Conference News

A Word from Bishop Graves: 24 Hours, 24 Days: Listen!!!!

published 6/4/2020
Dear Alabama-West Florida Church Family,
In recent days following the tragic murder of yet another black male, George Floyd, there have been numerous statements written and reports of protests. Most of these were peaceful, yet some turned violent. Images of the officer’s knee suffocating the life from Mr. Floyd and the emotion that has followed leads to haunting cries that enough is enough. I am outraged at the actions I continue to see against people of color. During these times, it is our instinct to write or post on social media. Perhaps some of you have been asking when I would make a statement.
Over the last few days and weeks, the stirring in my spirit has been to listen! I have listened to the feelings of anger, hurt, and pain of my brothers and sisters of color. Some of their anger lies with white people who continue to talk while they need to listen. I have listened to protestors who desperately beg for the generational trauma of persecution and killing to stop. To my dismay, I have listened to the theological rhetoric and the defensive posture of many. I have listened to those who are frustrated with those who abuse their positions of power. I have heard that we need to give space for forgiveness, acknowledge that racism is a sin, and that we need to acknowledge it when we hear it. I have listened to the lack of support for the black church here in Alabama-West Florida. I have listened to white clergy and laity who ask, “Bishop what can we do? I have so many questions and feel paralyzed to know how to appropriately act.” 
As I listen, I hear a consistent theme with COVID-19 and the events of the last week: weariness. Yes Lord, we are weary living in a weary land. We have moved from being tired to weary. It is a hard place to be. As I have listened, these words from 2 Chronicles 7:14 resonate within me, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Many are calling on God to heal our land, yet it will begin when God’s people turn to what we celebrated this past Pentecost Sunday in Acts 2:21, “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” For God has poured out God’s Holy Spirit on all people for their choosing. 
I am asking all people in the Alabama-West Florida Conference to listen and stand in solidarity with people of color! Make no mistake that all lives will in fact matter when black lives matter. This coming Sunday, June 7, is observed as Peace With Justice Sunday in the United Methodist Church. What timing! For as I listen, I hear the cry of where there is no justice there is no peace. I am calling us to listen as we begin this Sunday at 12:00 midnight with a 24-hour prayer vigil, followed by 24 days of prayer.
For the 24-hour prayer vigil, there is an online sign-up with 15-minute prayer slots. Up to five people may register during each time slot. However, as many people who want to pray during a specific time may do so. God will hear our prayers! Please click here to sign up now. I would hope that we would have hundreds of people across this conference to participate and pray over the 24 hours this Sunday.
The remaining days will have focused prayers as you can see on this calendar. During these 24 days of prayer, we are asking people to do virtual prayer walks on their own or with a small group. Additionally, we will be posting daily prayers on social media. Download the prayer sheet so that you can incorporate this focused time of prayer in your daily devotional life.
Next, I would ask us to listen to one another during this time. To be frank with white people, you need to listen much more. Just listen, even when listening is hard. In these remaining days of June, I would ask all of us to talk with one another and to take the posture of listening more than talking. As we listen, God is calling all of us to be a part of ending systemic racism and injustice.
24-hours of prayer and 24 days of prayer are what God has placed on my heart as we listen to what God is calling us to do next. The Holy Spirit is stirring within my heart to take action steps in the coming days. I plan to share that soon, but for now, there is this urging within me that we need to continuously pray and listen. Yes, it will take much more than prayer and listening, as prayer without action leads to death. For today in this Holy Spirit moment, speak Lord, speak!
In loving kindness,
Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference


Alabama-West Florida Conference Seeks District Administrator

published 6/2/2020
The northern districts of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church are seeking a full-time District Administrator to be located in Montgomery, Alabama. The position includes providing support for superintendents, as well as for clergy and churches in the geographical area. 

Essential Functions: 1. Coordinate all Charge Conference schedules and forms processing. 2. Ensure completion and workflow of Pastor Compensation forms. 3. Administer year-end church records reporting process (EZRA). 4. Coordinate consultation reports creation and completion with district clergy. 5. Facilitate check requests for Superintendents.  6. Maintain district files in Brick River database.  7. Assist the Superintendents with scheduling and coordinating events, preparing documents, processing correspondence, and performing other administrative duties as reasonably required.

Education and Experience: An associate degree (A. A.) or equivalent from a two-year college or technical school; or minimum of one to two years related experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience is required.   

Skills and Abilities: The applicant must be able to follow written or verbal instructions and have basic technical skills to complete repetitive and well-defined duties. Requires some knowledge of structure, polity and doctrine of the United Methodist Church.  Must have working knowledge of Windows, Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and database management programs.  Must possess an exceptional ability to organize, prioritize and multi-task in a dynamic environment and strong desire to help those who have questions and problems. Must possess a valid driver’s license. Must be able to pass and maintain a multi-state criminal background check.  Must be required to lift up to 7 pounds and be able to sit for extended periods of time.
Benefits include Medical/Dental/Vision, Paid Time Off, Paid Holidays and Birthday, 403(b) Matching Contributions.  Working hours are Monday-Thursday, 7:45 to 4:45 and Friday, 7:45 to noon.

