Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Letter of Counsel

Stephen M. Veazey, President, Community of Christ
Photo © Jim Doty Jr.

Letter of Counsel Regarding
the Presiding Quorums

One of the particular responsibilities of the prophet-president of the church is to constantly engage in discerning the divinity and timeliness of calls to World Church leadership roles. This is a responsibility that I take very seriously because of the obvious significant impact in the lives of persons and in the life of the church. Calls to the presiding quorums of the church begin to emerge from the consideration of many factors, perspectives, needs, and opportunities that must be carefully weighed, including the awareness that more than one person may be qualified to serve in a particular role. Ultimately, however, such calls are presented in faithful response to the spirit of wisdom and revelation that emanates God, which always exceeds the reasoning of humankind. Therefore, after much listening, prayer, and reflection, it is with deeply felt humility and profuse gratitude to God that I present the following counsel regarding the presiding quorums of the church.

To the Councils, Quorums, and Orders, to the World Conference, and to the Church:

1. Kenneth N. Robinson has served for thirty years as a World Church minister, including sixteen years in the Council of Twelve and eleven years in the Quorum of the First Presidency. Brother Robinson has fulfilled his calling as a counselor to two presidents of the church in an exceptional manner. In 2005 Ken played an indispensable role in guiding the process of presidential transition as a member of the interim First Presidency. Ken shall now be released from the Quorum of the First Presidency and afforded the honor of retirement at an appropriate date. Ken’s outstanding contributions to the evangelistic, intercultural, leadership development, strategic planning, and community formation ministries of the church have been a genuine blessing in the fields he served as an apostle and during his tenure in the Presidency. His visionary work regarding the relationship between the ministries of the Temple and global church mission has laid a foundation for creative endeavor that will shape the church for many generations. Freed from the arduous burdens of administrative responsibility in the Presidency, Ken is called to serve in the office of evangelist. As an evangelist, his ministerial gifts and spiritual insights will be further magnified to bless the worldwide church as it seeks to truly become a prophetic community that authentically represents the healing, reconciling, and redemptive ministries of Jesus Christ.

2. As previously communicated to the church, the First Presidency approved Danny A. Belrose’s request to be released from his role as the Presiding Evangelist and to retire from church appointment on his planned retirement date of April 30, 2006. Brother Belrose served for twenty-five years as a field appointee, member of the Council of Twelve, and as the Presiding Evangelist. His ministry was marked by his evangelistic zeal, invigorating humor, and his unsurpassed ability to help the church accept its imperfect humanity along with its great potential to be a vessel of divine blessing in creation. Danny’s creative genius for crafting sermons, hymn texts, and poetic expressions that proclaim spiritual truths has helped the church to see the essence of the gospel with new eyes. The church looks forward with great anticipation to Danny’s continued service as an evangelist, author, pastoral minister, and educator during his years of retirement.

3. Larry R. Norris has served as an appointee minister for twenty-seven years, including fifteen years in the Presiding Bishopric. He was called to serve as Presiding Bishop in 1996. Brother Norris shall be released from his role as Presiding Bishop and afforded the honor of retirement from appointment. The church is grateful for Larry’s devoted service in the Presiding Bishopric. Concepts and principles of stewardship rooted in the call to respond to God’s lavish grace through growing generosity were birthed under Larry’s leadership. He has also skillfully guided processes whereby the tangible assets and investments of the church have been managed in such a way as to provide increasing funds to support the World Ministries budget, which has been especially important during recent times. Larry is now called to serve in the office of evangelist. As an evangelist, he will function as a minister of spiritual blessing for those who need uplift on the wings of hope in the midst of life’s darkness and despair. As he embraces this call, he will discover new dimensions of ministry that will not only confirm, but deepen his testimony of the healing movement of God’s Spirit in creation.

