Please note: This post is from 2015. The 2017 General Assembly will be held in Indianapolis. Subsequent action by the Indiana Legislature persuaded the General Board to choose Indianapolis in mid April 2015.
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
Update, March 26: Church leadership’s response to Gov. Pence signing SB101 into law:
“Thank you for the overwhelming response supporting our opposition to SB101. Unfortunately, Governor Pence has signed the bill. We will keep you posted (and please be patient) as we sort through the contracts, costs, and decisions around the 2017 General Assembly. We also have attorneys reviewing similar legislation in the states that are finalists for 2019 and in states where we would consider moving the 2017 General Assembly. Not all of these bills are the same and there is a lot of misinformation about each of the state laws.
We are ONE people serving the ONE who welcomes us all. #ccdoc”
The original letter
March 25, 2015
The Honorable Michael R. Pence
Governor of the State of Indiana
200 W. Washington Street, Room 206
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Dear Governor Pence,
We write with respect to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). We urge you to veto the bill.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been headquartered in Indianapolis for nearly 100 years. Although Butler University is no longer affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), its founder, Ovid Butler, was a Disciple and a noted abolitionist. The college, in keeping with our values, admitted women in a time when that was rare. We are the church that founded Christian Theological Seminary. Our offices are located on North Meridian. Our Indiana regional offices are located in Indianapolis as well.
Every two years our general assembly, a gathering of over 6000 people from across the United States and Canada, is held in a US city. In 2017 it is scheduled to be in Indianapolis as it was in 2009 and 1989. Like so many other host cities, we find Indianapolis to be a hospitable and enjoyable location for our people. Many of our leaders are citizens of this city, and we take particular pride when our selection process makes it possible to bring the assembly to our home town.
However, the recent passage in the state legislature of the RFRA bill is distressing to us. It is causing us to reconsider our decision to hold our 2017 gathering in Indianapolis.
Purportedly a matter of religious freedom, we find RFRA contrary to the values of our faith – as well as to our national and Hoosier values. Our nation and state are strong when we welcome people of many backgrounds and points of view. The free and robust exchange of ideas is part of what makes our democracy great.
As a Christian church, 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, should RFRA be signed into law, some of our members and friends might not be welcome in Indiana businesses – might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.
We are following closely the progress of this legislation. It will be a factor in whether we continue with our plans to hold an assembly in Indianapolis in 2017. We urge you to veto the bill.
[one_third]Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President[/one_third][one_third]Julia Brown Karimu, President
Division of Overseas Ministries[/one_third][one_third_last]Ronald J. Degges, President
Disciples Home Missions[/one_third_last]
Resulting news coverage
- Disciples leaders join call for changes to Indiana’s religious freedom law – Christian Century
- RFRA: The Economic Impact – Nuvo (Indy alternative paper)
- Indianapolis looking to repeat Final Four success after RFRA controversy – WTHR (Indianpolis)
- Disciples could keep 2017 convention in Indy – Indianapolis Business Journal
- Indiana Church Opposed State’s Earlier Religious Liberty Law – NPR
- Lawmakers suggest deal close on religious freedom law – Indianapolis Business Journal
- Conventions continue to pull out of Indiana over RFRA – WRTV 6 (Indianapolis)
- Religious groups speak out against RFRA – Indianapolis Recorder
- Disciples Of Christ Cancels 2017 Convention In Protest Of Religious Freedom Law – TPM (Talking Points Memo)
- Disciples of Christ moving 2017 convention out of Indianapolis over RFRA – WTHR (Indianapolis)
- Hours of talks yield no agreement on clarification for Indiana’s new religious objections law – Daily Journal (Indiana)
- Sacramento Church Boycotts Indiana – Capital Area News (California)
- On LGBT rights, Utah gets to say, ‘We’re not Indiana’ – Salt Lake City Tribune
- Church cancels 2017 convention over new law – Indianapolis Business Journal
- Church cancels convention over Indiana law – USA Today
- Disciples of Christ cancels Indy convention over ‘religious freedom’ law – Indianapolis Star
