(Montgomery, AL) - The 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist reconvened this morning at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, FL by starting the day off with several challenging and energetic messages. Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the Boston Episcopal Area gave the first of five addresses and challenged the conference to focus on discipleship instead of membership in a powerful way that resonated with many. Following his address, three laity addresses were given by Betty Katiya, Dr. Steve Furr and Amory Peck.
Dr. Furr, a resident of Jackson, AL and the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church lay leader, incorporated a video presentation of his personal account of weight loss and transformation into leading a healthy lifestyle. Furr realized that when his wedding band no longer fit, it was time to make a change. Furr is a family practitioner physician in Jackson and explained that his patients were able to better follow his medical advice by him leading as an example. The video also showed his daily routine of work, family and exercise all blended in an appropriate fashion. He expressed in his address that, "Being or living a sermon is a whole different matter. A part of me had to die so the real me could live. I was desecrating the temple God has given me. I had to decide to BE a sermon." As God tells his followers our bodies are a temple, Furr said, "my personal temple was in disarray." At one point, Dr. Furr was 5'6", 236 pounds. He now proudly weighs in under 175 pounds. He concluded by saying that, "Jesus Christ is the best personal trainer ever."
Furr made a poignant statement in saying, "You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." Rev. Rurel Ausley, a member of the Alabama-West Florida Conference delegation, commented on Dr. Furr's statement by saying, "Steve masterfully articulated his physical transformation into a spiritual parable for personal transformation in Christ. Inspiring and at times tearing up, Dr. Furr electrified the General Conference and made all of Alabama-West Florida burst with pride."
After the three laity addresses were given, Krin Ali delivered an impressive young people's address using the words, "Charged, Rooted and United" as his theme.
General Conference is the top policy-making body of the international United Methodist Church and is the only body that officially speaks for the denomination. It meets on a "quadrennial basis," or ever four years. During the session, delegates (half clergy, half laity) elected by their annual conferences and specialized bodies, will revise the Book of Discipline, which is the law and doctrine of the United Methodist Church.
The Alabama-West Florida Conference includes the geographical area of south and central Alabama and northwest Florida. There are over eight million United Methodists residing in the United States. More than 146,000 United Methodists reside in the Alabama-West Florida Conference.
Photo by UMNS Photographer, Mike DuBose