Conference News

A Word from the Bishop: Intentions of a Retired Bishop

published 9/27/2013

Friends,

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, resident bishop of the Birmingham, Alabama, area, issued a press release yesterday regarding the intention of a retired bishop of The United Methodist Church from another jurisdiction to officiate at the celebration of a same sex union within the boundaries of her Episcopal area. Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s release is included in its entirety below and is provided as a means to guide church leaders who may receive inquires about the retired bishop’s actions.

As Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, I want to affirm Bishop Wallace-Padgett and express confirmation that all persons are welcome in the church. Retired bishops do not speak for the church on this issue. Only the General Conference speaks on behalf of The United Methodist Church. The position of The United Methodist Church on this issue remains the same and is quoted in Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s statement.

While the retired bishop is acting outside the Book of Discipline, church leaders should not allow this distraction to lure them away from the primary ministry of the church. I, like all bishops at the time of our consecration, am committed to upholding the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference

The following is Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s statement:

As United Methodists we have a system that not only connects us for ministry as a worldwide denomination, but also allows us to dialogue and prayerfully discern and make decisions together. Our denomination relies on the integrity of this "order" we have chosen. Throughout our Methodist history we have faced issues where we disagree, but working through our defined processes and respecting one another we have prayerfully discussed and discerned together. Our process for determining church law involves the prayerful discernment of hundreds of delegates who gather every four years representing millions of United Methodists from around the world. Only at this gathering, which we call General Conference, can the church's stance on any issue be changed. As United Methodists we uphold that process as much as we uphold the current result of that process, our 2012 Book of Discipline. Any disregard for that order puts the integrity of our covenant together in jeopardy.

A retired United Methodist bishop notified me that he plans to travel to North Alabama, the area for which I am responsible, with the intention of breaking church law. He plans in late October to officiate at the celebration of a ceremony of a same-sex couple who were recently married in Washington, D.C. Though the couple are members of a United Methodist Church in the North Alabama Conference, the celebration will not take place in a United Methodist Church. I urged the retired bishop to reconsider as his officiating at this ceremony would be in violation of United Methodist Church law. I am also concerned that it would encourage the public to only define The United Methodist Church in North Alabama by one matter and not by the rich range of ministries of North Alabama local churches such as feeding the hungry, ministry with the poor, offering hope for those in addiction, sharing the gospel with our neighbors and welcoming all people to worship together and celebrate the sacrament of holy communion. For a bishop or any ordained or licensed minister to disregard a law of the church creates a breach of the covenant they made at their consecration, ordination or licensing.

Our culture is divided around our understandings of relationships between same sex partners. Likewise there is much debate, pain and struggle among faithful Christians about interpretations of biblical teaching on same-sex relationships. Our United Methodist 2012 Book of Discipline affirms that all persons are of sacred worth and that God’s grace is available to all. Every person is welcome in our churches. The Discipline of our denomination also states that we consider the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching. Our ministers are not permitted to conduct ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions or perform same sex wedding ceremonies.

As a bishop of the United Methodist Church, I took a vow to abide by and uphold the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. I am also committed to continuing to focus those I lead on our mission which is broader than any one issue. The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I appreciate prayers for all involved in this difficult and painful situation.

This statement is for release in its entirety with no redactions.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
North Alabama Conference


In Memoriam: Evelyn Lowery

published 9/27/2013

Evelyn Lowery, the wife of civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, died overnight in her Atlanta home.

She was 88.

“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women,” Joseph E. Lowery said in a statement Wednesday. “She was a wonderful mother and wife and I thank God that she didn’t suffer any pain and that I was blessed having her as my partner, my confidant and my best friend for close to 70 years. I will miss her each and every day, but as a man of faith, I know that she is with her God.”

Joseph Lowery was pastor of the Warren Street Methodist Church, in Mobile, Alabama from 1952 until 1961. His career in the civil rights movement began in the early 1950s in Mobile, Alabama. After Rosa Parks' arrest in 1955, Lowery helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott. He headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted to the desegregation of buses and public places. In 1957, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lowery founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and subsequently led the organization as its president from 1977 to 1997.

Evelyn Lowery, the founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference/WOMEN (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now), suffered a stroke Sept. 18 and had been hospitalized for a week. She returned home from the hospital Wednesday, after doctors told the family that her condition would remain critical.

“My entire family has been overwhelmed by the continuous outpourings of love, support and prayers that have come from across the country, and we ask for your continued prayers over the next few days,” her husband said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Survivors include her husband, three daughters, a sister and grandchildren.

The daughter of a Methodist preacher, Evelyn Lowery had become accustomed to a life of activism long before she met Joseph E. Lowery, who would not only become her husband, but a preacher and civil rights activist, too.

