May 26, 2014

Essay 1 Exploring Church Policy on Cohabitation Responses to Susan Oxley

by Paster David Donoghue

Document authored by Pastor David Donoghue Pastor of Scarborough Congregation of the C of C

Forwarded in email May 27th 2014

Presented to Apostle Oxley and CEM President Tim Stanlick in 1st Mtg with Shaun Withrow May 26th 2014-08-04


It is my viewpoint that limiting or removing Shaun's authority to function in his priesthood office is in conflict with established church principles and church law, for the following reasons:

To begin with, such action would cause the church to be hypocritical.  Being such is in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ, who frequently expressed contempt for hypocritical stances.

Also, the church's Statement of Sexual Ethics

( )

makes no mention of cohabitation being immoral.  We are told in this document, on page 3, section “H”, that:

“Sexual ethics should be the same for all people without discrimination”.

The church now sanctions the ordination of individuals in committed, long term same-sex relationships, even in areas of the world where secular marriage is not available to them.  Shaun and Danica are also in a committed long term relationship, as evident by the fact that they are engaged, and have purchased a house.  The requirement is not marriage, but “committed, long term relationship” – which they are in.

Section “A”, on page 4, states: “(In addition, we) Evaluate the morality of sexual activity by the degree of mature love, justice, covenant, and faithfulness present in a relationship.”

Again, marriage is not a basis, according to the Statement of Sexual Ethics, for determining if a relationship is moral.  In fact, the statement goes on to describe, in section “C”, just what is immoral sexual activity: this is defined as:

“selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive”.

To suggest that any of these things apply to Shaun would be absurd.  Therefore, based on the standards of the church, Shaun does not warrant any disciplinary action.

The Theological Foundations essay on Sin and Salvation states:

( )

“Doctrine and Covenants 164:6 … stresses that moral behavior and relationships should clearly, consistently, and totally respect the principles of “Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:6a).

Section 164:6 describes sinful behaviors as attitudes, actions, and relationships that are “selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive” (164:6b). This is equally true for all types of relationships. From the perspective of Section 164:6, there should not be different standards in sexual ethics.”

Section 164:6a  ( ) also states:

“As revealed in Christ, God, the Creator of all, ultimately is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable. Such relationships are to be rooted in the principles of Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness, against which there is no law.”

The church has taken action, with regard to same-sex relationships, rooted in the above counsel.  God, ultimately, is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth of all people, and is not interested in whether or not someone is straight, or gay.  

Likewise, God is not concerned about whether or not his priesthood, who are not single, are married, so long as they are committed and respectful to their partners.  Any other view, suggesting that God rejects the ministry of such people until such time as they become married, makes God petty.

As I understand it, Community of Christ will now processes priesthood calls for same-sex couples living in Australia, even though Australia does not recognize same-sex marriage.  While this policy may be unique to Australia, this policy would not have been approved if cohabitation itself was deemed immoral.

As noted previously in the above church resources, the church cannot have different polices regarding sexual ethics.

Furthermore, I have reviewed the World Conference Resolutions, which I have a PDF copy of, provided by the World Church Secretary.  I have also reviewed the Church Administrator's Handbook, and the Priesthood Manual.  I cannot find any evidence that Shaun is in violation of an actual, real policy.

I have asked for a copy of said policy on numerous occasions, and have yet to be provided with one.  Even in preparation of this meeting, I asked for the specific policy, and again, was not provided one.

The Second Book of Nephi, chapter 6, verse 51 states:

“where there is no law given there is no punishment”

These words are part of our canon which is upheld as:

“the standard of authority on all matters of church government and doctrine, and final standard of reference on appeal in all controversies arising, or which may arise in this Church of Christ” –World Conference Resolution 215

For all of the above reasons, I respectfully ask that you take no action against Shaun, given that there is no basis to do so, and that taking any action would in fact be in conflict with the previously cited positions of the church, which would clearly be a failure of justice, result in gross hypocrisy, and undermine the integrity of the church and it's mission, being in direct conflict with the standard of authority.