LOUISVILLE, Ky. — About 800 members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), disgruntled with the leadership of one-time disciple Ronald Reagan, challenged the President's Christian convictions in a letter circulated at the denomination's biennial convention this week.
The letter, drafted by the independent Disciples Peace Fellowship and distributed among about 2,000 delegates, drew about 800 signatures before being sent to the White House at the conclusion Wednesday of the General Assembly of the 1.1-million-member church body.
It urges Reagan to "listen to the message of the church, instead of depending upon advice from the Pentagon and the merchants of war materials."
As the letter was being circulated among delegates and visitors at the meeting, delegates also turned aside efforts by conservatives within their own ranks to change and toughen church policies on volatile issues involving human sexuality.
On an overwhelming voice vote, delegates defeated a resolution that would have declared it church teaching that "homosexuality is one of the sins listed in the Bible" and "is an unacceptable life style for Christians." Earlier, delegates easily defeated a resolution that would have put the pro-choice church on record condemning abortion.
Stresses Freedom of Choice
Church leaders, in urging defeat of the anti-abortion resolution, noted that the denomination "has traditionally affirmed freedom of individual choice in all moral issues" and has consistently and specifically affirmed that freedom in regard to abortion since 1975.
The letter to Reagan, signed by church members and clergy from throughout the country, the letter attacks Reagan's domestic and foreign policies and asked how "our Christian faith can justify your actions."
"There were probably a few in the peace fellowship that thought we were a little too strong," said May Lord of Chicago, a member of the Disciples Peace Fellowship. "But we had some anger and didn't want to put something mild in.
Reagan grew up in the Christian church in Dixon, Ill., and attended the church-related Eureka College but for more than two decades has counted Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles his home congregation.
The letter said the ongoing policies included aid to the \o7 contras\f7 , "even though it threatens the Central American peace plan"; commitment to nuclear testing; use of violence rather than negotiation as an instrument of foreign policy, and funding of the Strategic Defense Initiative "at the expense of the poor and the homeless."
Among the signers of the letter were the Revs. John Humbert, president and general minister of the church, and Thomas J. Liggett of Claremont, Calif., outgoing moderator.
In other convention business, delegates also:
- Passed a resolution warning their members about making contributions to television ministries. It noted "recent disclosures indicate that some 'TV ministries' have failed to fulfill their stated purpose and have failed to uphold the standards of Christian stewardship in their appeal for funds and their distribution and use of those funds."
- Rejected a resolution that would have limited the use of mission funds for any group that engages in violence in an effort to end apartheid in South Africa.
- Adopted a resolution asking congregations to take a more central role in sex education for young people and parents "by offering clear and responsible information on human sexuality."