(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session at the Conference Office in Montgomery on September 10-12. In reviewing ministry across the annual conference, we celebrate the ways congregations continue to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." The superintendents shared "Glory Sightings" from their respective districts of churches that are faithfully sharing the gospel in their communities and bearing witness to Christ's love for all persons. We also reviewed pastoral care concerns among our clergy families throughout the conference and spent time in prayer for these brothers and sisters facing difficulty in recent days.
We spent considerable time reflecting on changes to the office of superintendent as decreed by the 2012 General Conference, particularly shifting the role of the DS to that of "chief missional strategist" for their districts. This emphasis will necessitate superintendents spending more of their time on aspects of teaching, preaching, coaching, building teams, and casting vision for their particular areas. In an effort to create alignment, the superintendents are committed to doing this work under the SEND model of the Annual Conference, as we Seek, Engage, Nurture, and Deploy persons for the work of ministry throughout central and south Alabama, and northwest Florida.
We reviewed ministry opportunities from the General and Jurisdictional levels of the church, including Imagine No Malaria and a possible partnership with the Red Bird Missionary Conference in Kentucky. The effort to save lives on the continent of Africa through the distribution of mesh nets and the chance to improve the quality of life for persons in poverty-stricken areas of Appalachia will be explored in the upcoming months and hopefully presented to the congregations throughout our conference.
In the bounds of the conference, we reviewed the Comprehensive Plan for Inclusiveness and spent time reviewing this plan which includes seminary visits to recruit leaders to serve in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, identifying predominately white congregations that would be possible places for persons of racial / ethnic diversity to appointed, reviewing the congregations in our conference that are in transitional communities, and developing a list of prospective "restarts" under racial / ethic pastoral leadership.
Additionally, we celebrate the faithful participation in the connectional giving, noting that the percentage of apportionments received has increased year over year again. Thank you for your commitment to this shared ministry, underscoring a fundamental belief in our tradition that we can do more together than we can on our own. We see the fruit of this effort in our new church starts, in programs like CIRCLES, our Wesley Foundations, our church-related colleges, Blue Lake Camp, and many other ministries throughout our conference and beyond.
Throughout the Charge Conference season and into the first part of 2014, the superintendents will be sharing and calling on leaders to share two resources that will enable all of our churches to live into the SEND model. The first is "The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" by Bishop Robert Schnase, the resident bishop in the Missouri Conference. Some of our churches and districts have utilized this outstanding study to highlight the importance of Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. The second is a new resource developed by Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Area (Nebraska and Kansas) entitled "The Wesleyan Way." Our hope is that congregations will find ways to incorporate these outstanding resources into the life of their church, enabling them to continue to be fruitful, effective, and vital congregations in their communities. These resources are available from Cokesbury.
While there is certainly a tremendous amount of energy devoted this time of year to the setting of the budget, stewardship, and preparation for charge conference, these activities are essential to the work of ordering the life of the church for effective ministry. We are grateful for the leadership of clergy and laity who give of their time, resources, and talents in service to the church. We continue to be hopeful because of the faith that is ours in Christ Jesus and because of the ways lives are being positively impacted through the people called Methodists in Alabama and northwest Florida. Thank you for all that you do for the cause of Christ! These are exciting time to be a United Methodist!