It goes without saying that we are living in a new normal. Most of you know that one of our conference priorities relates to adaptive leadership in uncharted times. I never knew how prophetic that would be when those priorities were adopted in 2017.
By now the majority of local churches are holding online worship services; conducting committee meetings through Zoom; and offering virtual Sunday School; to name a few ways the church has adapted. It will not surprise you that the 2020 charge conference season will also look much different. Sometimes forced change can actually reveal new and more efficient ways of conducting church business while honoring the outstanding work of the local church. The cabinet and I also desire to focus more energy on celebrating ministry and discipleship.
Charge conference forms will be 100% online. The forms will be available no later than August 15 and will be due by October 5. An email with complete instructions for this new system will be sent to each pastor in charge. This will allow six weeks for you and your church to collect the requested information and also troubleshoot any technical questions you may have. Please note, all completed forms will be due by October 5, regardless of the date of your charge conference. Forms will not be accepted through mail.
Charge conferences will be held in a variety of formats as determined by your district superintendent. The vast majority of charge conferences will be done via zoom and clustered with other churches. Charge conferences will run October 15-November 30, and district superintendents will produce the charge conference schedules for their districts no later than September 15.
During the month of August I highly encourage you to spend intentional time working on your church leadership nominations. This is such an important disciplinary task that shapes the health of your church. Prayerfully consider how you can identify gifted members within your church; paying careful attention to diversity of race, gender, age and special abilities and gifts. This work should be finalized by the middle of September to meet the October 5 deadline.
Finally I would ask you to consider using Zoom or another online meeting platform for your fall church leadership meetings. Some of you are already utilizing this option. In the coming months churches will be prioritizing what is essential in person and what can be held online. Committee meetings are one area of the church that can successfully be held through a virtual format. The risk of gathering in person for these meetings is not justified.
I am grateful for your willingness to adapt to a new charge conference plan. There will be many questions along the way, but our hope is to provide a more positive experience that honors your time.
Bishop David Graves
Alabama-West Florida Conference