Community of Christ has a unique identity and experience as a Restoration church, which is quite apparent in our church culture.
Community of Christ encourages its members to explore the very best scholarship on church history and scripture, to include sources outside of our tradition. Challenging of assumptions and biases is part of our journey as a people of faith. Through questioning, we strengthen our positions and refine our mission.
To learn about how we approach Church History, click here.
To learn about how we approach Scripture, click here.
Community of Christ congregations are led by a pastor. While we have bishops, the office of bishop developed differently in the various Restoration faiths following the Nauvoo period. In the 1840s, congregations were led by pastors, and we have continued using that term for the presiding elder. Local congregations choose their pastor on an annual basis, although most serve for several years. Pastors are often elders. They might choose two counselors, or have an associate pastor. Teams of co-pastors also exist. Congregations and leaders are free to pick which format best serves their congregation.
When a vote is taken, there is no expectation that it will be unanimous. Instead, diverse views and discussion help us discern God's will as a prophetic people. Through common consent, members are involved in significant ways in shaping the direction of the church, from their local congregation up to conferences at the denominational level (known as the "World Church").
Voting is not expected to be unanimous, and some members disagree. When disagreement occurs, we attempt and often succeed at maintaining a positive relationship. There is a specific policy which defines "Faithful Disagreement" as:
actions and/or responses by a person holding a different view about a specific policy, belief, principle, or other position of Community of Christ. This disagreement with a Community of Christ position or direction is helpful, responsible, faithful, and bounded by loyalty and commitment to the identity, mission, message, and beliefs of Community of Christ. A person who faithfully disagrees is welcome to share about the church position with which she or he disagrees. The intent of the sharing is to improve the overall faithful response of the church to God’s intended direction without classifying others as unfaithful.
Although we are all called to the same mission of Christ, it is not expected that our congregations will look the same. Congregations, as expressions of our five Mission Initiatives, choose how they will engage in Christ's mission. They live out the Mission Initiatives based on their local gifts and resources, and based on the needs of the surrounding community.
Ideally, a congregation joins with the larger community to define the needs and determine the response. Some congregations might focus on ending sex trafficking in their community, and others might have a food pantry. But our united focus is to live fully into our identity and calling as Community of Christ and become invitational, Christ-centered communities of justice and peace. We call this Zion, the beloved community and peaceable kingdom of God.
In Community of Christ, tithes and offerings are known as "A Disciple's Generous Response." We give generously because we have received generously. There is no tithing settlement, annually or otherwise. Regarding tithing, the Presiding Bishopric has given us this statement:
Tithing is offerings to support local, mission center, and worldwide church ministries. Tithing is a disciple’s generous response to God’s grace and generosity revealed in Jesus Christ. A disciple’s calling is to give according to true capacity as a witness of God’s generosity and as a spiritual practice that helps disciples grow in relationship to God.
Disciples seek to share 10 percent or more of their annual income as tithing before saving and spending. For some people, though, there is not enough income to meet basic living expenses. Then tithing is an offering of any amount or item desired, including giving one’s life in service to Christ and the church.
The finances of the church, from the congregational to World Church level, are available for review. The details of income and spending in the World Church budget are regularly shared with the entire church through The Herald, the official church magazine. Members determine their local budget through common consent. At our World Conferences, delegates from local jurisdictions appoint persons to review and vote on the budget for the entire church.
Community of Christ uses the cross as a symbol of Christ's resurrection, and the triumph of love over violence. It is a symbol used within scripture (1 Cor. 1:18). We respect those who do not use the cross. In the end, what is in your heart is more important than outward expressions or symbols of faith.
For those interested in a history of the cross in the Restoration, you might read Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo by Michael G. Reed (John Whitmer Books, 2012).
The Reorganization was anti-polygamy as one of its founding principles. Although it was debated in the early 1860s, most Reorganized Latter Day Saints eventually came to believe that Joseph Smith Jr. was not a polygamist, but that it was introduced after his death. To this day, this position is still held by some members, while others believe that Joseph was involved in the practice. Community of Christ does not take a position on the history of polygamy specifically, although our Church History Principles inform us that "[t]he church encourages honest, responsible historical scholarship."
In the 1960s, as we began to engage in missionary work in India, we encountered polygamous groups. Although opposition to polygamy was central to church identity well into the 20th century, we were willing to receive prophetic guidance. Doctrine & Covenants 150, received in 1972, allowed for polygamists to join so long as they ceased to add any additional wives and raise their children with a monogamous understanding of marriage.
Since 1883, Community of Christ members from large regions have been gathering to camp together. Reunions began after the October conference of the church was discontinued due to cost, but members still wanted to get together in the fall. Reunions continue to this day to be one of the most cherished experiences in the church. Mission Centers (which are comparable to Stakes) often have one or more campgrounds where members will gather for up to a week in the summer. Many members consider reunion to be among our most Zion-like experiences. If you're interested in attending a reunion in your area, contact us!
We are not just a people with a prophet, but are called to be a prophetic people. To be prophetic is to be led by the Spirit, to challenge unjust conditions. The ancient prophets called Israel to repent whenever they failed to uphold their covenant with God, which covenant is marked by peace and justice. Jesus echoed this tradition, and was its embodiment and fulfillment, demanding justice for all people and especially the despised that God's peace might reign.
With prophetic leadership, together we discern God's will through the Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as we respond to God's vision as revealed in Christ, we are and become a people of Zion.