Morning Worship: Day three of annual conference began with morning worship and Holy Communion. Rev. Amanda Messer, a deacon at Ashland Place UMC, offered the greeting and prepared the table for communion. Rev. Sung Kuk Hong of The Lord's Church of Montgomery presented the scripture reading, John 5:1-9, and offered the sermon message. Rev. Angie Long from Greenville FUMC presided over communion. Robert McMichael and Jarvis Wilson lead an incredible and uplifting version of, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" to conclude the service. Bishop Graves affirmed Rev. Hong's ministry and cited that The Lord's Church of Montgomery is the fastest growing Korean church in the country.
Morning Teaching Sessions: Claire Bowen and Dr. Victor Dingus presented the morning teaching sessions. Bowen, a lay person from the North GA Conference and member of Peachtree Road UMC, invited clergy and lay members to sit with one another by local church and district. Her presentation engaged the members about planning and visioning. She asked clergy and lay members to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the following statements (and an answer on the last):
-I understand our communities needs and demographics;
-I am clear about what our church has done well in the past;
-We have communicated inspiring vision which guides us;
-These are my hopes and dreams for the church I serve.
She has been engaged with the Alabama-West Florida Conference since September of 2016 leading various on-boarding sessions with Bishops Graves. Click here for her presentation.
Dr. Victor Dingus presented the second teaching session of the morning. He continued the theme Claire Bowen began with how to do an accurate assessment of your church. These core work questions can help any church, regardless of size, evaluate where to go next:
-Who are we now?
-What is our purpose now?
-Who is our neighbor now?
-What is our next step now?
His passion, Next Step Ministries, believes their solution to the decline in the church today is a proven model based in an indigenous understanding of transformation, utilizing the existing resources of the local church, while seeking the direction of God for this time and place in ministry. Click here for his presentation.
Business Sessions: Robert McMichael and Jarvis Wilson led the attendees in several moving musical selections. Various reports were given throughout the day from the Journal Committee, Standing Rules, Resolutions and Petitions, Connectional Ministries, Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry and the United Methodist Children's Home, to name a few. Bishop Lawson Bryan sent greetings from a video message to the conference. The South Georgia Annual Conference is meeting simultaneously as the Alabama-West Florida Conference. He expressed his thanks to his home conference for their support over the past year both to his family and through conference support after natural disasters in South Georgia. Details on some of these reports are below. As a conference we continued to celebrate the inspirational stories from our districts through video glory sightings. Click here to watch the Marianna-Panama City District video, featuring Panama City FUMC; here to watch the Mobile District video, featuring Ashland Place UMC; here to watch the Montgomery-Opelika District video, featuring Embrace Church; and here to watch the Montgomery-Prattville District video, featuring Montgomery FUMC. The 2017 Missional Offering for local mission agencies has received $45,107 thus far. Thank you for your generosity! If you have not yet donated, see Frank Dunnewind or you may text to give.
Proposed Constitutional Amendments: Five amendments from General Conference 2016 were brought before all annual conferences in the denomination. Click here to read the proposed amendments. The amendments could be discussed but could not be amended. Per the instructions from the general church, results of these votes will not be reported by annual conference. The collective results will be announced at a later date.
Hispanic Translation Services: New this year for conference was the availability of translating devices for Hispanic clergy and lay during business sessions. Erika Glawson, AWF Assistant to Ministerial Services, provided translation services, as did Demetria Weekly of Birmingham, AL. This service was a result of a spring meeting with Hispanic leaders and conference staff where it was indicated this would allow our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters to be more engaged at conference. Listening devices were also provided for those who are hearing impaired.
Connectional Ministries: Rev. Nancy Watson delivered the Connectional Ministries report. She updated the conference on the various ministries making an impact in Alabama and West Florida. The office has undergone some realignment to better serve the local churches as a response to what has been requested. Watson said, "We exist to help the local church." She reported that the conference Website is now available in Korean and Spanish. Bishop Graves and the connectional ministries have made a concerted effort to meet in small groups to hear what the needs are from groups like Hispanic ministries, Ethnic ministries and small membership churches. Kristi McClellan is now a contract grant writer with the conference to be able to assist our local mission agencies. She has applied for well over $200,000 in grants in just a few short months. Rev. Jeremy Steele of Christ UMC and his team have expanded their efforts to train youth leaders and volunteers. The Antioch Project is also another area helpful to local churches that will continue with current staff. Rev. Dan Pezet congratulated Gonzalez UMC on being the first church in the conference to officially complete the Antioch Project from inception to completion. Pezet asked anyone who has been involved with the Antioch Project to stand and be recognized.
