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2008 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference

June 1-4, 2008, Montgomery, Ala.

The 2008 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference convened at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. The theme "Amazing LoveGreat Grace" combined Acts 4:33 with the Charles Wesley hymn "And Can It Be."

The gathering opened June 1 with a 60-voice choir of youth from churches throughout the conference.

Prior to this year's conference, Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster challenged churches to raise $60,000 for the Ganta Hospital in Liberia (Advance # 982168) as part of the conference's recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Advance for Christ and His Church. As of June 6, with donations still coming in, the people of the Alabama-West Florida conference had raised almost $70,000.

Worship leadership was provided by Goodpaster, Alabama-West Florida Area; Bishop Robert C. Morgan, retired; and the Rev. Donald Smith, senior minister of Toulminville-Warren St. United Methodist Church, Mobile, Ala.

The Rev. Laceye Warner, associate professor of evangelism and Methodist studies at Duke Divinity School where she also serves as associate dean for academic formation and programs, led morning Bible studies highlighting Wesleyan teachings. The Rev. Adam Hamilton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., provided three teaching sessions on "Leading Beyond the Walls" on June 3. Shawn Bakker, director of the Advance, spoke on June 3 commemorating the designated giving agency's 60th anniversary.

In business matters, the conference:

  • Established a $17 million budget for mission and ministry for the next year, up 3.78 percent from 2008;
  • Recognized Mary Esther (Fla.) United Methodist Church as a "Church for All God's Children;"
  • Adopted a resolution dealing with tax fairness issues in Alabama;
  • Voted to send the United Methodist Publishing House contribution of $9,703 to the Central Conference Pension Initiative;
  • Elected Steve Furr of Jackson, Ala., as the new conference lay leader;
  • Honored Mary Ann Pickard upon her retirement as conference archivist, a position she has held since 1976;
  • Recognized Skipperville (Ala.) United Methodist Church with the Local Church Heritage Award;
  • Celebrated two winners of the Denman Evangelism Award: Irving Santos, lay pastor at The Grace Place United Methodist Church, Mobile, (lay winner), and the Rev. John Webb, pastor of Pace United Methodist Church, Pace, Fla. (clergy winner);
  • Recognized the first graduating class of the Rural Church Initiative at Huntingdon College;
  • Heard a Blue Lake Campaign update that $2 million of the $3 million goal has been raised to enhance and improve the conference's camp and assembly grounds; and
  • Recognized Samantha Baldwin, 10, of Crawford's Chapel United Methodist Church, Mobile, for her work in raising funds for the Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Liberia.

Two deacons and 11 elders were ordained as members in full connection. Ten clergy entering into a probationary relationship with the conference were commissioned (one probationary deacon, eight probationary elders and one probationary elder in a missional setting). Among those commissioned was Tsuchue Vang from Laos, where Bishop Goodpaster also serves as bishop.

Twenty-two retiring clergy were honored on June 2 representing 639 years of service to The United Methodist Church. Also, 28 clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during a service of commemoration.

A special highlight of the conference came June 1 when John and Mary Ellen Bullard of First United Methodist Church of Montgomery were recognized as the recipients of the 2008 Kresge Award given by the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation. The Bullards were nominated by Huntingdon College.

"Because of God's amazing love and great grace, we are the church and we grow toward becoming Acts 2 churches filled with faithful, fruitful disciples," said Bishop Goodpaster.

Professing Membership is 149,931, up 754. Average Worship Attendance is 68,333, down 524. Average Sunday School Attendance is 31,743, up 400 from previous year

Meredyth Earnest