Applicants are requested to send a cover letter, resume, and responses to two screening questions (below) to BeLinda Carnegie at
Screening Questions:
In five sentences or less for each question: 
  1. What is your database management experience?
  2. How would you describe your multi-tasking skills and/or ability to prioritize tasks?

Alabama-West Florida to hold annual conference sessions in fall of 2020

published 5/27/2020

Bishop David Graves, in collaboration with conference leadership and the annual conference planning team, is announcing that the 2020 AWF Annual Conference session will be held in two parts in the fall of 2020. Both sessions will be held at Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, AL.
The clergy session will be held on Sunday, September 13, 2020, and the half-day annual conference session will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2020. A non-voting live stream option will be available to those who are unable to attend on the 26th. All guests and families are asked to watch via live stream this year to reduce the number of persons in the building.
The previously announced virtual session, planned for June 28-29, will not be held.
“The two virtues I have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic when trying to plan calendar events are flexibility and patience,” stated Bishop David Graves. “Even with this new announcement there are uncertainties around details. I am grateful for the abundance of grace you all have extended and will continue to give us as we navigate this historic time. The one certainty around annual conference is that the length will be greatly reduced, and some agenda items will be scheduled for next year. I am grateful to Frazer Memorial UMC for their flexibility and willingness to walk alongside the conference as we determine the best solution for 2020 Annual Conference.”
A revised working agenda will be published in June. In addition to this, a communications piece will be sent to all clergy and lay members regarding details and the postponement of agenda items and activities.

AWF Office of Communications Receives Four UMAC Awards

published 5/27/2020
For the first time ever, the United Methodist Association of Communicators held their annual awards gala in a virtual format on the evening of Thursday, May 21, 2020. Each year, UMAC recognizes excellence in communication through an awards program, the United Methodist Association of Communicators Awards Contest. The contest recognizes excellence in print publications, digital publications, writing, internet communications, video production, audio, photography, visual design, publicity/advertising and media presentations.
The Alabama-West Florida Conference Office of Communications was honored with four awards.
Class Seven, Photography
Category A, Photojournalism, Annual Conference/Local Church Division
1st Place
Luke Lucas
Joy in the Chaos (shown above)
Alabama-West Florida Conference
Class Eight, Visual Design
Category B, Print and Electronic Design, Annual Conference/Local Church Division
3rd place
Mary Catherine Phillips, Karla Merritt and Luke Lucas
Email Template Upgrade
Alabama-West Florida Conference
Class Eight, Visual Design
Category E, Branding/Logo Design, Annual Conference/Local Church Division
3rd place
Mary Catherine Phillips and Karla Merritt
This We Proclaim
Alabama-West Florida Conference
Class Nine, Publicity & Advertising
Hurricane Michael Remembrance
1st Place Mary Catherine Phillips and Luke Lucas
Alabama-West Florida Conference
“I am grateful that our office of communications was honored for the outstanding work they do each and every day,” stated Bishop David Graves. “They ensure that the written and visual messages we must communicate are handled in the most professional and effective way. Join me in honoring this team on these accomplishments.”
Todd Rossnagel, Director of Communications for the Louisiana Conference, is the recipient of the 2020 Communicator of the Year Award. This award is given annually to a person who has made recent striking achievements in communication with broad impact, often breaking new ground for the church.
UMAC is a voluntary, professional organization designed to provide recognition, fellowship and vocational enrichment for professional and volunteer communicators of the church; plan, participate in and support training and continuing education events; develop standards and seek to enhance the professional quality of the work by United Methodist communicators; and assist in keeping members informed about developments in the communications industry and in promoting dialogue and discussion on technology and communication advocacy issues.

General and Jurisdictional Conference Revised Dates Announced

published 5/26/2020

Commission sets dates for postponed General Conference; will explore new uses of technology 

Nashville, Tenn.: The Commission on the General Conference has announced new 2021 dates for General Conference following the postponement of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The quadrennial legislative event will take place on August 29 - September 7, 2021, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minn. 

"We're grateful that we were able to secure new dates while keeping the site of General Conference in Minneapolis. Nearly seven years of pre-planning and preparations by the host team have gone into this event," said Kim Simpson, chair of the Commission on the General Conference.

The Commission decided to focus on 2021 as it was not feasible to schedule any earlier with so much uncertainty over international travel and the spread of COVID-19. Business manager Sara Hotchkiss was authorized by the Commission in March to pursue negotiations for new dates with the venue and area hotels after the Convention Center canceled May events due to concerns over coronavirus.