Francis Asbury Award: Dr. James R. (Jimmy) Jeffcoat received the Francis Asbury Award today, presented by Rev. Scott Hohn of Eufaula FUMC. Dr. Jeffcaot currently serves as the Associate Professor of Religion at Huntingdon College. Rev. Hohn also recognized the Wesley Foundations at seven colleges and universities around our areas and introduced those affiliated with them who were present. As part of this Campus Ministry & Higher Education report, Lane Estes, Chief of Staff, on behalf of Birmingham-Southern College and President Cam West of Huntingdon College brought greetings to the annual conference.
Denman Evangelism Award: There were three winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. The clergy winner is Rev. Andres Doimeadios of Casa De Dios Gateway Of Heaven. The Lay recipients is Malcolm Smith of Canton Bend UMC and the youth recipient is Brett Herndon from Chickasaw UMC.
Alice Lee Award: This award goes to someone who was inspired by Alice's service and has chosen a path of service of their own. This year's recipient is Daphne Johnston of Montgomery FUMC for her work on the adult Respite Ministry Program. This is the 25th year for this special award.
One Matters Award: Parker UMC is the inaugural winner of this award given by the AWF Town and Country Commission. Rev. Lance Eiland of Robinson Springs UMC presented this award and showed a video explaining why just one person or one church can make a significant impact on our denomination. The church will also receive a $1,000 award. Seventy-three churches in our conference went from zero professions to at least one in 2016. Parker UMC went from zero to eight and significantly expanded their children's ministry. Rev. Gary Stringfellow accepted the award on behalf of the church.
UMC Federal Credit Union Scholarship: Caroline Barrett of Marion United Methodist Church was presented a $1,000 scholarship on behalf of the United Methodist Federal Credit Union. Keith Pritchard presented the award from the credit union.
Resolutions: Two resolutions were presented to the annual conference voting body at today's session. A Resolution Concerning the Welfare of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in the Alabama-West Florida Conference was amended to include the state of Florida and approved. A Resolution Concerning Adequate, Long-term Funding for Alabama Medicaid was also approved with an amendment to include the state of Florida. Church and Society had previously accepted an amendment changing the Governor's name from Robert Bentley to Kay Ivey. Revised copies of the amended resolutions will be posted on the conference Website in the coming days.
Special Called Session: Bishop Graves reminded the voting members of the special called session of General Conference. The current delegation, which was elected two years ago, was recognized and will continue to represent the Alabama-West Florida Conference at the special called session in Missouri in February of 2019. Dr. Larry Bryars will move to the head of the delegation and Rev. June Jernigan will move from first alternate to a general conference delegate.
Laity Banquet: Under the leadership of Beverly Maddox, the laity celebrated their work at the annual banquet. A highlight of the evening was the entertainment by Huntingdon College students Ryan Dean, Jarred Billups, and Olivia Harris. The Mary Ellen Bullard Leadership Address was given by Patricia Barnes, or famously known as Sister Schubert. Sister is known throughout the country for her world-famous dinner rolls but has a special testimony. She expressed that she never set out to make money but instead, to find her purpose in life. She inspired the laity by reminding them that it is through their work that people will find Jesus. "The rolls are a way to gather around the kitchen table and have a mission to connect and bring people together," said Barnes. The blessings of her business have allowed her to help others. She continued, "The gifts you bring in lay service go beyond any words I could express." Click here for local coverage on her visit to our conference. Frank Moore, AWF UMM President, presented the third annual Susanna Wesley Award for Excellence. The recipient of this annual award is Helen Meigs Edwards of Church Street UMC in Selma, AL. Her nomination letter summarized Helen's dedication by saying, "Helen Edwards embodies John Wesley’s Theology; Faith, Grace and Works! She has used her gifts of love, wisdom, drive, intelligence, determination and passion to serve the church, her family, brothers and sisters in Christ as well as numerous communities. Helen Edwards has always told me that you cannot make things better if you are not willing to be a part of the solution."
UMCOR Relief Kits: Tomorrow is the last day to bring your UMCOR relief kits and supplies to the truck in the parking lot. All assembled and unassembled kits and supplies are welcome. The truck will be open to receive the kits and supplies Wednesday from 7:30am-11:00am.
View photos from the 2017 Annual Conference session (added daily, all photos by Luke Lucas).
Watch selections of the 2017 Annual Conference LIVE from your home or office.
Remaining Streaming Schedule
All sessions available at www.frazerumc.org/live and all times are CDT.
Wednesday, June 7
-Morning Worship and Communion, 8:30am
-Conference Business Session, 9:30am
-Sending Forth Service, 11:00am
Get a Copy: CD and DVD copies of many portions of annual conference are available for purchase. Click here for the order form.
Follow the action of the conference live. New this year is a custom Snapchat Geofilter! It will be available throughout conference. Find the photos and share with us on various social media platforms. Don't forget to tag it with #awfac17.
Hashtags: Use #awfac17 to join the Twitter conversation and to tag your Instagram photos.
Stay connected throughout Annual Conference at http://www.awfumc.org/ac2017.