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2002 Letter

Letter of Counsel
Regarding the Presiding Quorums

To the Councils, Quorums, and Orders, to the World Conference, and to the Church:

The past biennium has been an exciting and challenging one for the church. We have participated in a historic change in our denominational name and have conscientiously struggled with what it means to describe our movement to the world and to each other as the Community of Christ. We have seen the witness of the church continue to expand in many places and are richly blessed by the diversity of many cultures and peoples. We watched with horror the events of September 11, 2001, and were reminded anew how urgently the world needs people dedicated to the pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit.

But a sense of restlessness abides in us as we see the abundant needs of the world and feel the call to be a people of hope, proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ and creating communities that embody his ministries. We know that we are called to still new avenues of service and to confront with integrity the serious questions that are before us.

It is my burden and joy to continue to give prayerful consideration to the leadership needs of the church, particularly in the presiding quorums. As always, I have taken this task as a deeply personal one to which I give considerable energy, openness, and reflection. In doing so, I am always aware of the many persons who serve the church in significant ways and the vast array of ministries that they perform. I am deeply grateful for the service of all, whether in full-time or self-sustaining ministry.

We have a long tradition of having those who serve in the presiding quorums do so until their retirement, except in special circumstances. Over the years, some members of the quorums have expressed a desire to offer their ministry in other ways, perhaps returning to the field or to other responsibilities commensurate with their skills. As the church has expanded into new areas of ministry, I have become increasingly aware that there are many ways to express one's sense of calling. There will be times when the presiding quorums will benefit by new perspectives and gifts, without assuming that such roles will necessarily continue until retirement. I will continue to be mindful of the needs of the church and of individual ministers in this way, and will be open to expanded opportunities for leadership development and service. Part of what I present in this letter is consistent with that emerging understanding.

Throughout the past biennium I have carried the needs of the church on my heart and have wrestled with the callings I sense in my brothers and sisters. I have received a confirming assurance of the Holy Spirit and now bring the following instruction pertaining to the Council of Twelve Apostles.

    1. A. Alex Kahtava has served for thirty-five years as a full-time minister of the church, including fourteen years as a president of Seventy and fourteen years as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles. Since 1994 he has served as president of the Council of Twelve, bringing excellent leadership to the administration of the field and the missionary expansion of the church. As he approaches the age of retirement, he has expressed a desire to be relieved of those responsibilities so that he may continue his ministry in a self-sustaining capacity. We acknowledge with grateful hearts the vibrant missionary witness he has brought throughout his ministry, and his unflagging commitment to the expansion of the church. He has led his colleagues in the Council with integrity and caring support and will be missed in the leading quorums of the church. For some time I have sensed in him an emerging call to the office of evangelist and it is now timely that he be ordained to the Order of Evangelists, carrying the spirit of that ministry into the years of his retirement.

    2. Lawrence W. Tyree has served as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles for ten years, blending a deeply committed missionary spirit with an interest in new forms of communication and outreach indicative of this Information Age. He has also been a voice on behalf of young adults, calling church leadership to an awareness of their unique needs and the opportunities for ministry among them. In addition, he has been uniquely gifted with the ability to articulate the gospel message in several different languages, understanding the rich nuances and beauty of culture. He carries a deeply rooted sense of call, and the needs of the church now require him to give expression to that call in a new way. To respond to those needs, he is released from the Council of Twelve in order to give his full time to the development of international resources, translation ministries, and language training. The expanded witness of the church in many cultures requires that an increased level of priority be given to this significant task, and we are grateful that he is available and prepared to lead this effort.

    3. To fill one of the vacancies in the Council of Twelve, Mary Jacks Dynes is called from her field responsibilities and her service in the Council of Presidents of Seventy to be an apostle. Her gentle spirit is matched by a fervent missionary witness. She has prepared herself educationally and spiritually for these new responsibilities and she should now take her place with an assurance that her ministry is expanding into new areas of service. Her ordination to the high priesthood and the Council of Twelve is now timely and appropriate to the needs of the church.

    4. David D. Schaal is also called from his current responsibilities to be an apostle and a member of the Council of Twelve. He brings the heart of the pastor into his apostolic witness, understanding that it is ministry to people that is the primary purpose of the church. He has provided visionary leadership for several jurisdictions of various sizes and complexity. His experience and giftedness will grace the church, and his loving spirit will bless both his colleagues and those he serves.

I am led to offer this additional counsel with regard to the Presiding Bishopric:

    5. Orval G. Fisher has brought an array of skills and a commitment to personal ministry into his service as a member of the Presiding Bishopric since 1996. While his quick and well-trained financial mind has been a significant asset, it is his commitment to people, and particularly to youth, that has marked his church service in every responsibility he has carried. In recent months the circumstances of his health have caused him to reflect upon his ministry and to consider the ways he can most effectively express his own sense of call during the remaining years of his full-time service. In response to that inner sense of direction and purpose, he has asked to be released from the Presiding Bishopric in order to return to full-time field ministry. I have felt the confirming assurance of the Holy Spirit in honoring his request and look forward to the ministry he will continue to provide to the church and its people.

    6. For the mission of the church to be accomplished, it is necessary to establish effective organizational processes sensitive to the needs of people and grounded in sound principles. Stassi D. Cramm has been blessed by training and experience to utilize those processes in very successful ways in the secular world. But she has also recognized God's call to ministry and has responded to that as a full-time appointee. She is now called to blend her training and calling by accepting ordination to the office of bishop and being set apart to serve as counselor to the presiding bishop and a member of the Presiding Bishopric. We look forward to the significant contribution she can make in the councils of the church as she extends her ministry into this new avenue of service.

In offering these calls for the approval of the church, I have a profound sense of gratitude for the willingness of so many to sacrificially offer their lives in service to our Lord through full-time ministry. We recognize that the cost of discipleship can sometimes be very significant, even while the rewards are deeply affirming. We will be facing significant issues in the years ahead, and the many challenges before us require excellence in our presiding quorums and in the many responsibilities people carry in every congregation of the church. I pray that God's blessings will sustain and empower all who serve so that the witness of the Community of Christ will be equal to the challenges of our time.

Respectfully submitted,

W. Grant McMurray
President of the Church

March 6, 2002

April 16, 2002

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