AC19 Clergy Self-Nominees

Clergy Nominees

Each self-nominee has agreed to:

  • Give 10-14 days for General Conference (May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota) and 5 days for Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference (July 15-18, 2020, at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina).
  • Attend meetings of the North Alabama Delegation.
  • Commit the time needed to read and study the issues.
  • Pray for God's guidance in decision-making.

Each nominee was invited to share why he/she feels called to be a delegate to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences and to state his/her vision for the United Methodist Church.

Clergy Nominees Number Assignments


Stephanie Arnold
Birmingham First UMC

Central District

The beauty of the UMC is that we minister in our local churches and around the world through our connection. Through serving with GBCS, the Intra-Agency Sexual Ethics Task Force, NAC’s BOOM, DCOM and COSROW, I have a deep appreciation for the work of the UMC well beyond my local experience. I am passionate about the full inclusion of women, persons of all ages and minorities at every level in our church leadership, and our global connection. I feel called to listen and speak up for our future. I believe the UMC is still capable of transforming lives today.

I have known the UMC to be a place of expansive love. I felt nurtured as a child, supported as a youth and grew in discipleship through Bible study and mission work. I envision the UMC embracing our Wesleyan roots to embody God’s incredible love for the world especially those who have been excluded and then speaking up in our society with a call for justice. Wesley was passionate about personal hearts being changed as well as society being changed. I believe that is our call as we humbly work to help create the Beloved Community with justice and mercy.

 

 

David Barnhart
Saint Junia UMC

South Central District

Many folks, including some you know, have left church not because they reject Jesus, but because they love him and do not find him in the institutional church. While we’ve been debating LGBTQ inclusion, the world hasn’t stopped; there are huge changes on the horizon for the United Methodist Church‚ — demographically, economically, technologically and spiritually. I believe God is calling innovators and church planters to lead, not merely in writing legislation and policy, but in positioning the church to reach people who are unreached. I served as an alternate in 2012 and feel called to step up again.

The Wesleys focused on discipleship: grace-filled work, empowered by the Holy Spirit and carried out in small bands of authentic Christian community. We are in the midst of a spiritual flood, where smaller congregations are disappearing as survivors seek higher ground. Crowded mega-churches are simply the highest hills in a spiritual disaster; their growth is not a sign of success, but of desperation. In the face of real environmental and spiritual disaster, I envision a church that builds lifeboats, equipped to save people from spiritual and physical crisis.

 

 

Kenny Baskins
Athens First UMC

Northwest District

I believe I have been called by God to be a leader within The United Methodist Church. I believe that the churches I have been privileged to serve during the past 30 years are proof of that calling. These churches have grown in mission and ministry and have increased in worship attendance and membership. We are at a point within this Church that leaders must step up and provide Biblical grounded leadership. And I pledge to do just that. It would be my honor for me to serve as a delegate representing the North Alabama Annual Conference.

 I do not think God is finished with the United Methodist Church; but we the membership must seek His will and follow His guidance as we move forward. I believe for too long that the will of God has not been our first priority. We are at an important crossroads and we need leaders who will do what is right in the sight of God and according to the Bible. We must be a church that teaches, preaches and lives out the scriptures. Our interpretation of the Bible must be historical in nature and not the latest fad. If we are to be a church that makes disciples for the transformation of the world we must be the Church God has called us to be in all ways. It would be my honor to serve as a clergy delegate representing God's people of the North Alabama Annual Conference.

 

 

William Brunson
Vestavia Hills UMC

Central District

The primary task of the church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Often we are pulled in many different directions that do not accomplish our task. If we return to the passion of our Wesleyan heritage‚ — doing all that we do in order to spread the Gospel, make disciples, deepen faith, and glorify God‚ — then we will experience a greater future. We must organize the church to accomplish the task. I will work to focus on the things that are essential to “spread scriptural holiness”and to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The connectional structure of The United Methodist Church is one of our greatest assets. I believe that being connected to one another (person, church, district and conference) is a wonderful example of the Body of Christ stretching around our world. My vision is that our church will be filled with men and women, lay and clergy who have their lives shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who accept and live out God’s call on their lives, and who remain focused on constantly inviting others to experience the joy of being part of the Body of Christ.