4. John P. Kirkpatrick has served as an appointee minister since 1976 and as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles since 1988. Brother Kirkpatrick shall be released from the Council of Twelve and afforded the honor of retirement. Upon retirement, he will serve as a high priest under the supervision of the Director of Field Ministries, with the expectation that he will work on strategic projects that will enrich the mission of the church. As an apostle, Jac led the church’s development in a variety of international settings including nations in Africa and Asia. He also helped the church embrace the realities and blessings of cultural diversity more completely through initiatives such as designing more culturally respectful policies and procedures. Additionally, the highly successful WorldService Corps emerged from Jac’s passion for opening additional opportunities for volunteers to serve in ministerial roles throughout the church. Jac may now lay aside the rigors of apostolic ministry with the assurance that his contributions not only have, but will continue to enrich the lives of many people all over the world.

In order to fill the vacancies thus created, the following counsel is given in response to the persistent promptings of the Spirit:

5. Becky L. Savage is called to serve as a member of the First Presidency and as a counselor to the president of the church. Sister Savage is exceptionally prepared for church leadership through her family heritage, professional training, theological education, and distinguished service as a high priest and World Church appointee minister. Her calm and reasoned manner, coupled with her astute awareness of the movements of the Holy Spirit, will serve her and her colleagues well in the years ahead. As a member of the Presidency, Becky will continue to provide overall direction to evolving comprehensive leadership and priesthood formation initiatives that are indispensable to the church’s vitality and forward movement. In addition, she will prove to be instrumental in accelerating the church’s proactive response to gender and cultural biases and inequalities resident in church life as she gives voice to the insights and sensitivities that have been given her in divine anticipation of this call. While this call may seem daunting at times, Becky may respond with confidence to the sure witness of the Spirit that she is called to the Presidency according to her gifts for such a time as this.

6. Awareness of David R. Brock’s call to serve as the Presiding Evangelist of the church has been emerging for some time and has recently been reiterated by the Spirit’s clear direction. Brother Brock’s compassion, spiritual perception, language ability, and years of service as an apostle upon the isles and continents of the world, have fully prepared him for this call. He has the spiritual insights and gifts that will help the church experience the unifying, reviving, and sending breath of God’s Spirit in ways that are especially needed at this time. Through his leadership, the Order of Evangelists will gain additional understanding of its role as ministers of blessing and builders of sacred community grounded in the peace of Christ. He is also called to help the youth and young adults of the church discover transformative encounter with God’s Spirit as the foundational reality of responsible life and healthy relationships. If the church will truly heed David’s written and spoken guidance, it will begin to understand more precisely the spiritual language, attitudes, and behaviors that engender abundant life in the peaceable Kingdom of God as revealed by Jesus Christ.

7. Stephen M. Jones is called to serve as the Presiding Bishop of the church. Brother Jones’s prior experience in industry and, more recently, as a counselor to the Presiding Bishop, coupled with his vibrant witness of the essential relationships between God’s grace, faithful discipleship, and generous stewardship, equip him well for this new responsibility. As Steve embraces this calling in faith and confidence, he will discover new opportunities for teaching the principles of A Disciple’s Generous Response among diverse groups of people throughout the world, including younger generations of disciples and disciples-to-be. As Presiding Bishop, Steve is also called to continue to focus the efforts of the bishops on their primary calling: to inspire church members to share generously through local and world ministries tithes and the offering of surplus so that the ministries of the church may increase. He is also called to continue exploration of how the church’s assets can be developed and better aligned in support of mission priorities.

Counsel is also given through the impress of the Spirit regarding the subsequent vacancies in the Council of Twelve and the Presiding Bishopric:

8. J. Andrew Bolton is called from his current roles as a seventy and in peace and justice ministries to serve as an apostle and member of the Council of Twelve Apostles. During a time when the Council of Twelve is clarifying the nature and scope of its witness, Brother Bolton will contribute vital perspective, knowledge, and vision. A native of the United Kingdom, Andrew’s educational and work experience in England, Wales, the United States, Germany, Spain, and Japan, plus his commitment to living in just and compassionate Christ-centered community, shall be given greater opportunity for expression through his apostolic ministry. Andrew’s humble yet eager willingness to answer the call to share the blessings of the gospel with the poor and oppressed of the world will bring desperately needed hope and opportunity to many who suffer under heavy burdens of humiliation and despair. Also, his knowledge of the world’s major faith traditions will enable him to build bridges of understanding in the spirit of Christ’s message of love of neighbor and peacemaking in a world of religious conflict.

