Conference News

AWF 2016 Delegation Number Announced by General Conference Secretary

published 11/7/2013

Delegates to the 2016 General Conference are to be elected at either the 2014 or 2015 session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference. (Paragraph 502.3)
You are to elect 5 Clergy Delegates and 5 Lay Delegates.

In accordance with Pars. 34-36 in the Constitution, delegates to the jurisdictional conferences are also to be elected.
¶ 34. Article III.—The annual conference shall elect clergy and lay delegates to the General Conference and to its jurisdictional or central conference in the manner provided in this section, Articles IV and V. The persons first elected up to the number determined by the ratio for representation in the General Conference shall be representatives in that body. Additional delegates shall be elected to complete the number determined by the ratio for representation in the jurisdictional or central conference, who, together with those first elected as above, shall be delegates in the jurisdictional or central conference. The additional delegates to the jurisdictional or central conference shall in the order of their election be the reserve delegates to the General Conference. The annual conference shall also elect reserve clergy and lay delegates to the jurisdictional or central conference as it may deem desirable. These reserve clergy and lay delegates to the jurisdictional or central conferences may act as reserve delegates to the General Conference when it is evident that not enough reserve delegates are in attendance at the General Conference.

In the election process, attention is directed to Par. 35 and 36, which now read:

¶ 35. Article IV.—The clergy delegates to the General Conference and to the jurisdictional or central conference shall be elected from the clergy members in full connection and shall be elected by the clergy members of the annual conference who are deacons and elders in full connection, associate members, and those provisional members who have completed all of their educational requirements and local pastors who have completed course of study or an M. Div. degree and have served a minimum of two consecutive years under appointment immediately preceding the election.

¶ 36. Article V.—The lay delegates to the General and jurisdictional or central conferences shall be elected by the lay members of the annual conference or provisional annual conference without regard to age, provided such delegates shall have been professing members of The United Methodist Church for at least two years next preceding their election, and shall have been active participants in The United Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election, and are members thereof within the annual conference electing them at the time of holding the General and jurisdictional or central conferences.

The election of jurisdictional conference delegates is governed by Par. 514

¶ 513. Membership

The membership of each jurisdictional conference shall consist of an equal number of clergy and lay delegates elected by the annual conferences as provided in the Discipline. Consideration shall be given to electing an inclusive delegation (¶¶ 124, 138). The number of delegates to which an annual conference is entitled shall be twice the number of its General Conference delegates, except when the application of that formula results in a total number of delegates to a jurisdictional conference less than 100. In that event, the Secretary of the General Conference shall adjust the number of delegates to a jurisdictional conference in the same proportion among the annual and missionary conferences of the jurisdiction to achieve a total of 100, ensuring that no annual or missionary conference shall be represented by fewer than four delegates.

and 515, which reads:

Election of Delegates — The clergy and lay delegates and reserves to the jurisdictional conferences shall be elected by ballot in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Instructions for the reporting of elections will be sent to annual conference secretaries early in 2014.

The General Conference will be in session from May 10 through May 20, 2016 in Portland, Oregon, USA. Delegates are expected to be present from May 10 through May 20, with departure on May 21, 2016.

Specifics on travel and housing for General Conference will be distributed by the Office of the Business Manager of the General Conference in the fall of 2015.

Please be in touch if you have questions.



Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist, II
Secretary of the General Conference

With needs on rise, religious leaders warn against food stamp cuts

published 11/1/2013

(Linda Bloom*, UMConnections) - If Congress drastically cuts the federal food stamp program, religious institutions will not be able to fill the gap for hungry families.

That was the message delivered by religious leaders from southeastern states who participated in an Oct. 30 media briefing.

The leaders expressed their concerns the same day as the first public meeting of the Congressional farm bill conference committee in Washington. The U.S. House version of the farm bill would cut the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s primary food assistance program, by $39 billion.

In addition, on Nov. 1, the benefits of all 48 million people in the SNAP program are going to be cut across the board, for an average of 8 percent, said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center in Washington.

Every southeastern state exceeds the U.S. national child poverty rate of 22.6 percent, according to the action center’s latest analysis. The SNAP caseload in eight southeastern states has increased 65.9 percent over the past five years.