 

 

Toby Chastain
ATEM - Montgomery First UMC

Northwest District

While I am a newly ordained clergyperson, I am not new to holy conferencing. I have been a student of United Methodist polity since high school, and I have followed every General Conference since 1992. As a deacon and youth minister, I stand in a unique position to speak to the concerns of these two vital voices in our church. I feel called to serve because I have great hope that God has a bright future for the people called Methodists. My desire is to play an active role in the renewal of our denomination.

I was not born a Methodist, but rather I chose United Methodism as a teenager. Our unique understanding of grace, our commitment to social holiness, and our connectional structure was exciting to me then and still is today. I believe we offer a captivating example for the world of how to be the people of God. My vision is that our denomination will follow in the footsteps of our founder finding new and effective ways to take the message of hope and salvation found in Jesus Christ to the people outside the walls of the church.

 

 

Kelly Clem
District Superintendent

Northwest District

I have served three times as a delegate to General Conference, yet I feel now, for such a time as this, God is calling me to step up and offer myself as a leader. I love our denomination and feel the depth of parental responses of both hopefulness and concerns for the future of our youth and those not yet part of the church. As a team-builder on the delegation, I can bring skills of collaboration, respect and wisdom through my clergy brothers and sisters, my mentors, coaches and spiritual guides, and the amazing United Methodist laity of our Conference.

I love our United Methodist Church and am passionate about our mission. The perspective I bring comes from serving for 34 years as a pastor in a variety of settings including: a District Superintendent for 5 years, a GBGM missionary in Eastern Europe, and in several General and Jurisdictional roles. I believe that the United Methodist Church is well equipped to be a powerful body of Christ-followers who share the good news of Jesus Christ, make and grow disciples and participate in building the Kingdom. People need Jesus and we need to be inwardly strong and externally focused to fulfill our commission.

 

 

Dale Cohen
Florence First UMC

Northwest District

Leadership is a privilege, not a right; therefore, in the multiple church positions I have held, I have led with reverence and respect for the sacred role in which I was privileged to serve. At this critical juncture in the denomination, I believe God has called me to provide leadership that is receptive to the Holy Spirit, committed to unity in the Body of Christ, compassionate towards those with whom I may disagree, and steady in the face of conflict. If you experience my leadership in this way, I hope you will vote for me to serve on the delegation.

God has a vision for the UMC. Discovering it will require us to abandon our preoccupation with lesser things. No longer can we ignore the fact that people are hungry for the “Good News.” Our Wesleyan theology begins with a loving God who will do anything to redeem us when we have fallen short. This is a message that resonates in a “bad news” world. I envision a UMC that places God’s grace at the center of our theology, our mission, our structure and our message. Everything we do must radiate the love and grace of God to our world.

 

 

Glenn Conner
Huntsville First UMC

Northeast District

These are complex times for the United Methodist Church. I have 42 years of experience as a pastor in all sizes of congregations. I have served our Conference as a District Superintendent (Jasper and Central Districts), as a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry and on many other District and Conference committees. This is my 11th year at Huntsville First as Senior Pastor. During that time we have received over 1,300 new members. I have been a part of the past five delegations. I believe I can represent and lead for our Conference with experience and collegiality.

Stating a vision with specifics is hard, as I write before the called General Conference. My vision remains for the United Methodist Church to be a vital movement of followers of Christ who are committed to live out the commandments to love God and neighbor. In these difficult times we will need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and seek new ways of working together to engage the world with the love of Christ in a way that will make disciples help people.

 

 

Dedric Cowser
New Beginnings UMC

Central District

I feel called to serve as a delegate because I have a passion for reaching people for Jesus Christ by serving on all levels of the church. I am a sixth generation Methodist who was nurtured and equipped by the church. I have been privileged to serve alongside a diversity of people in various capacities across the connection, including Conference Secretary, SEJ BMCR Treasurer, member of the Ethnic Ministries Team, and the Board of Ordained Ministry. I believe these experiences and my deep conviction of God’s grace and our Wesleyan heritage has prepared me for such a time as this.

