A Word from the Bishop: Prayers for the AWF Conference Appointment Process

January 27, 2020


Currently the cabinet, pastors, staff-parish committees, and churches are working on the upcoming appointment year: July 2020 to June 2021. To inform you of our process, but most importantly to ask for your prayers, I want to share the following:

The cabinet, consisting of the eight district superintendents, Rev. June Jernigan, and myself will be working to make over 575 appointments between now and annual conference, scheduled for June 7-9. There will be times when we ask Rev. John Brooks, director of multicultural ministries, and Rev. Bill Kierce, director of congregational development, to meet with us as we seek to become more aware of diversity while also being mindful of church starts. Yet it is only the cabinet who will be projecting the appointments. It is a vital process that involves thousands of lives and is why I seek your prayers.

There are many factors that go into this process which include retirements; churches open by the death of a pastor; pastors leaving our annual conference; local church needs and concerns; pastors’ needs and concerns; and family considerations, to name a few. The combination of these circumstances leads to many emotions. I understand that, as I, too, come from a local United Methodist Church that saw pastors come and go. I have seen churches decline when a pastor leaves, while I have seen other churches experience renewal when a new pastor arrives. Our United Methodist appointment process is like no other mainline denomination. What complicates this year’s process is the uncertainty around an historic upcoming General Conference in May.  

What I have come to learn and have experienced is that the Holy Spirit is in this process. As unusual as it may seem, I have been so blessed by my appointment-making time. It is sacred work and the Alabama-West Florida Conference has a Godly cabinet that makes our work deep and rich. Please pray for us!

To help guide your time of prayer, let me share how we will do our work:

First, we have been working our appointment process since this past November. In our January 22-24 cabinet meetings, each district superintendent shared about their district and possible needs and concerns that could take place around next year’s appointments. We talked about possible clergy couple moves; seminary students graduating and seeking their first appointment; and those going to licensing school and seeking their first appointment. Senior pastors with an associate have shared with me and the district superintendent their needs around the associate pastor appointment. We have people wanting to transfer into the conference and those who seek to transfer out. The list of parameters we encounter is endless, and General Conference could potentially alter our work later this year.  

In January, we took our November and December conversations to a deeper level. District superintendents will complete their pastor consultations in January, pastor-parish committees will meet to evaluate their pastoral needs and conversations will take place in which I or the district superintendent are involved.

February 11-12: We will gather and mark our worksheet consisting of each church and pastor. We will mark a “return” meaning the pastor is projected to go back to the church they are serving. We will mark “open” due to retirement, death, or the pastor has left. “Move” indicates the pastor will be moving from their present appointment or “either,” means the pastor could stay or move. We mark them in pencil as move statuses could change based on shifting needs and conversations. Approximately 75-80% of pastors will be marked R (return). We will begin to make some appointment projections; we may or may not communicate them out of the cabinet.

February 25-26: We will hear feedback from conversations over the previous two weeks. We will also hear a report on the work of the AWF Bishop’s Task Force around plans and the protocol coming before the General Conference in May.  We will make more appointment projections. Again, we may or may not communicate them out of the cabinet. 

March 10-12: The cabinet will project most of the appointments during these days.

March 23-25: Those pastors moving will get a phone call from their district superintendent to set a meeting to go over their projected appointment and pastor-parish chairs will be called and told of the projected appointment. The full SPRC will be informed and instructed to keep the appointment confidential.

April 1-2: The cabinet meets to review all projections and to make any adjustments. Following April 2, pastors and churches are free to communicate publicly the new appointment unless otherwise directed by the district superintendent.

April 3-June 7: The cabinet will continue to work at filling part-time appointments and other situations that might arise as pastoral introductions are made.

April 21: We will hold a Pastoral Transition Event with all clergy receiving a new appointment, which will help them in their move so that all may have a successful start.

In some churches we will be doing a new process called “off-boarding” to help churches prepare for a new pastor and in other places on-boarding to help the new pastor move into their new appointment. Furthermore, there will be a Beginning Pastors Workshop for those who have their first appointment. That date will be released in late winter.

As you see, the appointment process involves most of our year with February and March being the most intense months of our work. In my mind, it is the most important work we do and one that I want to live into God’s will. I feel it is important to be transparent to all our clergy and congregations.

We need and appreciate your prayers.

In Christ,
Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference