Conference History

Even before Alabama became the twenty-second state to join the Union on December 14, 1819, circuit riders were appointed to the Tombigbee Circuit. In 1808 Rev. Matthew Sturdivant was appointed from the South Carolina Conference.   In 1812 pastoral appointments to Alabama were made from the Tennessee Conference. From 1813 through 1831 appointments were made from the Mississippi Conference. In 1832 the Alabama Conference was organized. The conference was directed by four “Elders” one for each of the districts.

From 1809-1829 all churches were in The Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1829 there was a split in the church because some members did not like having bishops, and the Alabama Conference of The Methodist Protestant Church was organized. In 1845 there was another split over the issue of slavery and the Alabama Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church, South was organized. The Mobile and Montgomery Conferences replaced the Alabama Conference from 1864-1869. The churches might be in The Methodist Episcopal Church, The Methodist Protestant Church, or The Methodist Episcopal Church, South within the two conferences. In 1870 the Alabama Conference and the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South were organized. 

In 1939 The Methodist Church was organized on a national level from the merger of the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Protestant, and the Methodist Episcopal, South churches. Also the Jurisdictional system was organized. Five jurisdictions were organized according to geographical regions of the country. The Central Jurisdiction was organized to include all of the black churches regardless of geographical location. Therefore, in Alabama there were three conferences – the Alabama Conference, the North Alabama Conference, and the Central Alabama Conference. With the merger of the three branches in 1939, all churches (Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Protestant, Methodist Episcopal, South) in Alabama were in The Methodist Church.

In 1956 the Alabama Conference changed its name to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. However, only one Bishop was elected from the Southeastern Jurisdiction for both the North Alabama Conference and the Alabama-West Florida Conference.  With the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren in 1968, all churches are now in The United Methodist Church. This same year the Central Alabama Conference was abolished and the North Alabama and Alabama-West Florida Conferences were reorganized to include the black churches with the geographical boundaries of the respective conference. The two conferences continued to share one Bishop until 1988 when Bishop Charles Hancock was appointed to the Alabama-West Florida Conference (Episcopal Area).

Over the many years the districts of the conferences have changed from four to nine and now to eight in the Alabama West Florida Conference. Each district has an appointed District Superintendent. In 2008 and again in 2012 Bishop Paul Leeland was elected by the Southeastern Jurisdiction to serve as the Bishop for the Alabama West Florida Conference.