Representatives from 180 congregations in the Indiana Region of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), meeting this weekend in Indianapolis for its annual assembly voted, in effect,* to affirm the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members, according to a feed of tweets on the assembly website. A formal statement on the vote has not yet been offered by the region or the denomination.
While the larger Disciples church in the U.S. and Canada affirmed in 2009 a policy that “does not include sexual orientation as a criterion for ordination, licensing/commissioning, or standing”—leading many to believe erroneously that ordination was open to LGBT members throughout the denomination—the congregational polity of the denomination requires that individual congregations affirm the policies recommended by the larger body. The decision to affirm the suggestions of the larger church is generally accomplished at the assemblies in the denomination’s 33 regions.
Currently, the Gay, Lesbian, and Affirming Disciples (GLAD) Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group within the Disciples, identifies more than 100 of the denomination’s more than 3000 congregations as “open and affirming.”
A comparatively small, generally liberal-leaning denomination formed in the 1800s, the Disciples have a large concentration of members in the Midwest, so the Indiana Region’s decision may be seen as something of a learning indicator. A number of other regions in the denomination will be voting on full inclusion throughout the fall.
*The words “in effect” were added to clarify that the path to affirmation was cleared with the removal of sexual orientation. Whether this removal does or does not constitute “affirmation,” readers (like Disciples of Christ congregations) can decide for themselves. – eds.