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Annual Conference 2007 Updates
by Danette Clifton, Director of Communication
Hundreds of North Alabama United Methodists gathered at
Rev. Dalton Styes, senior pastor of
He also shared that in his preparation of the sermon, he sat in his church’s garden and meditated over the list of names that were being honored. He said he felt the presence of that cloud of witnesses and shared that these saints were saying that indeed all of God’s promises were true and that everything is new. Rev. Styes also reminded the congregation that they now they are to take up the mantel of ministry left by these saints.
Following the sermon, Bishop William H. Willimon read the names of all those who were being remembered. They included
When a clergy is ordained he or she is no longer a member of any individual
Before the Memorial Service, the families of these clergy and spouses gathered for a Memorial Dinner. During the dinner the families of those clergy being honored received
bronze clergy grave markers which depict a circuit rider on horseback, have the words, "United Methodist Clergy." These medallions are made to be affixed to an existing grave marker to identify the deceased as a United Methodist minister.
The 2007 Annual Conference Session will be called to order on Friday morning, June 1, at 9 a.m. at
Lay and clergy from the 831 congregations in
As Conference members gathered for the opening session ClearBranch Senior Pastor Tommy Gray and ClearBranch Lay Leader Gloria Holt welcomed everyone to ClearBranch.
Bishop William H. Willimon called the session to order at 9:04 a.m. He then introduced Bishop Janice Huie. She is the Bishop of the Texas Conference and will be the preacher for the ordination service. She will also preside over the morning’s laity session when those Annual Conference members take a ballot for General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates.
Bishop Willimon then opened the session in prayer.
Following the opening prayer the ClearBranch band and singers led the congregation in the traditional singing of the hymn “And Are We Yet Alive” in a non traditional uptempo style.
As the worship continued Rev. Julie Holly read the opening scripture, Genesis 1:1-10. Bishop Willimon then shared a sermon on the theme of the Annual Conference “New.”
Following the sermon the Bishop and the District Superintendents led the congregation in a time to remember their baptism and the ministry Jesus had called them to do.
At the close of the Opening Worship, Bishop Willimon and Conference Secretary Rev. Sherill Clontz gave instruction to organize the Conference. At that point the clergy went into their clergy executive session and the laity went to their lay orientation session – the only time clergy and laity do work separately during the Conference session.
The afternoon session began with a Mission Moment. This was a video featuring Individual Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM). Following the video H.L. Ray from Florence First UMC addressed the crowd. He has just returned from two years serving as an Individual Volunteer in
Following the mission moment, the Bishop announced the results of ballots to elect Delegates to General Conference which were taken during the Clergy and Laity sessions. On their first ballot laity elected Gloria Holt and Pat Meadows. On their third ballot the clergy elected Bill Morgan. Will Garrett had been elected on a previous ballot.
Before Conference members took another ballot, Bishop Willimon recognized Jan Love, the new Dean of Candler School of Theology, and asked her to lead the prayer for next Ballot.
After the ballot Dean of the Cabinet Hal Noble introduced the new priorities of the Conference as set by the Cabinet. He explained that these priorities were developed when Cabinet met with Gil Rindle during last fall’s Appointive Cabinet retreat.
Priority 1 New Communities of Faith
Priority 3 Effective Leadership for the 21st Century
Priority 4 Empowering a new generation of Christians
Rev. Noble reminded the Conference that the priorities are to help the Conference focus and remember they we are called to the mission of God. He closed the report asking everyone to stand and sing Spirit of the Living God.
Scott Stone, convenor of the Transition Team, reported on the progress of the transition from 12 to 8 districts. He announced they had developed a formula to divide the assests of the old districts.
Rev. Roger Thompson, chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, then began the Board’s report. During the report, they recognized those newly liscensed local pastors who received their licesne on stage. They also recognized the new Associate Members.
As those new clergy who will be commissioned as probationary members were recognized.
William Baxter Chism
Christopher Landrum Cone
Andrew Scott Dressler
James Michael Glasgow
John M. Hill
George Clifford Hollis
Malinda Leigh Jowers
Kevin Eugene Payne
Carrie Kramer Vasa
Rev. Thompson called on Dr. Will Garrett who explained the new probationary process, that will be known as a Residency in Ministry. Dr. Garrett also introduced the Director of the Residency in Ministry program Rev. Amelia Sims.
