News from AllianceQ: November 2017

AllianceQ Present at 2017 Disciples Seminarians Conference

Every two years, Disciples Higher Education Leadership Ministries (HELM) gathers Disciples seminarians from around the country to meet General Church leadership, to connect with each other, and to inform the seminarians of the many ways the church strives to support them and their ministries. For the first time, AllianceQ was present at this important conference. What follows is Mark Johnston’s report from the conference.

It was quite a thrill to be part of the Seminarians Conference this year. Not the least because of the quality and commitment of the seminarians that I was able meet. I was encouraged by their commitments to justice issues and to the future of our church. HELM invited me to provide a 90 minute workshop, which most of the seminarians present attended, and the interest of the seminarians in the work of the Alliance was only further confirmed by the many questions I was asked during mealtimes and other free moments at the conference.

It was also a thrill for another reason. Thirty years ago I was a student attendee at this conference and one head of a General Church ministry made it clear that he did not believe that gay people should be welcome in the church (let alone the lesbian, bi, and trans people that hadn’t really crossed his mind at that point). Other church leadership said little that disagreed with this opinion. Today, the Alliance is a respected partner with the church in our work for justice and affirmation.

There are two reasons the Alliance has not been involved in this conference until now. First, this is a conference for seminarians to meet General Church staff. The Alliance is not an official part of the General Church. We are a standalone organization of Disciples. We don’t have an office in the Disciples Center in Indianapolis and we receive no funding from the General Church. We haven’t sought to become a part of the General Church structure because Alliance leadership has always felt that maintaining our prophetic independence is too important. So we simply aren’t among the category of church leadership that is typically present at this conference.

The second reason we haven’t been involved sooner? We simply haven’t asked until this year. (I think there’s a sermon in here somewhere, something about asking and knocking and finding and entering, but that sermon isn’t the point right now.)

Speaking with these seminarians and being present alongside General Church staff, I am grateful for how far the Christian Church has progressed in 30 years. That the Alliance today stands with the General Staff as a partner in ministry is a good place to be.

I am also grateful for what I learned from the seminarians. Many have come from churches where LGBTQ people are neither affirmed nor accepted – Disciples churches and other churches. As Disciples, though, they strive to build a Christian Church that stands for justice. More often than not it was the straight allies among the seminarians who reminded me of how much work there is to do in the church – and who inspired me with their commitment to lead the church in justice, equality, and affirmation.

It is good to see who the church is today: leadership, student, and staff. No, we haven’t arrived at the New Jerusalem yet, but we are striving to move in the right direction.