“As the SNAP benefits are decreasing, we’re seeing an increase in individual needs in our area,” said Bishop Paul Leeland, who represents 650 congregations in the United Methodist Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference. “The majority of these people are children and older adults.”

Taking up the slack

Religious leaders criticized the assumption of some federal lawmakers that faith communities can pick up the cost of cuts to SNAP. To make up for the proposed reductions, each religious congregation in the U.S. would need to increase its food assistance by nearly $15,000 a year for the next 10 years, totaling more than $145,000, according to Bread for the World.

“Florida is undergoing a tremendous impact from unemployment,” said the Rev. Russell Meyer, executive director, Florida Council of Churches, and a clergy member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “If SNAP is cut, as proposed… the estimate is one out of three Florida families will face food insecurity at some point during the week.”

Religious groups in Florida, particularly suburban churches, would have to pick up the added responsibility for feeding the hungry in what “represents a tax on people of faith,” he argued.

The pricetag on feeding America’s poor doesn’t change just because the government shirks its duties and expects religious groups to fill in, Meyer pointed out. “It’s shifting a real cost in society onto a particular subset of society who feels the burden,” he explained. “Many people who don’t go to church feel the burden as well.”

Some lawmakers eager to slash food stamp funding seem to have a disconnect with what is happening in their own communities, the religious leaders noted.

North Carolina Bishop Hope Morgan Ward believes the key is to work on relationships with those in need.

Even some church members, she admitted, do not know the name of one child in living in poverty. United Methodists in her state, she said, “are engaged in increasing relationships with people who need SNAP assistance. We do not allow people we know and live with to go without food.”

Unable to meet the demand

The Rev. D. Scott Weimer, senior pastor, North Avenue Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta, said there is plenty of interfaith cooperation to assist those in need but an “increased strain in our ability to feed hungry people.”

His own congregation hosts a day care center and preschool for homeless children and they have discovered that many of the children who take advantage of free school lunch programs “are not eating on weekends and holidays.” Although religious leaders are encouraging churches to adopt schools to provide weekend meals, “what we are discovering is we can’t keep up even with that demand.”

The Rev. Connie Shelton, director of communications for the United Methodist Mississippi Annual Conference, told how the congregation at Heritage United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg discovered the importance of their backpack food ministry when a teacher described the excitement of one fifth-grade boy about having the gift of food for the weekend.

Mississippi residents already are generous to those in need, she said, but can’t absorb the gaps the proposed food stamp cuts will create. “Cutting a program without changing a system and culture is not the answer.”

Seniors also are suffering, said the Rev. Eric Mount, of the Kentucky Council of Churches’ Justice Advocacy Commission, who has observed both senior citizens and the programs that help feed them struggling to stay afloat. Some seniors, he added, are “having to choose between paying their (medical) co-pay and buying food.”

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at or contact her at (646) 369-3759 or



               {Graphic courtsey of Bread for the World}

AWF Delegation Task Force Appointed

published 10/23/2013

(Montgomery, AL) - UMConnections, a blog about the United Methodist Church, recently reported that the 2016 session of General Conference will see a drop in the number of delegates based on a vote by the Commission. Most likely, the Alabama-West Florida Conference will also see a reduction in the number of delegates in 2016. 

In response to a motion presented at the 2013 Annual Conference, held in Mobile, AL, a task force was implemented to identify information related to persons who wish to make themselves available as a delegate. Bishop Paul Leeland has appointed the following persons to that task force:
Chairperson, Order of Elders: Sara Shaver
Chairperson, Order of Deacons: Emily Kincaid
Chairperson, Fellowship of Local Pastors & Associate Members: Fred Grady
Al Harper
Michael Precht
Trish Bruner
David Goolsby
Wesley Wachob
Jackie Slaughter.

This task force represents the diversity of our Alabama-West Florida Conference from young adult clergy to local pastors to retired pastors--all of whom are eligible to be elected. This group will make a recommendation on what information will be asked as well as how the information will be presented to the conference at 2014 Annual Conference. 