The Board also recognized those clergy who will be ordained as full connection deacons and elders tonight.
As the Board of Ordained Ministry’s report concluded they introduced those clergy who will be retiring at this Annual Conference.
Thomas L. Precise
Virgil A. Bohn
Gary L. Henderson
Gary N. Kennington
Malcolm E. Larkin
John H. Mann
Jimmy R. Nixon
Robert C. Scales
Gary T. Ward
Robert Wayne Williams
James A. Anthony
George David Crosslin
Jimmy D. Hall
Carl James McNamee
Henry Bruce Palmer
Those clergy and their spouses were invited on stage as they were recognized and the class received a standing ovation of thanksgiving for their service from the crowd.
Rev. Bobby Scales and Rev. Nancy Hornsby then continued the tradition of the retiring class passing a Bible to the new class of ordinands. As he represented the retiring class, Rev. Scales said, “As I pass this Bible, I am also passing along the years of service of this retiring class…the Bible has been the center of all we have done.” Rev. Hornsby accepted the Bible “with honor” on behalf of the new class of clergy.
Bishop Willimon also then took a moment and asked the Conference to stand and have a moment of silence to remember those clergy and clergy spouses who were honored during the Memorial Service last night. He then led the Conference in a prayer.
The results of the last ballots were then announced. The Laity had elected Neal Berte. The clergy had no election. The Conference members took another ballot and then took a 10 minute break.
Following the break, Director of Connectional Ministries Dale Cohen presented the report of the Nomination’s Team report. The report was accepted as presented.
Conference Lay Leader Ellen Harris then presented the Lay Ministry Team meeting. During the report she announced the new District Lay Leaders and explained how the Lay Ministry team was organizing it’s self around the Conference’s four priorities. Bishop Willimon affirmed the organization of Lay Ministry team around the priorities.
Then Ellen Harris presented the Laity Address. During the address she talked about the Annual Conference session’s theme of new. She said that the word “new” can talk on different meanings. It can range from shopping sprees to get “new” goodies to simply meaning “change.” She said that lots of people in the church resist change. So she invited those gathered to not resist change, but to instead think of the new, reminding them that we are all part of the new. She said every breath we take is a new breath and every step we take is a new step. She then challenged the lay people in the crowd to remember thy have a part in the ministry of making disciples for Christ. She reminded them that they out number the clergy in their churches and thus must accept their roles in making new disciples.
Following the Laity address, Bishop Willimon extended a moment of thanks to ClearBranch noting they have given a gift to the Annual Conference through hosting the Conference here. He noted that because of ClearBranch’s facilities the Confernece saved at least $30,000 it normal has to spend on tech equipment.
The Bishop then called on Rev. Dale Cohen again saying whether you like or dislike changes at Annual Conference this year blame Dale.
Rev. Cohen then began to explain one of the Conference’s priorities, Natural Church Development. He began the report by presenting and breaking down some of the Conferences statistics for 2006.
He noted that the numbers show a loss of 1864 members. However, by adding up the numbers of those members removed from roles, who transferred or who died the Conference started with a deficit of 9476 members over the previous year. He also explained that in looking at those 7612 new members the Conference brought in, 4991 of them were new Christians added through baptism or profession of faith. He also announced that worship attendance increased by more than 3200 people. He also announced that those people involved in some sort of Christian formation activity at North Alabama Confernece churches increased by 10,500 people over 2005.
Cohen said, “Growth is happening.. Now we need to ramp up the pace of growth.” He then explained that Natural Church Development is the Conference’s chosen instrument to help make that happen.
He explained the NCD process which looks at eight quality characterists in a local church and helps the congregation look at their minimum factor, or weakest, of these characteristics in their congregation. He also said that as more
He reported that as of today, out of the 831 churches, there are 80 NCD churches and 15-20 beginning the process.
He also shared some of the composit findings of the Conference based on these 80 churches. He said the average score (out of 100) for the eight characteristics is 49. He also shared the most common minimum factors in churches are gifted based ministry and effective structures. He ended noting how Natural Church Development’s goal is to help grow healthy churches and those healthy congregations develop the most effective leaders and grow more new Christians. He said NCD, “gives us a specific way of working toward our future.
