Conference News

Bishop Announces District Cabinet Appointments

published 3/17/2019
Bishop David Graves is pleased to announce two projected district cabinet appointments. Rev. Jean Tippit will serve as the Baypines District Superintendent and Dr. Ed Glaize will serve as the Dothan District Superintendent. Dr. Darren McClellan, current Baypines District Superintendent, and Rev. Sara Shaver, current Dothan District Superintendent, will receive appointments into a local church. The aforementioned appointments are effective July 1, 2019.
 
Tippit currently serves as the Discipleship Pastor at Christ UMC in Mobile, AL. Her previous appointments include St. Francis Street/West Wilmer/Whistler as an associate, Grace UMC in Mobile and Bonifay UMC. She was ordained as an elder in 2016. She served as a youth minister for twenty years in the Alabama-West Florida Conference before answering her call into pastoral ministry. Tippit completed her undergraduate studies in communications at the University of South Alabama and received her Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. She is married to Keith and they have two adult daughters; Amy (Adam) and Ashley.
 
Glaize currently serves as senior pastor of Fairhope UMC. His previous appointments include Beulah UMC, Montgomery FUMC as an associate, Tallassee FUMC and Brewton FUMC. He was ordained as an elder in 1994. Glaize completed his undergraduate work at Huntingdon College; received his Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and earned his Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. Glaize was awarded the Denman Evangelism Award in 2001. He is married to Rev. Alecia Glaize, who serves as a deacon in the conference. They are the proud parents of Anna Grace and the late Curtis. Anna Grace is a seminary student at Yale Divinity School and is a candidate for ministry.
 
“It is an honor to announce these two servant leaders as incoming district superintendents,” stated Bishop Graves. “Rev. Tippit and Dr. Glaize bring outstanding leadership skills to the cabinet and I look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have on the ministries in their respective districts. Please join me in expressing our deep appreciation to Dr. Darren McClellan and Rev. Sara Shaver for their dedication and faithfulness to the cabinet. They will certainly be a blessing to their new churches.”
 
The appointments to Christ United Methodist Church and Fairhope United Methodist Church will be announced with other clergy appointments at a later date.

United Methodist Church Continues Disaster Recovery Work in Lee County

published 3/13/2019

While many people are preparing for Spring Break and the Lenten season, critical disaster relief work continues in Lee County. The afternoon of March 3, 2019, will forever be remembered as the day where lives were lost and, for those left standing, permanently changed. VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) reports that 199 homes were destroyed, 108 received major damage, and 251 incurred minor damage. In the midst of this devastation, The United Methodist Church continues to help lead the tornado relief work, which is primarily based out of the Montgomery-Opelika District and the Lee County churches.
 
“As with any natural disaster, the national news is now focused on other stories; but for those who live in the area, the devastation is very real,” stated Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent. “The district has utilized local and national resources to respond in the most appropriate ways. We are lucky to have strong community leadership in east Alabama, so this relief effort has been a partnership of many organizations, including the United Methodist Church.”
 
Response from within the Montgomery-Opelika District

  • Several United Methodist pastors from the Lee County area responded the evening of March 3, providing crucial pastoral care to survivors and grieving families.  These pastors continue to provide care and support as recovery moves forward. 
  • District churches continue to provide generous care and capable leadership through pastoral care, overnight shelters, work teams, supplies, food, coordination, and financial support for survivors.
  • Alabama Rural Ministry, a United Methodist Ministry based in Macon and Lee Counties, has deployed staff and volunteers to assist in the effected areas.
  • District churches and East Alabama Medical Center are working to locate and furnish temporary housing for survivors.  
  • Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, is working with churches and emergency agencies to coordinate our United Methodist response. 
  • Many of our local pastors are working closely with the East Alabama Medical Center as it seeks to coordinate relief efforts through “MEND: Rebuilding Lee County One Life at a Time.”

United Methodist Support from the Annual Conference and Beyond

  • Churches from around the conference responded with immediate supply needs the week of the storms.  Churches are also sending working teams to clear debris and begin clean-up work. 
  • A special offering was requested on Sunday, March 10th.  All funds collected from this offering will go towards immediate and long-term relief. 
  • Bishop David Graves called for prayer in various regional meetings in the days after the storm.
  • Conference leadership visited the area on Friday, March 8. Bishop Grave and the cabinet are making plans to visit next week, as well. 
  • The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) sent a trailer of supplies and issued a $10,000 grant in the days after the storm. They are also providing supplies as requested by the District Disaster Response Coordinator. 
  • A representative of UMCOR visited the Lee County area on Friday, March 8, to have a better understanding of the damage.  

