(Bishop Graves for The Montgomery Advertiser) - This will be the theme of the Alabama-West Florida Conference when we gather in Montgomery on June 4-7, for our annual gathering. Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church will host approximately 1,000 members with equal representation of clergy and lay persons. You add hundreds of guests and Frazer UMC will be overflowing for this four-day event.
The United Methodist Church is a world-wide Church consisting of 12.4 million members. The General Church is divided into jurisdictional regions and each jurisdiction is divided into annual conferences. As one of the 71 active bishops in the world, I have the wonderful privilege of being assigned to the Alabama-West Florida Conference, which consists of Central and South Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. There are over 600 churches representing 139,000 people while each Sunday 62,000+ people attend worship services. The Alabama-West Florida Conference has numerous mission outreaches in our two states, as well as around the world.
We United Methodists, like all families, have our differences. Sometimes we disagree, fuss and fight, yet we are a connectional family that has far reaching influences here and around the world. We are churches of all sizes, theological perspectives, and ways of doing ministry. Our largest church averages over 3,000 in worship attendance, several average over 1,000, with the smallest weekly worship in a church being two. Out of the 600+ churches, 450 of them average less than 50 in weekly worship. For every church in the conference, the clergy person is a member of the conference and for every appointed clergy person, the local church will send a lay member to represent the voting membership to the conference, which begins on June 4 with an opening worship service.
Worship will be a key focus of our four days together. Each morning, we will begin in worship led by the clergy and laity of the conference. We will also gather for worship to remember those clergy and clergy spouses who died since the last annual conference in what we call a Memorial Service. This is a moving time as we give thanks and remember the Saints who have gone before us.
Another one of the highlights will be the Service of Commissioning and Ordination of clergy on Monday evening, June 5th. As a newly elected Bishop in the United Methodist Church, this will be my first time to preside over the annual conference and to ordain eight men and women into ministry. I have attended many annual conference sessions, but I have to admit I am a little anxious about leading my first conference and am humbled to have the honor of ordaining persons into ministry. In one of our business sessions, I will present local pastors’ licenses to those who will be serving their first appointment in a local church. In the United Methodist Church, we have orders of clergy representing elders, deacons, commissionees, and those licensed to lead local congregations. The differing clergy orders can be confusing to non-Methodists as well as our congregations. Yet, at the end of the day, they are all clergy.
We will do a lot of required conference business between our times of worship.
Mission offerings will be collected for local conference missions and the Ministerial Education Fund. Mission kits from local congregations will be gathered in a large tractor trailer and sent to a United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) warehouse in preparation for natural disasters. The conference will vote on a proposed budget of over $11 million. Clergy will retire and be honored for their years of service. A Laity Banquet will be held on Tuesday evening with guest speaker, Patricia Barnes (Sister Schubert). Many meals will be shared with friendships renewed and new ones formed.
Our theme for Annual Conference is Imagine: By faith it can happen. The theme is founded on Ephesians 3:20, “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us.” (CEB version). My hope and prayer is that as we gather we will call upon the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to guide our work and inspire us all to return to our local churches to win people to Christ, see the unseen, transform lives and change this corner of the world.
When United Methodist come together, one can only imagine!
Bishop David W. Graves serves as the Resident Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. The conference is comprised of eight districts, over 600 pastors and churches with a membership total of approximately 140,000 persons.
We are quickly approaching the 2017 session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference. We are excited to see many of you soon. Click here to access a working agenda. Copies of the final agenda will be distributed at the doors of Wesley Hall prior to Monday's first business session.
The reservation system closes on May 22, 2017, at 2:00pm. After this date and time, the reservation system will be closed so that we can accurately report head counts to our host churches. Click here to make a reservation.
The 2017 Guide to Annual Conference has been published. It contains the bulletins for the Opening Worship Service and Memorial Service. We continue to strive to be good stewards of our resources. Therefore, printed bulletins will not be produced for these two services (family attending the Memorial Service will receive keepsake copies). The 2017 Book of Reports is available online. Hard copies will be mailed to your district office. Please watch for pickup instructions from them.
This year we will host Color Craft Directories at annual conference to produce our quadrennial pictorial directories. They will be photographing clergy and conference leadership on Monday-Wednesday in rooms 3013/3015. Click here for times. All clergy, conference staff, district administrative assistants and district lay leaders should have their photo taken. The Episcopal office highly recommends all clergy have their photo taken. These photos will also be used on our clergy finder section of the conference Website. Click here to make an appointment (select the only dropdown option and date on calendar).
