Update, March 31: General Board commits to seek new venue for 2017 General Assembly
We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness. We seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who came to this earth out of God’s love for all the world. We serve in Canada and the United States, where we humbly proclaim every day to be a nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The General Board this evening, according to its authority in in paragraph 55 of The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), acting on behalf of the General Assembly, directed the Office of the General Minister and President to seek a new location for the 2017 General Assembly, originally scheduled in Indianapolis.
The decision was in response to the recent signing into law of SEA 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Originally intended to be about religious freedom, its functioning in Indiana could be just the opposite. Because there are not state protections against discrimination for all people, and because the Indiana RFRA declares religious freedom for businesses and corporations as well as for individuals and churches, SEA 101 could be used by some to build barriers and exclude. Our nation is strong when we welcome people of diverse backgrounds and points of view. The free and robust exchange of ideas is part of what makes our democracy – and our church – great.
As Disciples, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow – one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table. Our members and assembly-goers are of different races and ethnicities, ages, genders and sexual orientations. They have in common that they love Jesus and seek to follow him.
We are particularly distressed at the thought that, under the current version of SEA 101, some of our members and friends might not be welcome in some Indiana businesses – might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.
Religious freedom is also one of the cherished tenets of our Disciples tradition. The freedom of one goes too far, however, when that one’s freedom threatens to exclude or inhibits the freedoms of others.
This issue has raised our awareness of the relationship between the location of General Assembly and laws and/or government practices that might significantly disadvantage persons who attend our general assembly. As we move forward, we will be looking more closely at these decisions, so that our choices of location might appropriately match our religious values and our faith commitments.
We remain fully committed to the City of Indianapolis. We are committed to working with concerned businesses and organizations, as well as our elected officials, to have SEA 101 repealed or drastically altered in a way that both protects religious freedoms and individuals from discrimination. If the legal situation changes, we look forward to future opportunities to hold the General Assembly in the City of Indianapolis which we love so much and call home.
Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President