Update: Missouri Anti-LGBT Constitutional Amendment is dead (4/27/16)
April 13, 2016
The Honorable Elijah Haahr, Missouri House of Representatives
Committee Chair, House Emerging Issues Committee
201 W. Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Dear Representative Haahr,
Given the history and tradition of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Senate Joint Resolution 39 is a direct challenge to our religious beliefs. We urge the House Emerging Issues Committee to let this bill die in committee.
Religious freedom is a core value for our denomination and our communities of faith. As the first denomination to emerge on American soil, we champion liberty of belief for all. In 1999, our General Assembly passed a resolution defending freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression in the public square.
In our church, the value for freedom goes hand in hand with respect for diversity of all kinds. We follow Jesus, who sat at a table with people from all walks of life and loved them all.
Disciples are varied in opinion. Our members are of different races and ethnicities, ages, gender identities and sexual orientations – and we seek to welcome each and every one despite our differences. We celebrate what we have in common: We love Jesus and seek to follow him.
This is not the first time our denomination has taken issue with discriminatory legislation similar to SJR 39. Last Spring, the General Board of the denomination voted to relocate our biannual General Assembly away from Indianapolis as state leaders wrestled with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Fortunately the law was revised, which in turn allowed us to return to Indianapolis for our 2017 assembly.
Our denomination has many churches, regional offices, and other General Ministries – the Christian Board of Publication, Higher Education and Leadership Ministries, and the National Benevolent Association – based in Missouri. Due to the central location to a majority of our churches, St. Louis and Kansas City are both prime locations for future General Assemblies, and have been in the past. If we had cancelled our Assembly in Indianapolis the projected loss revenue would be in the neighborhood of $6 million.
This issue has raised our awareness of the relationship between the location of our General Assembly, as well as other denominational gatherings, and laws and/or government practices that might significantly support discrimination of our neighbors. As we move forward, we will be looking closely at these decisions, so that our choices of location might appropriately match our religious values and our faith commitments. Unfortunately, if legislation such as SJR 39 is passed by the Missouri House of Representatives and approved by voters in November, the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will reconsider whether or not to hold any future gatherings in Missouri.
We are following closely the progress of this legislation, and encourage you to not hold a vote on this bill.
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
President of Division of Overseas Ministries
Rev. Ron Degges
President of Disciples Home Missions
Mr. Brad Lyons
President of Chalice Press
Rev. Bernard “Chris” Dorsey
President of Higher Education and Leadership Ministries
Mr. Mark D. Anderson
President of National Benevolent Association
Rev. Dr. Penny Ross-Corona
Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Mid-America
Rev. William Rose-Heim
Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Greater Kansas City