Hotchkiss said that it was surprising to find an available time block long enough to accommodate General Conference needs with so much competition for event space and lodging with other events shifting their dates as well.

“The hospitality industry has been devastated by COVID-19 with staffing levels significantly reduced, so negotiating amid the pandemic was a much slower process. I am grateful for our partnerships in the industry we have built over the years that assisted us in getting our foot in the door early enough to find any dates in 2021,” said Hotchkiss. “Another challenge was to secure agreements for the number of hotel rooms and room types that we needed. Again, many of our partners faced furloughs and reduced staff hours.”

In making the announcement, the Commission expressed regret that they were not able to accommodate a request from a group of young delegates regarding the reported dates of the postponed General Conference.  The group asked the Commission to not schedule meeting dates that would conflict with the start of the academic year in the U.S. They cited concerns that the timing would disproportionately affect young leaders and hinder their participation, as well as that of educators who might not be able to take off work at that time.

The leadership of the Commission met with the group and invited them to address the full Commission, which includes young adult members, at their May 16 meeting to hear the requests directly and consider their concerns. 

“Including young adults in the General Conference is always an important consideration. We affirm that their voices need to be heard,” said Simpson. “Unfortunately, this request did not come to the Commission until late in the process. By that time, the available dates were secured and any attempt to change the dates would endanger the carrying forward of the deposits to the newly agreed upon dates. This is at least a half-million dollars. To move the event now would require either finding a new meeting location and host annual conference(s) or pushing the event to 2022, both of which would involve cancelling contracts and significant penalties.” 

Simpson said the impact would go beyond finances. “To meet in 2021, if at all possible, is very important in the life of the church. Many things hinge on the dates for General Conference. Pushing it to 2022 affects budgets, jurisdictional conferences, central conferences, the election of bishops, bishops’ retirement dates, terms of office of general agency boards and elected denominational leadership, and more. After listening carefully and discussing it thoroughly, we felt we had to proceed with the dates we’ve secured.” 

Hotchkiss said “Our partners in the hospitality industry moved mountains in good faith with us to help us find dates for a postponed General Conference. There could be significant repercussions, not just financially, but also affecting those who would even be willing to assist us into the future if we do not honor our agreements and all the work that has gone into this.”

However, the Commission did take steps to address a second request contained in a letter from the young adult group to consider alternative methods of accommodating full participation, including utilizing technology to enable virtual voting. 

In response to this request, the Commission voted to gather a group of creative thinkers, including young delegates, to explore the implications of options for accommodating full participation at General Conference, including, but not limited to, the possibility of utilizing technology and online voting at the General Conference. The recommendations of this group will be presented to the Commission for consideration.
“We know this would not be a simple task,” said Simpson. “We must consider the integrity of the voting and credentialing processes, legal ramifications, and the global nature of our church.”

The coronavirus pandemic is not the first health crisis to affect the timing of a General Conference. According to historical documents, the start date of the 1800 General Conference was moved up from October 20 to May 6 because of the prevalence of yellow fever during the fall – which is how the General Conference came to be held in May

The topic of General Conference dates was also discussed at a meeting of the Joint Commission on Unification of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1920. Bishop Richard Cooke said, “The General Conference has full power to do many things. But it is lacking in divine omniscience, and cannot predict the possibility of an epidemic … Now, if there should arise any time in the providence of God such an epidemic as would render the meeting of the General Conference impracticable, the Commission would have the right … to fix such other time as might be necessary.”

UMC Bishops announce dates for postponed 2020 Jurisdictional Conferences

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — The Council of Bishops (COB) has announced new dates for the 2020 Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States which have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States will be held November 10-12, 2021. The days prior to and after can be used at the discretion of each Jurisdictional Conference.

In the call letter to Jurisdictional Conferences secretaries and heads of delegations, COB President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey noted that the dates chosen by the bishops intentionally followed the postponed 2020 General Conference, which will now take place August 29-September 7, 2021, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minn. 

The bishops have the authority to set dates for the Jurisdictional Conferences as per Division Two - Section II - Article IV of The Constitution of The United Methodist Church (¶26 of The Book of Discipline, 2016).
As per ¶30 of The Book of Discipline, Central Conferences outside the United States will be held within a year following the postponed 2020 General Conference that will now be held in 2021.

"The Council of Bishops encourages the entire United Methodist Church to continue deep, unceasing prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide us through these unprecedented times of challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. God, who has been with us on this journey, will see us through and bring us together in praise and worship," the letter stated. 

Click here to read the letter sent to the Heads of Delegations, Jurisdictional Conference Secretaries, Secretary of the General Conference and the Chairperson of the Commission on the General Conference.

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