Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I am a fan of Sunstone, an organization whose "about us" statement on its website currently reads
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints* is a vibrant religious tradition with a diverse membership that has widely differing needs. For many Latter-day Saints, one of these needs is free and frank exploration of gospel truths as they relate to the complexities of today's society. Some crave stimulating discussions of contemporary scholarship, literature, and social issues. Others find great comfort being able to read, hear, and share personal faith journeys, including all their twists and turns and occasional uncertainties.
Through its many forums, Sunstone serves these Latter-day Saints and many others for whom life and faith is a wonderful but unique adventure. Sunstone brings together traditional and non-traditional Latter-day Saints, promoting an atmosphere that values both faith and intellectual and experiential integrity.
* Sunstone is an independent organization, and does not have any official ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I value Sunstone enough that I have published my work in its magazines, presented papers at its symposia, donated money, and volunteered my time.
Recently I was asked to serve on one of its committees, and I said sure. In the course of trying to help this committee do what I believed was its appointed work, I encountered some difficulty, and asked for clarification about the committee's purpose and goals. As part of the answer, one individual (and I want to stress that the following statement came from one individual, and has not had the blessing of the entire Sunstone board--not yet, anyway, and I hope it won't be granted) told me that
we certainly don't want to do anything that would give the impression that Sunstone is a secular organization, that it isn't overall trying to be a constructive community within the LDS church--basically anything that would violate the spirit of Sunstone's mission statement. Hence never a chance that we'd serve alcohol, coffee, or invite speakers who are antagonistic to Mormonism, etc.
This made me wonder what Sunstone's mission statement is, so I did some googling, and found this (scroll all the way down if you really want to read this in its original context):
The Mission Statement of the Sunstone Education Foundation is to sponsor forums of Mormon thought and experience. Under the motto, "Faith Seeking Understanding," we examine and express the rich spiritual, intellectual, social, and artistic qualities of Mormon history and contemporary life. We encourage humanitarian service, honest inquiry, and responsible interchange of ideas that is respectful of all people and what they hold sacred.
All of which raises many questions for me, the biggest one of which is this: Is Sunstone a secular or a religious organization?