Steps to a Global Church Partnership
“You are no longer strangers or foreigners, but fellow citizens with GodÕs people and members of the household of God.” —Ephesians 2:19
“The face, or the subjectivity of the other, makes me aware of an experience of the world that is not the same as mine, that is vulnerable to my efforts to interpret it and have it on my terms, and that is accessible only to the extent that genuine dialogue occurs…The other is not to be reduced to an object of my knowledge; the face must reveal itself through discourse.” —Eric Mount, Covenant, Community, and the Common Good, Pilgrim Press, 1999, page 25
Global Ministries, the common witness of the Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ and the Division of Overseas Ministries, Disciples of Christ, seeks to engage the whole church in world ministries by helping congregations, associations, districts, conferences, regions and instrumentalities so that they experience the global church in their worship, faith, witness and service. A Global Church Partnership Handbookhas been created to facilitate this process
The following procedure is recommended to assist each part of the church in its quest for Global Church Partnership. It is hoped that these easy to follow steps will enable you to enter into companionship/partnership with the worldwide community of faith.
1. Contact Global Ministries: The first step in the process is to contact Global Ministries to indicate your interest in developing a Global Church Partnership in your Disciples Region/Area/District and/or UCC Conference/Association. As you think about establishing a Partnership, why not make it a “joint” effort right from the start by including your Disciples or UCC counterparts in your area. This is a great way to make the common witness of Global Ministries more visible. There are several “joint” UCC/Disciples Global Church Partnerships from which to learn. You may have an interest in a certain part of the world. You may even have a specific country in mind. You may have existing relationships with International Partners that you would like to further develop. You may have other motivations and interests. As you begin the process, take note of these initial ideas, but also remain open to suggestions as Global Ministries staff is aware of critical needs for Global Church Partnerships at any given time in different parts of the world and may make a suggestion that is not on your list. Commit to allowing the Spirit to guide the process. Please contact the following people for an initial conversation:
For Disciples: Tom Morse 317-713-2574 firstname.lastname@example.org
For UCC: Marcy Dory 216-736-3209 email@example.com
2. Establish a Partnership Committee: In order to undertake the Partnership process, a group of people representing your UCC Conference/Association or Disciples Region/Area/District will need to prepare documents, make and recommend decisions and implement the Partnership. It’s important that the Partnership doesn’t become the exclusive project of the committee, but that intentional effort is made right from the start to involve all the congregations of the given judicatory in meaningful ways in the development of the Global Church Partnership. Perhaps there already exists such a suitable committee for this leadership responsibility. Perhaps a new committee will need to be formed consisting of representatives from a variety of standing committees or geographic areas. The committee may require budgeted resources in order to convene.
3. Prepare a Partnership Proposal: As the Partnership committee dialogues with Global Ministries about a possible International Partner interested in establishing a Global Church Partnership, the following supporting documents will be needed:
a. Theological Statement (1-2 pages): Indicate why you are interested in a Global Church Partnership. In a written statement discuss your theological rationale for seeking a Partnership relationship. How does your faith and the scriptures shape your understanding of a Partnership relationship with someone different from yourselves in another country and culture? What are your ecumenical, international and multi-cultural perspectives? Why is God calling you to develop a Global Church Partnership at this time in the life of the faith community you represent?
b. Strengths and Weaknesses Statement (1-2 pages): First of all identify your needs, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Too often Christians in North America enter into partnership with the intent of giving or providing. We often forget that the global church is also equipped to address our needs and to serve our weaknesses. If we allow ourselves to be humble and good listeners, partnership can strengthen church growth, liturgy, youth activities, Christian education, social justice, stewardship and many other areas. After listing your weaknesses, spend some time identifying your special strengths and how Partnership might benefit your Global Church Partner. Think beyond money and material resources. What gifts do you bring to the table as you enter into a Partnership relationship?
c. Profile (1-2 pages): Describe your Disciples Region/Area/District or UCC Conference/ Association. Offer information regarding your size, membership, location, mission, special ministries, context, organization, special meetings and constituencies. Help the International Partner get a picture of who you really are.
