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2016 North Alabama Annual Conference

 

The North Alabama Conference gathered in Huntsville from June 5-7, 2016, for a 48-hour worship experience presided over by Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett. The conference focused on the theme of "Harvest: Sharing Christ" based on John 15:4-5.

During the three days together, North Alabama United Methodists heard challenging speakers, received ministry reports from Conference teams, recognized Glory Sightings from mission agencies and celebrated the collection and distribution of more than 70,000 new books as part of the Conference’s Bazillion Book Drive.

Throughout the conference, special guest Rev. Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor at Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida, challenged participants on faithfulness and fruitfulness.

He began by asking, “Could it be that our lack of fruitfulness in The United Methodist Church is a direct result of our lack of faithfulness?” Addressing the conference each day, he encouraged local congregations to reach out beyond their walls. He also discussed the importance of discipleship noting, “In creating a culture of discipleship in your church, the systems you create determine the harvest you will get.”

Bishop Young Jin Cho of the Virginia Annual Conference led a prayer experience each morning. Bishop Cho noted, “You have to pray in order to learn how to pray.” On Tuesday he underlined the importance of spiritual growth in church leaders and congregations noting, “Leadership has two important component: servant leadership and spiritual leadership.” He urged each person to spend at least one hour a day practicing the spiritual disciplines.  The conference accepted his suggestion with a symbolic, affirmative vote.

 On Monday evening, the conference held the annual Service of Licensing, Commissioning and Ordination at Trinity United Methodist Church. During the service, 18 new local pastors received their licenses, six provisional elders and four provisional deacons were commissioned (average age of 36), one associate member was commissioned and one deacon and eight elders were ordained (average age of 36).

 During times of business, the North Alabama Conference

  • Adopted three resolutions: a Resolution Concerning Climate Changea Resolution Concerning Closure of DMV Offices in Alabama and a Resolution Concerning Refugees.
  • Endorsed the Rev. Robin Scott as an episcopal nominee. 
  • Adopted a new Conference Budget Funding Method in which each local church will be asked to give a tithe (10 percent) of its unrestricted receipts.
  • Adopted a Conference Budget for 2017 of $10,155,717. This is a 0 percent increase over the current year’s budget. 
  • Heard reports from the four priority areas of Ministry with the Poor, Church Health, Ethnic Ministries and New Church Development.
     
    • During the Ministry with the Poor report, the conference celebrated the success of the Annual Conference Mission Project the Bazillion Book Drive. North Alabama Congregations have collected or purchased more than 70,000 books and distributed them to families and organizations working with under-resourced children 3rd grade and younger.  The team noted the next step in this project is to continue to build relationships with these agencies and families in each congregation’s local community
       
    • Welcomed the new Executive Director of Church Health Rev. Bob Alford.
    • Received a creative report from the Ethnic Ministries Team outlining a myriad of programs the team has to discover, develop and deploy spiritual leaders.
    • Celebrated the report from New Church Development noting that North Alabama Conference started 21 new communities of faith and in 2016 the Conference will start 34 new communities of faith.
  • Recognized the recipients of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. The clergy award went to Rev. Robert Lancaster. The laity award went to Carol Gargus, a member of Clearbranch United Methodist Church. For the first time, the conference also awarded a youth Denman award which went to Brett Staggs, a member of the Gathering Place United Methodist Church.
  • Recognized the recipient of COSROW’s Louise Branscomb Barrier Break Award Rev. RG Wilson-Lyons.
     
  • Recognized the 20 clergy who are retiring. 
  • Gave thanks for the ministry of the nine churches which are closing this year.
     
  • Received a report from the North Alabama Conference delegation regarding General Conference and had time when delegation members were available for questions related to General Conference.
     
  • Throughout conference, participants heard Glory Sightings from various conference Advance Specials including:
    • Glen Addie – a mission congregation in Anniston re-launching later this month as New Life UMC.
    • United Methodist Children’s Home – shared about their scholarship homes and higher education experience they provide young men and women
    • Upper Sand Mountain Parish – described its ministry of its nine congregations on Sand Mountain reaching out to the area through a variety of ministries and services
    • United Methodist Homes of Alabama and Northwest Florida – shared about the exciting change Fairhaven in Birmingham is undergoing as it converts to a household model of care for senior adults.
    • The Society of St. Andrew – shared about how volunteers gleaning fields helps provide food to hungry people.
    • Noah’s At Club – told the story of how Wilson Chapel United Methodist Church, grew its ministry to children through offering evening art classes each week. 

 Membership stands at 131,229 down 2,466 from the previous year.

 Worship attendance stands at 64,679 down 1,328.

 Church school attendance stands at 28,756 down 2,079.

 Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015 was 2,294 down from 2014 by 354.

 Adults and young adults in small groups for 2015 was 72,559 up from 2014 by 3,347.

 Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 39,048, up from 2014 by 5,719.

Danette Clifton, director of  Communication, North Alabama Conference.