Skip Navigation

2013 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference

June 2-5, 2013
Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Ala.
Theme: "The Great Commission: Seeking Disciples"

Bishop Paul L. Leeland, presiding over his fifth annual conference session since becoming the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members toChrist United Methodist Church, Mobile.

Prior to this year's conference, Leeland urged the churches of the conference to receive a special offering for Hurricane Sandy Relief. The people of the conference responded by contributing more than $46,000. The offering collected at the ordination and commissioning service for the Ministerial Education Fund netted close to $2,500.A special offering for the Oklahoma tornado survivors was collected on Wednesday. More than $6,500 was generously donated.

The 2013 annual conference session was opened on Sunday evening with hundreds from throughout the conference gathering for worship. Bishop Lindsey Davis of the Louisville Area preached a sermon based on Matthew 28:18-20 and entitled "Our Primary Task." He encouraged our conference, "Make sure everyone in your congregation knows what you are about. It's making disciples. In this day of bombarding messages, you just have to be basic. We're here to make disciples." He continued saying, "Everything else that distracts us from our primary task; we need to quit doing. The United Methodist Church cannot afford vision slippage. We must have clarity so that we all carry this message in our DNA."

Combined choirs from Christ UMC provided inspiring music for the service including moving renditions of "No Other Name" and "10,000 Reasons." The Toulminville-Warren Street UMC choir was a special addition to this year's opening worship and received a standing ovation.

One deacon in full connection and seven elders in full connection were ordained, and two provisional deacons and five provisional elders were commissioned on the evening of June 3 at Dauphin Way UMC. The average age of those ordained is 41 years of age. One associate member was also presented. Prior to the start of the service, the chancel choir, brass quintet and men's ensemble of Dauphin Way UMC presented worshipful music led by John Ricketts.

Thirty-five clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during a Service of Commemoration and Holy Communion. The Rev. Debora Bishop of Spanish Fort UMC offered the inspiring sermon based on 1 Peter 5:1-3 entitled "Celebrating Examples to the Flock." She shared the achievements of each person who had died. A capacity crowd remembered those who have given many years of service to the conference. The conference Commission on Archives and History hosted surviving family members at a special luncheon.

Twenty-two clergy retiring this conference year were honored on Monday, June 3. Together, they represent more than 600 years of combined service to The United Methodist Church. The Rev. Ron Ball spoke on behalf of the retiring class.

During his episcopal address, Leeland acknowledged the clergy of our conference by having them stand and mentioned the sacrifices and stress often not seen by others. He expressed a moment of gratitude for starting 11 new churches within our conference and informed the congregation that the conference was starting a full-time, African-American church in the coming year. As part of his address, he invited Brandy Cole, wife of the Rev. Dunford Cole, to lead the conference in a Service of Repentance and Reconciliation for Native Americans.

More than 500 people were the hands and hearts of Christ in Mobile as a part of 2013 Mission Day. More than 1,500 combined volunteer hours were spent on 20 projects. Susan Hunt, conference director of mission and advocacy, led the effort. Close to 1,500 United Methodist Committee on Relief kits, assembled as part of this day, will be sent to the warehouse for immediate use.

The conference was honored and blessed by the outstanding leadership of several guest speakers. Dr. David Cann, the Cornelius and Dorothye Henderson Chair/E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Interdenominational Theological Center led two Bible study sessions. Bishop Davis of the Kentucky Annual Conference preached the opening worship service as well as the Ordination and Commissioning Service. Our conference was honored to welcome back home Dawn Wiggins Hare, general secretary, United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, who gave an informative church structure presentation at the laity session.

Several awards recognized outstanding leadership and service in the conference. Cam West, president of Huntingdon College,received the Francis Asbury Award. Norma Taylor Mitchell received the Alice Lee Award. The Denman Evangelism Award went to four recipients. The clergy winner was the Rev. Jeremy Mount of Perdido Bay UMC. Lay recipients were Mark Jackson, Mulder Memorial UMC; Robert Powell, First UMC, Dothan; and Brooke Herndon of Chickasaw UMC (youth winner).The Bishop's Award of Excellence in Scouting was presented to Julie Grace of Gulf Breeze UMC for her leadership. Tripp Gulledge, son of the Rev. Rob Gulledge, spoke to the laity about his involvement in Scouting. He became an Eagle Scout at age 16 and has not allowed the fact that he is blind to stand in the way of his achievements.

Dr. Lawson Bryan reported on the Apportionment Task Force that met to determine the fairness of the current formula (75 percent is financial strength, and 25 percent is membership). They studied the other conferences within the Southeastern Jurisdiction as a comparison. The recommendation is to continue use of the formula as a fair calculation. Dr. Wesley Wachob reported on the task force that met to determine the salaries of district superintendents. They took the average top 25 clergy salaries (excluding district superintendents and conference staff) and made that the salary of the district superintendent, which is $113, 637. The old formula took the top three salaries in each district. Dr. Robbins Sims reported a 4.28 percent increase in conference apportionments.

The conference established an$11.109 million budget for mission and ministry for 2014, level with 2013.

Dr. Steve Furr and Dr. Larry Bryars presented the proposed constitutional amendments from the 2012 General Conference. The voting body of the annual conference approved all.

Four petitions and two resolutions were presented to the annual conference. Three petitions were not passed, one was approved and two resolutions were approved. The petition approved allows a task force to "craft the guidelines by which persons (who wish to make known their desire and willingness to serve as a clergy delegate to the General and/or Jurisdictional Conferences) are provided the opportunity to share personal biographical information through the conference website." If adopted at the 2014 annual conference, it would be in time for the 2015 election cycle in our conference. One resolution passed "calls upon the Alabama delegation to the United States Congress and the Florida delegation to the United States Congress to join in a Congressional effort to pass federal immigration laws that provide for compassion, respect and justice for immigrant children, workers, and their families." The other resolution passed calls upon the Alabama legislature to "pass appropriate legislation to curb the activities of predatory lenders."

Membership stands at 145,049, down 1 percent from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 65,781, up 1 percent. Church school attendance stands at 26,830, down 5 percent. Covenant discipleship groups stand at 8,553, down 8 percent. Two areas that showed increases were participants in Christian formation groups, 70,042 (7 percent increase) and number of persons baptized, 2,154 (up 9 percent).

The next session of the Alabama-West Florida annual conference will be held June 1-4, 2014, at Frazer Memorial UMC. Montgomery First United Methodist Church will host the Ordination Service. 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.

- Mary Catherine Phillips, director of communications, Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference