Report of the Study Commission on Doctrine
The Study Commission on Doctrine (SCOD) has been pleased to serve the General Conference and the Free Methodist Church – USA throughout the past four years. It has been comprised of the following members: Bishop David Kendall (Chair), Bishop David Roller, Bishop Matt Thomas, Dr. Linda Adams, Dr. David Bauer, Dr. Allison Coventry, Dr. Bruce Cromwell (Secretary), Dr. Elisée Oouba, Dr. Deb Walkemeyer, and Dr. Denny Wayman.
In the 2015 Book of Disciple (¶ 4080.A), the SCOD is charged as follows: “A Study Commission on Doctrine (SCOD) shall serve the General Conference by studying theological and social issues facing the Church, and make recommendations to the General Conference.”
The SCOD exchanges e-mails throughout the year and holds face-to-face meetings annually. Since GC 2015 it has met on the following dates: March 29-30, 2016; March 27-28, 2017; and March 13-14, 2018; choosing not to meet in 2019 due to General Conference. A SCOD conference call was held on October 20, 2016, and members of the SCOD were asked to attend the April 3-5, 2019, meeting of the FMC-USA BOA to help process various resolutions.
During this quadrennium the SCOD had several papers and issues referred to it from the General Conference. In addition, several issues arose that were deemed important to consider and address. The following list of theological and social issues considered by the SCOD is organized by the year in which they were introduced, with several of these issues demanding multiple years of prayer, thought, discussion, and study. Actions taken by the SCOD are bulleted following each topic. Many of the papers written for the SCOD are available on the SCOD page of the FMC-USA website ( https://scod.fmcusa.org/ ). Further general counsel to the FMC-USA from SCOD members and others regarding these and other topics can also be found at the FM Communications page (www.freemethodistconversations.com).
Issues relative to Human Sexuality, especially Transgender Persons and Responses
- Reviewed A Wesleyan View of Gender Identity and Expression and a response by Dr. Denny Wayman, and asked a sub-committee of Dr. Wayman, Dr. Coventry, and Dr. Oouba to further research how we can best give denominational guidance to issues of sexuality.
Resolutions referred to SCOD from GC 2015, including:
Resolution 102, Article of Religion on “God the Father”
- Rejected, due to unnecessary repetition.
Resolution 304, Sanctity of Life – Abortion
- Rejected, due to unnecessary repetition.
Resolution 306, Revocation of “Special Creation” Note in BOD Paragraph 3321
- Accepted, and referred to the Board of Bishops to review all footnotes and explanatory notes within the Book of Discipline.
Resolution 308, Special Gifts and Ministry
- Referred to Bishop Roller and Dr. Bauer, who will rework BOD paragraph 3413 for consideration.
Resolution 310, Things that Make for Peace
Resolution 313, The Christian and the State
- Because of their similarities these two resolutions were addressed together. A sub-committee of Bishop Roller, Dr. Adams, and Dr. Cromwell was asked to study this and report back to the SCOD. It was further recommended that we pursue a possible FreeMo with guidance on violence and the use of force.
Update on Women in Ministry Study and Action (carry over from 2015)
- Reviewed Dr. Beth Armstrong’s Executive Summary of “Promoting Clergy Gender Equity: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of an Egalitarian Evangelical Denomination”.
Human Sexuality (carry over from 2016)
- The sub-committee (Drs. Wayman, Coventry, and Oouba) shared the creation of the FM Conversations web-page.
- Reviewed Celebrating and Supporting the Lifestyle and Gifts of Celibacy and Singleness by the Rev. Cameron Beyenberg.
Spiritual Gifts and Ministry (carry over from 2016)
- Reviewed proposed changes to BOD Paragraph 3413 from Bishop Roller and Dr. Bauer, and moved we adopt the changes as written.
The Church and the State (carry over from 2016)
- Reviewed two papers from Dr. Bruce Cromwell, The Christian and the State Regarding Legitimate Defense and Punishment and The Case for Nonviolence. Bishop Roller and Dr. Cromwell were asked to do further study and report back on this issue with a guidance document for the Church.
