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2012 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference

Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference
June 3-6, 2012, Mobile, Ala.

The 2012 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference was held June 3-6 in Mobile, Ala., with the theme, "Partnership in the Gospel... Serving the World." Bishop Paul L. Leeland, presiding over his fourth annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile.

Prior to this year's conference, Bishop Leeland urged the churches of the conference to receive a special offering for Imagine No Malaria. The people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference responded by contributing more than $54,000. The offering collected at the commissioning and ordination service for the Ministerial Education Fund collected more than $1,600.

The 2012 Annual Conference session was opened on Sunday, June 3, with hundreds from throughout the conference gathering for worship. The Rev. F. Belton Joyner Jr., delivered the sermon, "What Color was the Carpet" based on Philippians 1:3-5, asking attendees if partnership was the same as being in agreement. He said, "Partnership in the gospel is not about being in agreement, or already being in perfection, but about serving the world and in one another, and thus, serving God." A combined worship band provided inspiring music for the service including a moving rendition of "Holy, Holy, Holy."

One deacon and two elders were ordained as members in full connection, and one provisional deacon and11 provisional elders were commissioned on the evening of June 4 at Dauphin Way United Methodist Church. It also included the ordination of one being recognized from another denomination. Prior to the start of the service, the chancel choir, chancel ringers, brass quintet and men's ensemble of Dauphin Way United Methodist Church presented worshipful music led by John Ricketts.

Twenty-seven clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during a Service of Commemoration and Holy Communion. The Rev. George Mathison delivered the sermon, "The Hall of Saints." An overflow crowd remembered those that have given many years of service to the conference. Surviving family members were hosted at a special luncheon by the Conference Commission on Archives and History.

Twenty-seven clergy retiring this conference year were honored on Monday, June 4. Together, they represent 502 years of combined service to the United Methodist Church. The Rev. Fred Zeigler spoke on behalf of the retiring class, passing the torch to The Rev. Patsy Winford Gibson. Gibson represented the 2012 class of ordinands.

Ten "new places for new people" and three new ministries were highlighted at our recent Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference. New church starts, new second campuses, off-site services, new services, new ministry models and a church re-start are among the ways new people are being reached in small, mid-size, and large churches across the conference.

The conference was honored and blessed by the outstanding leadership of several guest speakers. Coach Mike Gottfried, former football player and coach and ESPN color analyst, gave the fourth annual "Mary Ellen Bullard Leadership Address" during Tuesday's Laity Banquet. Ben Witherington, professor of New Testament for doctoral studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, led the conference in two morning Bible studies. Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins professor of World Christianity and History of Mission and co-director at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission; Boston University School of Theology, led two teaching sessions.

Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. Dr. Gene Watson of Eufaula First United Methodist Church received the Francis Asbury Award and Dawn Wiggins Hare of Monroeville First United Methodist Church received the Alice Lee Award. The Rev. Kenneth Elwyn Autrey of Pensacola First United Methodist Church and The Rev. Freddie McCain of Skipperville United Methodist Church were co-clergy winners of the Denman Evangelism Award. This year's lay recipients are Stan Holmes of Woodbine United Methodist Church in the Pensacola District and Jeremy Fillingim of Creola United Methodist Church, Mobile District youth winner. Kathy Norberg of Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church and John Michael Ledkins, along with his parents and church pastor, the Rev. George Sedberry, of Thomasville United Methodist Church were all recognized for their outstanding work in scouting.

The Rev. Shirley Woodie, Alabama-West Florida conference secretary, was recognized by Bishop and Mrs. Paul Leeland for her outstanding leadership in our conference. Woodie will retire from her duties as conference secretary but will remain active in the conference.

The clergy appointments for 2012-2013 may be found online here.

A compelling addition to this year's conference was the showing of eight district videos at the beginning of various sessions that informed the conference about fruitful activities going on within each district. Each district superintendent presented this information about his or her respective district.

The conference also participated in an UMCOR relief kit drive yielding more than 1,275 relief kits.

The 2013 budget was established at $11.131 million for mission and ministry, down 2.61 percent from 2012.

The 2013 session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference will be held June 2-5, 2013, at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile. We express our sincere appreciation to the Christ United Methodist Church Leadership Team and the Rev. Jeff Spiller for their hospitality during this year's annual conference.

Membership stands at 146,782, down less than 1 percent from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 66,145, down 2 percent. Church school attendance stands at 28,131, down 2 percent. Small groups showed an increase: there was a 38 percent increase in people in covenant discipleship groups, 6 percent increase in short-term classes for learning of all ages and mission teams showed increases in all categories.