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Thursday, July 7, 2016

More 2016 World Conference Reflections


StephenThompson1_thumb2Steve Thompson

I was quite impressed with the reflections shared by Debra, Lisa, and Parker in the “special edition” of the CWM Announcements published earlier. Here are a few personal reminiscences of my experience at the 2016 World Conference.

For me there is nothing in any worship experience that quite compares with singing “The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning” with 4,000 of my closest friends accompanied by the Auditorium Organ! And we did that not once, but twice during conference this year! (Once at the opening service/business session and once at the Friday night Hymn Festival.) For a YouTube video of the experience, check it out here: The Spirit of God

And then, like gravy on the proverbial meat and potatoes, we sang Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” also not once, but twice in one week: once at a special performance of the “Messiah” in its entirety at the Stone Church to celebrate one hundred years since the inaugural performance by a church choir; and once to close out the Hymn Festival. Have a listen to that finale here: Hallelujah Chorus

(Count any week a good week when you get to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” twice!)

As a former deputy city clerk I have an un-natural interest in Parliamentary Procedure and how large meetings are managed and decisions are made. Leonard Young is a former apostle, a long-time “Registered Professional Parliamentarian,” and now the church’s Parliamentarian. Brother Young told a group of us on the day before World Conference started that of the 25 to 35 large conferences of non-profits and corporations for which he serves as official Parliamentarian each year, none are as large or as complex as our World Conference, and few are as long anymore. Please bear with me as I share two of several Parliamentary highlights in our week of business sessions.

The first is the disposition of the motions from the two Canadian mission centres concerning priesthood morality. These have been well-discussed in the mission centre previously so I won’t go into their content here. Due to a series of Parliamentary decisions by the Chair (or First Presidency as the case may be), only one of the three motions actually came to the conference floor for debate – it was the motion from Canada East Mission Centre. After a period of several speeches for and against the motion, a motion to “amend by substitution” was made and ultimately approved. The new amended motion was not exactly what we (the primary supporters from the two mission centres) had in mind, but we could live with it. We hoped to make one or two amendments to it before it came to a final vote. But before we got even close to a final vote (or any amendments), a motion to refer the motion to the First Presidency was made – by a member of the Council of Twelve. In one way, this was what we wanted anyway – to have the First Presidency review the motion and respond. But on the other hand, we were disappointed that the assembly would not vote on the main motion and express support (or not) for the substance of that motion – amended by substitution though it was. It remains to be seen what will come from the First Presidency by the next World Conference. Watch for more discussion of this process at both of our reunions this month.

In his “reflections,” Parker noted the use of a “common consent” process in relation to a motion about the definition of tithing. My second anecdote is, I believe, an unofficial application of the principle of “common consent” to an entirely different matter.

The last business item considered by the Conference was a motion to direct the church to include closed captioning in future videos produced by the church to assist those who are deaf or hard of hearing to be able to understand those materials. The motion was made and seconded. Then pretty much all of the speakers were in favour of the motion – really: why would anyone oppose it? As was inevitable in such a situation, the chair, in this case President Scott Murphy, recognized a person who moved to close debate and vote on the matter. A second was recognized.

President Murphy called the vote on the motion to close debate, which was easily approved, and then was about to call for the vote on the main motion when a woman most emphatically yelled that she had an objection! President Murphy asked her to explain her objection. The woman explained that she had been trying to get the floor to move a very important amendment to the motion. President Murphy, in his kindest, most diplomatic way, explained that he could not recognize her motion to amend because the motion to end debate had been approved and he must therefore call the vote on the main motion. Before her microphone was turned off, the woman exclaimed something to the effect of, “Fine. I only wanted to add something that would ensure deaf people who cannot read would benefit from this motion.” And then she sat down, quite obviously emotionally distraught.

Scott Murphy could do nothing but take the vote on the motion. It passed. Then he did something remarkable. He consulted quietly and briefly with Leonard Young for some Parliamentary advice. Then he called the woman back to the microphone and asked her what her intended amendment would have been. She said, “To add a phrase to the sentence to say ‘and the use of an inset picture of a sign language interpreter.’” (This would be in addition to closed captioning.) He asked her how much she thought that might cost. She said the software costs about $1,000 dollars and the interpreters would volunteer their time. He said, “Well, that just sounds eminently reasonable. Unless there is objection from the Assembly, I will rule that this amendment will be included with the motion we just passed.” Not only was there no objection, there was a rousing round of applause in obvious positive response to this decision. Common consent at its finest!