How You Can Help

  • Continue praying for those in Lee County and for our response efforts.
  • Financial donations are the number one way you can help. Checks may be sent to the conference office with a notation of “Lee County tornadoes” in the memo line. 
  • At this time, additional supplies are not needed. 
  • Churches wishing to send teams for day trips are asked to visit leecoema.com. Because the response is rapidly changing, please check this site before sending a group. Currently, all groups must register with EMA on the day of their trip and receive wristbands for admittance to the disaster area.  
  • Smaller groups of five or less people can contact Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, at John.Fox@aumc.net to connect with a local work team.  
  • Teams seeking overnight accommodations can contact Rev. Lisa Pierce at lisa@arm-al.org for availability.   

The response to the Lee County tornado will be another long-term recovery ministry in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. As we partner with UMCOR and churches throughout our conference, we believe our connection will be an important part of rebuilding lives and homes. Additional questions can be directed to Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, at John.Fox@aumc.net, or Dr. Jeff Wilson, District Superintendent, at DSMontOp@gmail.com.  

Click here to see photos from the site visit


Bishop Leads Capacity Crowds in General Conference Regional Meetings

published 3/13/2019
Over one thousand laity and clergy from around the Alabama-West Florida Conference gathered March 7-11 to hear a summary of the 2019 special-called General Conference. Three regional meetings were open to all United Methodists and two clergy meetings were held in Dothan and Mobile.
 
The regional gatherings in Montgomery, Dothan and Mobile were a time of worship and reflection where attendees heard from Bishop David Graves, the delegation and conference staff. “General Conference brought a lot of pain and anger to many people, regardless of one’s desired outcome of the conference.” stated Bishop Graves. “My intention was to provide a safe space for United Methodists in our conference to hear more about the intricacies of the general conference results while encouraging everyone in this season of Lent to see how we can heal wounds we might have caused and reach out to someone who might not look or think like we do. It is difficult to legislate human emotion and feeling and I wanted our conference to understand that we have significant work to do for the Kingdom in our own back yards. The topic of human sexuality is important, and I am grateful for the brave voices who were willing to share their hearts and perspectives in this time.” Graves also mentioned the recent tornado destruction and loss of life within the bounds of annual conference and how pastors from the Montgomery-Opelika District had ministered to grieving families just days ago. It was an example of showing the love of Jesus to those who are hurting and how our corner of the world need the United Methodist Church.
 
Rev. Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries, led the gathering in the responsive reading, Psalm 51, and each host district superintendent offered a time of silence and centering prayer.
 
Dr. Larry Bryars, head of the Alabama-West Florida Conference and lead pastor at Frazer Memorial UMC, gave an overview of the petitions addressed and presented commentary he used with his own congregation about the results of General Conference. A Wespath information sheet was also distributed.
 
The question and answer time gave Bishops Graves the opportunity to answer frequently asked questions from members around the conference. A dedicated gmail account was established to field questions ahead of time in order to maximize time at these events. Over 100 questions were sent through this account. Many people expressed similar interest in topics such as the Judicial Council, the exit plan passed, the Wespath plan passed, upholding the Book of Discipline, ways churches can welcome LGBTQIA+ persons, to name a few. Click here to read the questions and answers discussed at the three meetings.
 
“Ask the UMC,” which is managed by the United Methodist Infoserv, published this summation of General Conference on Tuesday, March 12.
 
Each meeting concluded with Holy Communion, served by the delegates in attendance. 

Click here to see photos by Luke Lucas
 
 

2019 Annual Conference Missional Giving Recipient

published 3/12/2019

The annual conference planning team, directed by Bishop David Graves, is pleased to announce that this year's missional giving recipient for the 2019 Annual Conference special offering is Teaming with Tanzania.  