The Bishop then called for the results of the previous ballots. The results were announced. The Laity had elected Scott Selman and the Clergy had elected Mark Parris, Paul Hillard and Robert Sparkman. The laity and clergy then cast their next ballots for delegates to General Conference.
Bishop Willimon then called on Bishop Huie to share some of the things the Texas Conference is doing under her guidance especially focusing on accountability.
Bishop Huie began by congratulating the North Alabama Conference for being “one of a handful” of United Methodist Conferences to see an increase in worship attendance in 2006. She then shared that a trip to the Annual Conference meeting in
The Conference then heard the report of the Council on Finance and Administration. The Conferences passed those reports not on the Consent Agenda, which will be voted on tomorrow. Bishop Willimon and Conference Treasurer Scott Selman noted how the 2008 budget which was passed was one of the lowest budget increases (3.9%) in a number of years. Scott Selman also noted that in 2006 the Conference saw an increase of 100% Churches, or those church who remitted 100% of their askings toward Conference ministries.
Following the CF&A Report the Bishop introduced Dick Freeman, the Director of the Center for Congregational Development. Freeman introduced the Assistant Director of Congregational Development Rev. Thomas Muhomba. He explained that Dr. Muhomba, a native of Zimbabwee, sees himself as a missionary to
Muhomba encouraged those gathered to reach out to those not involved in church because they don’t feel like they can come to us, by taking the church to them and live among them and get to know their lives and their worlds. He then introduced a video of a new ministry reaching out to those people not in church and growing them into disciples of Christ. This new ministry is called Genesis and is a ministry of Guntersville First UMC.
Following the video the Bishop called for another ballot. On the previous ballot, the clergy had not election but the laity had elected Carol Toney.
The afternoon session ended with a Mission Moment from Maudine Holloway a community enabler developer serving in the
The Conference then dismissed for the dinner break.
Following dinner the Conference and visitors gathered for one of the highlights of Annual Conference, the Ordination of new deacons and elders in full connection.
Bishop Janice Huie preached a sermon encouraging the new Ordinands to take a “heads up” approach to ordained ministry as opposed to a “heads down” approach meaning to keep the big calling of making disciples, of the “vocation to help people know Jesus Christ” in mind. She also encouraged them to “be player on God’s team not captain on your own.”
During the service the Conference ordained the following people.
Deacons in Full Connection
Elders in Full Connection
Following the act of Ordination, the Conference then shared in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Bishop Willimon and Bishop Huie led the service and the newly Ordained Clergy served the congregation as one of their first acts as ordained clergy.
As the worship service closed, Bishop Willimon invited anyone feeling a call to ordained ministry to come forward and pray at the alter.
Following the Ordination Service, a final ballot for the day was taken.
When the results were announced of the last ballots taken, the laity had no election and the clergy had elected Amy Bowers.
The Conference was then dismissed until Saturday morning.
Saturday morning began with gathering music and songs of praise led by ClearBranch UMC band and singers. Then Bishop Willimon introduced a young adult who is discerning his calling into ordained ministry. His name is Nigel Woodruff from King’s Memorial UMC in
Bishop Willimon then announced the results of the last ballot from the night before. With those ballots both the laity and the clergy filled their General Conference delegations. The laity elected Ellen Harris and Zac Riddle. The clergy elected Tommy Grey. Both the laity and clergy then began voting for their Jurisdictional Conference delegates.
Bishop Willimon then announced that the mission offering given the night before to go toward the Nothing but Nets campaign was more than $25,000.
He then turned to Conference Secretary Sherill Clontz who led the Conference in the adoption of consent agenda.
The Bishop then introduced Tom Corson who presented a Mission Moment about the work of SIFAT, Servants in Faith and Technology.
Following the Mission Moment, Bishop Willimon then took a moment to explain how the Conference calculates the apportionment formula for local churches. He also noted that last year there was more a 10% increase in those churches paying 100% of their shared giving to the Conference. He asked the laity and clergy from those congregations to stand and thanked them.
Terry Greer and Scott Selman then presented the Board of Pensions report all reports were passed. James Haskins then presented the report from the Insurance Team. He reminded people of the incentive program for doing the online Health Quotient at Web MD and the new incentive program for having a wellness exam. Scott Selman said a mailing with more information will go out later this summer.
