Conference News

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

A Word from the Bishop: Intentions of a Retired Bishop

published 9/27/2013


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

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