Conference News

Hurricane Sally Update, October 20

published 10/20/2020
Friends,
 
Hurricane Sally made landfall on September 16, 2020, which was 16 years to the day that Hurricane Ivan damaged the same area. To date there has been close to 60,000 individuals who have registered for FEMA assistance. Almost $30 million in FEMA grants have been issued to affected residents. We have transitioned out of what we call our relief phase (food, water, shelter, electricity, and immediate access needs), and into our recovery phase (continued debris removal and home repair). We continue to have a need for volunteers who can do mucking and gutting, tree work, and debris removal. The Covid virus, as well as the multiple disasters throughout our country, have made it difficult for us to enlist the number of volunteers needed for recovery. We have taken several steps to ensure that we can help provide adequate social distancing and PPE standards for our volunteer teams. We ask that you would consider making multiple trips to the Hurricane Sally affected area from your home church.
 
 
We are also hoping to be able to share in the near future about potential grants that we have applied for through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). In the meantime, we are creating a program for churches to partner with families. If you are interested in providing either financial assistance or volunteer labor towards a family in need, we would love to hear from you! As we begin our case management process we will be identifying families who are interested in this recovery adoption process. For more details on this please email disasterresponse@awfumc.org.
 
Thank you for the many ways you continue to respond through our connection. We welcome your prayers as we help to those who need it most. 
 
With Gratitude,
Rev. Chris Ackerman
AWF Disaster Response Director

An Invitation from Bishop Graves

published 10/13/2020

Friends,
 
One of my biggest struggles of the COVID era is the lack of in-person fellowship and time together. As clergy women and men, many of us crave that personal interaction to build relationships with one another. Although we cannot yet safely meet in person, we can spend time together on October 22 for our Bishop’s Time Apart. I would like to personally invite you to this online event
 
I would hasten to say the clergy in the Alabama-West Florida Conference have been through more traumatic events than most other conferences. Between the anticipation of general conference that did not occur; multiple natural disasters; racial tensions; political divides; and of course navigating the many ways COVID has affected our local churches and congregations, each of you has had to bear the burden of your own stress and the weight of these life-changing situations. These historic events add many layers of conflict around decisions. 
 
With October being clergy appreciation month, I want to offer this time apart on October 22 from 10-12pm. This will be shorter than our normal day apart due to the schedule demands you all face. Our time together will be led by Dr. John Paul Lederach. Dr. Lederach has experience with international conciliation work in war-torn settings such as Nicaragua and Somalia. He has also written over 22 books on peacebuilding including the book, “Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians.” He currently is a Senior Fellow with Humanity United, a Foundation that works with peace and conflict resolution. The organization also seeks to end present day slavery and child trafficking. He will share with us about his experience in international conflict situations, give us the scriptural basis for such work, and leave us with practical tools for working through conflict in our setting. Our time apart will also include breakout sessions to connect with peers.
 
I hope you will join me for this online gathering. Please register by clicking here. CEUs (.2) are available for this event at the conclusion of the session. 
 
I am grateful for each of you and have you in my daily prayers. 
 
With gratitude,
Bishop David Graves


A Word from Bishop Graves: November 3rd election

published 10/12/2020

Dear Friends,

As the November 3rd election approaches, I am reminded of my grandfather and uncle who served as political officials in Knoxville, Tennessee, where I grew up. My uncle served as County Trustee and County Mayor. Grandfather Graves served 32 years on the school board. In several of the county and school buildings, you find their names as they held these offices when the buildings were constructed.  

During the early years of my grandfather’s tenure, he served with fellow school board member, Archie Campbell. Mr. Campbell was a songwriter, singer, comedian, and personality extraordinaire who appeared on several television shows. Archie Campbell was a United Methodist and member at Bulls Gap UMC in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. My dad shared with me recently how Archie Campbell would call their house to talk school board business and politics with my grandfather who loved God, family, the Methodist church, business and politics.

In this moment, I do not wish to talk politics, but I do want to encourage everyone to vote. It is most important that each of us exercise this right that we should not take for granted. This is not only true in a presidential election, but every time there is a local or state election. When Nancy and I moved to Montgomery, one of the first things we did was register to vote here in the state we now call home for this season of our lives.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, offered advice to early Methodists about voting. He encouraged them to: 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worth. 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against. 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.  

What sound advice for the times we are living in right now.

During these days leading up to and following the November 3rd election, I would encourage each of us to be in prayer for our nation and all who are running for office. Please vote! Do all you can to ensure that every eligible U.S. citizen has accessibility to vote in person or by mail-in ballot.

Let’s continue to be mindful of Mr. Wesley’s advice to take care of our spirits following the election. There is a lot of emotion and opinion surrounding this election so our witness to others following the election is most important.

I appreciate the opportunity and privilege to serve as your bishop.

In Christ,
David W. Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference 


2020 Annual Conference: In Review

published 9/26/2020

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:
Commissioning 
Deacon: Kevin Lazarus
Elders: Nathan Adkison, Jack Allen, Brian Dovey, Jennifer Gregory, Lucas Tribble, and Tom Skeen
 
Ordination
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. 


2020 Annual Conference Pre-conference Information

published 9/21/2020

As previously announced, Annual Conference 2020 will be held virtually through Zoom webinar. The half-day annual conference session will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2020 at 1:00pm. A non-voting live stream option will be available for guests. Click here for live stream. No persons will be permitted on site except essential conference staff.

working agenda for the 1/2 day annual conference is available by clicking here

It is imperative that each clergy and lay member carefully review the 2020 Book of Reports, which contains the proposed agenda, procedural guidelines, and report of our boards and committees, as well as items to be acted on during the 2020 annual conference. Click here to access the Book of Reports

There are several reports that will be presented at annual conference on September 26th. Members of the annual conference will vote on these items. Please review these prior to our time together. 
Nominations report, presented by Rev. Ashley Davis
Board of pension and health benefits report, presented by Tara Sanders
Equitable Compensation report, presented by Rev. Michael Cobb
Council on Finance and Administration and the Proposed 2021 budget, presented by George Mingledorff. 
Report of the Cabinet, presented by Rev. June Jernigan

Should you have a question about any of the reports, please complete this brief form and the appropriate person will respond to you. These submitted questions will be given priority in the limited online time we have together. 

If you have not registered, please do so soon. Registration will be through Zoom. Only those participating in an official capacity (clergy, board of ordained ministry, voting lay members) need to register. Only lay members elected at charge conference and entered into the dashboard for their church will be approved. If you know there has been a change to your lay member since charge conference or that you are to attend for your church as an alternate lay member, please contact sarah@awfumc.orgClick here to register for the 1/2 day session for clergy and lay members. Please note that registration will close one hour before the event. You will not be able to obtain a link to participate once registration has closed. We will be present on the Zoom webinar one hour before the session to work through any technical issues that may arise as participants log on. A technical helpline will be live one hour prior to the beginning of each session. Should you have problems logging on, call 850-708-1614. 

If you are unfamiliar with Zoom, please consult this brief instructional sheet.

We look forward to our virtual time together. 


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