“I grew up with that,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1985. “[My father] was very outspoken and actively involved in incidents in the community. I had moments when I didn’t understand some things. But you live with people, it becomes a part of you.”

In that same interview, she said that in 1947 her younger sister set her up on a blind date with a young Joe Lowery — whose demeanor was vaguely familiar.

“We were both young, but he was old for his age even then. He was already talking on the same level as my father, in terms of maturity and depth. I could appreciate that,” she said. “I guess I was always a little old-fashioned.”

They dated for a year and then married on April 5, 1948. Three daughters followed.

While her husband took his place in history, advocating for civil rights, Lowery took up the cause of making sure the women who supported the movement had a voice as well. In 1979, two years after her husband became president of the SCLC, she formed SCLC/WOMEN to give women more of a voice. The organization was originally set up as a department of the SCLC and was incorporated 10 years later.

Lowery, who remained chairwoman of the organization, continued to work tirelessly to make sure women and girls had advancement opportunities. In 1988, she established a training center for GED classes and computer training, and in 1995, she created a mentoring program for young women, according to the organization’s website.

Click here for original article from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution


AWF September Cabinet Summary

published 9/25/2013

(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session at the Conference Office in Montgomery on September 10-12. In reviewing ministry across the annual conference, we celebrate the ways congregations continue to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." The superintendents shared "Glory Sightings" from their respective districts of churches that are faithfully sharing the gospel in their communities and bearing witness to Christ's love for all persons. We also reviewed pastoral care concerns among our clergy families throughout the conference and spent time in prayer for these brothers and sisters facing difficulty in recent days.

We spent considerable time reflecting on changes to the office of superintendent as decreed by the 2012 General Conference, particularly shifting the role of the DS to that of "chief missional strategist" for their districts. This emphasis will necessitate superintendents spending more of their time on aspects of teaching, preaching, coaching, building teams, and casting vision for their particular areas. In an effort to create alignment, the superintendents are committed to doing this work under the SEND model of the Annual Conference, as we Seek, Engage, Nurture, and Deploy persons for the work of ministry throughout central and south Alabama, and northwest Florida.

We reviewed ministry opportunities from the General and Jurisdictional levels of the church, including Imagine No Malaria and a possible partnership with the Red Bird Missionary Conference in Kentucky. The effort to save lives on the continent of Africa through the distribution of mesh nets and the chance to improve the quality of life for persons in poverty-stricken areas of Appalachia will be explored in the upcoming months and hopefully presented to the congregations throughout our conference.

In the bounds of the conference, we reviewed the Comprehensive Plan for Inclusiveness and spent time reviewing this plan which includes seminary visits to recruit leaders to serve in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, identifying predominately white congregations that would be possible places for persons of racial / ethnic diversity to appointed, reviewing the congregations in our conference that are in transitional communities, and developing a list of prospective "restarts" under racial / ethic pastoral leadership.

Additionally, we celebrate the faithful participation in the connectional giving, noting that the percentage of apportionments received has increased year over year again. Thank you for your commitment to this shared ministry, underscoring a fundamental belief in our tradition that we can do more together than we can on our own. We see the fruit of this effort in our new church starts, in programs like CIRCLES, our Wesley Foundations, our church-related colleges, Blue Lake Camp, and many other ministries throughout our conference and beyond.

Throughout the Charge Conference season and into the first part of 2014, the superintendents will be sharing and calling on leaders to share two resources that will enable all of our churches to live into the SEND model. The first is "The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" by Bishop Robert Schnase, the resident bishop in the Missouri Conference. Some of our churches and districts have utilized this outstanding study to highlight the importance of Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. The second is a new resource developed by Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Area (Nebraska and Kansas) entitled "The Wesleyan Way." Our hope is that congregations will find ways to incorporate these outstanding resources into the life of their church, enabling them to continue to be fruitful, effective, and vital congregations in their communities. These resources are available from Cokesbury.

While there is certainly a tremendous amount of energy devoted this time of year to the setting of the budget, stewardship, and preparation for charge conference, these activities are essential to the work of ordering the life of the church for effective ministry. We are grateful for the leadership of clergy and laity who give of their time, resources, and talents in service to the church. We continue to be hopeful because of the faith that is ours in Christ Jesus and because of the ways lives are being positively impacted through the people called Methodists in Alabama and northwest Florida. Thank you for all that you do for the cause of Christ! These are exciting time to be a United Methodist!



