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Connecting for transformation (Feb. 18, 2004)

Connecting for transformation (Feb. 18, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Connecting for transformation

Feb. 18, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0025}

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

At the Conference Table Jan. 30 the Florida Conference Cabinet and I presented a proposal titled "Connecting For Transformation." Between now and the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event Dr. Anne Burkholder, the director of Connectional Ministries, and I shall visit several regions to interpret this proposal and another proposal to reform the Conference Council on Ministries.

"Connecting For Transformation" is a proposal by your district superintendents to order the life in our conference in a new way. The vision in the proposal is that every congregation will be connected to other congregations for mutual support and accountability to fulfill our common mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and to witness to God's reign in the world. The kinds of connections among congregations will vary. Congregations and clergy will be asked to participate in deciding which kinds of connections would be most effective for them. Some will be in cooperative parishes; some in partnerships between congregations with affluent members and congregations with poor members; some in teaching-learning relationships; and some in clusters of congregations that share an affinity with one another, such as congregations that specialize in ministry to older adults.

The aim of this proposal is to rebuild the horizontal connection among congregations and clergy. Presently, the connection exists primarily as a vertical connection between congregations and the rest of the Church. What is missing is a vital horizontal connection among us. We can be mutually supported and energized if we order our life according to John Wesley's original counsel to the first Methodists, "Strengthen you one another" ("A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists").

According to this proposal we shall ask elders to provide leadership for the new connections among congregations that will be carefully and prayerfully created. Elders will be able to experience the role of "Presiding Elders," thus broadening the work of superintendency beyond district superintendents. This can be a rewarding learning experience for elders.

Moreover, the role of the district superintendents will be re-imaged. Superintendents need to be free to help equip congregations for their ministry and give leadership to new church development and congregational transformation.

Included in this proposal is a plan to create new districts. Rather than tinker with the present district structure we have thought it through anew. Our proposal would create nine districts that reflect the regions of Florida. Each district would have a Leadership Council similar to the entity in the Jacksonville District. A plan of transition is being proposed recognizing that some decisions, such as the permanent location of district parsonages, would be made over several years as superintendents change.

This is a time to consider new ways to be the Church in the 21st century. There will be many questions and concerns expressed about this proposal. Yet, we must also consider the danger of continuing to do the same things the same old ways expecting different results. The cabinet and I present "Connecting For Transformation" with confidence that this proposal will create new synergy in the life of our Church as we seek to serve Jesus Christ our Sovereign and Savior in the 21st century.


This commentary relates to Congregational Transformation and Connectionalism.

*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.