Stassi Cramm to the Order of Evangelists

The following was shared with the Order of Evangelists on March 26th, 2024:

I want to thank Jane and Kris for inviting me to share with the Order of Evangelists. The church has been on a difficult journey since the sale announcement on 5 March. I hope all of you have had the opportunity to review the material that was created to provide the church with information on what happened and why and to start to name some of the opportunities and challenges that are still before us.

I suspect many of you participated in one of the services on Monday, 11 March. I know for me personally, I was blessed by hearing the stories that were shared and reading the posts of how people were feeling. It was an important time to be present with one another and to be able to bear each other’s burdens.

There have also been several online information sessions including last night with the Presiding Bishopric. I think each one of these has been an important step in providing understanding and healing.

We have been focusing on responding to three major topics:

  1. One was related to confusion about how the retirement responsibility goal was fulfilled BEFORE the sale was completed. I hope the latest FAQs and the online session with the Presiding Bishopric has helped eliminate this confusion.
  2. The second was the anger or disappointment that World Church leaders did not consult with the church or World Conference before finalizing a sale. The Presidency responded to this in one of the online sessions and in the latest FAQs. Hopefully, that information is helping people understand why leaders proceeded as they did even if some people don’t agree with the decision leaders made or how they made.
  3. The third topic is fear or concern that this action somehow signals the beginning of the end either due to poor church leadership or just the nature of what is unfolding. Regarding this concern, I want to talk about this and how you as Evangelists can help people learn information, seek understanding, and find reconciliation so we can faithfully listen and respond to where the Spirit is leading us.

As you can imagine, since my call was announced to the church in January, I have spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection about God’s call to the church in this time and how will faithfully respond.

On a personal level, I am having competing feelings of the need to both slow down and speed up. I want to make sure we are faithfully listening to the Holy Spirit and taking the time to do the hard work of discernment about how we move towards God’s vision while simultaneously making sure we move with expediency to respond in tangible ways in the near term that will give hope and meaning to our members, friends, and those we are called to serve.

If the 2025 World Conference approves my call, I feel like I have a finite “expiration date” for my service. I will not be serving for 20 years like Steve [Veazey]. I am truly grateful for the meaningful chapter that was and is still being written in the church’s story under Steve’s leadership. His 20 years mattered and prepared us for what is yet to come.

The work of discerning our future is a communal responsibility and evangelists as ministers of blessings can help disciples and groups of disciples connect with the Divine and discern where the Spirit is leading. Regarding my need to slow down and speedup, I’m feeling the urgency that some of our ancestors felt who believed we were in the later days. Not because I think the world is ending or the church is close to shutting down but because I know, if the conference approves my call, my time in the role of president is limited. Add to that the Presiding Bishoprics financial projections that they’ve been sharing and the church’s need to identify new income sources in the next five years to avoid a budget reduction and my sense of urgency is really high.

At the same time, I feel the need to slow down and make sure we are staying connected with each other and with God.

Honestly, some of those important actions I’m sure we need to take are not clear to me yet because we need to discern them together and in the various contexts where the church provides ministry.

One thing I know for sure, we need to be very intentional about identifying and developing leaders around the church. This is more than training and education, although that is important. We also need to create relationships, provide opportunities, and adapt to new ways of leading and being the church together. We need to be intentional about adopting ways to do this, working together to implement, and evaluating and making adjustments along the way. The content of the Gospel message and our mission remains unchanged but how the message gets shared and the mission gets lived out is changing and must be embodied in local contexts which means we need ministers within the contexts like all of you to help with that envisioning.

We also need to continue to empower and unleash the prophetic voice of the people. For me, this means adapting what it looks like to be the church together and how and where we make various decisions. This is all part of the conversation on decentralization while identifying what is important that we continue to do as a worldwide faith movement in a centralized way. We have much work to do on this.

As we explored in the Way Forward Messages: Church structure should make it easier to share the gospel effectively. Adaptability and flexibility are essential. Decentralization is not about autonomous congregations or mission centers. It is about areas taking major responsibility for church functions and expressing our mission in ways appropriate to their contexts and degrees of church development. At the same time, our global faith community is a precious gift that we must not lose. There is no Community of Christ without global relationships and mutual support.

I understand that our ultimate vision is expressed through multiple words and phrases such as Zion, the peaceable Kingdom, God’s reign on earth, or God’s vision of Shalom. However, the church has to do the hard work of discerning what our vision is for this year and next year and in the coming few years.

As High Priests work with Field Apostles and Presidents of Seventy to help the church in various areas prophetically imagine what faithful response looks like in the near term, you, the church’s evangelists, can help people stay centered on Christ and feel blessed and chosen to live Christ’s creating Zionic experiences in the moment.