The clergy executive session and laity session will be held Sunday evening following opening worship (please note earlier start time for opening worship). Clergy will report to Wesley Hall and laity may remain in the sanctuary. Registration will close during opening worship but will briefly reopen prior to these sessions to accommodate those who are not able to register prior to opening worship. It will close promptly at 8pm Sunday evening. Clergy need to have their name badge visible to enter the executive session.
Each morning (Monday-Wednesday) will begin with worship in Wesley Hall at 8:30am. Holy Communion will be served on Tuesday and Wednesday. Please plan to join your fellow clergy and laity for a special time of worship and reflection.
At the beginning of the Tuesday session in Wesley Hall, we are asking all clergy to find their local church lay delegates and sit with them by district. There will be a screen visual (see image below) and pages to assist you in finding your district. If you are projected to receive a new appointment, please find your new church lay delegates. This will be important for one of our morning teaching sessions.
We look forward to seeing everyone June 4-7, 2017, at Frazer Memorial UMC!
“We are sorry to see Dan go but I will always support our clergy when better opportunities are presented,” said Graves. “We are grateful for his faithful leadership and dedication to his appointments, especially to the Antioch Project. We wish Dan and his family the best in this time of transition. We are taking this opportunity to review the responsibilities of this position and at this time, our current staff will assume those duties.”
The Antioch Project will remain a high priority and a primary area of focus to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Churches already enrolled in the program will continue as planned. Rev. Nancy Watson, Rev. Allison Posell and Susan Hunt will continue the work of this ministry on an interim basis out of the Office of Connectional Ministries.
Pezet will be appointed to the Western North Carolina Conference effective July 1, 2017. For those clergy or churches needing guidance, please contact Rev. Nancy Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Judicial Council, the highest judicial body in the United Methodist Church, has released its decision regarding the election, consecration, and assignment of Karen Oliveto as a bishop in the United Methodist Church. If you have plans to discuss this with your congregation or church leadership, please use the below statement from Bishop David Graves as a basis for your conversation.
The consecration of a gay bishop violates church law, the top court of The United Methodist Church has ruled. However, the bishop “remains in good standing,” the Judicial Council said until an administrative or judicial process is completed. “Under the long-standing principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore or negate church law,” said the decision. “It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.”
For months we have discussed this matter in our town hall gatherings, video presentations, and information provided around Episcopal elections. With this Judicial Council decision, I know that some of you are pleased with the decision and others are not. As I stated, these emotional decisions are always divisive.
However, the United Methodist Church polity and doctrine have not changed. Only General Conference can change the Book of Discipline. As we reported earlier in the week, a special General Conference session has been called to address our way forward around human sexuality matters. It will take place on February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.
In response to this decision I am meeting with conference leaders in the upcoming days. Rest assured that we are engaged in conversations about what the implications could be in our denomination. I have arrived at the Council of Bishops meeting in Dallas, Texas, where I continue to pray for our Church in the midst of these difficult conversations. This will be a lengthy process that has been returned to the Western Jurisdiction for review under supervision. This decision means Bishop Oliveto will continue as a Bishop of the Church until such process is completed.
Again my counsel to you is this: we must stay focused on the mission and ministry of making disciples. Furthermore, in the Alabama-West Florida Conference we will abide by The Book of Discipline. In that context I ask you to join me as we win people to Christ, see the unseen, transform lives and change this corner of the world. Easter begs us to proclaim this message to the world.
Bishop David W. Graves
The Alabama-West Florida Conference
Washington, D.C.: The Council of Bishops (COB) has called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
In announcing the call, COB President Bishop Bruce R. Ough said the Special Session will be held in accordance with Division Two - Section II - Article II of The Constitution of The United Methodist Church as recorded in Paragraph 14 of The Book of Discipline (2016).
The purpose of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference will be "limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward."
The 32-member Commission was appointed by the Council of Bishops to assist the bishops in their charge to lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality. The Commission's task includes examining paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and exploring options to strengthen the unity of the church.
Per the Constitution of the Church, the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference shall be composed of the delegates to the 2016 General Conference or their legal successors or alternates, except when a particular annual conference or missionary conference shall prefer to have a new election.
The Secretary of the General Conference will communicate with annual conference secretaries regarding updated delegate information, seating of reserve delegates, and the issuance of new certificates of election for annual conferences choosing to hold new elections.
The Commission on the General Conference and the Business Manager of the General Conference will develop and forward additional information regarding the logistics of the special session of General Conference at the appropriate time.
"The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church to continue in deep, unceasing prayer for Holy Spirit breakthroughs for the Commission on a Way Forward and the Special Session of General Conference," Bishop Ough said.
Click here for the full letter sent to the Heads of Delegations to the 2016 General Conference (or successors), Secretary of the General Conference and the Chairperson of the Commission on the General Conference.