Community of Christ delegates approve new leader
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Delegates to a special World Conference of the Community of Christ approved Stephen M. Veazey as the church's president in a near-unanimous vote Friday afternoon.
The position also carries the title of prophet for the denomination, which has about 250,000 members worldwide. All but a handful of the 2,800 delegates rose their hands in a vote to approve Veazey, who was to be ordained Friday night.
No one spoke against his selection.
"I am deeply humbled by the confidence and support that you have expressed today," Veazey said after the vote. "I am glad that we as a church have successfully navigated this time of presidential transition in a way that speaks to our maturity, our unity and our ability to seek God's mind and will as a prophetic community."
After the vote, delegates spoke glowingly of Veazey's common touch and work ethic.
Carla Long of Independence, who said she has known Veazey "since I was knee-high to a grasshopper," has traveled on several mission trips with him, including those to Africa, Hong Kong and China.
"I saw how he dealt with a worldwide people and a worldwide church," Long said, "and his ministry was just fantastic."
Veazey, 48, had been president of the church's Council of Twelve Apostles, the top church leadership, before his selection in March as its eighth prophet-president. He succeeds W. Grant McMurray, who resigned for personal and health reasons in late November without designating a successor.
Church leaders went through a process prayer and reflection intended to produce consensus and identify the next leader.
"The focus of this time of worship was on discerning the will of God," said Leonard Young, another member of the Council of Twelve.
Veazey, a native of Paris, Tenn., holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee and a master's degree from Park College in Parkville, Mo.
He has been a full-time minister since 1983. He was ordained as an apostle in 1992 and became president of the Council of Twelve in 2002. His designation as president was subject to Friday's vote.
In his remarks before the election, Veazey acknowledged some initial reluctance to accept the call to the presidency.
"Part of me wishes that the events over the past few months had left me undisturbed, serving where I was in the Council of Twelve," he said. "Actually, my highest aspiration in ministry is simply to be a congregational pastor. Pastors are my heroes."
However, Veazey added, "I cannot deny that I have been prompted by spirit of God not to flee this calling because of my hesitancies, but to allow my name to come before the World Conference and trust the church in its response."
The Community of Christ, headquartered in Independence since 1920, split from the Mormon church in 1860 and was known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints until 2001.
It is the largest offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Community of Christ doctrines, focusing on peace and social change, are closer to mainstream Protestant Christianity than those of the Utah church. But members consider the Book of Mormon scripture and believe in ongoing revelation, which is collected in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book also considered scripture.