2014 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference
June 1-4, 2014 at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church, Montgomery, Ala.
The 2014 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference was held June 1-4 in Montgomery, Ala., with the theme, “The Great Commission: Engaging Disciples.” Bishop Paul L. Leeland, presiding over his sixth annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery.
Prior to this year's annual conference, Bishop Leeland announced an initiative to save 100,000 lives through Imagine No Malaria. The people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference responded by contributing more than $322,600 — an opening worship missional offering record. To date, we have saved 57,000 lives!
To follow progress as it continues, visit www.awfumc.org/INMProgress. Over $2,500 was raised at the Service of Ordination for the Ministerial Education Fund, and $5,626 was raised at the Service of Commissioning for the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Endowment Foundation. A special offering was also collected for the Pensacola and Baypines flood relief efforts; over $6,000 was raised for those efforts.
The Opening Worship Service of the 2014 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference session was held Sunday evening, June 1, in the sanctuary of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. President J. Cameron West of Huntingdon College preached the sermon based on Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 and titled, “Christianity is a Full-time Job.” He told of real-life stories exemplifying what it means to be a disciple in ministry and what Jesus requires of us to serve the present age. He stated that Christianity is a calling and a full-time job but does require rest — the kind only God can give. A mass choir from around the conference, and led by Wayne Sigler of Frazer, provided inspiring music for the service including moving renditions of, “Behold Our God” and “10,000 Reasons.” The Old Testament Lesson was read by Samantha Bullinger and Woods Lisenby gave the Gospel lesson. The Revs. Bessie and Elvyn Hamilton delivered the Psalter readings.
Two separate services were held this year to accommodate those being commissioned and ordained. The Service of Ordination was held in the sanctuary of Montgomery First United Methodist Church in beautiful Cloverdale Park on Monday, June 2, 2014. Those in attendance represented family members and special friends of those being ordained. A historic moment was the ordination of three associate pastors all serving the same church at the same time. Those pastors are the Revs. John Blount, Jay Cooper and Gillian Lisenby Walters.
Prior to the start of the service, the cathedral choir of Montgomery First United Methodist Church presented special music led by Jack Horner. The service included the ordination of three deacons in full connection and 12 elders in full connection. It also included the presentation of one associate member. West preached a sermon titled, “Are You out of Your Mind?” based on Mark 3:13-27.
The Service of Commissioning was held on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, in the sanctuary of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. One provisional deacon and six provisional elders were commissioned at this service. The Rev. Dan Godwin was also commissioned as a missionary. Dr. Karl K. Stegall preached the sermon based on Romans 12:1-17 titled, “If I Were Being Commissioned Today?”
Thirty-four clergy and clergy spouses who had passed since the 2013 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference session were remembered today during the Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion. Rev. Jackie Slaughter of Capitol Heights United Methodist Church offered the inspiring sermon based on Matthew 28: 1–10 titled, “Resurrection Love Letters.” She spoke of God's promise by saying, “Don’t be afraid for God gives us the ability to keep our footing, to persevere even though we are in the midst of our deepest grief and sadness.” A capacity crowd remembered those that have given many years of service to the conference. Surviving family members were hosted at a special luncheon by the Alabama-West Florida Commission on Archives and History.
Twenty-one clergy were recognized upon their retirement by Dr. Jim Sanders. Together, they have over 587 years of service in our conference. The Rev. John Bonner spoke on behalf of the retiring class. A reception was held Monday afternoon in honor of the retiring clergy.
Bishop Leeland, presiding over his sixth annual conference, delivered his episcopal address. He emphasized The Great Commission–that in order to make disciples we baptize, teach and obey in order to go. He also expressed and explained how the conference leadership uses the “SEND” Model of Seeking, Engaging, Nurturing and Deploying Disciples. Bishop Leeland stated every congregation can be an invitational and missional church regardless of your location, regardless of your size. He continued to tell of the various tools that are constantly changing and the language shifts but it never changes our mission of making disciples. He also emphasized the newer role of the district superintendent, or the chief missional strategist. The newer role involves teaching Sunday school, preaching, coaching, making connections with the laity, mentoring churches, building teams and vision casting. He highlighted several churches currently engaging in successful clergy and lay partnerships to further accept new, emerging ministries. Bishop Leeland concluded with “The State of the Church,” which includes the comprehensive plan of inclusiveness, his new clergy reading group, the addition of 35 new spiritual directors, residency in ordained ministry groups, the youth ministry leaders round table, and small group incubators, to name a few. All of those things have happened in the last 60 months.
A special presentation was given by Amelia Fletcher, Alabama-West Florida disaster response coordinator; The Rev. Shawn York of Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church and the Rev. Jim Moore of Marlow United Methodist Church. Powerful photos and a video were shown and a special offering of over $6,000 was collected to assist with the flood recovery efforts.
The conference was honored by the outstanding leadership of several guest speakers. Dr. Elaine Heath, McCreless Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, led two Bible study sessions. President West of Huntingdon College preached the opening worship service as well as the Service of Ordination. Dr. Karl K. Stegall addressed his own conference at the Service of Commissioning. We welcomed Rev. Farley Stuart of the Kentucky Annual Conference who presented to the Alabama-West Florida Conference about the Red Bird Missionary Partnership. Kim Hendrix gave the Mary Ellen Bullard Leadership Address at this year’s laity banquet. We were also honored to have with us Bishop Silvio Cevallos from the United Evangelical Methodist Church of Ecuador.
Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. Jeroy Carroll from Toulminville-Warren Street United Methodist Church received the Francis Asbury Award and The Rev. Tonya Elmore of Enterprise First United Methodist Church received the Alice Lee Award. There were three recipients of the Denman Evangelism Award: The clergy winner was the Rev. Kathy Lincks Jorgensen of Dauphin Way United Methodist Church. The lay recipient was Jared Parker of Millbrook First United Methodist Church, and the youth recipient was T. Matthew Langford of Greenville First United Methodist Church.
Dr. Wesley Wachob of Pensacola First United Methodist Church presented the results of the task force concerning the election of clergy delegates to general and jurisdictional conference. The task force made two proposals: an addition to the standing rules and an addition of optional biographies to the clergy directory on the website as well as boxes that can be checked to indicate one's desire to be a candidate. The report was approved by the conference with two amendments.
Three resolutions passed before the annual conference. One for prison reform in Alabama, one for healthcare for the poor in Alabama and one against predatory lending. Copies of those approved resolutions may be found here.
The conference established a $10.952 million budget for mission and ministry for 2015, a 1.41 percent reduction from 2014. The minimum pastor’s salary was approved at $35,000.
Membership stands at 141,989, down 2 percent from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 65,110, down 1 percent. Church school attendance stands at 25,831, down 3 percent. Some areas that showed increases were participants in Christian Formation Groups; 75,789 and up 7 percent and vacation Bible school increased by 2 percent. People served by community ministries for day care and or education increased by 40 percent to 26,819. People served by community ministries for outreach, justice and mercy increased by 18 percent to 461,107. Professions of faith stand at 2,484, down 2 percent and baptisms stand at 2013, a less than 1 percent decrease.
2,880 UMCOR relief kits were collected throughout conference — thank you for your efforts. We welcomed over 100 health plan participants to the wellness screenings on Monday and Tuesday.
The clergy appointments for 2014-2015 may be found online here.
The 2015 session of the AWF Annual Conference will be held May 31-June 3, 2015, at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. Montgomery First United Methodist Church will host the Ordination Service. We express our sincere appreciation to these staffs for their outstanding hospitality.
— Mary Catherine Phillips, office of communication