(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - Bishop Leeland and members of the Cabinet met this past week in a regularly scheduled session in Montgomery, AL. We celebrate the variety of ministries found across the conference and were able to receive updates on many of these initiatives during our gathering. Amelia Fletcher, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, provided essential information to guide superintendents in their role when an event occurs within the districts requiring assistance in response and recovery. Additional training has been scheduled for the Cabinet for later in the year. Fred and Laurel Blackwell, leaders of The Circles of Transformation ministry, an effort to eliminate the cyclical nature of poverty, shared about the expansion of this ministry from Dothan into Montgomery, Mobile, and Niceville, FL. They outlined a new aspect of the ministry creating "Circle Congregations" involving churches that take an interest in supporting and encouraging community development in their area. Reverend Neil McDavid, Director of Connectional Ministries, gave an overview of other ministries and programs of the conference, including the SBC 21 - Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century event which took place over the weekend.
Reverend June Jernigan, Director of Ministerial Services and Assistant to the Bishop, discussed changes to the Discipline affecting ordained ministry, particularly in the area of mentoring as the denomination shifts to a group mentoring model. Our Conference Board of Ministry is in the process of implementing this new mentoring approach under the direction of Dr. Alan Cassady and Reverend Kathy Knight. Other aspects of the conversation about Ordained Ministry included the legislation changing security of appointment and the upcoming hearings before the Judicial Council as well as a need for timely reporting of information and forms required by the denomination from local congregations and pastors.
Vital Congregations and the need for "turnaround" leaders continues to be an area of emphasis for the Cabinet. Superintendents will be in communication with local church leaders during the charge conference season regarding fruitfulness and vitality in our work to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The emphasis on the Great Commission is a central component to our call. In a season where many churches are diminishing or have plateaued in their witness and influence we are working to identify ways these congregations can reengage their particular context for the work of ministry in the world.
Superintendents were also given guidance on how to implement a decision from the Conference Council on Finance and Administration that calls for the financial services in each district to be provided by the Conference Fiscal Office. One district has already made the transition to this new system and other districts will begin the process in the upcoming months.
A significant amount of our time was spent participating in the Incubator process, under the direction of Spiritual Leadership Incorporated (SLI) directors, Greg Survant and Craig Robertson. We reviewed the Ministry Action Plan for the Conference and we seek to continue to work toward alignment of our resources, initiatives, and goals in the operation of the SEND model. The SEND model is the method in which we Seek, Engage, Nurture, and Deploy spiritual leaders for ministry in the conference and beyond. The SEND model effectively coordinates ministry across the diverse landscape of the conference, while providing the flexibility necessary to adapt to the local context for ministry.
We continue to celebrate the commitments of local churches toward the Connectional Giving and are hopeful that increases we have seen this year relative to last year will continue for the remainder of 2012. We are grateful for the many ways that clergy and laity across Alabama and West Florida seek to live in connection with each other and in mission to the world. We are excited to have Bishop Paul Leeland and his wife, Janet, assigned to our area for another four years and are eager to build upon the foundation that has been laid under his leadership. We sense an excitement at the "even greater things" yet to be done for the Kingdom of God here in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference! To God be the glory!