Christopher Jenot from Cokesbury and Carol Toney who serves on the Board of the UM Publishing House then addressed the Conference. As is the tradition, they offered a check to go toward the clergy pension fund based on the purchases from North Alabama United Methodists. As is the decided practice, Bishop Willimon said the Conference will pass this money on to the Central Conference clergy pension fund which helps provide pensions for those clergy serving around the world in the Central Conferences who have no pension plan. To show this connect, the Bishop invited Rev. Thomas Muhomba, a native of Zimbabwe to accept the check and explained that the money would be given to Muhomba’s home Annual Conference.
The results of ballots were then announced. The clergy had not election, but the laity elected six of their seven Jurisdictional Conference delegates on the first Jurisdictional ballot. Those delegates are Heather Griffin, Sarah Louise Smith, Jarvis Brewer, Susan Howard, Eric Owens and Steve Lyles. Another ballot was then taken.
Following the ballot the Conference heard a report from Sumatanga. Anne Horton announced that Sumatanga has gotten approval to move forward with a Capital Campaign which will go toward the camp’s goals to be debt free, create an endowment, lodge, build new cabins at the pool camp, meet other infrastructure needs, improve roads and parking, improve the waste treatment plant, and wireless internet access throughout the campus.
After a break Conference Lay leader Ellen Harris announced that the Lay Ministry Team had decided that in honor of the leadership provided by former lay leader Gloria Holt, that the Lay Ministry office in the
The Bishop started to recognize Anne Wheeler the chair of the Committee on Precedure and Petitions, but stopped to call for a ballot.
The results of the Clergy ballot were announced and Dalton Styes and Sheril Thornton were elected. The Laity had no election.
Anne Wheeler then presented a petition from the Cabinet that set up a standard Conference provision of dividing the proceeds of sales of closed church property. After a couple of Ammendments including adding the District Committee on Mission and Church Extension and the District Trustees to those to be consulted and specifying "all" of this money (the full 100%) the petition was passed.
Anne Wheeler then presented a potential Confernece rule change that would call for petitions and resolutions to be presented to the Conference Secretary by January 15, so the Conference could truly have time to Christian Conference before an Annual Conference vote. This motion was defeated.
The Conference then turned to one of the most anticipated amendments on the Iraq War. The Committee’s Chair first explained the preparations the committee had taken to present this resolution to the Conference. This included Christian Conferencing with the writers of the resolution and developing a substitute petition together. They also met with chaplains who serve with the military and the committee voting for concurrence unanimously.
Discussion on the resolution then began.
Kenny Baskins offered a substitute to the last paragraph. He proposed to strike the words “to commence immediately an orderly withdrawal of
Following the vote, the results of the latest ballots were announced. The Laity elected Tom Webster as their final Jurisdictional Conference delegate. The Clergy elected Steve West and Rudy Guess as delegates. The final lay ballot and the next clergy ballot was then taken.
The Conference then heard a report from Conference Youth Coordinator who introduced them to the Youth Members of the Conference.
The morning session then closed with a Mission Moment focusing on the ministry of the Upper Sand Mountain Parish.
Hundreds gathered in "The City" for the Annual Laity lunch. The program's focus was on stewardship.
Following the lunch break, the Bishop announced the results of ballots. The clergy had no election. The laity were asked to redo their alternates ballot due to a high level of invalid ballots.
After a word of prayer from a young member of Latham UMC, the Annual Conference heard a Mission Moment which featured the ministries of Urban Ministries that range from a feeding kitchen to house painting to prison ministry. Rev. Tom Duly addresses the crowd and told of the work done through Urban Ministries. He also introduced Rev. R.G. Lyons who started a new church in the West End area last year. He introduced three members of the church that share what the Community Church with No Walls means to them. Rev. Becky Wadley also shared about the Urban Kids after school and summer program. Bishop Willimon lifted up those who are working with the poor and those in prison in the spirit of John Wesley.
At that point Rev. Mahlon Felkins asked for a moment of personal privilege and echoed the Bishop's endorsement of prison ministry sharing that it was a Methodist minister that brought him to Christ while he was in prison years ago. He encouraged others to be in ministry in the prisons.
The Bishop then announced the results of the last clergy ballot. There was no election. Bishop Willimon also congratulated the Laity for embracing the Conference priorities through their voting and empowering a new generation. He noted that 4 of the 14 delegates elected by the Laity were under the age of 30.