I have probably used too many words and still not really said enough. Let me close by saying World Conference is all about our people: people from Community of Christ in over 60 countries from all around the world; people in all their diversity of nationalities and colour and perspectives and languages and gender and dress and music; people in worship and in fellowship with each other and with their God; people in business sessions making decisions with which they may not all agree but doing so in peace and love and (mostly) in understanding; and people renewing and establishing relationships that last a lifetime and bind a small church together in love all around a world that needs Christ’s Mission as Our Mission more than ever. Ordinary people, just like us, doing extraordinary things in their communities, just like us.

Steve’s Conference Pictures

(Worth several thousand more words!)


Brenda Senga unfurled the Canadian flag.  Jan Kraybill plays the Auditorium Organ.


Gloria Stanton, Wayne Stanton, and Lisa Neufeld served communion.


Sunday Prayer for Peace – by Canada!


Susan Vawter lights the Peace Candle.


Marilyn Smith and Carol Shaw participate in the Prayer for Peace Ceremony.


Nadine Manson, on violin, and Tiona Taylor, both from Canada East.


The Temple and The Auditorium


The Temple Sanctuary – full for worship (ordination service for new apostles).


Dear friends to many in CWM (Penelope and Danny Belrose – now living in Independence.)



Former Church Historian, Mark Scherer,signing Steve’s copy of Mark’s latest volume of church history.

Closing Service:


Kat Goheen sings in a trio.


President Veazey – Closing Sermon, Kerry Richards (CEM) – Brief Statement


Debra-2015-keeper-jpgs-120_thumb1Debra Donohue

I had the opportunity to attend World Conference for the first time this year.  I’d always heard from other people what a great experience World Conference is, how wonderful it is to meet other church members from around the world and how important it is to feel like you are part of the process when decisions are made about the future of our church. I’m happy to say that I agree. 

As you know, all of our Canadian staff are located in different cities so it was great to hang out with them.  Apostle Art Smith, CWM President Steve Thompson, Camping and Retreat Specialist Lisa Neudorf, and our newest CWM team member Parker Johnson - Young Adult Ministries Specialist were all in attendance.  Oh and me too, Debra Donohue Congregational Outreach Specialist.


Art, Debra and Lisa above

Our Canada West Mission Delegates were (back row first, left to right)

Shirley and Carl Bolger, Janine McCully, Carol Shaw

Lanette Vawter, Kat Goheen, Debra Donohue, Susan Vawter, Lisa Neudorf, Greg Goheen

Steve Thompson, Gloria and Wayne Stanton, Marilyn Smith

Brenda Senga, Eileen and Lloyd Chase, Jack and Bev Cargill


Because World Conference was held in June this time, it gave us the opportunity to do more outdoor activities.  There were food trucks out on the street for both lunch and dinner.  The food was good, although next time, I hope they have a wider variety of food trucks instead of the same ones each day.  Just sayin’.



Campfire on the plaza was great, and most nights we were entertained by talented Community of Christ performers on the small stage. This stage is definitely too small for the Polynesian group, but perfectly fine for the single and duo acts.  The weather was so warm that it felt tropical, but without the ocean.  Okay let’s be honest, it was downright hot and sticky in the daytime, but wonderful in the evenings.


Canada was asked to do the Prayer for Peace on Sunday June 5th.  The participants from left to right were Susan Vawter, Marilyn Smith, and Carol Shaw from Canada West, and Tiona Taylor from Canada East.

Musicians (above the prayer flags) Ann Mitchell – piano, and Nadine Manson –violin, both from Canada East Mission Centre.


Susan Vawter and I were part of the English speaking Caucus. We took a photo each day to prove to our moms that we were changing our clothes while we were away. 

It was lovely to spend time with our previous Apostle, Mary Jacks-Whipple, who was the English speaking caucus’ spiritual leader.


I got out with the girls for a couple of dinners in town.  This was the only restaurant I took photos of and it was a lovely dinner with great company.  Lanette was taking the photo, pictured are Susan Vawter, Marilyn Smith and myself.


Many of you will know Canada East Mission Centre President Kerry Richards …


… and my fellow Vancouver delegates Susan, Lanette and Kat.


One of our legislative meetings, with Apostle Linda Booth on the big screen.  Here are the links to all of the 2016 Conference Resolutions and the Official Actions of the 2016 World Conference


One of our evening worship services.


Our Apostle Art Smith with Apostle Linda Booth centre stage.  If you look up and to the right, you may recognize Rick James who used to live in BC.  Rick was filling in as security during that particular legislative meeting.  Currently Rick and his wife Pat are living in Niagra Falls where he is the pastor.

