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A new way of being church

A new way of being church

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

A new way of being church

Jan. 7, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0220}

NOTE:  A headshot of Whitaker is available at

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

The Florida Conference Cabinet is in the process of implementing the transition to a new district structure of the Florida Conference. A description of the policies of the cabinet in guiding this transition can be found on the Florida Conference Web site at

From the beginning we have said the primary purpose of the new structure is not reorganization, but reorientation of our life together. Making a fresh start in ordering the life of our conference gives us the opportunity to find new ways of being Church.

The heart of our new structure will be the principle that every congregation and pastor (along with other clergy) will be in relationship with other congregations and pastors in order to support one another in fulfilling the mission of the Church. This principle will be realized by gathering congregations and pastors into clusters.

Naturally, many people have questions about how the clusters will function. The cabinet will hold a Conference Table on clusters Saturday, Feb. 26. Also, during the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event there will be a conversation about the clusters. The district superintendents will gather the clusters and help them get started.

We are not the first to try this new way of being Church. British Methodists have had a similar approach for years. Conferences in the Philippines that have pioneered other innovations like mother churches to start new faith communities have had clusters for six years. We learned much from the Wisconsin Conference that calls its clusters "circuits." The large West Ohio Conference is studying our approach and planning a similar new structure. At the recent meeting of the Council of Bishops many bishops expressed their strong interest in this approach upon hearing Bishop Bruce Ough of West Ohio and I talk about our efforts.

I am convinced that the Spirit of God will work among us in fruitful new ways if we come together as a community seeking divine guidance in fulfilling our mission as the Church.

We who are Methodists do not believe there is such a thing as a "solitary Christian." Nor do we believe in solitary congregations. From the beginning of John Wesley's ministry we have believed that Christian community is "a means of grace" and the Church should exist as a "connection" of all of its parts.

Moreover, as Christians we believe we are created in the image of the Triune God.  As Hilary of Portiers once wrote, "God is one, but not solitary." The living God is the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be created in the image of the Triune God means that to be a person is to be in relationship with God and others. The Church is the community that is called to experience the recovery of our lives in the image of the Triune God. If we are open to God's Spirit in this new way of being Church, we have the opportunity of participating more fully in God's purposes for the Church and for each of us.

This commentary relates to Conference Transformation.

*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 Conference.