Women in Ministry and Leadership (carry over from 2016)
- Reviewed Dr. Roberta Mosier-Peterson’s dissertation, Lived Experience of Women Pastors in the Free Methodist Church, USA: An Ethnographic Study, and recommended that Dr. Wayman adapt the dissertation into a screenplay that can be filmed, highlighting some of the stories of women in ministry. Bishop Kendall and Dr. Adams will work on a teaching tool regarding women in ministry and leadership.
- The Deaconess Foundation Board asked the SCOD to consider the ethic of adopting already fertilized and frozen embryos, as opposed to persons who only fertilize an embryo that might be implanted via in vitro fertilization. It was recommended that the SCOD consult experts Robert Gould and Dr. James Thobaben for input in formulating a response.
- Wayman posted some of the research he has done on gender dysphoria to the FM Communications page.
Race and Racism Issues
- Cromwell previously had recommended Wil Willimon’s book Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism, and distributed a bibliography he had made on various racial reconciliation resources. The SCOD recognized that this is an ongoing issue and ongoing conversation facing the Church.
- The SCOD discussed updating the church membership materials for the denomination, recognizing the Christian identity as part of a broader story and what it means to engage in the particular Christian community known as Free Methodism. Coventry will develop a template for a potential membership class.
Review of the Free Methodist Catechism
- Bishop Kendall, Dr. Oouba, and Dr. Cromwell will review our existing catechisms and report back to the SCOD.
Officiating Marriages as a Civil Function
- This matter was tabled until a future date.
FM Conversations Web-page
- The SCOD reviewed posts on the Conversations page, and highlighted in particular the work of the Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, led by Dr. Preston Sprinkle.
Women in Ministry and Leadership (carry over from 2017)
- The SCOD previewed the Lived Experience video created by Dr. Roberta Mosier-Peterson and Dr. Wayman.
- Cromwell shared a suggested change to the BOD brought to him by Dr. Laura Hunt, regarding explicit statements about egalitarian marriage as opposed to complementarian marriage. He was asked to further amend the proposal and present it as a resolution to GC 19.
Church and State Relations (carry over from 2017)
- Cromwell presented a paper for SCOD he had written as a survey of Church history, The Relationship Between Church and State. Dr. Howard Snyder gave input to the SCOD regarding particularly Free Methodist approaches to Church/State relations. It was recommended that Bishop Kendall, Dr. Bauer, and Dr. Oouba continue to look at BOD paragraph 3331 and suggest possible alternative wording. It was further recommended that Dr. Cromwell’s paper be used as a template to help us frame our ongoing discussion.
Embryo Adoption (carry over from 2017)
- Wayman reported that Robert Gould and Dr. James Thobaben saw no ethical problems with the embryo adoption question raised by Deaconess Foundation Board. This was communicated to Deaconess.
Spiritual Gifts and Ministry (carry over from 2017)
- Bishop Roller presented the adjustments to BOD paragraph 3413 he and Dr. Bauer had worked on. The SCOD recommended he put it in the form of a resolution for GC 19 consideration.
Church Membership (carry over from 2017)
- It was recommended that the Board of Bishops create clarifying expectations for membership, to be further processed with the Global Overseers Team.
Review of Free Methodist Catechism (carry over from 2017)
- Bishop Kendall called attention to Russel Veldman’s Classic Catechism from 2007. Cromwell will look at possible templates to follow to create a practical handbook for Free Methodist catechesis.
“Eternal Suffering” in the Final Judgment
- A request was made to the SCOD from Dr. Paul Marston in the United Kingdom regarding wording in BOD paragraph 130. Not thinking the matter had the kind of import that would merit the worldwide referendum necessary to change an Article of Religion, the SCOD notified Dr. Marston of our rejection of his proposal, conveying appreciation for the thoroughness and seriousness of his effort.
Rev. Bruce N. G. Cromwell, Ph.D.