The gap between Zion and where we are today is too large and I think people are a bit lost in how best to respond in the here and now. I think sometimes people are just waiting for God to deliver Zion to us and forget that we are God’s ambassadors and peacemakers in creating glimmers of the eternal vision of Zion now. You and I can help with that gap.

Practically, in the moment, the current Presidency is plotting the course to the 2025 World Conference. We are looking at what the current Presidency needs to wrap up at the beginning of Conference. Once that’s done, then we’ll turn the presiding over to the C12 to preside over the consideration of the call to prophet- president. If my call is approved, then the conference will consider other leadership changes.

In my designate role, I have the responsibility of calling other quorum leaders that will be vacant in 2025 such as my two counselors, or new apostles, etc. I am giving significant attention to the makeup of the Leadership Council in 2025. In February, the Leadership Council spent time in discernment to help with that process. If you have input about people you think have specific calls or characteristics you think are important to consider, your input is welcomed. You can email ideas to [email protected].

At this point, one of the key concepts that has been identified as important is continued diversification as people are ready. Diversification includes many factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, language, theological perspectives and more.

People need to see themselves reflected in world church leaders. I have been investing substantial time in prayer and reflection and talking to each member of the leadership council. Over the coming months, I will start to have specific conversations with people about where I sense God is calling them in 2025. I ask for your ongoing prayer support and patience as we work through this.

President Veazey and I have also started an intentional mentoring process where I am learning from his experiences, so the church has good continuity. I am grateful for his knowledge, experience, and pastoral support.

I wish I could say that as we move through the sadness of the sale, the seas look calm and easy. Unfortunately, that is not my sense. We live in a world that is filled with uncertainty. I understand why people are fearful and despairing about the fate of not only the church but the fate of the world. There are a lot of reasons for concern. You know what those reasons are in your own context so I’m not going to attempt to name them.

I don’t know about you, but I want to “fix” things when I see a problem. This creates a particularly perplexing situation for me when the “problem” is “uncertainty” and I intellectually understand that I canNOT give the church “certainty.”

I can point to things that are certain. Let me name a few:

  • God’s love for the world
  • God’s desire for us to love one another including our enemies.
  • God’s hope that we will seek justice and practice mercy.
  • God’s call for us to be peacemakers helping the world be a better place for ALL people, and
  • God’s desire for us to take good care of God’s creation which is the Earth and beyond.

You can name others and build on this list.

Our ministry is to help people find the certainties that come through their faith that will give them strength, comfort, and hope as we navigate the uncertainties that are swirling all around us.

We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And we have to learn to be comfortable with making meaning in the journey of discipleship. The vision of Zion compels us forward but the ministry and mission is not the destination. The ministry and mission get lived out in community as people support each other and work for justice and peace helping people to glimpse some of God’s intentions for the world.

This is not easy work. That’s why we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. The good news is, I believe this is the work of a prophetic people. If you think about the model of prophets in the scriptures, their job was to be able to explain the current context, interpret why it is not what God intended, and then guide people toward an alternative future. This seems like exactly the type of blessings we need to be bringing into the world today.

Of course, the less good news is that prophets didn’t typically fair well in the scriptures. So this leads me to a question that I continue to ponder: How do we uphold faithfulness over earthly success when both are not possible? And how do we hold ourselves accountable to God and each other in making sure our responses are as faithful as they can be?

At the risk of sounding depressing, I want to share an observation that gives me great strength and hope. I read a reference one time in a book that I now don’t even remember which one it was but the concept stuck. I remember it as the “metrics” of the cross even though that’s not what the author called it. The author said at the moment Jesus was on the cross the “metrics” of success were pretty bleak: a few women and maybe one apostle were all that was around from his community and the money was gone. Yet here we are all over 2000 years later. So what looked like an earthly failure was a triumph of faithfulness as God called, Jesus responded, and the Spirit comforted and led.

After I shared this concept with the High Priest Quorum, one of the High Priests wrote to me and shared a similar quote she had recently found in Christianity Today resource, Practical Ministry Skills, Answering Tough Questions:

“The words of Alister McGrath in Mystery of the Cross (Zondervan, 1990) are well posed: As with the Cross, our darkest hour may be God’s finest moment. It may be there that he does his greatest work— albeit unseen to us.”

So here we are and there’s way more of us than were at the foot of the cross so our metrics are already better 🙂

I’m committed to take the journey and am grateful for the faithful disciples who call themselves Community of Christ.

I believe God is working with us and will guide us as we faithful respond. I believe we have what we need if we work together, help each other, and put our mission into action in the places where we live and serve.

How are you feeling in this moment? What do you believe about where God is calling us? What is your sense of call in your priesthood ministry for this time? How can we help each other?