In Community of Christ, World Church is a very common term often used to describe a multitude of things such as the larger international church, its leadership, and/or even the church’s headquarters in Independence, Missouri. While we use this term in a variety of contexts, we are almost always making reference to the worldwide community that makes up our faith tradition.
Community of Christ has a presence in more than 60 countries around the world, and yet becoming a worldwide church is a process that continues to unfold. Many blessings - and a great deal of spiritual enlightenment and growth - have been borne out of our international footprint; this is an ongoing experience in the life of the church that provides us with opportunities to continually learn and grow from one another as we seek to encounter the Divine in new and powerful ways. The lived experience of Community of Christ is unique for our members and friends. As a community nearly 200 years old, we have developed a distinctive culture and established institutions that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives and annual traditions as Community of Christ members. This section gives a brief introduction to that lived experience concerning the World Church.
At the heart of Community of Christ’s history is a deep commitment to building the peaceable kingdom on earth (Zion). Early followers of our movement believed this place to be Jackson County, Missouri, establishing a zionic community there following revelation given in 1831.
Our story continues today with our international headquarters located very near the original site our predecessors set aside as sacred ground in Independence, Missouri. Community of Christ has two facilities located here, the Temple and the Auditorium.
The Temple, built in 1994 and dedicated to the pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit, has two functions. First, it stands as an international symbol of peace and provides a powerful experience for all visitors. It is open to the public. Second, it provides space for administrative offices where denominational leaders plan and discern the vision and mission of the church. Completed in 1958 after more than 30 years of construction during the Great Depression, the Auditorium sits near the Temple and features a 5,800-seat chamber with an expansive domed ceiling rising 90 feet. The chamber features one of the largest free-standing organs in the United States with 6,334 pipes. This facility is most often used to host World Conference events and other activities. It also houses administrative offices for denominational leaders.
Community of Christ’s polity is hierarchical, meaning our governance consists of leadership at various levels of the organization varying in authority. At the World Church level, this includes the First Presidency, Council of Twelve Apostles, Presiding Bishopric, Presiding Evangelist, Quorum of High Priests, Presidents of Seventy, World Church Secretary, and the Standing High Council. Each is explained below in more detail.
The First Presidency provides primary leadership to the Community of Christ and is its highest-ranking priesthood quorum, consisting of the President of the church and two counselors. Together they preside over all aspects of the international church.
Members of the Council of Twelve Apostles are high priests called and ordained to be special missionary witnesses. Assigned by the First Presidency, they carry major responsibility for church expansion, and serve as administrative supervisors of field jurisdictions.
The Presiding Bishopric consists of the Presiding Bishop and two counselors. Together they are responsible for looking after the finances and properties of the church. They are advocates of economic justice for all and teach the principles of stewardship and generosity.
The Presiding Evangelist serves as a spiritual companion, counselor and guide to the church and its leaders and to the Order of Evangelists in fulfilling the significant ministry they provide to the church, especially in a time of transformation and change.
The Quorum of High Priests includes more than 1,000 experienced ministers called to provide servant leadership based on the model of Jesus Christ. High priests are ministers of vision for Community of Christ who articulate vision and challenge us to see Christ’s mission, our mission, and what is possible—as disciples, as ministers, as congregations, as communities, and as a worldwide church.
Seventies are ministers specifically focused on inviting and witnessing to people seeking to commit their lives to Christ. The seventies are specifically charged with carrying out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. Each quorum has a specific geographical emphasis.
The World Church Secretary is appointed by the President of the Church and sustained by the World Conference as a general officer of the church. The Secretary serves as Assistant to the First Presidency, carrying out a wide-range of projects on their behalf.
The World Church Secretary is the custodian of the official records of the church and preserves policy documents of church-wide significance. The Secretary oversees the World Church Recorder, World Church Librarian and Archivist, and World Church Records Management.
The Standing High Council meets at the request of the First Presidency to consider questions of moral and ethical significance, to provide general advice and counsel to the First Presidency, and to consider appeals from courts of field jurisdictions.
The Standing High Council may also advise the Presiding Bishopric when requested by the First Presidency. In addition, the Standing High Council members are called by the First Presidency, sustained by World Conference action, and set apart to serve on the Council.
One of the primary purposes of the World Conference is to do the business of the church. Through a process of common consent, delegates to the World Conference discuss important issues and make decisions that are essential to the ongoing ministry of the church. Delegates are selected at the local level in congregational business meetings and are sent on behalf of their fellow congregants to represent their interests.
Developing a process through which 2,800 delegates can give adequate attention to all of the issues before the Conference is not easy. Over the years, several resources have been made available to assist the delegates to perform the tasks for which they were elected. These include:
The Bylaws, which provide basic guidelines for the administration of the church and the operation of conferences, including the World Conference.
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (2000), which defines the procedures by which legislative items are discussed and decided upon.
The Standing Rules, adopted by each World Conference, which establish special procedures designed specifically for the purposes of the Conference in the life of the church.
