2007 Florida Annual Conference
June 6-9, 2007, Lakeland, Fla.
Administrative matters and elections for delegates to next year's denominational and jurisdictional conferences dominated the 2007 Florida Annual Conference, while an emphasis on youth and global health concerns balanced out the nuts-and-bolts business of the gathering.
Under the theme "From Generation to Generation," the assembly of more 1,700 laity and clergy opened on a historic high note. More than 100 lay members ages 15 to 30 attended as part of a first-ever youth/young adult delegation. They represented each district of the conference and participated in all votes and actions of the business sessions. Their presence was the result of a mandate by last year's conference to more actively involve younger members this year.
A significant focus was on church health. The Rev. Jeff Stiggins, director of the conference's congregational transformation office, reported overall worship attendance has dropped by more than 15,000 people, or 9.3 percent, during the past five years, in a state that has seen a population increase of more than 5 million since 1990. Stiggins said the number of professions of faith has dropped 27 percent since a peak in 1997 of a little more than 10,000.
Despite those figures, Stiggins reported 48 percent of churches had increased worship attendance last year, and 340 churches had at least one profession of faith-with more than 200 churches having one every month.
New Church Development reported 86 new churches have begun since 1995-56 percent of which are racial, ethnic or language new starts. Nine new churches launched in 2006, and 10 have been launched so far this year. The goal for the next year is 23.
Members celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Cuba-Florida Covenant, signed in June 1997 at both the Florida and Cuba Methodist Church annual conferences, making official a relationship begun more than a century before. From 1883 to 1968, one bishop served both conferences.
Members of the nearly 140 Florida Conference churches have participated in the covenant, including traveling to Cuba to serve and worship there, connecting with about two-thirds of the approximately 230 Cuban Methodist churches.
The Rev. Armando and Icel Rodriguez Jr. were commissioned as missionaries to East Angola for a year in 2008 as part of the East Angola-Florida Partnership.
Members approved the Conference Table on Social Witness proposal that all conference churches commit to addressing children's issues, specifically ending hunger among Florida's children.
A U2charist service on June 8 featured communion, the music of the rock band U2 and a message urging all Christians to participate in the fight to end global AIDS and extreme poverty. More than 1,100 members of all ages attended, including youth groups and campus ministries from around the conference.
Members gave a little more than $127,307 to the annual mission offering, which will support the East Angola-Florida Partnership and a ministry to provide backpacks and school supplies to at-risk children and youth. Money given before and after the conference brought the total to slightly more than $133,281.
Three youth spoke during the business session June 9, a first-ever youth address mandated by last year's conference.
The push to include younger members carried over into the election of lay delegates to the 2008 General and Southeastern jurisdictional conferences. Members elected four delegates younger than 30 and three younger than 21.
Members approved a 2008 budget of slightly more than $17.3 million, which was 6.1 percent less than the 2007 budget.
Members approved a motion to table three resolutions related to church membership.
Members passed resolutions encouraging all conference churches to advocate for and be in ministry with immigrants; supporting the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries; and calling for a task force to study the comprehensive ministry needs of the conference's missional churches.
A resolution recommending secretaries of general agencies be elected by the Council of Bishops did not pass, nor did a proposal that the Florida Conference petition the 2008 General Conference to more clearly define the role of pastors in determining readiness for membership.
Members approved an African-American Comprehensive Plan that calls on the conference to make churches in urban areas more relevant, externally focused and a higher priority; to make worship in African-American churches more relevant through improved technology and training; and consider developing an African-American Church Redevelopment office.
Lay delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: William Walker III of Winter Park (delegation leader); Allison Mitchell of Cocoa Beach; John Denmark of Largo; Mary Alice Massey of Jacksonville; Rodney Akers of Seffner; Jeannie Jacques of Lakeland; Joyce Waldon Bright of Orlando; Walter Dry of Spring Hill; Teresita Matos of Orlando; Disney Weaver of Haines City; Judith Pierre-Okerson of Miami; Mickey Wilson of Lakeland; and William Graves of Melbourne.
Clergy delegates elected to General Conference are: Jorge Acevedo of Cape Coral; Jim Harnish of Tampa; Sue Haupert-Johnson of Cape Coral; David Dodge of Lakeland; Debbie McLeod of Miami; Anne Burkholder of Lakeland; David McEntire of West Palm Beach; Dan Johnson of Gainesville; Bob Bushong of Winter Park; Geraldine McClellan of Gainesville; Candace Lewis of Jacksonville; Clarke Campbell-Evans of Tallahassee; and Phil Roughton of Fort Lauderdale.
Lay delegates elected to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Jacob Lupfer of Kissimmee; Sarah Mitchell of Cocoa Beach; Paulette Monroe of Daytona Beach; Melanie Fierbaugh of Lutz; Oscar Negron of Pembroke Pines; Martha Gay Duncan of Lakeland; Suzanne Zipperer of Port Charlotte; John Dowell of Tampa; Jeffrey Stricklin of DeLand; Barbara Stricklin of DeLand; Aggie Reed of Miami; Pam Alexander of Port Orange; and Carol Mack-Harrell of Ocala.
Lay reserve delegates elected to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Janet Kelley of Ormond Beach; Nora Madan of Miami; Ellen Lyons of Tallahassee; Bud Fowler of Winter Park; Eduardo Rodriguez of Miami; Marian Goodman of Largo; and William Fackler of Jacksonville.
Clergy delegates elected to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Catherine Fluck Price of Bradenton; Wayne Curry of Largo; Preval Floreal of Miami; Moses Johnson Jr. of Jacksonville; Mont Duncan of Lakeland; Terri Hill of Melbourne; Marta Burke of North Miami Beach; Annette Pendergrass of Ormond Beach; Wayne Wiatt of Orlando; Joe MacLaren of Oviedo; Jeff Stiggins of Lakeland; Migdalia Icaza-Willetts of Tampa; and Vicki Walker of Tampa.
Clergy reserve delegates elected to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: David Brazelton of Jacksonville; Rinaldo Hernandez of Hialeah; E. Tracy Hunter of St. Petersburg; Kevin James of Tampa; Walter Monroe of Daytona Beach; Melissa Pisco of Coral Gables; and Lawrence Rankin of Lakeland.
Membership stands at 317,716, down 4,133 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 155,181, down 1,622. Church school attendance stands at 49,412, down 715.