4. Submit a Partnership Proposal for Approval: At this point in the process, an International Partner has been identified by one of the five area executives of Global Ministries and has been agreed upon by the Disciples Region/Area/District or UCC Conference/Association Partnership committee. Upon receiving your completed request and supporting documents, a Global Ministries area executive will write to the International Partner Church on your behalf. The materials you prepare will be sent electronically if possible, and by snail mail if not. It may take some time (sometimes months!) for the International Partner to consider your request and make a decision. Factors influencing the process may include: language (perhaps translation will be necessary), schedule of meetings, work, and other commitments of the International Partner. You will be informed of the response and decision as soon as the area executive is notified by the Partner. As the International Partner is considering the proposal it is also important that your board of directors, annual meeting, regional assembly or other decision-making body does the same. It is necessary that your leadership structures be fully aware and supportive of your Partnership request. In addition to approving, you might want to request some financial assistance for implementing the Partnership in a budgeted line item. The amount will depend on several factors such as the resources available to the Partner, distance between you and your Partner, and your own resources.
5. Draft a Partnership Agreement or Covenant: When the Partnership proposal has been approved by all three parties: International Partner, Global Ministries and the Disciples Region/Area/District or UCC Conference/ Association, the Global Church Partnership dance can begin! It is important that each party pays attention to the rhythm and step of the other, sometimes leading, sometimes following the lead of the other. At all points in the Partnership dance, communication is important. It’s important not to impose our own standards of communication on others. In our e-mail world, we want an instant response to our question. Sometimes International Partners don’t dance to that tune. They may have another concept of time in giving their response. They may require a face-to-face presence. We must always be generous and considerate in our communication with one another. Now the task of drafting a Partnership agreement or covenant in which all parties have input, is at hand. Who should take the lead on this? Your Global Ministries area executive will help you answer that question and facilitate the give and take in the drafting of the document. Often times it will be up to you to make an initial proposal and allow Global Ministries and the International Partners to respond, adding some of their own ideas and thoughts. This process will take some time. A face to face meeting with the International Partners would be the ideal time to finalize a draft document and sign the document together. Sometimes this can be achieved through a Partnership visit. In most cases, the Partnership agreement will be worked on long distance through an e-mail dialogue. In its final form, this document should be a one page summary statement where the parameters of the Partnership are clearly stated in the following areas:
a. Parties in the Partnership: As emphasized previously the three-pronged relationship should be clearly highlighted in the opening paragraph.
b. Length of the Partnership: Five years is a reasonable time during which both partners can meet and come to know one another. It is important that this date be respected, to allow each partner the opportunity to evaluate the relationship and move into other relationships without creating a sense of abandonment (or “divorce”). An option of extension for another five year period can be noted in the agreement.
c. Theological purpose of the Partnership: A succinct statement of the purpose of the Partnership should be included. A key idea or scripture can be proposed from the Theological Statement that was written, and language can be drafted which includes input from all three parties. This emphasizes that the Partnership is first and foremost a commitment of faith.
d. Partnership Goals and Strategies: Mutually agreed upon goals and specific strategies for accomplishing those goals should be listed with some approximate timeframes and target groups for involvement noted.
e. Financial obligations: It is extremely important to clearly state that all projects and programs will be decided upon by mutual agreement by all parties involved in the Partnership. Approved Global Ministries projects are posted on the Global Ministries website at: http://www.globalministries.org/special_projects. Any new project proposal by International Partners will need to follow the approval process through the appropriate Global Ministries area office. The Global Ministries area executive will communicate with the International Partner to confirm that the project has been identified and prioritized by them. We want to avoid negative interference in the process and life of our International Partners. Since International Partners often operate in dire financial situations, it is important for them to state their priorities at any given time. All financial contributions should be sent through the Global Ministries Office of Resource Development PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986 or Global Ministries Office of Financial Development, 700 Prospect Ave. 7th floor, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100, with the designation specified. One hundred percent of the funds will go to the designated intent. Please respect the umbrella partnership between the International Partner and Global Ministries and feel free to discuss any financial questions with Global Ministries Resource/Financial Development staff.
