Conference News

Alabama-West Florida Conference Announces Budget Reductions and Restructuring Plans

published 5/5/2020
The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church is undergoing budget reductions and staff restructuring to appropriately plan for financial implications as a result of COVID-19 and the upcoming session of the 2021 General Conference. Based upon recent trends and detailed predictions, the annual conference is seeking to decrease its overall operating budget by as much as 50% by January 1, 2021, in order to continue to be a sustainable and viable annual conference.
The following restructuring plan will be finalized and take effect on September 1, 2020:


  1. The elimination of fourteen staff positions in the conference and districts;
  2. Salary reductions for director-level positions and district superintendents;
  3. Restructuring of existing work in the conference and districts;
  4. Line item budget reductions in most ministry areas;
  5. Reduction of travel and in-person meetings, enabling technology to achieve conference and committee goals. 

“This is the most difficult part of ministry leadership,” said Bishop David Graves. “We value people and talent, but we must prioritize what is needed in the conference and districts to achieve our goals. While it is painful to eliminate gifted staff and reduce ministry resources, we simply cannot continue to operate in a day-to-day mentality; we must appropriately plan for the future of the conference. We celebrate faithful missional giving during this historic pandemic and acknowledge the many churches who have continued their commitment to the conference. This comprehensive plan will ultimately allow more funding to remain in the local churches.”
The details of each staff ministry area are as follows:
Episcopal Office and Office of Ministerial Services
-The role of administrative assistant to the bishop will be eliminated.
-The current administrative assistant to the office of ministerial services will serve both offices.
- The Episcopal office will further reduce expenses, which includes the elimination of all reimbursements to the bishop.
Office of Communications
-The role of communications specialist will be eliminated.
Office of Congregational Development
-The administrative assistant for this office will have reduced hours.
Office of Connectional Ministries
-The director of mission and advocacy position will be eliminated.
-The director of multicultural ministries position will be eliminated and this work will be guided by the current director of leadership strategies.
-The conference operations coordinator position will be part time.
-The two part-time receptionists positions will be eliminated.
The essential work of the positions being eliminated will be managed by current conference staff.
District Changes
-All district administrative assistant positions will be eliminated. There will be two regional offices. The southern region will include the Baypines, Marianna-Panama City, Mobile and Pensacola and districts. The northern region will include Demopolis, Dothan, Montgomery-Opelika and Montgomery-Prattville districts.
-A district administrator for the southern region has been hired. A district administrator will be hired for the northern region. A job description will be posted and applications will be received at a later date.
-Six physical district offices will be eliminated, and all district superintendents will work remotely. In order to maintain a presence in the southern region and northern region of the conference, the current Mobile district office will remain. The northern region office will be housed in Montgomery at the conference office.
-As previously announced, the current Montgomery-Opelika district superintendent will also serve the Montgomery-Prattville district, while other district superintendents will share supervision roles
-Seven districts superintendents will be reduced to four, serving eight districts, by July 1, 2021.
“As much as COVID-19 has challenged us in unexpected ways, we are seeing creative opportunities to do ministry with reduced resources,” Graves continued. “I am grateful for the thousands of ways our current staff has made the conference and district offices better places. Please join me in expressing your appreciation to those who will transition to other opportunities in the coming months, and pray that they will find meaningful and life-giving employment. I also invite you to pray for those who will remain on staff as they will be assuming many more tasks and responsibilities in addition to their day-to-day ministry work. As leaders of the annual conference, we believe that these hard decisions today will enable the work of the annual conference to continue after we have traveled through these difficult seasons.”
The revised budget, including reductions in most ministry areas, was approved by the AWF core team on Thursday, April 23, 2020. That proposed budget will then be before the AWF Conference council on finance and administration for review before a recommendation is made to the 2020 Annual Conference voting members.

Alabama-West Florida Conference Important Announcements and Updates Related to COVID-19

published 4/29/2020
There are several important announcements for clergy, lay leaders, lay members to annual conference and staff parish relations chairs. Please take time to carefully read these announcements.

Annual Conference Dates

The 2020 session of annual conference continues to be revised as health and safety projections are made for large gatherings in late summer and fall. Because it is difficult to forecast, the conference is now shifting to a virtual-only event to be held June 28-29, 2020. There are many details to be arranged that will be announced at a later date, including a revised working agenda. Only essential reports and tasks will be conducted at this conference.

Virtual Safe Sanctuaries

On April 29, 2020, the Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Trustees adopted an addendum to the current Safe Sanctuaries policy. This document is for online and digital ministry due to COVID-19. Each pastor who is currently under appointment at a local church is required to acknowledge that you have received and adopted this document for your local church.
-Click here for addendum
-Click here to sign the acknowledgement form

Church Restart Resources

At this time, Bishop David Graves has recommended churches remain closed through May 17, 2020. However, churches need to utilize this time to carefully plan for how they will reopen in the future. Please establish a COVID-19 task force or leadership team within your local church to discuss this plan.
Restart resources are on our Website at

AWF Daily Devotional

The AWF daily devotional will continue indefinitely with a revision to the schedule.
-The traditional devotional will continue to be held on Mondays at 10am.
-A lectio divina will be led by Rev. Julie Hare of Auburn UMC on Wednesdays at 10am.
This will allow our conference to continue to stay connected through this platform while also giving space and acknowledging technology calendars are full.
The Zoom link will remain the same.