9. Carlos Enrique Mejia is called from his current ministry as a seventy in Central America to serve as an apostle and as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles. Brother Mejia’s passionate witness of the gospel, including his own conversion, linked with his church leadership experience in Latin America, position him to make a significant contribution to the growth of the church, especially among, but not limited to, Spanish-speaking people. Carlos’s boundless desire to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ in any circumstance of life distinguishes him as one who knows the heart and essence of the gospel message. His unique insight and testimony will bless the church with a better understanding of God’s will for creation, including God’s unwavering, passionate concern for earth’s multitudes who do not yet have access to the economic, political, and educational opportunities enjoyed by others. Carlos should accept the call to be an apostle with full assurance that his witness and leadership are needed and will be greatly valued.

10. R. Paul Davis is called to continue as a counselor to the Presiding Bishop and as a member of the Presiding Bishopric. Since the last World Conference, Brother Davis has demonstrated an unusual capacity to master the complexities of church financial operations and organizational processes. He has freely offered his expertise during organizational redesign in the face of serious budget constraints, including taking on additional heavy responsibilities as needed. Paul should now be afforded greater opportunity in the Presiding Bishopric to apply his spiritual insights, theological knowledge, and communication skills to help the church more fully practice faithful stewardship principles. He is called to be persistent and creative in response to the challenge of expanding the numbers of faithful stewards, especially younger members, who support the local and world ministries of the church.

11. David J. Brown has worked closely with various Presiding Bishoprics during his thirty-three years of executive minister service. He is now called to serve as a counselor to the Presiding Bishop and as a member of the Presiding Bishopric. Dave has an unwavering commitment to the stewardship vision, principles, and practices of the church as they have been defined and honed over the generations. His professional expertise in financial accounting practices, investment strategies, and budget management processes clearly qualify him for this role. In addition, David carries a spirit of unassuming servant ministry that draws attention away from himself and toward the Christ, who comes among us as one who serves. The weaving of Dave’s gifts with those of his colleagues in the quorum will form a Presiding Bishopric that has the capacity to wisely manage the church’s temporal resources and effectively promote the liberating truths of A Disciple’s Generous Response while maximizing the funding available to support the expanding ministries of the church.

I also wish to give the following guidance regarding the leadership of the Quorum of High Priests:

12. William M. Barnhard, who will soon retire from more than thirty-two years of church appointment, has served in a number of World Church leadership roles. Most recently, Brother Barnhard has functioned as Director of Human Resource Ministries and as President of the Quorum of High Priests. During his tenure as president of the quorum, Bill guided a visionary educational process that clarified the ministries of the high priest in today’s church. In light of his approaching retirement, Bill shall be honorably released from his role as President of the Quorum of High Priests. This action comes with great appreciation for his willing and capable service as a quorum presiding officer while carrying other major responsibilities in the church.

13. To fill the need for quorum leadership, Jane M. Gardner is called to serve as president of the Quorum of High Priests. Sister Gardner has been a member of the quorum leadership team during a pivotal time of exploration and renewed emphasis on the ministry of the high priest. Jane is prepared through experience, spiritual maturity, and inherent giftedness to provide leadership to the quorum. She is called to work with the quorum leadership team to continue to envision and implement ways to motivate and equip high priests around the world to function to their fullest capacity according to the needs and opportunities before the church. In conjunction with this calling, Jane is to provide leadership to the continued unfolding of the ministries of the Temple for the blessing of the church, with adjustment to her duties at international headquarters to allow sufficient time to fulfill her quorum and Temple ministries responsibilities.

With sincere appreciation for the sacrificial service of those being released from their respective roles, may the World Conference now prayerfully consider the approval of the calls of the persons named in this letter, who have indicated their willingness to bear leadership responsibilities on behalf of the church as a witness of their devotion to the cause of Christ.

In the peace of Christ,
Stephen M. Veazey, President