The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voted to re-elect the Rev. Sharon Watkins as head of the denomination, capping off a weeklong assembly that mixed mundane church business with hot-button issues such as homosexuality, immigration and anti-Muslim hate speech.
Watkins, who already completed one six-year term as general minister and president, spoke before the vote and reflected on her previous leadership and laid out a vision for the church's future as it struggles with internal debates.
She is the former pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, where she served for eight years before being elected to her first term as the denomination's general minister and president in 2005.
“We need to talk honestly about the gospel message as it relates to race and sexual orientation in our church,” Watkins said. “We've been at a stalemate for too long.”
During the five-day assembly in Nashville, Tenn., church delegates also voted to pass several resolutions, including an overture denouncing anti-Muslim hate speech.
“(The church) condemns anti-Muslim speech and activity and calls upon the church to promote respect, civility and love toward our Muslim neighbors,” the resolution reads.
During the assembly, Watkins led an evening prayer vigil in the streets of Nashville for immigration reform. “Emergent” author and activist Brian McLaren urged Disciples to be forward-thinking and not “consumed by the unclean spirit of nostalgia.”
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was founded in the early 1800s and has about 700,000 members nationwide.