For many months I have struggled with a persistent conviction that God is calling the church to a clearer understanding of what it means to be a prophetic people. I have sensed as never before that we are uniquely called to be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ and to claim again the principles of Restoration in our own time. These thoughts have haunted me, perhaps in part because I have resisted expressing them, painfully aware as I am of my own sinfulness and personal shortcomings. But still the urgency rested upon me, until one night I tossed fitfully in my bed, unable to yield to the sleep that needed to come. Finally, I arose and in the silence of the night tried to embrace what was written on my heart.
The words did not flow as if dictated, but were wrested out of my own encounter with the Spirit that had been working with me these many months. I wrote, and then in subsequent days I pondered the words, recasting them here and there as further clarification would come. Even as I present them to the church, I do so sensing that there is more to be said. But the same Spirit that leads me to write these words also compels me to invite the church to join in the task of discerning God’s will for us. I am not yet sure what form that will take, but I believe it is our next step as we continue the process of becoming a prophetic people.
To the Councils, Quorums, and Orders, to the World Conference, and to the Church:
1a. Listen, O people of the Restoration—you who would become a prophetic people, embodying in your life together the ministries of the Temple. Listen to the Voice that speaks from beyond the farthest hills, from the infinite heavens above, and the vast seas below.
1b. Listen to the Voice that echoes across the eons of time and yet speaks anew in this moment. Listen to the Voice, for it cannot be stilled, and it calls you once again to the great and marvelous work of building the peaceable kingdom, even Zion, on behalf of the One whose name you claim.
2a. Listen carefully to your own journey as a people, for it is a sacred journey and it has taught you many things you must know for the journey yet to come.
2b. Listen to its teachings and discover anew its principles. Do not yearn for times that are past, but recognize that you have been given a foundation of faithful service, even as you build a foundation for what is yet to be.
2c. As a prophetic people you are called, under the direction of the spiritual authorities and with the common consent of the people, to discern the divine will for your own time and in the places where you serve. You live in a world with new challenges, and that world will require new forms of ministry. The priesthood must especially respond to that challenge, and the church is admonished to prayerfully consider how calling and giftedness in the Community of Christ can best be expressed in a new time.
2d. You have already been told to look to the sacraments to enrich the spiritual life of the body. It is not the form of the sacrament that dispenses grace but it is the divine presence that gives life. Be respectful of tradition and sensitive to one another, but do not be unduly bound by interpretations and procedures that no longer fit the needs of a worldwide church. In such matters direction will come from those called to lead.
2e. Again you are reminded that this community was divinely called into being. The spirit of the Restoration is not locked in one moment of time, but is instead the call to every generation to witness to essential truths in its own language and form. Let the Spirit breathe.
3a. Do not be discouraged. You have not been promised an easy path, but you have been assured that the Spirit that calls you will also accompany you.
3b. That Spirit is even now touching alive the souls of those who feel the passion of discipleship burning deeply within. Many others will respond if you are persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.
4a. Listen carefully to the many testimonies of those around the world who have been led into the fellowship of the Community of Christ. The richness of cultures, the poetry of language, and the breadth of human experience permit the gospel to be seen with new eyes and grasped with freshness of spirit. That gift has been given to you. Do not fail to understand its power.
4b. It is for divine purpose that you have been given the struggles as well as the joys of diversity. So must it always be in the peaceable kingdom.
5a. Do not be defined by the things that separate you but by the things that unite you in Jesus Christ.
5b. Over and over again you have been counseled to be reconciled, to seek the unity that is imperative to the building of the kingdom. Again the Spirit counsels the church to not allow the forces of division to divert you from your witness.
5c. Listen together to one another, without judgment or predisposition. Do not assume that the answers to matters of conflict have yet been perceived. There is much labor to be done. Reason together in love, and the Spirit of truth will prevail.
6a. From the earliest days you have been given a sacred principle that declares the inestimable worth of all persons. Do not forget.
6b. The One who created all humankind grieves at the shameful divisions within the human family. A prophetic people must work tirelessly to tear down walls of separation and to build bridges of understanding.
6c. You hold precious lives in your hands. Be gentle and gracious with one another. A community is no stronger than the weakest within it. Even as the One you follow reached out to those who were rejected and marginalized, so must the community that bears his name.
7a. There are many lives waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel, or to be lifted from hopelessness by the hands of loving servants. But they will be lost to you without the generous response of disciples who share from their own bounty that others may know the joys of the kingdom.
7b. Many are fearful and believe their security is to be found in the accumulation of possessions. The answers you seek are not inherent in the things of this world but in a faith that places its trust in the promises given to all who would follow Jesus Christ.
7c. You have been given the principles of generosity, rightly interpreted for a new time. These principles call every disciple to tithe faithfully in accordance with means and capacity. Those values, deeply rooted in the Restoration faith, affirm that stewardship and discipleship cannot be divided and are dependent upon each other.
7d. The call to respond is urgent. Look to the needs of your own congregations, but look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go. Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place.
8a. You are a good and faithful people, but sometimes you fail to see the power that is resident in your own story and fellowship. Look carefully, listen attentively, and sense the Spirit among you.
8b. Do not be unduly concerned with numbers. Be fervent in your witness, passionate in your discipleship, and vigorous in your labor on behalf of peace and justice. Where two or three such disciples form community, there will the Spirit be. Many will come to see.
8c. Continue your journey, O people of the Restoration. You have been blessed thus far but there is so much yet to see, so much yet to do. Go forth with confidence and live prophetically as a people who have been loved, and who now courageously choose to love others in the name of the One you serve. Amen.
W. Grant McMurray
President of the Church
March 29, 2004