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A theology of property

A theology of property

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

A theology of property

Nov. 28, 2006    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0580}

NOTE: A headshot of Whitaker is available at

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

Each district in our conference is beginning to develop a strategic plan for congregational transformation in consultation with the Rev. Dr. Jeff Stiggins, director of the conference’s Office of Congregational Transformation.
Congregational transformation is very difficult because it involves — as the term suggests — change. Yet this change promises joy as well as pain — the joy of reconnecting to our communities with the spirit of adventure of being in mission in the name of Jesus Christ.
There is one aspect of congregational transformation that deserves more attention than it has received: church property. Sometimes property becomes a hindrance to mission. If a congregation is meeting in a facility that is too costly to maintain, then it cannot invest in staff and program. If a congregation meets in a facility that is poorly located, then it may not be able to grow.
What is needed is a new freedom to examine how a congregation’s property is affecting its mission.
This can be done only in the context of a theological understanding of property. Whatever other considerations may be involved, it is clear that the primary concern that is involved in a theology of property is the identity of the congregation as a missionary outpost of the church in its community. A congregation that is focused upon its mission to its community for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is liberated from the assumption that it exists to maintain its property in a particular facility. A missionary identity frees the congregation to imagine new possibilities for its future.
Decisions about property have to be made very carefully by the leaders of the congregation in consultation with lay and clergy leaders of the conference. There are many practical and financial aspects to be considered. However, a beginning would be a study of the purpose of the congregation as a mission in its community to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and fasting and prayer to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This article relates to Church Transformation.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.