Conference News

Alabama-West Florida Congregations Are Becoming More of What God Calls Them to Be

published 9/5/2017
Throughout all of church history, there has never been a time when a healthy, faithful, effective congregation has been more needed and necessary. It is clear that the leadership of the AWFUMC believe to the core of their being that they are at the right time to be a faithful and an effective community of faith to have a promising future. The Conference leaders have determined in this moment of time to encourage and inspire this core belief and equip the congregation to practice the appropriate approaches and strategies that will fulfill their potential and meet the world’s needs.

AWFUMC has begun to equip these faithful congregations to imagine what God desires. Congregations throughout the Conference boundaries are living into the Next Steps Ministry Now (NSMN), a tool and process to equip congregational leaders to imagine.

Congregations in the Montgomery-Opelika, Marianna-Panama City, Baypines, and Dothan Districts are living into the NSMN process of four basic questions upon which to reflect and address. These questions include:
  • Who are we? (The question of identity) 
  • Why do we exist? (The question of purpose) 
  • Who are our neighbors? (The question of location)
  • What is God’s will for us? (The question of the next right step).
These four basic questions are answered through gathering information, sharing stories, reviewing geographic and demographic data, and networking within the community.  They serve as input for reflection and discernment then planning. This is likened to a pilgrimage for these leaders and for the at-large congregation. The pilgrimage is a leadership process and gets people to a place they would not get to on their own.

We Methodists have the structure, connection, message, and people to make disciples and transform communities. Congregational leaders are leaping into imagination action, considering the emerging community context, their legacy, and their missional task so that their discernment and planning are fruitful and they achieve the harvest they seek. Their legacy and story in their community leverages their unique distinctiveness right where they are located. 


A One-year Reflection with Bishop David Graves

published 8/31/2017

We celebrate the one-year anniversary of Bishop David W. Graves being assigned and installed to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Hear more from him in this interview with Mary Catherine Phillips, AWF Director of Communications, about his first year and his hopes for our conference. 

Click here  to see the interview. We invite you to share this on social media and with your local churches. You may also listen to this message as an audio-only podcast by clicking here, by searching for "AWFUMC Podcasts" on iTunes or in your preferred podcast player. 

A Word from the Bishop: Praying our Way Forward

published 8/30/2017

The denomination-wide "Praying Our Way Forward" initiative launched on New Year’s Day 2017 with 75 weeks of focused prayer for The United Methodist Church. Each annual conference will take one week to have intentional prayer for the mission of The United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. The effort began in the North Carolina Conference and will conclude in the West Angola Episcopal area in June 2018. The Alabama-West Florida Conference's week of prayer will be September 11-15, 2017

Click here or on the below video frame to hear a special request from Bishop Graves about how local churches can participate in this meaningful week. Click here for a written transcript of the video

A Request from Bishop Graves: Special Harvey Relief Collection this Sunday

published 8/29/2017


It is hard to believe the news coverage coming out of Texas and the ongoing catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey. My heart breaks as the stories continue to be reported about how lives are changing as a result of this storm. Please join me in praying for the people in Texas and that the United Methodist Church may best respond so that we may be a blessing. Our conference will respond through the collection of requested items and ERT teams. If you are part of a team, you may find out more information through Susan Hunt

The most immediate way you can act and respond, in addition to praying, is through financial donations. I am asking each church in the Alabama-West Florida Conference to take a monetary collection in your worship services this weekend. Those collections may be sent to the conference office with "Hurricane Harvey-Texas Disaster Response" in the memo line. 

Thank you for making this national tragedy a priority in your local church. I am grateful for each of you and your ministry. Together, we are better though our connection. 

With Deep Appreciation,
Bishop David Graves
Alabama-West Florida Conference 

Bishop Forms New Team to Help Congregations in Crisis

published 8/18/2017
(Kari Barlow for the AWF Conference) - A new 19-member Bishop’s Response Team now stands ready to support congregations across the Alabama-West Florida Conference in times of crisis.  
Bishop David Graves, along with his cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry, began forming the team in May, after recognizing the need to provide more tangible support to churches dealing with a wide range of disruptive and life-altering events.
“His vision is to deploy a response team of trained persons into a church and community whenever there is a traumatic event,” said Rev. June Jernigan, Assistant to Graves and Director of Ministerial Services. “He wants the congregation, complainant, clergy and clergy family to find support, encouragement and healing.”
The team, intentionally comprised of both clergy and lay members, will assist in times of the sudden death of a pastor, sexual misconduct, abuse of authority, misuse or embezzlement of funds or other chargeable offenses, Jernigan said.
“Having a Bishop’s Response Team is just one more way that we are seeking to help churches be vital congregations,” she added.
Each team member was nominated by a District Superintendent and is representative of the Conference in regard to age, gender, ethnicity and church-size. Several of those who accepted the invitation to serve described the opportunity as “a calling upon their lives,” Jernigan said.
“An effective team member is a person willing to step into a crisis, a good listener, a non-anxious presence and a person who is willing and able to set aside his or her own story to hear the story of others,” she said.
Individual or small groups of team members will be deployed based on their calling, gifts, geography, and availability, and they will work closely with the District Superintendent. During their time at a church, one of the response team’s first priorities will be to connect with the pastor parish relations committee or the staff parish relations committee.
“It is important that communication with a congregation is clear and transparent throughout the process,” Jernigan said. “Team leaders might be assigned to support the SPR, the complainant, the congregation as a whole, the clergy person or the clergy spouse and family.”
Conference officials have estimated a response team could be needed every four months, but the length of time a team works with a congregation will depend on the specific situation.
On Aug. 12, the new team completed an extensive all-day training with Becky Posey Williams (pictured above), who serves as the Senior Director for Sexual Ethics and Advocacy for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. The team delved into topics such as sexual ethics, how to treat victims of sexual abuse, guidelines on how to deal with a staff member or clergy member accused of a sexual abuse, the church’s responsibility and ways to move toward justice and individual and church-wide healing following a crisis.
Jernigan said the challenging work of the team is based on building and nurturing relationships with people affected by a crisis or trauma within a congregation.
“The key question we ask—so that God is guiding this process of healing—is, ‘What are the needs for this particular situation?’” she said. “Based on the answer, the response team opens up a safe space for God to do God’s work of healing, restoring of hope and strengthening of faith.” 

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