{Photo courtesy of United Methodist Communications}

October Cabinet Holds Planned Session

published 10/23/2013

(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session on October 14-15 at the Conference Office in Montgomery. A significant portion of this meeting was devoted to reviewing the ministry program of the conference, in a continued effort to align offerings with the SEND (Seek, Engage, Nurture, and Deploy) model for leadership throughout our churches. Following the Seed Cast event, conversation continued to focus on the development of new faith communities, the implementation of healthy "systems" in our congregation around missions, evangelism, disciple-making, and assimilation of persons into the life of the church. Worship, small group ministry, and service were also considered as a basis for increasing the vitality of our congregations.

The Academy for Congregational Excellence (ACE), under the direction of Rev. Ron Ball, seeks to aid clergy and churches in the effort to be fruitful congregations. This relatively new ministry of the conference continues to expand and increase its presence. Rev. Ball updated the Cabinet on the work of the ACE team. Whereas initial efforts focused on elevating clergy leadership through various initiatives, ACE is now embarking on ways to work specifically with congregations as well to help identify leaders for our churches and the conference.

Because United Methodists share in a "partnership" ministry - that of both clergy and laity - substantial discussion was held regarding the possibility of creating a Director of Lay Ministries position for the conference. A task force was named that will explore this concept further in the upcoming months.

Administrative matters were reviewed, particularly the need for churches to remember to use the new conference address when remitting connectional giving funds. This will be especially important at the end of the year as churches seek to be credited for apportionment paid in 2013. Checks sent to the old address may not be forwarded to the Conference Office in time before the books close for the year, so please update this information as soon as possible (4719 Woodmere Boulevard, Montgomery, AL, 36106).

A task force brought back a proposal making slight changes to the annual evaluation / appointment preference forms. These forms are being finalized and will be made available on the conference website beginning January 2nd.

Opportunities for ministry in the Jurisdiction and the General Church continue to take shape. We anticipate a partnership developing with the Red Bird Missionary Conference in the coming year. The Red Bird Missionary Conference has 24 congregations, serving along the Kentucky / Tennessee border. This rural area suffers from high degrees of poverty, illiteracy, drug / alcohol abuse, high unemployment, and has many broken families. Given many of our own rural areas face similar challenges, there is the belief that our congregations can form relationships with our Red Bird sisters and brothers and find mutual ways forward in ministry. Likewise, we continue to develop teams in our districts as we join with our sister annual conferences in the "Imagine No Malaria" campaign. Our goal is to save 100,000 lives on the continent of Africa as an annual conference. District Superintendents, District Mission Coordinators, District Lay Leaders, and local church leaders are developing strategies that will be used in the new year to help us reach this goal as we help persons acquire nets that can protect them from the mosquitoes that transmit the deadly malaria disease.

We continue to celebrate the support of the connection and connectional giving. Our conference continues to improve in this area of our shared ministry and we are grateful for the leadership of clergy, lay leaders, and other laity in this effort. As we move toward the fall of the year, many of our rural areas are reaping the harvest. Likewise, we have an abundance of blessings to celebrate and to share here in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. Thanks be to God for the gifts we receive and for the privilege of living and serving together! 


Pensacola District On Watch for Tropical Storm Karen

published 10/4/2013

The conference office received this note from Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon, Pensacola District Superintendent. It was sent to his district but we are reposting here for our Pensacola-area followers. 

Based on the lastest advisory, the greatest impacts from Tropical Storm Karen will be experienced in our area [Pensacola District] during the morning hours on Sunday.  Because of the timing of this event, pastors and local church leaders are encouraged to monitor this situation and use your best judgment as it relates to holding Sunday morning services and other activities for your congregation. 
The differences in a strong tropical storm or a minimal hurricane are largely insignificant.  There will be strong winds, significant rainfall, along with the potential for some damage.  Should your congregation experience any damage from flooding or structural damage from branches or trees, please contact Jeremy Pridgeon or Alan Gantzhorn.
We will conduct an assessment of our churches in the aftermath of this event and are praying for the safety of all who live in our area as Karen approaches the Gulf Coast.
From:  Jeremy Pridgeon, Pensacola District Superintendent
            Alan Gantzhorn, Pensacola District Disaster Response Coordinator

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