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2008 North Alabama Annual Conference

June 5-7, 2008, Trussville, Ala.

The North Alabama Annual Conference convened on the campus of ClearBranch United Methodist Church for its 139th session. The theme was "Hope" based on Hebrews 10:23.

Bishop William H. Willimon presided over the business sessions interspersed with times of worship led by song leader Dedric Cowser, a recent graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and an incoming student at Candler School of Theology.

Work focused around the conference vision of every church challenged and equipped to make disciples of Jesus Christ by taking risks and changing lives. The four conference priorities are: establishing new congregations; natural church development; effective leadership for the 21st century; and empowering a new generation of Christians.

The featured presenter was the Rev. Lovett H. Weems Jr., distinguished professor of church leadership and director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. His presentations focused on the conference's vision and priorities. "There is no future for United Methodism in America unless we can figure how to reach more people, younger people and more diverse people," he said. "If we reach more people &ellipsis; they will be younger and more diverse people." He encouraged clergy, members and congregations to make an effort to listen and reach out to younger people.

During its business together, the North Alabama Conference:

  • Ordained two deacons and 17 elders in full connection;
  • Celebrated the 2,567 professions of faith within the conference in 2007;\
  • Heard a report from the Board of Ordained Ministry explaining a downward trend in the number of elders serving in the North Alabama conference and a prediction that this trend will continue. The board encouraged conference members to ask promising young people if they have considered that God may be calling them into ministry and offered a resource to aid in those conversations;
  • Heard a presentation from the conference stewardship team proposing the conference change its budgeting and apportionment process so that each congregation would contribute 10 percent (a tithe) of its income toward connectional giving. Congregations were asked to pray about this proposal for the next year;
  • Announced the new Weekly Benchmark Reporting system, which will allow local churches to report benchmark statistics (worship attendance, membership, baptisms, professions of faith and connectional giving) on a weekly basis through an online reporting system;
  • Recognized the winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award for 2008: Don Barham; the Rev. Glenn Keedy and the Rev. Calvin Havens;
  • Recognized the winner of the 2008 Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker Award, the Rev. Sally Allocca;
  • Challenged every church to consider natural church development as a process to become a healthier disciple-making congregation;
  • Featured one of its new congregations, Community Church without Walls, an inner-city church using the house church model and led by Rev. R.G. Lyons;
  • Approved the conference budget of $10,861,055 for 2009;
  • Remembered clergy and clergy spouses who have died since the last annual conference meeting during a memorial service at Huffman United Methodist Church;
  • Heard the Laity Address presented by conference lay leader Ellen Harris;
  • Approved two sets of rule changes from the Committee on Procedure and Petitions to help align the Conference Call to Mission and Ministry to the current eight-district structure;
  • Learned about and was urged to contribute to the Central Conference Pension Initiative; and
  • Recognized the 200th anniversary of Methodism in Alabama as the Conference Historical Society presented several historical moments.

The conference celebrated its mission and advocacy work in both North Alabama and around the world through "mission moments" that began and ended each session. The conference mission offering was designated to the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign. Members also contributed to the campaign by paying to shoot basketball goals and an auction of autographed basketballs.

The 2008 annual conference commissioning service will be June 22 at Huntsville First United Methodist Church.

Membership stands at 150,348, down 1444 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 72,111, up down 754. Christian formation attendance stands at 122,031, up 6,916.

Danette Clifton