Creation of a study committee that will provide leadership in faith and order for The United Methodist Church was authorized April 28 by the 2008 General Conference.
The Committee on Faith and Order was authorized by a vote of 454-360. It will reflect on matters of faith, doctrinal teaching, order and discipline. It will have three broad responsibilities:
- To lead and coordinate studies commissioned by the General Conference about matters of faith, doctrine, order and discipline of the church.
- To support and provide resources for the Council of Bishops.
- To prepare resources and study materials for the church upon request from General Conference, the Council of Bishops or the Connectional Table.
The committee will function independently but fall under the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns' staffing, budgeting and financial affairs.
"The committee will provide a continuing arena for significant scholarly reflection," said the Rev. Greg Stover, a member of the commission's board of directors and a delegate from the West Ohio Annual (regional) Conference. It "will help define who we are as a church."
The legislative assembly's Faith and Order Committee recommended funding of $287,000, but that was amended to require that the funding come from the Commission on Christian Unity and the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Jim Branscome, a lay delegate from the Virginia Conference, offered the amendment "in order to keep funding in line."
Stover said funding the new committee would take up a significant portion of the general agencies' budgets. "A committee on faith and order would benefit the entire church, and I hope it is something that would be funded beyond two agencies."
'Sustained theological reflection'
The Rev. Darren Cushman-Wood, a delegate from South Indiana, was among those supporting creation of the committee. "We need sustained theological reflection on issues that divide us-issues General Conference has been confused about," hesaid.
"The committee will provide a continuing arena for significant scholarly reflection. ... (It) will help define who we are as a church." Other delegates spoke against the proposal, including the Rev. James Harnish of the Florida Conference. "I wonder if this is a super theological committee. God loved the world so much that he didn't send a committee," he said.
The Committee on Faith and Order, Stover said, "will be a place where conversations can be connected together in a way they are not now."
The committee will have 24 members, at least three of whom shall be clergy actively serving full time in a local church, and three shall be laity. The entire slate of members will be approved and elected by the Council of Bishops in its fall meeting every four years after General Conference.
Members will include six bishops and six seminary faculty members nominated by the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools.
The remaining 12 members — who shall not be bishops — will be chosen by the Council of Bishops upon nomination by the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns and the Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Six of the 12 shall come from the nominations of the commission, and six shall be chosen from those nominated by the board. Three of the members nominated by the board will be nominated from the faculties of United Methodist-affiliated seminaries in the central conferences.
*White is associate editor of Interpreter magazine.
News media contact: Deborah White, e-mail: [email protected]
Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470.