- Indiana will lose Disciples of Christ convention over religious freedom law – Washington Post
- Why I think my church is upset about RFRA – Huffington Post column
- Governor Pence is Right: Tolerance is not a liberal value – Huffington Post column
- Indiana’s religious freedom law runs counter to Christ’s message – Alaska Dispatch
- Indiana law may be Iowa’s gain – KCCI (Des Moines)
- Lawmakers suggest deal close on religious freedom law – Indianapolis Business Journal
- Disciples Of Christ Church Threatens A Boycott Over New Indiana Bill That Allows LGBT Discrimination – Huffington Post
- Groups eye Indiana pullout over religious objections bill – Associated Press on Yahoo! News
- Disciples of Christ threatens to cancel convention due to religious freedom bill – Indy Star
- Indiana may lose Disciples of Christ convention over bill allowing businesses to decline service to gay couples – Washington Post
- Salesforce boycotts Indiana over fear of LGBT discrimination – Fortune
- Disciples of Christ threatens to cancel convention – WND TV
- Christian Group Is Ready To Boycott Indiana If Governor Signs ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill – ThinkProgress website
- Mayor, other organizations speak out against controversial religious freedom bill – CBS4
- Mayor Greg Ballard speaks out against religious freedom bill – WTHR 13 (quotes Disciple letter)
- Indianapolis-based church, tech group among RFRA challengers – WFYI (PBS)
- Indiana’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Sparks Firestorm Of Controversy – NPR
- Ballard, Christian Church criticize ‘religious freedom’ bill – Indianapolis Business Journal
- Smith: Let’s not let Statehouse tell the story of Indianapolis – Indy Star opinion column
- Convention organizers threaten Indianapolis pullouts over state religious objections bill – AP story on FoxNews.com
- A Religious Boycott To Protest “Religious Liberty” Legislation Protecting Discrimination – Political Animal blog on WashingtonMonthly.com
- Disciples Of Christ Church Threatens To Move Convention If Pence Signs ‘Religious Freedom’ Law – crooksandliars.com
- Devout Christians Protest Indiana’s New Anti-Gay Law. We Need More Of This. – slate.com
- NCAA ‘concerned’ over Indiana law that allows biz to reject gays – CNN.com
- Indiana’s governor signs bill allowing businesses to reject gay customers – KETK (Tyler, TX)
- Gov. Mike Pence: Indiana ‘not going to change’ anti-LGBT law – CNN.com (also used by Fox 6 Milwaukee)
- Religious freedom law sparks outrage as #boycottindiana trends worldwide – Brisbane (Australia) Times
- Disciples of Christ threatens to move convention over Indiana religious freedom bill – Christian Today
- In conservative Indiana, bemusement amid boycott threats over religious freedom law – Los Angeles Times
- Indiana Religious Objections Bill Signed as Dispute Swirls – ABC.go.com
- Ball State professor: Religious freedom bill violates biblical principles – Ball State University News
- Opposition mounts as religious freedom bill awaits governor’s signature – WLFI (Northwest Indiana TV)
- Disciples of Christ Church Reconsiders Indianapolis for Annual Convention – Human Rights Campaign blog
- Is It Time for These Indiana Events to Relocate? – Advocate.com
- Thousands attend anti-RFRA rally Saturday – WRTV 6 (Indianapolis)
- Disciples of Christ Eye Convention Pullout to Protest Indiana Religious Liberty Law – Christian News Wire
- Disciples look to pull convention from Indiana over religious freedom bill – Crux (Catholic publication)
- Indiana religious freedom act: how big a backlash? – Christian Science Monitor
- Why were ‘religious freedom’ supporters mostly silent? – Indy Star
- Indianapolis May Lose Conventions Over State Anti-Gay Law – Successful Meetings
- Religious freedom law sparks outrage as #boycottindiana trends worldwide – The Age
- Disciples of Christ Will Cancel IN Convention Over Law – Bilerico blog
- Indiana’s LGBT Discrimination Law Forcing Disciples of Christ Church to Take Convention Elsewhere – Gayapolis News
- Christian Church Will Take Convention To Better State Than Anti-Gay Indiana, For Religious Freedom – wonkette.com
- Church says it will ‘reconsider’ Indianapolis convention if governor signs anti-LGBT bill – LGBTQnation.com
- Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Moves Business Out Of Indiana Amid Anti-LGBT Law – Unicorn Booty news site
- Thousands Join Protest to Oppose New Indiana Law That Allows Businesses to Reject Gays – American Register
- The Church Against Religious Liberty – Christian Post
- Religious Freedom Bill Gets Support From Indiana Governor – Liberty Voice
- NICHOLAS HAHN: Indiana’s religious freedom conundrum – Washington Times
— IndyStar (@indystar) March 25, 2015
— Montel Williams (@Montel_Williams) March 26, 2015