The 2013 Alabama–West Florida Annual Conference was held June 2-5 in Mobile, AL, with the theme, “The Great Commission: Seeking Disciples.” Bishop Paul L. Leeland, presiding over his fifth annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Christ UMC in Mobile.
Prior to this year’s conference, Bishop Leeland urged the churches of the conference to receive a special offering for Hurricane Sandy Relief. The people of the AWF Conference responded by contributing over $46,000. The offering collected at the ordination and commissioning service for the Ministerial Education Fund collected close to $2,500. A special offering for the Oklahoma tornado survivors was collected on Wednesday. Over $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 the sermon based on Matthew 28: 18-20 and entitled, "Our Primary Task." He encouraged our conference to, "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 was shown appreciation from the congregation with 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. 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. Rev. Debora Bishop
of Spanish Fort UMC
offered the inspiring sermon based on I Peter 5: 1-3 entitled, "Celebrating Examples to the Flock." She featured each person who had passed in a special way by telling of their past achievements. 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 AWF Commission on Archives and History.
Twenty-two clergy retiring this conference year were honored on Monday, June 3. Together, they represent over 600 years of combined service to the United Methodist Church. Rev. Ron Ball
spoke on behalf of the retiring class.
During his Episcopal address, Bishop 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 eleven 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 Rev. Dunford Cole, to lead the conference in a Service of Repentance and Reconciliation for Native Americans.
Over 500 people were the hands and hearts of Christ in the City of Mobile as a part of 2013 Mission Day. A total of over 1,500 combined volunteer hours were spent on 20 projects. This effort was led by Susan Hunt, AWF Director of Mission & Advocacy. Close to 1,500 UMCOR relief kits were assembled as part of this day and 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 & Dorothye Henderson Chair/E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Interdenominational Theological Center led two Bible Study sessions. Bishop Lindsey Davis
of the Kentucky Conference preached the opening worship service as well as the Ordination & Commissioning Service. Our conference was honored to welcome back home Dawn Wiggins Hare, General Secretary of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, who gave an informative church structure presentation at the laity session.
Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. President Cam West of Huntingdon College received the Francis Asbury Award and Norma Taylor Mitchell received the Alice Lee Award. There were four recipients of the Denman Evangelism Award: The clergy winner was Rev. Jeremy Mount
of Perdido Bay UMC
. Lay recipients were Mark Jackson of Mulder Memorial UMC
, Robert Powell of Dothan First United Methodist Church
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 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 the he is blind to stand in the way of his achievements.
Spiritual directors from around the conference led prayers at the beginning of all sessions and a compelling addition again to this year's conference was the showing of eight district videos that informed the conference about how each district seeks disciples. To see the video archive, click here
Dr. Steve Furr and Dr. Larry Bryars
presented the proposed constitutional amendments from the 2012 General Conference. All were approved by the voting body of the annual conference.
A total of 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 information about themselves 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."
Dr. Lawson Bryan reported on the Apportionment Task Force that met to determine the fairness of the current formula (75% is financial strength and 25% 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% increase in conference apportionments.
The conference established an $11.109 million budget for mission and ministry for 2014, level with 2013.
Membership stands at 145,049, down 1 % from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 65,781, up 1%. Church school attendance stands at 26,830, down 5%. Covenant discipleship groups stand at 8,553, down 8%. Two areas that showed increases were Participants in Christian Formation Groups and Number of Persons Baptized; 70,042, 7% increase and 2,154, 9% increase, respectively.
The clergy appointments for 2013-2014 may be found online here.
The 2014 session of the AWF 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 Rev. Jeff Spiller for their hospitality during this year's annual conference.