Our next World Conference takes place April 6-13, 2019.  It has been moved back to April so that we can celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Temple.  The Festivities are already being planned so mark your calendar and be a delegate for World Conference 2019.


lisa-head-shot_thumb2Lisa Neudorf

This was my second opportunity to attend World Conference, my first being in 1988 which seems like a lifetime ago and as you can imagine, the experience was very different for me in 2016. This time I wasn’t simply attending as a member but rather, I was representing Canada West Mission Centre both as an employee and as a delegate.

I did not realize how many people I knew until I attended World Conference. It was wonderful to reconnect with friends and I enjoyed a few conversations trying to figure out where the other person and I knew each other from. There are many highlights from the week but some of my favourites were:

Serving Communion is something which brings me great joy and I was thrilled to serve Communion in the Sunday morning worship service.

Wende Badder of Canada East Mission Centre and I had the opportunity to teach a Conference Kids session about Canada. As we know, there are a lot of misconceptions about Canada and we had fun teaching the kids about what it is really like to live in Canada. They loved our money, were fascinated with the fact school was more like to be cancelled due to thick fog rather than due to snow. Two fun facts I learned … Canadians eat more macaroni and cheese than anywhere else in the world and we eat more doughnuts and have more doughnut shops per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Over the last year many congregations made Prayer Flags which were strung together and hung in the Temple, Auditorium and all areas in between to create a tent of prayers at World Conference. There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of flags and after a few days of hunting, I was thrilled to find my son’s Prayer Flag hanging in the Auditorium.



Parker-Johnson_thumb1Parker Johnson

World Conference is a time for us to come together as an international community to discuss important issues facing our faith tradition and our world today. Each geographic area of Community of Christ sends delegates to Independence who will represent their unique spiritual/cultural perspectives. The Assembly is made up of 3 - 5,000 delegates from 52+ nations from around the world, each conferring and striving to reach consensus with other delegates using Robert’s Rules of Order. (Imagine the United Nations with delegates able to speak at a microphone in order to ask questions/raise concerns/speak in favor or against.)

I had the privilege of being an Oklahoma Delegate this year, and I enjoyed my experience immensely! Some of the highlights for me?

1. The People

a. I can’t help but love all of the perspectives…even those I disagree with. I love that we have such a rich international membership. It only takes one look around The Auditorium to see just how blessed we are. With each country we have a presence in, I believe our mission becomes more like Christ’s mission.

2. The Place (Temple & Auditorium)

a. I can’t help but fall in love with our faith community all over again when I attend events at The Temple and Auditorium. When I walk in the doors…I feel a deep sense of calm come over me.

b. The second thought that always comes to me as I walk the halls of this beautiful building? This building is ours. A deep love for this church, the pursuit of peace, and a great deal of commitment went into this structure.

c. The third thought that always comes to me as I walk the halls of this beautiful building? I want to share this with everyone I know.

3. The Process

a. I can’t help but love the way Community of Christ World Conference works. Our faith community is a theocratic democracy – or a theodemocracy. While certain divine authority rests with the First Presidency and other world church leaders, The Assembly has the ability to decide on various topics from our church’s stance on modern issues today, approving/rejecting policies presented by leaders, and more.

b. This year, World Conference introduced the Common Consent process. I was personally a big fan of this! This new process gave delegates the opportunity to vote using electronic polling devices on their perspective of the conference resolutions throughout the conference. An initial poll was taken asking delegates to rate their level of support (or lack thereof), followed by a secondary poll to gauge perspectives on why. This helped the body to move towards a more unified voice as it related to amendments and/or other changes throughout World Conference.

c. More information on the Common Consent process can be found here: Common Consent Process

One of the orders of business for The Assembly is to vote on the acceptance of the Prophet/President’s Words of Counsel – Community of Christ calls this continuing revelation. Our faith community prayerfully listens to understand God’s will for our lives, the church, and creation. At World Conference 2016, President Steve Veazey presented his Words of Counsel to the church. The Assembly voted to approve this, and it has now been added into the Doctrine & Covenants as Section 165. You can find it here: Doctrine & Covenants Section 165

I’ll share my favorite lines…

6 a. Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.

b. As Christ’s body, lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism from those who hesitate to respond to the divine vision of human worth and equality in Christ. This burden and blessing is yours for divine purposes.

Parker Johnson

Parker’s photos



If you have any burning questions about the 2016 World Conference or the resolutions feel free to contact any of us on your CWM team.

Steve Thompson

Debra Donohue

Lisa Neudorf

Parker Johnson

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