Committee recommends theological forum instead of a commission
Written by Diane Weible
July 3, 2011

Delegates working in committee Sunday morning are recommending that General Synod 28 approve a resolution to create a theological forum instead of a theological commission – the intention of the original version of the resolution.

The intent of the change is to open the dialogue to anyone who wants to be part of the conversation, and to insure that as many voices as possible will be heard. As one delegate explained, changing the wording is important because the intention is not to form a position on any one theological issue, but to promote lively conversation, which would be possible in a forum-style structure.

Laurel Bentz of the Wisconsin Conference spoke of the many changes she has seen in her church over the years, especially after the General Synod in 2005. “General Synod tells us to have conversations about these issues,” she said. “It doesn’t tell us what to believe or what to do. It has helped us to heal and to grow.”

Although there was hesitation among some lay delegates on the committee, others, including many clergy members, saw the value of a theological forum.

Jason Lee, from the Penn Central Conference, speaking about the theological forum already established in his Conference, said, “I think it’s an important commission because they give us a spectrum of things to look at.”

Kevin Peterson of the Pacific Northwest Conference agreed. “It would be a great dialogue resource for people who don’t want to read all seven Living History volumes but want to learn more.”

A movement in the committee to refer the resolution to Local Church Ministries in order to create a more specific proposal for the next General Synod was, in the end, not considered. Jim Ritters of the Iowa Conference raised frustration about the procrastination and the loss of momentum that would occur if this were to happen.

In addition to changing the wording from “commission” to “forum” throughout the resolution and a few minor word changes, two sentences were added. The first calls for the forum not to be a prescriptive council but one that includes descriptive and diverse theologies from across the church. The second sentence refers the resolution to the Office of General Ministries and Local Church Ministries with the task of developing a structure to be approved by Executive Council.

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