Morning Worship: Day three of annual conference began with morning worship. Joscelyne Cutchens, a lay person from FUMC Montgomery, offered the call to worship and prayer. Rev. Grant Parker of Epworth UMC gave the moving sermon entitled, "Hope is Here." He said, "We have a hope in the here and now. We have a hope that tomorrow is a better day." He also said hope is believing Tennessee will beat Alabama on the third Saturday in October!! On a serious note he told of the passing of his daughter in September of 2021 and the hope you must have to endure grief. Music was led by Rev. Darrin Isaac of Pt. Washington UMC. At the conclusion of the service Bishop Graves expressed his deep appreciation for Rev. Parker and his ministry. Dr. Hays McKay of Covenant UMC was scheduled to preach this service. He is in the hospital with COVID and is fighting cancer. Bishop Graves offered a prayer for him. We are grateful for Rev. Parker stepping in and stepping up on short notice.
Be a Sower Grant: The conference heard from two more recipients of the "Be a Sower" grants. Rev. Barbara Brewi of Aldersgate (Mt. Vernon) and Sunflower UMCs told of their door hanger initiative at Sunflower UMC to reach people staying overnight in a nearby RV park. She said, "These are the unseen people" and concluded with, "Our church is on fire, y'all. Don't ever count out the small churches!" Dr. Darren McClellan from Fairhope UMC explained how they discerned the church's deep love and appreciation to Thomas Hospital based on their organist who also serves as an ICU nurse. After dreaming of what they could do for overworked pandemic frontline workers, they took 71 baskets of snacks based on 71 stations at the hospital. They did this for months and there was enough for every staff person at Thomas Hospital. They began to receive letters from workers expressing their sincere appreciation and began to have a reputation for helping those in a community. To conclude their report, they threw snacks into the audience.
Connectional Ministries Report: The connectional ministries video was shown as an order of the day. Rev. Ashley Davis and Celeste Eubanks answered interview-style questions about the work their office has conducted over the past year. Click here to see video.
Ministry Reports: As part of today's business session, the conference heard updates from Blue Lake Camp, Communities of Transformation and Teaming with Tanzania; all ministry partners of the conference. Dr. Levi Gardner of Perdido Bay UMC presented the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry report. He proclaimed, "Campus Ministry is who we are as United Methodists and who we hope to be." Gardner presented the Francis Asbury Award to Dr. Deloris Alexander of Tuskegee University.
Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. This year's awards ceremony was hosted by Mr. John McWilliams, a lay person from Montgomery FUMC. The Alice Lee Award was proudly presented to Rev. June Jernigan by the AWF COSROW at this morning's breakfast and also during today's ceremony. There were two winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. The clergy winner is Rev. Terry Tatum of Lynn Haven UMC. The lay recipient is Ashley Whiting of The Way UMC (Pace, FL). The One Church Matters Award was given to Satsuma UMC by the AWF Town and Country Commission. Dr. Deloris Alexander was presented the Francis Asbury Award by the AWF Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry for her work with the Tuskegee University Wesley Foundation. Rev. Kristen Curtis Wright of Ashland Place UMC and Jenn Knox were presented with the Jane Walker Scholarship Award. Complete award winner bios may be found here.
Standing Rules: Rev. Kathy Knight of Kingswood UMC presented one standing rules change. It was approved with one friendly amendment changing UMW to UWF to reflect their updated name. Click here to see the approved standing rule. An additional amendment was proposed to change the current United Methodist Women acronym (UMW) references to United Women in Faith (UWF) in all standing rules. It was approved.
Resolutions and Petitions: Rev. Christina Shaver of St. Paul UMC presented today's resolutions and explained that her committee's work is based on United Methodist polity. As noted in yesterday's digest, resolutions two, three and four were withdrawn on Monday and resolution five was withdrawn several weeks ago. Resolutions one, six and seven were withdrawn by Dr. Lester Spencer of St. James UMC but proposed a new motion today. Dr. Matt O'Reilly of Hope Hull UMC presented this motion. It was tabled until after the members could hear the Pensions report. Discussions continued in the afternoon. Dr. Jeff Wilson, Dothan and Montgomery-Opelika district superintendent, made a motion to refer this to the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits. Dr. Wilson's motion was approved.