6. Begin Implementing the Partnership Agreement: Now that the three parties have been introduced and linked, you are encouraged to shape and form the Partnership. Refer to the numerous ideas throughout this Global Church Partnership Handbook. We recommend that in the early stage there be an exchange of delegations (perhaps 4-6 people for 5-10 days). The Global Ministries People-to-People Pilgrimages office will help you prepare your visit. During your visit to your Partner and your Partner’s visit to you (in which you may want to help financially), we suggest you talk about those things you both want to accomplish in, and through, the Partnership agreement. Focus on building the relationship and involving all your constituency in the process. A Global Church Partnership should never be the “pet” project of a few people, but the shared ministry of the whole church on the journey of being a Global Mission Church. Phil Wilson, founder of African American AIDS Policy & Training Institute, gives us an important reminder as we seek to live out a Global Church Partnership: “Africa (and other parts of God’s world) does not need more charity, noblesse oblige, or great white hopes. What it does need is real partnerships, equal two-way, and respectful.”
7. Keep Global Ministries informed: Once your Partnership agreement is signed, the Global Ministries area executive who has worked with you through the process will be less present in the dialogue which will take place directly with the International Partner. It is, however, important to keep the Global Ministries area executive in the loop. It is a good practice to copy the area executive on e-mail correspondence. This will insure that Global Ministries is informed of important Partnership activities and progress. It is also encouraged that you provide periodic updates/reports and stories of lives touched through the Partnership. These types of written pieces and also multi-media pieces, can be shared with the wider church through the Global Ministries website. Be sure there’s a link to your Partnership web page from the Global Ministries web site!
8. Schedule Periodic Partnership Reviews and Evaluations: It’s important to periodically review your Partnership agreement independently and with Global Ministries and the International Partner. You will want to plan an intermediate evaluation, and an evaluation at the conclusion of the designated time period in the partnership agreement. The joint review or evaluation might take the form of a conference call, email chat room or postal exchange, or, if the technology is available, a video-conference through Skype or some other platform. Here is a guide for your evaluation:
· What are we grateful for in this Partnership?
· What have we given and received from one another?
· Where is Christ’s presence evident to us?
· What do we see as next steps to this Partnership?
· How have we lived out the Partnership agreement?
· What has been positive? Negative?
· Does the Partnership agreement need to be modified in any way?
· Are there any tensions or misunderstandings?
· Are we communicating with Global Ministries?
· Are communication channels with the International Partners working?
· Are our relationships Companionships? Paternalistic? Acts of solidarity? Creating dependency? Liberating? Trusting?
· What goals have we accomplished?
· What goals are not accomplished?
· What new goals or modifications should we make?
· Who are the leaders of this Partnership?
· How is the Region/Conference staff involved?
· Are youth and young adults involved?
· Are people of color involved?
· Is there rotation of responsibilities?
· Is anyone experiencing “burn-out”?
· Is there “new-blood” in your Partnership Committee?
· Is the Partnership “personality-based” or does it have a structural foundation with solid support from all?
· Is there a focus on mutuality?
· Are the opportunities for involvement in both directions?
· Are we praying for one another regularly?
· How are you sharing news and enthusiasm with congregations in the Region/Conference?
· Are you using your Region/Conference newsletter?
· Are you using web connections?
· Are you visible at Region/Conference events?
· Are you sharing news with Global Ministries and the whole church?
· Share and review Partnership budgets for both Partners.
· Review the parameters for giving.
· Are there any financial questions that need to be addressed?
· Identify areas of interest that have arisen and those that require further investigation.
· Are both Global Ministries and the International Partner’s governing body and leadership aware of each project?
· Whose project is it? Whose priority is it? Who initiated it? Is it one-sided or shared? Who energizes it?
· Who does the project benefit: the giver, the receiver, or both?
· Will the project continue under new leadership?
· What advocacy work is underway?
· What other advocacy opportunities are there?
For more information download the Global Church Partnership Handbook