A Legislative Communications System, which provides a fair and orderly way for delegates to have access to the floor to discuss issues and make proposals for the Conference to act upon.
Delegates are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the principles mentioned here and with the Standing Rules so they can most effectively carry out the responsibilities for which they have been elected.
Parliamentary Principles The principles underlying the parliamentary procedure used by the World Conference are intended to provide the following:
Fairness: No person or point of view should have a decided advantage or disadvantage in discussing and deciding issues. Matters before the Conference should be decided on their merits as they are ultimately determined by the body.
Clarity: The procedures used by the Conference should help to clarify the precise issues that are under discussion and the precise proposals that are being decided in a vote.
Efficiency: Given the large number of delegates and the size of the agenda, parliamentary principles should help the Conference to move through its agenda at a pace that is expeditious, but not overly hasty.
Protection of Minority Opinions: Although most issues are decided by a majority vote, matters that affect the rights of the delegates (such as the closing of debate) or that modify the basic principles by which the church is governed (such as amending the Bylaws) must carry by a vote of at least two-thirds of the delegates.
The parliamentary authority of the World Conference is Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (2000), except where they are in conflict with the Bylaws of the church or the Standing Rules of the World Conference.
Priesthood is a sacred covenant with God and the church. Priesthood members are ministers dedicated to creating sacred communities that prepare, equip, and send disciples in Christ’s mission. They are called by God for specific ministries and servant-leadership roles. Each role or office represents a different part of Jesus’ ministry. Priesthood offices, including descriptions are as follows: Disciples share Christ's peace with those who need transforming ministry and help create inclusive communities full of God's boundless love and grace.
Deacons share ministry of service and model Jesus as comforter by nurturing individuals and families in the congregation and community.
Teachers share ministry of reconciliation and model Jesus as peacemaker in the congregation and community.
Priests share ministry of presence and model Jesus as friend by being a spiritual friend to individuals, families, and community.
Elders share ministry of mission and model Jesus as servants whose acts of ministry are direct, tangible expressions of the good news of the gospel.
High Priests share ministry of vision and model Jesus as servant leaders who focus on helping people bridge between what is and what could be.
Seventies share ministry and model Jesus' example of radical invitation and witness by focusing on people seeking to commit their lives to Christ.
Evangelists model Jesus as ministers of blessing by being aware of the reconciling influence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people.
Bishops share ministry and model Jesus' abundant generosity by teaching and preaching the principles of stewardship and Disciple's Generous Response.
Education has long-been an area of significant importance in Community of Christ. The church has long embraced a lay ministry structure that gives opportunities to those who are not necessarily formally trained as ministers to provide relevant, meaningful ministry. In turn, the church provides regular teaching materials, courses, and continuing education to all disciples seeking to improve their ability to live out Christ’s mission.
Community of Christ offers continuing education opportunities through Temple School courses. These trainings are offered both online and in person to provide members with relevant information on topics such as inclusion, bible scholarship, church history, and more. Temple School helps adult learners in their quest for knowledge, leadership skills, spirituality, and personal development. These courses are typically self-paced and occur over the span of a few weeks to a few months. Course credit is recorded with the Office of Education. The church also offers the MEADS (Ministerial Education and Discipleship Studies) program as a more in-depth learning opportunity. Held face-to-face, these week-long programs match learners with skilled instructors in an intimate setting. Readings are assigned prior to the course, homework is assigned in the evenings, and meaningful discussion ensues. Course credit is recorded with the Office of Education.
Community of Christ partners with Graceland University to offer a two-year, accredited Master of Arts in Religion program. The Community of Christ Seminary is committed to educating and preparing faithful, discerning leaders for ministries in congregations and the world. The program is solidly grounded in the Christian faith and shaped by its religious heritage and tradition. This tradition understands that God's will and purpose for the world and the church continue to emerge out of the process of faithful response to human need. We affirm that the people of God are called to live in community with all creation, and that peace and justice are the touchstones by which the gospel of Jesus Christ is realized.
This program is offered in a hybrid format, with courses taught both online and in-person at twice-yearly ‘Focus Sessions’ at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA. Click here for more information.
Graceland University (formerly Graceland College) was founded by Community of Christ in 1895 in Lamoni, Iowa. At the time, Lamoni served as the church’s headquarters. Members of the church had founded Lamoni just 25 years prior in 1870 as a zionic community. In 1917, Graceland received accreditation from the states of Iowa and Missouri and from the Higher Learning Commission, making it the first fully accredited junior college in Iowa.
Today, Graceland University maintains two campuses, one in Lamoni and the other in Independence, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. Both campuses provide high-quality private liberal arts education in a variety of faculties including the arts, sciences, business, religion, education, and more.
God’s revelation in Jesus Christ and continuing presence through the Holy Spirit, as proclaimed by scripture, is the foundation of our faith, identity, mission, message, and beliefs. We do our best to uphold these principles (values, concepts, themes) as a faithful response to our heritage and our continuing experience with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.