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2011 North Alabama Annual Conference

North Alabama Conference - June 2 - 4, 2011 by Danette Clifton, Director of Communication

Methodism first entered the North Alabama area through the Tennessee Valley, and for the first time in 58 years, the Conference returned to the Huntsville area as the 2011 North Alabama Conference at Asbury UMC in Madison. The conference's theme was "Healthy Congregations." Bishop William H. Willimon presided. The Rev. Sherill Clontz served as Conference Secretary. Three retired UMC Bishops participated in worship and business sessions throughout conference Bishop Robert Fannin, Bishop Lloyd Knox and Bishop Bob Morgan.

The guest teacher was Brian McLaren. He encouraged the Church to focus on a new kind of evangelism and be aware that "people need a human being they can have a conversation with about religion."

On Friday morning, conference members experienced holy time as they paused for an extended time of prayer led by Bishop Willimon and Asbury UMC senior pastor, the Rev. Alan Weatherly. The prayer time focused on those directly affected by the devastating storms of April 27 and the clergy of the conference. Lay members of Asbury UMC's prayer ministry prayed with each individual who approached the altar.

During the annual memorial service, retiring elder the Rev. Reagin Brown preached a sermon titled "Nothing," based on Romans 8:28-39. The conference remembered the 37 clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the past year.

On Friday evening, two pieces of American Methodist history the Frances Asbury Bible & Wesley's Chalice from Historic St. George's UMC in Old City, Philadelphia were used during the service of ordination as the conference celebrated the ordination of one deacon and 17 elders and recognized three associate members. Bishop Willimon preached a sermon titled "Don't be afraid," which were words of encouragement to the ordinands.

On Saturday morning, the conference commissioned one provisional deacon and seven provisional elders. Thirteen newly licensed local pastors were also recognized.

When business began on Friday morning, the first report heard was a celebration of growing more disciples. The evangelism team announced the winners of the annual Harry Denman Evangelism Awards: Robert Riggs (lay), Wannell Scott (lay) and J. David Sherrell (clergy).

In further business, the conference also:

  • elected Delegates to the 2012 General Conference and the 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference:

    • Laity General Conference Delegates: Gloria Holt, Scott Selman, Pat Meadows, Steve Lyles, Neal R. Berte, Ellen Harris

    • SEJ Delegates: Carol Toney, Zac Riddle, Reid Turner, Eric Owens, Charlie Carlton, Terry Walker

    • Clergy General Conference Delegates: Mark Parris, Bill Morgan, Kelly Clem, Robert Sparkman, Paul Hillard, Robin Scott

    • SEJ Delegates: Julie Holly, Tommy Gray, Glenn Conner, Dale Cohen, Alan Head, Wade Griffith
  • elected Steve Lyles the new conference lay leader.

  • heard from Adam Neal of the General Board of Global Ministries who thanked North Alabama for nearly one million dollars given to UMCOR and The Advance in 2010.

  • heard a report from the new director of the Conference Camp Sumatanga Matt Johnson.

  • recognized the 21 clergy who are retiring this year.

  • heard the connectional ministries report from Linda Holland who highlighted the major efforts the conference and its churches have made in disaster response since the April 27 tornadoes, which caused destruction in all eight districts of the conference. The Rev. Matt Lacey and the Rev. Nancy Cole further discussed the disaster response and the conference's commitment to long-term recovery from the storms.

  • heard a report on natural church development .

  • passed the 2012 budget of $9.1 million. This is a 14.97% reduction from 2011.

  • announced that the Rev. Joe Elmore and Debbie Wade won the annual North Alabama COSROW Branscomb Barrier Breaker Awards.

  • heard from the Rev. Clay Farrington, the conference youth coordinator, who announced two upcoming events Bread and Butter training for youth workers and the conference-wide "Encounter" youth retreat.

  • introduced the new president of Birmingham-Southern College Gen. Charles "Chuck" C. Krulak and accepted his invitation for the North Alabama Conference to hold its 2012 meeting on the campus of BSC.

The Conference celebrated its 2,560 professions of faith during 2010. Membership stands at 143, 470 down 3,927 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 70,617, down 3. Church school attendance stands at 35,520, down 1,665.