|North Alabama Annual Conference|
North Alabama Annual Conference
May 31-June 2, Birmingham, Ala.
The 2012 North Alabama Annual Conference met May 31-June 2, 2012, on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College.
The 2012 Annual Conference had the feel of both a homecoming and a sending forth as Conference members and visitors celebrated the return to the campus of United Methodist-related Birmingham-Southern College for the first time in six years (The North Alabama Annual Conference met on the campus each year from 1954 to 2006) and they also recognized that the 2012 Annual Conference marks the last time Bishop William H. Willimon will preside as the Resident Bishop of the Birmingham Area. Bishop Willimon will retire at the end of August.
The 2012 Conference began with the Memorial Service at Trinity UMC to remember those clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the last year. Dr. Charles Gattis used various Psalms to illustrate the hard times and high times of ministry noting that all those being remembered kept going on their journey when they faced the hard times and when they faced the exciting moments.
Guest speakers were Bishop James Swanson of the Holston Conference and the Rev. Michael Slaughter, lead pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC in Tipp City, Ohio. The Praise Team from Ginghamsburg UMC led times of worship throughout the Annual Conference gathering.
Bishop James Swanson opened the Friday morning session with a Bible study and sermon and held a Q&A session on Friday afternoon. During the powerful message he urged the United Methodists gathered to use the connection to change the world.
The Conference was welcomed by Birmingham-Southern College president Gen. Charles Krulak. He offered an update on the college and offered thanks to United Methodists congregations for support of their college. Birmingham-Southern College then recognized laywoman Gloria Holt, who has served in many leadership roles at all levels of The United Methodist Church with an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity.
Bishop Willimon presented the Bishop’s address, entitled “This Far by Faith.” He shared the 10 main things he heard when he first arrived in North Alabama and gave an update on how the Conference has been in ministry in each area over the last eight years. Conference Lay Leader Steve Lyles gave the Laity Address.
The Rev. Michael Slaughter spoke on Saturday. Telling stories of Ginghamsburg and other smaller churches the Ginghamsburg congregation has helped revive, he challenged and encouraged those gathered to be true to Methodist theology and to work to make a difference in their communities. He noted the hope in The United Methodist Church is not in the organization, but in the organism of the body of Christ represented by local congregations.
The Conference Youth Ministry Team also held a Battle of the Bands competition in which five youth bands competed. The winning praise band was from Asbury UMC in Birmingham.
In business matters, the Conference:
- Adopted the proposed budget of $9,273,761 for the year 2013.
- Approved a petition from the Birmingham-Southern College Trustees to amend the Birmingham-Southern Charter, which would make changes to the organization of the Board of Trustees.
- Approved a request from Sumatanga to sell two unused parcels of land on the edges of the camp’s property.
- Approved a proposal from the United Methodist Children’s Home to amend its charter.
- Passed a request made from an individual for a Judicial Council Ruling as to the legality (considering the paragraph 161.J of the United Methodist Book of Discipline) of the General Board of Church and Society and Women’s Division participating in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
- Heard a report from Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator Rev. Nancy Cole giving an update on the work being done in North Alabama since the April 2011 tornadoes. She noted the hours of volunteer work being done from many churches both inside and outside the North Alabama Conference totaled more than $2 million in in-kind donations.
- Recognized the 31 deacons, elders and local pastors who are retiring.
- Recognized Rev. Greg Reynolds, pastor of New Vision UMC in Florence, Ala., as the Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker – an annual award presented by COSROW. The Conference Disabilities Team recognized Monte Sano UMC and Northeast District as the Bridge Builders.
- Recognized the winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism award. This year’s lay recipient is Judy Berry of Monte Sano UMC and the clergy recipient is the Rev. Albert Smith of Huguley UMC.
- Voted to close seven churches
- Announced the Conference will be starting four new congregations, including an established church committed to become a new community of faith to better reach its community.
On Friday evening, the Conference ordained four elders and recognized the orders of one elder previously ordained in another denomination during the Service of Ordination at Canterbury UMC. Four of the five new elders are 30 years old or under. The class has an average age of 32.
During the Service of Commissioning and Licensing on Saturday morning, those receiving their local pastor license were recognized and 10 new provisional elders were commissioned. Five are under 32 years old. The average age of the class is 37 years old.
The Committee on Episcopacy thanked Bishop Willimon and his wife, Patsy, for their ministry with the North Alabama Conference over the last eight years. As a token of thanks the Willimons were presented with a commissioned painting. The Committee also announced they were giving a $15,000 scholarship to a BSC student in honor of the Willimons.
On Saturday afternoon, Conference Statistician Rev. Amy DeWitte reported that while both membership and worship attendance declined, the attendance vs. membership percentage grew. (Meaning more members are active in worship than in the previous year.) She also noted that one of the most encouraging things the stats show was a large growth in missions and serving – numbers of teams and individuals sent out by congregations in mission as well as the number of people being served by mission ministries.
- Membership stands at 139,535, down 3,935 from the previous year.
- Average Worship attendance stands at 70,341, down 276.
- Christian formation group attendance stands at 73,458 up 132.
- Number of Mission Teams sent was 2,226, up 1,504.
- Number of person sent on mission teams was 18,431, up 8,547.
- Number of persons served by community ministries was 747,745, up 191,811.
*Danette Clifton, Director of Communication, North Alabama Conference