Many of you collect special offerings during your worship services leading up to conference. Click here to access a bulletin insert that will help explain the impact this ministry has on our conference and global connection. The insert is setup so that you may print this file on a single sheet of paper, front and back, and then trim to have two inserts per page. A promotional video is also available by clicking here. We invite you to show this video during your worship services. To learn more about this partnership, click here

We encourage you to give generously to this ministry that has made a significant impact in Tanzania. This offering will be collected at the opening worship service on Sunday, June 2, 2019, at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church.


Pastors became counselors after deadly tornado

published 3/7/2019
(Sam Hodges for the UMNS) - Ash Wednesday gatherings at United Methodist churches in east Alabama became services of remembrance for 23 people killed in a massive tornado. 

For sure, the United Methodist pastors of Lee County, Alabama, will long remember how they became a team of crisis counselors just after the EF4 twister tore through the area on Sunday afternoon, March 3.

When she learned from a TV news broadcast that the county had been badly hit, the Rev. Robin Wilson texted the chaplain at East Alabama Medical Center, offering to help.

“She texted back just two words: ‘Please come,’ ” said Wilson, pastor of First United Methodist in Opelika, Alabama.

Wilson hurried there.

“When I got to the hospital, it looked like a war zone,” she said. “The cries of the people who were hurt, the pain of the people who were grieving, the fear of the people who couldn’t find their loved ones — that just filled up the whole hospital.”

Wilson’s husband — the Rev. Jeff Wilson, superintendent of the Montgomery-Opelika District of the Alabama-West Florida Conference — meanwhile contacted other local United Methodist pastors and asked them to go to the hospital.

They did, ministering to victims’ family members and friends streaming into the lobby, while Robin Wilson worked in the emergency room.

The next day, some of those pastors were at a Baptist church in Beauregard, Alabama, scene of the worst damage, to accompany family members who had been summoned by the coroner to identify bodies.

“Just to be in a ministry of presence with them,” said the Rev. Cory Smith, pastor of Auburn (Ala.) United Methodist Church, describing his and his colleagues’ task. “Just to help them know that God was with them in the midst of this.”

Among those killed was a member of Cornerstone (United Methodist) Church, Lynn Grimes. The church, in Auburn, was to have a service for him on March 7.

Many homes and other structures in Lee County were damaged by the tornado. President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration, releasing federal funds for relief, and he plans to visit March 8.

The 1905 sanctuary of Watoola United Methodist Church was clobbered by the twister.

“Half the roof is gone,” said the Rev. Gary Perry, pastor.

The Lee County church’s community building came through and will be the home to worship services beginning this Sunday, as church leaders work with insurance adjusters to decide whether the sanctuary can be salvaged.

“For many people in the church, it’s the only church they’ve known,” Perry said. “When they look at it and think about it having to be replaced, it’s difficult.”

The Lee County tornado was one of many that hit across parts of the Southeast on Sunday.

At Cairo United Methodist Church, in Cairo, Georgia, a tornado badly damaged a former parsonage that had recently been remodeled for a youth ministry space. The church had roof and interior damage as well, said Allison Lindsey, director of connectional ministries for the South Georgia Conference.

She said homes “in the shadow of the (church’s) steeple” also were hit.

“It’s a unique opportunity for the church to be in outreach,” Lindsey added.

In Lee County, United Methodist volunteers have been helping with debris removal and roof repair. 

Pierce Chapel United Methodist Church has become an emergency response staging site. Smith said Auburn United Methodist is serving as an American Red Cross shelter, housing 100 people. 

“We will respond to immediate and long-term needs in the days and weeks to come,” said Alabama West-Florida Conference Bishop David Graves in a statement.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has sent supplies and issued a $10,000 grant to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. The conference is accepting checks for recovery.

Officials with the Alabama-West Florida, South Georgia and North Georgia conferences said they have communicated about mobilizing a broad support effort. 

Two of the pastors who reported to the hospital on Sunday, Wilson and Smith, had only recently returned from the special General Conference in St. Louis.

“I had a funeral after St. Louis, and this hit the next day,” Wilson said. “I haven’t had quite as much time as I’d like to prepare and lead my congregation into a season of Lent. But perhaps that’s what Lent is for — to realize how little control we have and how to show how we have to put our hope in a savior who came to heal everything.”

Hodges is a Dallas-based writer for United Methodist News Service. Contact him at 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests


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