“Juntos en Misión”: the work of the Joint Commission
The Joint Commission between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada met in Indianapolis, Indiana, on October 16-17, 2023. The meeting brought together delegates from both denominations to the Forum. It was moderated by the General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico, Rev. Hilda Robles, and the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, Rev. Terri Hord Owens. The President of Disciples Overseas Ministries (DOM), Rev. LaMarco Cable, and Rev. Chris Dorsey, President of Disciples Home Missions (DHM), also participated as delegates in the meeting. Leaders of the Pension Fund, Week of Compassion, Church Extension, and the Global Relations Minister for Latin America and the Caribbean participated as consultants for the meeting.
For Global Ministries, the Joint Commission represents an innovative way to address a crisis of relations between two church bodies and to transform creatively in the empowerment of unity in a joint mission. This is the most recent chapter in our 100-years of church relationships in and with Puerto Rico. As Rev. Dr. David Vargas has expressed in past meetings of this joint effort, “[W]ithout any doubt, that chapter contains one of the most successful stories in our Disciples pilgrimage anywhere. Conceived initially as a necessary reconciling effort to mend a five-year (1975-1980) rift in the relationship between two members within the body of Christ, it was thanks to the love for the Church, the prophetic vision and genius of the Reverend Juan Figueroa, leader of the Church in Puerto Rico, and Dr. Robert Thomas (DOM President 1973-1983), that the Joint Commission was transformed gradually into an actual common forum for the celebration of shared programs and projects; a common table where, despite our ecclesial differences, we have the opportunity not only to evaluate what we have accomplished together, but also to dream together about a common ministry, a common church, and a common witness.”
It was the Reverend Vargas himself who, at this meeting of the Joint Commission, presented the historical context that led to the creation of it. Participants were able to review the events related to the differences and conflicts that arose between both churches and how the Joint Commission served as an instrument to formally discuss them and build a bridge of mission and commitment to unity between them. Out of the walk of these two churches together, it is crucial to point out how they have agreed on strategies for their solidarity with causes such as the departure of the United States Navy from the island municipality of Vieques, attention to disasters after the passage of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, the aid deployed to attend to the victims of the earthquakes in 2020, the self-determination of the Puerto Rican people regarding their relations with the United States, and others. It has also affirmed the appointment of missionary personnel to work in Latin America and the Caribbean, agreed to sponsor visits to churches and Partners in Haiti, Argentina, and Paraguay, recognized the work of pastors in the Hispanic Work, and signed statements on various issues that concern both churches. On this occasion, they agreed to sign a Pastoral Letter regarding the conflict between Israel and Palestine, condemning the acts of violence there and seeking a just peace for all the inhabitants in Gaza and Jerusalem. You can find the pastoral letter here.
 Vargas report, Minutes, Joint Commission Meeting, Indianapolis, Indiana. 2001.