Discipline ¶206

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Section II. Cooperative Parish
  ¶ 206. 1. 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.
2. Annual conferences shall implement a process of cooperative parish development through which cooperative parish ministries are initiated and developed in both urban and town-and-country situations. Where cooperative parish ministries already exist in an annual conference, the conference shall direct the appropriate conference boards and agencies to develop strategies designed to make use of cooperative ministries as means of creating greater effectiveness in the nurture, outreach, and witness ministries of urban, suburban, and town-and-country situations; and the annual conference shall prepare and adopt a formal written policy concerning cooperative parish ministries, including a plan for financial support. Parish development is an intentional plan of enabling congregations, church-related
agencies, and pastors in a defined geographic area to develop a relationship of trust and mutuality that results in coordinated church programs and ministry, supported by appropriate organizational structures and policy. A superintendent or director of parish development may be appointed to work with the cabinet(s) in the implementation of these ministries in a conference or an area. In addition,
district superintendents shall submit recommendations annually regarding those churches in their districts that would benefit from being included in a cooperative ministry.
3. Cooperative parish ministries may be expressed in forms such as the following: (a) Larger parish-a number of congregations working together using a parish-wide parish council and other committees and work groups as the parish may determine; providing representation on boards and committees from all churches; guided by a constitution or covenant; and served by a staff appointed or assigned to the parish and involving a director. (b) Multiple charge parish-an intentionally organized group of two or more pastoral charges in which each church continues to relate to its charge conference on the organizational level and also participates in a parish-wide council. The pastors are appointed or assigned to the charges and also to the parish, and a director or coordinator is appointed or assigned by the bishop.2 (c)  Blended ministry parish-the merging of the organizations and memberships of churches spread throughout a defined geographical area into one church that intentionally develops two or more worship/program centers at agreed-upon locations, and for which there is one charge conference and one set of committees and other groups of an organized local church, guided by a covenant and served by a staff and a director appointed or assigned to the parish. (d) Group ministry-a loosely organized group of two or more pastoral charges in which the pastors are appointed or assigned to charges. The pastors and/or lay council, representing all churches, may designate a coordinator. (e) Enlarged charge-two or more congregations, usually on the same circuit and of relatively equal size, that work as a unit with the leadership of one or more pastors. There may be a charge council and necessary committees. (f) Extended or shared ministry-a larger membership church sharing ministry with a smaller membership church usually served by one pastor. (g) Cluster groups-a group of churches located in the same geographic area with a loosely knit organization that allows the participating congregations and pastoral charges to engage in cooperative programs in varying degree. A district may be divided into cluster groups for administrative purposes. (h) Probe staff-composed of the pastors and other staff assigned to a geographic region to explore possibilities for cooperation and developing strategy for improved ministries to persons. (i) Cooperative ecumenical parish-two or more local churches of different Christian traditions, including a United Methodist congregation, working together. (j) Shared facilities-two or more United Methodist congregations sharing a building such as those performing ministries in different languages and/or with different racial and ethnic groups. The congregations may enter into a covenant that ensures mutual representation on such bodies as church council, board of trustees, and other committees and work groups.
  In order to support the covenant relationship and to ensure the autonomy of the local congregations, the congregations shall identify liaison persons who will represent the local congregations in their respective church council sessions. The congregations shall negotiate a covenant agreement about their use of the facility to ensure mutual support as policies are formulated, programs are developed, and the facility is utilized.
4. Each general board and agency shall arrange for its directors and staff to be trained in cooperative ministry concepts better to provide support resources for annual conferences and local churches.
5. Bishops, district superintendents, conference staff, and other leaders shall become familiar through training with the benefits of cooperative ministries. They shall provide leadership and training opportunities for pastors and local church leaders as to the value of cooperative ministries in moving toward excellence in nurture, outreach, and witness ministries. They are to explore and develop meaningful ministries to persons in congregations, communities, and the global community.
6. Cabinets shall give priority in the appointment process to appointing directors and clergy staff of cooperative ministries, especially cooperative parish ministries, who have been trained in cooperative ministry concepts and who have demonstrated effective ministries of nurture, outreach, and witness. The cabinet shall develop and implement strategies designed to enable and equip pastors presently appointed to cooperative parish ministries to provide effective ministries of nurture, outreach, and witness.
7. Annual conferences and cabinets are urged to assist in the development and strengthening of cooperative ministries by pursuing funding assistance from general Church, annual conference, and other sources for each cooperative ministry, including cooperative parish ministries.
2. See Judicial Council Decision 556.