Stances of Faiths on LGBTQ Issues: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Background

Formed in the early 1800s in response to the practice of Christian denominations acting in exclusion of each other rather than collaboration, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have a history of reaching out to other traditions. They established the Council on Christian Unity in 1910 to foster inter-denominational community and were active in forming the National and World Councils of Churches. In 1989, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ formed a close partnership that emphasized shared global in global and domestic ministries.

With a total membership of approximately 600,000 people, individual congregations are organized in 32 self-governing regions across North America. Denomination-wide governance is exercised through participation on the General Board and at the biennial General Assembly, which calls on representatives from all churches and regions. While “matters of conscience” can be debated at the General Assembly, the voting body cannot dictate a particular stance for individual congregations. On “matters of policy,” however, the Assembly can request that congregations and regions adhere to specific standards, such as those related to ordination.

LGBTQ Equality

On Inclusion

At the General Assembly in 2013, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voted to affirm and welcome LGBTQ people in all aspects of church life, including leadership. While the resolution does not dictate policy for individual congregations, the denomination actively encourages congregations interested in becoming more inclusive. (The GLAD Alliance provides in-depth practical support through a wide variety of resources.) In 2015, the church spoke out against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows discrimination against LGBTQ consumers.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) includes transgender people in all of its work toward creating welcoming and affirming congregations. The GLAD Alliance includes a wealth of transgender-specific materials to its participating congregations and leaders.

On Marriage Equality

Same-gender marriages are celebrated by many congregations of the Christian Church.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of marriage equality, Rev. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president, noted that individual congregations would maintain their autonomy but added that “ministers whose consciences call for them to conduct weddings for couples regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity may now do so legally in every state.”

On Ordination

As with other issues of policy, decisions regarding ordination remain in the hands of congregations and regions. However, several regions and many congregations of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) now ordain LGBTQ clergy. Women have been ordained in the church since the 1880s.

On Employment

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voiced its support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act since the earliest days of the debate. As stated above, the church’s 2013 resolution calls for full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, including in administrative and leadership roles.

Next Steps

While the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has made enormous strides toward full inclusion of its LGBTQ members, individual congregations across the country continue to struggle with the issue. The GLAD Alliance provides a full listing of welcoming and affirming churches, along with excellent resources for individuals and congregations wishing to explore the issue further. For more information on finding your place as an LGBTQ congregant, or on finding your voice as a straight ally committed to creating an inclusive church community, download the HRC resource Coming Home: To Faith, To Spirit, to Self.

Resources for LGBTQ Disciples

  • GLAD Alliance, a national organization working toward just and inclusive church that welcomes persons of all gender expressions and sexual identities into the full life and leadership of the church.

Contact Information

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
1099 N. Meridian St. Suite 700
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Website: www.disciples.org

Last revised: 7/22/2015