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2009 North Alabama Annual Conference

North Alabama Annual Conference
June 4-6, 2009, Trussville, Ala.

The North Alabama Conference met at ClearBranch United Methodist Church with Bishop William H. Willimon presiding. The theme for the 2009 Annual Conference was one of the conference's priorities Empowering a New Generation of Christians.

The conference also announced a new fifth priority. Missions was added to the priorities of New Congregations, Natural Church Development, Effective Leadership for the 21st Century and Empowering a New Generation of Christians. All five of these priorities are meant to help the conference order and focus its work to fulfill its vision of "Every church challenged and equipped to grow more disciples of Jesus Christ by taking risks and changing lives."

The session began with a sense of fellowship and focus on the theme with a Family Picnic followed by a discussion of the 32 proposed United Methodist Constitutional Amendments. Delegates also participated in a June 4 memorial service at Huffman United Methodist Church during which 31 clergy and spouses who have died since last annual conference were remembered. Mickey Morgan gave a sermon titled "Passing on to a New Generation."

The opening worship focused on the Psalm 78:4, the conference's theme verse. Two North Alabama Clergy brought the sermon for the service -- Rev. Wade Langer, a young clergy who was commissioned as a provisional clergy during the Conference; and Rev. Bill Bostick, a retired clergy member.

The conference conducted business around its five priorities and delegates:

  • Approved a budget of $10,856, 843 (a reduction of $5,000 from the 2009 budget).
  • Heard an honest report about the financial crisis the conference camp and conference center, Camp Sumatanga, is now facing. The Rev. Bob Murray, executive director, noted that the biggest help to Sumatanga would be for churches to make more use of the camp and have more overnight events there. A motion was made that every congregation take a special offering for the camp within the next two months. A public challenge to find 100 people to each donate $1000 brought in nearly $82,000 in cash and pledges for the camp.
  • Heard the Statistician's Report from the Rev. Lori Carden who noted the death rate for North Alabama United Methodists in 2008 was 8 percent higher than the death rate for the state of Alabama. However, she also noted the loss in membership for 2008 is the smallest loss in a decade. Other good news included professions of faith increased by 401 people; ethnic membership was up by 689 people; baptisms were up by 115 people; and small group participation was up by 8425 people.
  • Heard a report from the new Director for the Center of Congregational Development, Tommy Gray who introduced the 2009 Denman Evangelism Award winners, Sherry Bassham and Rev. Melody Traylor, both of whom were recognized for their vibrant ministries with young people.

Conference delegates voted on the 32 proposed Constitutional Amendments, giving a negative response to all amendments related to the worldwide nature of the church. Delegates approved amendments IX, XV, XVII, XIX and XXII.

The conference also recognized 15 retiring clergy; ordained 14 new deacons and elders in full connection (half of whom are under 40 average age is 43); and commissioned 14 probationary (provisional) elders and deacons.

On June 6, much of the day was spent fulfilling the conference's vision of challenging and equipping local churches including ministry with new generations. These speakers included Mark DeVries from Youth Ministry Architects; René Rochester, president of Urban S.E.T. Inc. (Strengthening, Educating and Training); and Eddie Hammett & Randy Pierce, authors of the book "Reaching People Under 40 while Keeping People Over 60."

The sending forth service, led by Carrie Kramer Vasa, focused on the new conference priority of missions. The Conference ended with a concert for youth and young adults by Rush of Fools.

Membership stands at 149,473 down 852 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 72,106, down by 5. Total Christian Formation and other small groups participation stands at 129,196 up by 7,165.

-Danette Clifton