(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Appointive Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in regular session last week in Montgomery. Bishop Leeland and the district superintendents reviewed several aspects of the ministry of the annual conference and our local congregations through the course of the meeting.
Dr. Herb Sadler, Director of the Academy for Congregational Excellence (ACE), provided an update to the Cabinet. 2012 marked the first full year of ACE, as it seeks to fulfill a vision of Effective Leaders, Fruitful Churches. Among the initiatives discussed were developing leadership skills through a monthly program on "Becoming a More Effective Leader." This course has 39 participants and is meeting at Frazer UMC on the third Thursday of January - November in 2013. Three classes on Excellence in Preaching are being held in the conference in Montgomery, Dothan and Pensacola. Self-Care for clergy has also been an area of focus, where participants commit to working with a personal trainer, improving personal nutrition, spending time in centering prayer, and taking part in a covenant group.
Pastors and key laity representing all eight districts have been trained in Dr. John Maxwell's biblically based leadership development program called EQUIP, with plans for a prayer walk from Atlanta to Montgomery. Additionally, an effort to encourage congregations to focus on becoming missional communities is being developed through quarterly intensive training events, with the next training scheduled for the Catapult Conference at Christ UMC, Mobile on April 29-May 1, 2013. And the Academy for Ministries with Children continues to provide a two-year paraprofessional certification program for local church workers, under the direction of Reverend Leigh Meekins.
The Cabinet affirmed Dr. Sadler and his leadership of ACE and celebrates the ways we are developing Effective Leaders and Fruitful Churches.
The remainder of the session focused primarily on preparatory work related to the upcoming appointment making session that will be held in April. The Cabinet reviewed the Board of Ministry policy with regard to the transfer of clergy from other annual conferences. Such clergy must serve two years in the bounds of the conference, complete psychological and background checks, sign a release of their supervisory files, and receive joint recommendation of the Cabinet and Board of Ordained Ministry to become a member of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. The consultation process for Staff (Pastor) Parish Relations Committees was reviewed as well, giving attention to the profiles of local congregations providing the Cabinet an accurate representation of the church for use during the appointment making session. Additionally, there was conversation regarding the expectations for district superintendents to be available, accessible, and visible, connected to the pastors and laity through teaching and preaching in congregations, relating to clergy and churches, mentoring and coaching leaders in the district, and casting a vision of ministry for the district.
As we move into our 2013 appointment season, the cabinet finds this to be a perfect time to point out that we, as United Methodists, are a “sent” people. The long and careful process of becoming ordained affirms that as ordained or licensed clergy we join our sisters and brothers who are also ordained or licensed to go where we are sent. This is our unique way of affirming a desire to live in God to serve the world, rather than to live in the world to serve God. We expect all who are licensed or ordained will live into this covenant. The very act of seeking ordination or licensing is an expression of our desire to be obedient to the church. This Wesleyan tradition of becoming a “sent”people allows us to remove our personal preferences, desires and interests, to serving where the church needs us.
Therefore, the district superintendents affirmed our cabinet policy to recognize those who are sent and appointed by the Bishop as the clergy of our annual conference. When local churches invite persons to serve on their church staff, we simply recognize them as lay employees and will not license them as clergy since they were not appointed by the Bishop. The cabinet affirms that when lay employees seek to become candidates and are licensed or ordained, they make themselves available at that time to become a sent clergy and are then available to be appointed where the church needs them.
The dates for the last Sunday in the current appointment, moving day, and the first Sunday in a new appointment for pastors that will be moving was set. Those dates are as follows:
Last Sunday in Current Appointment: June 23
Moving Day: June 25
First Sunday in New Appointment: July 7.
Further information pertaining to the moves will be shared with pastors and congregations in the upcoming weeks.
Please be in prayer for the Cabinet, the clergy and the congregations of the Alabama-West Florida Conference in this season of discernment as we prepare for the appointment making session next month. And as we journey toward Holy Week, may we all sense the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, remember his death, and celebrate with joy, the Resurrection that gives us certain hope that God is with us! Thank you for your leadership and for your work in the Kingdom!