Area Ministry Leaders To Be Locked Up!

published 9/13/2013

(Alabama Rural Ministry) - Local church pastors and ministry leaders are uniting together in our 6th Annual "No more Shacks Campaign" with Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM). Lisa Pierce, director of ARM, will live in a makeshift shack for up to eight days. Other ministry leaders will commit to 24 hours in two other "shacks" next to Lisa's. The goal is to raise awareness about poverty housing in our local area and Alabama, provide efforts for people to volunteer to help repair homes, and to raise $50,000 which helps ARM repair these homes. The need is great as there are over 100 families who have called in requesting help in our local area. With a housing shortage of 90,000 units in Alabama and a declining housing stock with our elderly, the need is always great and before us.

The “shacks” will be located in front of the AU Wesley Foundation along Gay Street (across from Tiger Rags) beginning Friday, October 11th. Lisa and others will have information about poverty in Alabama and specifically Lee and Macon Counties. This is a children’s event as well. Kids who give a $5 donation or more will receive a paint brush and be able to “paint” part of the shack as a way to connect them with home repair and brighten the shack. They also get a free paint brush. Other information will be available about tangible ways to volunteer and help families in our community. Rain or shine, we will be there!

Who else is staying in the shack? Rev. David Warren and Rev. Earl Ballard from Trinity UMC, Rev. Rusty Hutson and Brian Johnson from Cornerstone UMC, and Rev. George Mathison and Rev. Charles Cummings from Auburn UMC and more. We hope our community will come see them and make a donation or pledge towards our $50,000 goal!

ARM is a 501(c)3 faith based organization that serves families through home repair and children’s ministry. Each year we are able to repair 30-40 homes for families in our community. Most of the work includes roof repair, floor repair, and building handicap accessible features. The families served tend to be elderly, have a disability, or are single-parent units. Volunteers complete 95% of all the repairs. All donations are tax deductible.
ARM will also be sponsoring lunch seminars with other organizations who will lead short sessions about poverty or other aspects of families in our community. These will be held on campus beginning Monday Oct. 15th and running through Thursday October 18.

For more information about The Shack or the workshops, see our web site www.arm-al.org, email lisa@arm-al.org, or call (334) 501-4276,


 


Zip Code Missionaries

published 9/13/2013

(Bishop Paul L. Leeland) - During an engaging conversation with one of our United Methodist Missionaries several weeks ago, my wife, Janet, and I found a growing interest in the movement and work of missionaries from a global perspective. We were intrigued with those who dedicated themselves to enter into areas of our world to do evangelism and offer specific ministries that point others to Jesus Christ. This, of course, is the traditional view of missionaries – people who witness across cultures to make disciples of all nations, fulfilling the Great Commission. I think our interest was heightened when we were told about the growing number of Korean and African missionaries that can now be found all over the world, even in the United States.

The Church owes a great amount of gratitude to those who have entered other cultures, learning the language of the culture, coming to adapt and respect the values of the culture, and developing deep relationships of respect in order to introduce these new found friends to Jesus.

Our son-in-law shared his experience of campus ministry during his college years where as a student he was encouraged to get a part time job. This job would introduce him to a circle of people whom he would see consistently and often. Many of these people would not have a relationship with a church and may not think of themselves as Christians. Still, our son-in-law was urged to be friendly, make a friend, and bring this new friend to a Bible study, a mission work team, worship service, or prayer group. The college mantra was, “Be a friend, make a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” This was not done in a manipulative way, but offered as a guide to initiate and present new disciples of Jesus who would have a growing interest in what the Bible says, who Jesus is, and what life looks like when one lives their personal life following the teachings of Jesus.

For some, as they step into a new work environment, meeting new people, this means finding oneself in a new culture – perhaps an un-churched culture. It becomes challenging to listen both to the language of this new culture and recognize the values of this new culture. As new relationships of trust and respect are developed, these new friends are invited into some contact point with our own Christian community that will allow a healthy interest in Jesus Christ to develop.

We don’t need to travel to Africa, Korea, or South America simply to find new disciples. We need to go no further than our own zip code. Changing our patterns of behavior, the time we walk, where we go to eat, or opportunities to serve our community through volunteer efforts, will allow us to meet new people. As we learn of their interests, what they value, and their needs, we develop genuine relationships of trust where it becomes natural and easy to invite them to join us for Bible study, worship, mission work teams, or covenant groups. We become missionaries within our own zip code.

Next month, October 11-12, at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, Panama City, you will certainly want to participate in our Conference Evangelism offering, “Seed Cast,” when Rev. Jim Cowart, founding pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church, Macon, Georgia, comes to share practical steps and insight for growing disciples of Jesus Christ. He started a congregation that now has an average worship attendance of over 2,000 people a week. I hope you will register for this event today by clicking here; it will be well worth your investment since this will be a practical approach to inviting others to follow Jesus Christ.

More importantly, when you return home from this event, thoroughly tour your zip code and then “Be a friend, make a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.” Become a Zip Code Missionary!

Click here to read in Spanish. 

 
 

 


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