Local Ecumenical Partnerships - the shared language

Designation as a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) is one well-established way of ordering and overseeing a particular venture. For LEPs, Churches have put in place formal procedures, as a way of delivering stability and consultation. For that reason, the procedures need to be both known and followed. It is no longer appropriate to use the older term 'Local Ecumenical Project'.


LEPs have their origin in 'Areas of Ecumenical Experiment', following the Nottingham Faith and Order Conference in 1964. The Methodist Church has always supported LEPs and the current relevant legislation can be found at SO 412 (2-3), SO 434(3.iv-vii), SO 611.

Definition and Category

The Churches have defined an LEP as existing 'where there is a formal written agreement affecting the ministry, congregational life, and/or mission projects of more than one denomination, and a recognition of that agreement by the Sponsoring Body and the appropriate denominational authorities'. (Group for Local Unity).

In 1994, the number of Categories of LEP was extended from 4 to 6:

1. Single Congregation Partnerships
2. Congregations in Covenanted Partnerships
3. Shared Building Partnerships
4. Chaplaincy Partnerships e.g. university, school, prison, hospital
5. Mission Partnerships e.g. industrial mission, overseas twinning.
6. Education Partnerships e.g. ministerial training, joint schools

Terminology

Some LEP terminology varies from one part of the country to another, so be alert and ask questions. But the generally agreed ecumenical language for ordering LEPs is:
 

  1. Ecumenical Vision Statement or Declaration of Intent or Covenant - a brief statement setting out the broad principles of the partnership;
  2. Constitution - a more detailed document, setting out the ground rules for the LEP. It is shaped by national understandings established between the Churches through the Group for Local Unity and also with the Charity Commission. The Constitution is therefore a significant document for handling specifics and you should expect it be a secure reference point. There is a model constitution for Single Congregation Partnerships available on the CTE website.  Model constitutions for other types will be available soon.  Contact the Connexional Ecumenical Officer for more information;
  3. Schedule - this is part of the model constitution document and covers those matters specific to churches. 
  4. Sharing Agreement - where the direct sharing of property is involved. This requires the TMCP's attention, in relation to the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969;
  5. Sponsoring Body - a county wide or equivalent body recognised by the Churches as representing them jointly;
  6. Review - a joint visitation of the LEP, handled by the Sponsoring Body, set in place after an agreed number of years. The sharp question for the sponsoring Churches after the Review is whether the LEP should continue and on what basis;
  7. (Local) Staffing Consultative Group - for ecumenical consultation over a ministerial appointment.


Discussions about LEP staffing levels overall are better held prior to a particular vacancy and can be arranged through the church leaders/representatives' meeting.

This language is not familiar Methodist language, but because it is ecumenically agreed it serves as a vehicle for clear communication. It is the language of shared oversight. 

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