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July 4, 2003


Bishop's Corner

Cooperative Parish Ministries

By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker

One of the topics that will be explored by the Conference Table is cooperative parish ministries. There is a description of cooperative parishes in paragraph 206 of "The Book of Discipline." The basic definition of a cooperative parish ministry is that "local churches, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may enhance their witness to one another and to the world by showing forth the love of Jesus Christ through forms of mutual cooperation."

The "Discipline" requires annual conferences to implement a strategy of developing cooperative parish ministries. These ministries may take a variety of forms, including a larger parish with a parish-wide council and a director and other staff; a multiple-charge parish; a blended ministry parish consisting of a merger of two or more churches, but maintaining several worship centers; a group ministry consisting of separate charges with their own pastors, but a cooperative mission; a shared ministry between a large and a small church; cluster groups of churches joining in common mission and sharing resources; a cooperative ecumenical parish consisting of a United Methodist church and a church of another communion; and a sharing of facilities by churches serving communities with different languages.

In Florida, there are already cooperative parish ministries even if we many not use the term.

For too long there has not been enough connecting in our connection among congregations. We may be missing opportunities for churches to work together to advance the cause of Christ in our communities. There may be financial advantages to considering cooperative parish ministries in some situations. The cost of each church having its own ordained pastor has become a challenge for smaller congregations.

The cooperative parish ministry is really not new, and it has always been part of our tradition as American Methodists. It may be one of those ideas whose time has come, again.

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2003 Florida United Methodist Review Online