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2007 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference

June 3-6, 2007, Montgomery, Ala.

The Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference was held at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery with the theme "Serving The Present Age."

The conference celebrated the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley with a 250-voice mass choir.

Prior to the annual session, Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster challenged conference churches to buy 10,000 insecticide-treated bed nets through the Nothing But Nets campaign to eradicate mosquito-borne malaria in Africa. At press time, with donations still coming in, the people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference had responded by raising more than $203,000 - enough to buy more than 20,000 bed nets! This marked the largest single annual conference special offering in the conference's history.

Worship leadership was provided by Bishop James King, Louisville Area; Bishop Paul Duffey, retired; and the Rev. Clyde Pressley, executive director of the conference's Disaster Recovery Ministry.

In business matters, the conference:

  • Established a $16.5 million budget for mission and ministry for the next year, up 5.31 percent from 2007;
  • Adopted the United Methodist Property and Casualty Trust (PACT) as the conference-wide insurance carrier for all of the churches and ministries of the Annual Conference;
  • Adopted a conference-wide Safe Sanctuaries policy;
  • Recognized five churches as a "Church for All God's Children;"
  • Voted to send the United Methodist Publishing House contribution of $9,545 to the Central Conference Pension Initiative;
  • Received an update on the $3 million "Campaign for Blue Lake," the conference's assembly and campground;
  • Adopted 16 resolutions, including dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Uganda, upholding language in the Book of Discipline and supporting anti-tobacco laws;
  • Presented donations made available through the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal to Coden (Ala.) United Methodist Church and Citronelle (Ala.) United Methodist Church; and
  • Welcomed the Magruder family, United Methodist missionaries in Cameroon with whom the conference is in partnership.

One deacon and 10 elders were ordained as members in full connection. Nineteen clergy entering into a probationary relationship with the conference were commissioned (six probationary deacons and 13 probationary elders). Fourteen retiring clergy were honored - representing more than 295 years of service to The United Methodist Church - and 23 clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during a service of commemoration.

The conference elected delegates to the 2008 General Conference and to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Laity delegates elected to General Conference were Steve Furr (delegation chair) of Jackson, Ala.; Gip Kingry of Dothan, Ala.; Antonius Barnes of Lynn Haven, Fla.; Woods Lisenby of Dothan, Ala.; Dawn Hare of Monroeville, Ala.; Robert Powell of Dothan, Ala.; and John Sherer of Selma, Ala.

Clergy delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference were John Ed Mathison (vice-chair) of Montgomery, Ala; Reba Wiley of Demopolis, Ala.; Karl Stegall of Montgomery, Ala.; Jeff Spiller of Mobile; Ala.; Larry Bryars of Shalimar, Fla.; Frederick Outlaw of Bay Minette, Ala.; and Rurel Ausley of Niceville, Fla.

Laity elected to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference were: James Hugh Kyzar of Andalusia, Ala.; Edna Williams of Tuskegee Institute, Ala.; Gene Floore of Destin, Fla.; Beverly Maddox of Robertsdakem Ala.; Phillip Dale Segrest of Tallassee, Ala.; Anne Varner of Auburn, Ala.; and Harold Faulkner of Montgomery, Ala. Alternates: Monette Walker of Navarre, Fla.; William Hill of Thomasville, Ala.; Guthrie Childs of Mobile, Ala.; and Harold Faulkner of Montgomery, Ala.

Clergy elected to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference were: Tim Thompson of Gulf Breeze, Fla.; Robert Spicer of Montgomery, Ala.; Robin Wilson of Montgomery, Ala.; Lawson Bryan of Montgomery, Ala.; David Goolsby of Auburn, Ala.; Wesley Wachob of Pensacola, Fla.; and George Mathison of Auburn, Ala. Alternates: Gorman Houston of Mobile, Ala.; Lester Spencer of Montgomery, Ala.; Donald Smith of Mobile, Ala.; and Mike Roberts of Pensacola, Fla.

For the 27th consecutive year, the conference marked a net increase in membership - the largest increase in a decade. Since 1970, there have only been two years that the conference did not have a net increase in members.

Membership stands at 149,195, up 1,253 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 68,857, down 304 from the previous year. Average church school attendance stands at 31,343, down 3,472 from the previous year.

"I rejoice in the efforts of this conference to take seriously the call to share the Good News," said Bishop Goodpaster. "Five years ago, I challenged this conference to have 150,000 members by 2008; that goal is just within our reach. Your primary task when you leave here is to tell people about Jesus Christ, live the Gospel way and invite and incorporate new believers."

-Meredyth Earnest