Nominations Report: The names of four proposed trustees were placed on the floor on Monday by Rev. Ashley Davis. Four additional nominees were brought to the floor in yesterday's session. The voting members resumed discussions, including many questions about the process of moving through this debate. After three speeches for Rev. Emily Kincaid and three speeches for Dr. Doug Pennigton (nominee from floor), Rev. Emily Kincaid, one of the original nominees from the committee, was elected. The next two nominees, Betty Stone and Yevonne Davis, were discussed. Betty Stone, the committee's nominee, was elected. Seth Gowan and William Hopper were the next two before the voting body. William Hopper was elected as a nominee from the floor. Next were Carolyn Whitten and Jo Ann Roberts. Jo Ann Roberts was elected from the floor. The body then voted to approve the full nominations report.
The Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits was presented by Rev. Allison Posell, chair. She gave thanks to those on the committee. Suzanne Krejcar was asked to explain the comprehensive funding plans. Significant changes were proposed for active and retired clergy health plans. Click here to read the comprehensive proposal. The Pre-82 past service rate for 2023 was approved by the conference at $837 for retired clergy and $585 for retiring spouses, reflecting a 2% increase. Reports four and six (the funding plan) were approved. Three proposed changes to the benefits plan were presented. Details may be found here. The members approved the active health plan (high deductible plan plus a HSA). Next for a vote was the post-retirement medical plan sunset; it was approved. The final vote from this report was the Pre-65 discontinuation; it was approved. All reports from this committee may be found in the Book of Reports starting on page 115.
New to conference this year was a fellowship dinner hosted by the Montgomery-Opelika District. The dinner was prepared by Alabama State University food services.
Business continued into the evening in order to address disaffiliations, the report of the cabinet and determining where the 2023 session of annual conference would be held.
Local Church Disaffiliations: Dr. Olivia Poole of St. Luke UMC (Enterprise), chair of the AWF Trustees, resumed her presentation on behalf of the committee. Bishop Graves first responded by stating that based on Judicial Council ruling number 897 the body is allowed to vote on each disaffiliation. Then, he will take all of the work and has 30 days to rule on this decision of law posed yesterday by Ralph Peterson, lay member from Gulf Breeze UMC. Each local church voted upon has met the requirements based on paragraph 2553. Votes could only be a simple yes/no vote and could not be amended. They were presented in order of when the trustees received the request.
Pentecost UMC: the request for disaffiliation was approved, 521 yes, 43 no.
Mt. Hilliard UMC: the request for disaffiliation was approved, 519 yes, 35 no.
Simpson Chapel UMC: the request for disaffiliation was approved, 522 yes, 32 no.
Frazer Memorial UMC: the request for disaffiliation was approved, 491 yes, 62 no.
Dr. Brian Miller of Aldersgate UMC (Montgomery) made a request for the board of trustees to explore and research the possibility of utilizing paragraph 2549 in ways consistent with paragraph 2553 with the sunset date of December 31, 2023. He also made a request to the trustees that funding of clergy salaries be discussed in order to provide salary and benefits to those whose church might disaffiliate in between the appointment cycle. Vernon UMC, Poplar Head UMC, Canoe UMC, Holly Grove UMC, Owens Chapel UMC, Warrington UMC and New Bethel UMC are all pending disaffiliations and the trustees are seeking outside legal counsel.
Report of the Cabinet: Rev. June Jernigan, AWF assistant to the bishop, presented the report of the cabinet. She reviewed change in charge lines by district and church closures. The approved report may be found here. A prayer was offered for those closed churches. We give thanks to Rev. Jernigan for her service. She is retiring from the appointment of assistant to the bishop and has resourced the bishop and the cabinet for over ten years.
The 2023 session of the AWF Annual Conference will be held June 11-14, 2023, in Mobile, AL. Dauphin Way UMC will host the Service of Commissioning & Ordination. Venue details will be announced at a later date.
Correction: Rev. Jim Batchelor was omitted from yesterday's list of retirees. We apologize for this mistake and congratulate him on his years of service.
AWF Missional Offering: To celebrate this year's theme of, “In this Season” from Ecclesiastes 3:1, each day had a specific focus and missional giving recipient. Today's focus was hope and the offering will go towards AWF New Church Starts.
Click here for the online giving link.
Use the below QR code to give.
View photos from the 2022 Annual Conference session (added daily, all photos by Luke Lucas).
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Opening Worship, Sunday June, 12, 2022
Monday, June 13, 2002
Service of Commissioning and Ordination (it is listed on the right side under related videos)
Tuesday, June 14, 2002
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