Over one thousand laity and clergy from around the Alabama-West Florida Conference gathered March 7-11 to hear a summary of the 2019 special-called General Conference. Three regional meetings were open to all United Methodists and two clergy meetings were held in Dothan and Mobile.
The regional gatherings in Montgomery, Dothan and Mobile were a time of worship and reflection where attendees heard from Bishop David Graves, the delegation and conference staff. “General Conference brought a lot of pain and anger to many people, regardless of one’s desired outcome of the conference.” stated Bishop Graves. “My intention was to provide a safe space for United Methodists in our conference to hear more about the intricacies of the general conference results while encouraging everyone in this season of Lent to see how we can heal wounds we might have caused and reach out to someone who might not look or think like we do. It is difficult to legislate human emotion and feeling and I wanted our conference to understand that we have significant work to do for the Kingdom in our own back yards. The topic of human sexuality is important, and I am grateful for the brave voices who were willing to share their hearts and perspectives in this time.” Graves also mentioned the recent tornado destruction and loss of life within the bounds of annual conference and how pastors from the Montgomery-Opelika District had ministered to grieving families just days ago. It was an example of showing the love of Jesus to those who are hurting and how our corner of the world need the United Methodist Church.
Rev. Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries, led the gathering in the responsive reading, Psalm 51, and each host district superintendent offered a time of silence and centering prayer.
Dr. Larry Bryars, head of the Alabama-West Florida Conference and lead pastor at Frazer Memorial UMC, gave an overview of the petitions addressed
and presented commentary he used with his own congregation
about the results of General Conference. A Wespath information sheet was also distributed.
The question and answer time gave Bishops Graves the opportunity to answer frequently asked questions from members around the conference. A dedicated gmail account was established to field questions ahead of time in order to maximize time at these events. Over 100 questions were sent through this account. Many people expressed similar interest in topics such as the Judicial Council, the exit plan passed, the Wespath plan passed, upholding the Book of Discipline
, ways churches can welcome LGBTQIA+ persons, to name a few. Click here to read the questions and answers discussed at the three meetings
“Ask the UMC,” which is managed by the United Methodist Infoserv, published this summation of General Conference on Tuesday, March 12
Each meeting concluded with Holy Communion, served by the delegates in attendance.
Click here to see photos by Luke Lucas