.gladalliance.org/ Their Email address is: glad@gladalliance.org Their postal address is: GLAD Alliance, P.O. Box 44400, Indianapolis, IN (USA) 46244-0400.
  3. "Contact Us," GLAD Alliance, at: http://www.gladalliance.org/

Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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