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2011 Florida Annual Conference

Florida Annual Conference

June 1-4, 2011, Tampa Convention Center

More than 1,600 members of the Florida Annual Conference gathered for a trial run for the 2012 United Methodist General Conference, which will convene in the same venue.

Election of delegates to General and Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences dominated the proceedings, but the conference also celebrated covenant partnerships with Methodist churches in Cuba, East Angola and Haiti. Members also approved a future direction for the conference's mission.

Balloting was interspersed throughout the meeting. The conference used electronic voting for the first time in several years. Some conference members noted that more delegates to General Conference under the age of 40 were elected this year. The youngest clergy delegate, the Rev. Emily Oliver, gave birth to a baby just three days before the opening of the conference.

Bishop Ricardo Pereira of the Methodist Church in Cuba visited the conference, preaching at a Service of Word and Table on June 2. In his sermon and in an interview, Pereira reported that the Cuban church has experienced a great revival, growing from 9,000 to more than 30,000 members in the past 10 years. The growth is due to evangelistic fervor and more freedom granted by the government, he said.

Offerings totaling about $45,000 at the conference were divided among partner churches in Cuba, East Angola and Haiti.

The conference ordained 10 elders in full connection and two deacons in full connection. The average age of the elders is 47. The average age of the deacons is 32.

Conference treasurer Mickey Wilson reported that giving was up by $1.6 million, and conference spending was about $500,000 less in 2010 than the previous year. Conference members approved a budget for 2012 of $17.8 million, a 1.8 percent increase, but an amount, Wilson said, that is less than the conference's budget from four years ago.

The Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, director of connectional ministries, gave conference members a preliminary look at the work of the Strategic Leadership Team, a group chosen by Florida Bishop Timothy Whitaker last year to articulate the conference's core purpose and to examine whether its ministries are in line with that purpose.

Fogle-Miller outlined vision-and-purpose statements as well as several core values developed by the Strategic Leadership Team. Conference members endorsed the team's direction.

Because the conference ran well behind schedule, several resolutions were not considered until after the scheduled time for adjournment. Some of the resolutions were intended to be submitted to General Conference and dealt with controversial subjects, including abortion and homosexuality. However, before the resolutions could be considered, the conference voted to table all of them.

One resolution considered earlier in the week received conference approval. A resolution on "Inclusivity (and) Anti-Racism in the Florida Annual Conference" denounced racism and committed the conference to "creating a multicultural environment of equity which moves us from race to relationship."

Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Mickey Wilson, delegation head, Lakeland; Sharon Luther, Fort Myers; Russ Graves, Melbourne; Orlando Garay, Cape Coral; Carlene Fogle-Miller, Lakeland; Jetro Jeune, Boynton Beach; Walter Dry, Spring Hill; Martha Duncan, Lakeland; Christopher Corbin, Lakeland; Janet Earls, Port Orange; and John Denmark, Largo.

Clergy delegates to General Conference: The Rev. Jorge Acevedo, delegation head, Cape Coral; the Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, Ocala; the Rev. Deborah McLeod, Jacksonville; the Rev. Jim Harnish, Tampa; the Rev. David Dodge, Lakeland; the Rev. Sharon Austin, Plant City; the Rev. Bob Bushong, Winter Park; the Rev. Geraldine McClellan, Gainesville; the Rev. David McEntire, Lakeland; the Rev. Catherine Fluck-Price, Lakewood Ranch; and the Rev. Emily Oliver, Lakeland.

Lay delegates to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference: Joyce Bright, delegation head, Casselberry; Allison Manning, Apopka; Perri Martin, Jacksonville; Rodney Akers, Brandon; Margaret Guyton, Tallahassee; Judith Pierre-Okerson, Miramar; Rod Groom, Fort Pierce; Emily Edwards, New Smyrna Beach; Carol Mack-Harrell, Ocala; Paulette Monroe, Daytona Beach; and Mark Thomas, Lakeland.

Clergy delegates to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference: The Rev. Wayne Wiatt, delegation head, Orlando; the Rev. Rinaldo Hernandez, Sarasota; the Rev. Annette Pendergrass, Gainesville; the Rev. Alex Shanks, Fort Lauderdale; the Rev. Clarke Campell-Evans, Tallahassee; the Rev. Matthew Hartsfield, Lutz; the Rev. Jacqueline Leveron, West Palm Beach; the Rev. Vicki Walker, Tampa; the Rev. Kenneth Johnson, Pembroke Pines; the Rev. Joe MacLaren, Oviedo; and the Rev. Kevin James Sr., Tampa.

Florida Conference membership stands at 294,497, down from 303,161 in 2009. Average worship attendance stands at 142,177, down from 146,690 in 2009. Church school attendance figures were not immediately available.

--Cary McMullen, manager of communication services