AWF Clergy Devotional

At this time, the Monday afternoon clergy devotional will remain as planned at 4:00pm. The frequency will most likely be reduced in the coming weeks for the same reasons mentioned above.
-Rev. Allison Posell referenced two resources in the April 27th gathering.
         The Sprint Teams (COVID-19) document may be found here.
         Click here for The Common Symptoms Following A Traumatic Event.
The Zoom link will remain the same.

 Please visit for updated information.

A Word from Bishop Graves for the Montgomery-Prattville District

published 4/27/2020

Friends in the Montgomery-Prattville District,
I hope this correspondence finds you well despite the ongoing pandemic in the world.
Perhaps you read the announcement that the Montgomery-Opelika district superintendent, Dr. Jeff Wilson, will also be serving in this capacity for the Montgomery-Prattville District starting July 1, 2020. To clarify, Jeff will be the district superintendent of both districts, having oversight of all district administrative committees, including the district committee on ministry, district trustees, and other district teams. 
Supervision of pastors, work with SPR committees, and charge conferences will be shared among three district superintendents based upon the county in which your church is located. These superintendents will handle pastoral and/or SPRC consultations, including all appointment conversations. All pastors and churches will remain part of the Montgomery-Prattville District, even when direct supervision is provided by a different superintendent. Charges of multiple churches that cross county lines will be notified regarding the district superintendent with supervisory responsibility. The following Montgomery-Prattville county breakdown will assist you in understanding this new model:
Dr. Jeff Wilson: Montgomery County, Autauga County, Elmore County;
Dr. Alan Gantzhorn: Chilton County, Dallas County, Wilcox County, Lowndes County;
Rev. Jean Tippet: Butler County.
As we continue to seek innovative ways to make the best use of our resources, we prayerfully ask for your help in making this plan successful. I invite you to pray for the cabinet as they live into new ways of being servant leaders. Thank you for the many ways you are changing your corner of the world, even in historic times.
In Christ,
Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference

In-person Worship Cancellations Extend into May for Alabama-West Florida Conference

published 4/23/2020

Bishop David Graves, in conjunction with Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference of the UMC, is recommending the cancellation of all in-person worship and church meetings through (and to include) May 17, 2020. The bishop, cabinet and leadership team will continue to assess when churches may gather again.
“It is in our best interest as a conference to make this recommendation based on the information we have,” stated Bishop Graves. “There are various opinions about when states should begin to reopen, yet it is important that we exercise caution when considering when to reopen church buildings and worship spaces. Because the safety and health of our congregations and communities are a top priority, we are making this recommendation. In addition to this, churches should establish a COVID-19 task force or leadership team to consider the many factors associated with reopening churches."
As previously announced, the 2020 session of the AWF Annual Conference is being postponed until a later date.
Clergy appointments will continue to follow the previously announced timeline and are still effective July 1, 2020. If moving restrictions or complications occur in a specific case, the district superintendent will advise the pastor and church based on the situation.
Should you have any questions on this new date, please contact your district superintendent. Up-to-date information may be found at

COVID Statement from Tanzania for AWF Conference

published 4/19/2020
Greetings from the Tanzania Annual Conference. We greet you in the name of our Risen Savior and with the Hope of the Easter Season.
Thank you for letting us know how you are doing and ways in which to pray for you. This global pandemic is in many ways both scary and yet uniting as we move through this time together and united in Christ as one Body and one family through the blood of our savior.
In Tanzania we have been dealing with COVID-19 for almost a month now. In that short time we have seen cases continue to rise from 1 to 25 and now over 90 confirmed cases. It has gone from being brought into Tanzania by people traveling abroad to being spread among our population through contact with others already in Tanzania.
We face many challenges with our health care system, our ability to test and trace contacts, and our ability to treat and care for those diagnosed. We thank our government for their quick response in closing schools, canceling events, and reducing the meeting of large groups. However, we are also challenged by the idea of isolation and social distancing with many having to choose between going out to face the coronavirus or facing hunger and starvation at home.
Our churches and faith communities continue to provide hope in this time. Most of our churches continue to meet, but are taking precautions of hand washing, not shaking hands, and not sitting close together at worship services. Our churches are also working on being a source of education to the community by teaching others how to take precautions.
Our President, Dr. John Magufuli, has called for three days of prayer for all people of faith starting on Friday, April 17th and extending to Sunday, April 19th. We will be using this time to fast, study scripture, and pray for the healing and deliverance of our country. We will make sure to pray for you during this time and we invite you to join us during this time in praying about this virus that is spreading around the world, remembering the many vulnerable groups who are in danger both of becoming sick, but also who will suffer from economic challenges and lack of basic necessities during this time.
We are blessed to be together during this time, while separated by a long distance, we are still united in our faith, our love of Christ, and our desire to be in mission to the whole world and to see it transformed through the Body of Christ.

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