2020 Annual Conference: In Review

September 26, 2020

The 2020 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, originally scheduled for June 7-10, was held today, September 26, via Zoom. Bishop David Graves, presiding over his fourth annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to the online platform with a devotional. He noted that this was the 52nd year the Alabama-West Florida Conference has met. He also commented that, "we tried everything we knew to do to hold an in-person annual conference." He told of the unrest throughout this world and referenced a note his grandmother gave him saying, "Action begins in your mind." He told of the various challenges the conference has faced in the past few years between Hurricane Michael, COVID-19, and now Hurricane Sally. He emphasized that after Hurricane Sally, the greatest thing we need is work teams. The conference is now doing hurricane disaster recovery from Mobile, AL, to Port St. Joe, FL, which is the entire coast of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. 

To uphold tradition, Rev. Brad Bradford of Shalimar UMC organized a virtual rendition of "And Are We Yet Alive" to open the session. Rev. Ashley Davis, conference secretary, directed the opening business and organization of the conference before presenting the conference nominations report. She gave thanks to Duane Keck, who passed since the committee met, for his work on the Episcopacy and Congregational Development Committees. Those seats will be filled at the next meeting. Adjustments were explained due to the postponement of general conference. The report was approved. 

A creative connectional ministries video was presented highlighting the many ways the conference reaches clergy and lay people through ministry, especially during the pandemic. Click here to see video. 

Beverly Maddox, lay leader, updated the conference on the work of the laity. Her focus was on change through growth. She mentioned that we have all commented at some point, "We will be so happy when this goes back to normal." She referenced the Book of Reports for updates on the various lay ministries in our conference citing that much work was done prior to COVID but the work continues in creative ways at the moment. Lay persons have stepped up to help clergy continue ministry during COVID whether it be online or outdoor wotship. "Living things grow and growing things change," she said. 

A special moment at this year's conference was the commissioning of Deaconess Annette Winston. Bishop Graves commissioned Deaconess Winston while practicing social distancing. Deaconess Celeste Eubanks was also present to celebrate this moment with Ms. Winston. 

Twelve clergy were recognized upon their retirement in Dr. Jim Sanders' AWF Board of Ordained Ministry report.
The retirees are:
Deborah Born
John Brooks
Larry Bryars
Randall Culp
Teresa Gilland
David Hendrix
Mark LaBranche
Janet Lee
Dennis McDavid
Dave McKinney
Roy Rogers
Jean Smith

Eleven persons to be commissioned and ordained were also honored in Dr. Jim Sanders' report. The Service of Commissioning will be held tomorrow afternoon at 4:00pm in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. This service is by invitation only to ensure safety precautions but all are welcome to participate via live stream through this link. The ordination of four elders will take place in their current appointment settings. Those to be commissioned and ordained are:
Deacon: Kevin Lazarus
Elders: Nathan Adkison, Jack Allen, Brian Dovey, Jennifer Gregory, Lucas Tribble, and Tom Skeen
Deacon: James W. Bradford
Elders: Rhett Butler, Bradley Chamblee, and Tara Chamblee

Thirty clergy and clergy spouses who passed since the 2019 AWF Annual Conference session will be remembered during the 2021 Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion. Click here to see the names of those we will memorialize next year. 

Sanders also reviewed the six characteristics of of future leaders the board has identified as a group. He also recognized new full- and part-time local pastors, those who have completed course of study, and those in extension ministry around our conference. 

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. Bagdad UMC (Pensacola, FL) is the recipient of the Local Church Heritage Award. The One Church Matters Award was given to Center Ridge UMC by the AWF Town and Country Commission. Rev. Audrey Rodgers received the Francis Asbury Award for her work with the Tuskegee University Wesley Foundation. There were three winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. The clergy winner is Rev. Victoria Scofield of Cypress UMC. The youth recipient is Anna Claire Kinsey of Providence UMC (Spanish Fort, AL) and the lay recipient is Kimberley Rhames of Mt. Zion UMC (Smiths Station, AL). Complete award recipient profiles may be found here. To see today's video, click here.  

The Board of Pension and Health proposed a 2021 pre-82 past service rate of $804 for retiring clergy and $563 for surviving spouses. The conference is discontinuing lay health insurance coverage beginning January 1, 2021. Conference staff will be offered coverage from a fully insured HDHP/PSA health insurance plan. These items were approved. Click here for report

Rev. Michael Cobb presented this year's Commission on Equitable Compensation report. The minimum salary for all full-time clergy that was approved is $38,000. Click here for report

The conference established a $6,981,913 million budget for mission and ministry for 2021. The 2021 budget is the lowest in 20 years, 27% lower than 2020, and 35% less than 2019. The significant difference is due to staff and support reductions. The general church budget has been reduced by 16.28%. The jurisdictional budget remains unchanged due to the delays in the general and jurisdictional conferences. The recommended district superintendent salary for 2020 is $104,349, a 15% decrease from the previous year. All director lay and clergy salaries were reduced by the same percentage. The unqualified audit report will appear in the 2020 Journal. In 2019, 370 churches paid 100% of their apportionments. Thank you for your faithful giving! Click here for full report, which was approved by the voting body and presented by George Mingledorff, CFA Chair. 

Ms. Suzanne Krejcar, AWF Treasurer, reported that membership stands at 126,636. Attendance at worship is about 44.5% of professing membership. Confirmation and black membership showed areas of slight increase over the past year. The report was approved. 

Rev. June Jernigan, AWF Director of Ministerial Services and Assistant to the Bishop, presented the report of the cabinet; it was approved. She offered a prayer for these congregations undergoing change. The report will be published in the 2020 Journal. 

Bishop David Graves took intentional time to diligently thank those who were an integral part of annual conference and expressed what a collective effort it takes to make a virtual event like this happen. He specifically thanked Frazer UMC for hosting two clergy sessions and the conference session. He again reminded churches to please send disaster response teams to the gulf coast. More information can be found at www.awfumc.org/sally

The clergy appointments, which were made ad interim in June, may be found online here

The 2021 session of the AWF Annual Conference will be held June 6-9, 2021, at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL. Montgomery First United Methodist Church will host the Service of Commissioning & Ordination. The hope is to have an in-person conference but if needed, a virtual session will be held.