LOUISVILLE -- Top leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), dissatisfied with the leadership of one-time Disciple Ronald Reagan, challenged the president's policies in a letter this week.
The letter, drafted and circulated by the unofficial Disciples Peace Fellowship during the General Assembly of the 1.1 million-member denomination, drew about 800 signatures before being sent to the White House on Wednesday.
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 about 2,000 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 to teach as church policy that "homosexuality is one of the sins listed in the Bible," and "is an unacceptable life style for Christians."
Before that vote, the delegates easily defeated another resolution that would have put the prochoice church on record as condemning abortion.
Church leaders, in urging defeat of the antiabortion 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, attacked the president's domestic and foreign policies and asked how "our Christian faith can justify your actions."
Reagan grew up in the Christian Church in Dixon, Ill., and attended the church-related Eureka College, but for more than two decades has considered Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles his home congregation.
Reagan administration policies condemned by the letter included aid to the contras, which "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 John Humbert, president and general minister of the church, and T.J. Liggett, moderator of the General Assembly.
In other convention business, delegates passed a resolution warning members against contributing to television ministries that 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."
They 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.
Delegates also called for reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Vietnam and lifting of the trade embargo.
Such an action, the resolution said, "would help Vietnam meet the basic needs of its people as it recovers after decades of war in its land" and would aid in the reunification of families now living apart in Vietnam and the United States.