The Conference then heard the report from the Center of Congregational Development. Dr. Dick Freeman shared that the North Alabama Conference leads all other United Methodist Annual Conferences in planting new communities of faith. He also shared that North Alabama has matured and many of the congregations it is now planting are in rural places, in urban communities and ethnic not just in suburban white neighborhoods. He then introduced the video that featured the three winners of the Denman Evangelism Award. Thomas Muhomba then introduced the Ethnic Ministries section of the Center's report. Muhomba introduced the pastor of Morningstar UMC in Bessemer who shared a story of how his congregation opened their doors to a Hispanic congregation looking for a place to worship. Muhomba also introduced Rev. Fernando del Castillo who encouraged all congregations to support Hispanic Ministries. The Center for Congregational Development closed its report by thanking the Annual Conference for all the new communities of faith it has helped plant. They showed a video of one of the newer communities of faith called The Beacon located in Hayden, Alabama.
The results of the ballot were then announced. The clergy elected Glenn Conner. The laity had elected all 7 of their alternates. These were 1. Charlie Carlton, David Rollins, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Bentley, John Hardeman, Scott Stone, and Betty Likis.
The Conference then saw a video from Asbury UMC in Madison featuring their approach to missions.
The Conference then voted to make the Susanna Wesley Society a Conference Advance Special. The purpose of the Susanna Wesley Society is to help raise money to support ministries to the poor and launch new congregations in poor urban areas.
The Bishop then called on a video that was shown during the laity luncheon. It presented the idea of stewardship in a humorous way.
Next, Dean of the Cabinet Rev. Hal Noble presented the property resolutions from the Cabinet. In it he listed the 18 churches that have closed in the last year. Those churches include
The clergy elected Andy Wolfe as a Jurisdictional Conference delegate.
The Conference then heard a Mission Moment from missionaries Tim and Carol Crawford. The couple is leaving later this year to serve in Angola. They shared their call and their stories of serving as missionaries in the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Willimon then called upon Rev. Tommy Gray and thanked him and the staff and the many, many volunteers from ClearBranch who hosted the Annual Conference session. Rev. Gray then extended an invitation for the Annual Conference to return to ClearBranch next year. At that point the Bishop announced the dates for next year's Conference are June 5-7. He also noted that the Annual Conference planning team is meeting within the next few weeks to evaluate and begin planning next year's gathering.
Rev. Don Neal then mentioned the Memorial Chapel in the United Methodist Center. He also explained how churches and groups can make donations to the chapel to remember those clergy who have meant so much to them.
Following a song the Bishop announced the results of the clergy ballot. The clergy elected Robin Scott. Then on their final ballot the clergy elected Amelia Sims, Alan Head, Sara Cameron, Tim Barnes, Alan Weatherly, Dale Cohen and Kenny Baskins as alternate delegates.
The Bishop then accepted a motion to dismiss and he closed the Conference with a prayer.
On Sunday, June 24, United Methodists from across North Alabama gathered at
Bishop William H. Willimon preached the sermon titled “Sent” as well as led the examination and commissioning. During the sermon Bishop Willimon noted how Jesus sent out those disciples he called into ministry. He explained that the life of a United Methodist minister is being sent. “To be on a mission is to be sent,” he said. “In fact that is the way every Christian gets anywhere – we’re sent.”
He also reminded those being commissioned and the entire congregation that when God calls you and sends you out in ministry, “wherever you are, you are not there by yourself.”
The service featured music led by Camilla Pruitt, Director of Worship and Fine Arts at Trinity UMC; Becky Waters, organist at Trinity UMC; the Northeast District choir (which includes choir members from Bridgeport First, Huntsville First, Ford’s Chapel, Grace, Lakeside, Lakewood and Trinity United Methodist Churches) and a brass quartet and timpani. The liturgists for the service were Dr. Charles Gattis, senior pastor of Trinity UMC; Rev. Richard Stryker, District Superintendent of the Southeast District and Carrie Kramer Vasa, one of the newly commissioned Residents in Ministry and associate pastor of Pell City First UMC.
The eight new Conference members include
As the service concluded Bishop Willimon invited others in the congregation who were considering their call into ministry to come forward to the altar during the final hymn. A number of people came forward and were greeted by the Bishop, their District Superintendent as well as other pastors. Each person who came forward was also prayed over.