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The power of unity (Jan. 22, 2004)

The power of unity (Jan. 22, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

The power of unity

Jan. 22, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0011}

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

Over the last two years the people of the Florida Conference have had an opportunity to share their concerns and hopes for The United Methodist Church in our state. I, along with other leaders, had the privilege of traveling across the state on a series of listening sessions. The creation of the Conference Table has provided forums that enabled persons to hear reports on fundamental issues facing our conference. Usually, nearly 150 persons have attended the meetings of the Conference Table.

As a result of the ongoing dialogue within our conference I already perceive the power of unity in enabling our Church to be a missionary church in a missionary context. In other words, we can strengthen the whole Church by becoming more connected to one another as congregations and clergy by sharing resources, learning from one another and working together to accomplish the mission of the Church in particular communities.

During the 20th century, there has been a tendency for us to order our Church so that each congregation exists separately from other congregations and clergy limit their ministries only to their own congregations. At the same time, we began to think of the connection primarily in vertical rather than horizontal terms. Also, we thought of the connection as only an institutional organization, rather than as a web of relationships for the sake of mission in the world in obedience to Jesus Christ our Lord. I am convinced that by re-imaging the connection as a means of being in mission together we shall discover that we have a wealth of resources to enable one another to be more effective and fruitful in mission.

Strategies to recover the power in our connection with one another include the creation of cooperative parishes of many different types, which would involve cooperation among diverse congregations and clergy in a geographical region, partnerships between affluent and poor congregations, relationships among teaching and learning congregations, and sharing among congregations with affinities in the kinds of ministries in which they are engaged. The recovery of the role of the elder as a leader among clergy and congregations is also necessary.

The genius of Methodism was its connectional life involving shared ministry within "circuits" and a common life together as "annual conferences." The past can become the prelude to the future. There are customs and habits to be overcome by all of us, but the way toward the future is to realize the vision in our vision statement "to become one dynamic Church with diverse people in many settings" so that we may offer a new life of Christian discipleship to the world.


This commentary relates to Connectional Life and Conference Table.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Annual Conference.