My vision for The United Methodist Church is one centered in the love of Jesus Christ and unified in mission and ministry. My prayer is that we will be a church renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit to be a prophetic witness for Jesus Christ not only by our words but by our actions. I believe that if we keep this vision before us, not only will we be transformed by God's grace, but the world will be transformed around us.

 

 

Brian Erickson
Trinity UMC (Homewood)

South Central District

The conflicts that have defined our connection are of vital importance, but our identity must come from Jesus Christ, not from our divisions. I’ve served in very different contexts across our connection, and I have a deep love for our entire church. I fiercely believe that our capacity to make disciples for Jesus is bound up in the ways the Spirit has equipped us differently to accomplish our shared mission. I covet relationships with fellow clergy at every point on the theological spectrum, and if given the honor of representing you, I promise to be more than an agenda.

My dream is that the UMC would reclaim our heritage as a Holy Spirit-fueled, disciple-making, small-group-forming, poverty-eradicating, justice-doing, grace-embodying, heart-changing, mission of the Living God. We still have the resources for revival, but our organizational structure is built for a season that has long since passed. We must become more strategic in our approach to ministry and governance, we need to move difficult conversations to the places where they can actually bear fruit, and we need to humble ourselves where we have lost our way. Brevity is not my spiritual gift, and I’m limited to 100 words. Jesus is awesome.

 

 

Sheri Ferguson
Board of Ordained Ministry / Trinity UMC (Homewood)

South Central District

As an ordained deacon in North Alabama, I have spent many years in the specialized ministry of pastoral counseling. I have had the honor of being invited into churches that are trying to work through conflict. I tell them that, as a mediator, "I'm here" because it's during conflict that I believe God is most fully present, and that conflict is an unbelievable catalyst to sacred transformation. I have learned much from others. I now believe God is calling me into dialogue with our broken and beloved global church.

I believe that how we live together during this liminal time can be the most compelling testimony to the crazy love of Jesus Christ that we'll ever get to preach. I envision that the character of our shared life together has tremendous power to draw people to the Kingdom, and not push them away. I have a vision that deep healing can occur through the Holy Spirit that includes forgiveness and grace. I also believe that listening, seeing and "mirroring" the other who is different from us is non-negotiable.

 

 

Henry Gibson
Church of the Reconciler UMC

South Central District

God laid it on my heart to speak and stand in support of all marginalized persons by attending General Conference 2020 as a delegate from North Alabama. This calling relates to my passion for guaranteeing the place of those facing poverty in both urban and rural settings, as well as those facing marginalization based on race, gender, age, class, ability and sexual orientation, at the forefront of our ministries. As a young adult and a queer clergy-person, I feel my own experiences lend valuable insight in working toward full inclusion of all persons in the life of our church.

My vision for our denomination now and in the years to come calls us to be places for all people, true sanctuaries representing the vastness of God’s relationship with creation. I envision a future where the dreams of prophets will become real, allowing us to live in harmony with Christ’s vision of jubilee bursting forth in the hearts, minds and lives of all His people. I specifically see a need for a more robust, detailed understanding of how we guarantee the safety of vulnerable persons in the life of our churches.

 

 

Tommy Gray
Asbury UMC (Madison)

Northeast District

To cry out. This is the simple definition of call. I believe I have heard that cry from God to offer myself to serve in this season. As someone with a wide breadth of experience, who has served on two delegations and has now watched two GC's via livestream my heart cries out to God for a better way. My calling rests in a tension. That tension: uphold traditional orthodox Wesleyan values while working for a better solution to our impasse than has previously been found. I will continue to work diligently for both.

To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This is not only my vision but our vision. However, our denomination has been in decline since its founding. We must seek a way forward that most effectively facilitates this vision. The way must include the ending of the vitriol along with an awakening to God and God's heart for a transformative disciple making movement next door and around the world. A movement that spread's scriptural holiness throughout the land. A movement where the world is indeed our parish.

 

 

Kelsey Grissom
Asbury UMC (Birmingham)

South Central District

I have served small, medium and large congregations and understand the concerns and interests of the many diverse groups in our Conference. As Chair of COSROW and co-author and strategist of The Resolution for Parity in Appointments, I have shown that I can put our strengths as a Conference to work in service to our mutual goals. I believe we still have mutual goals in The UMC, and I will put my energy and skills into forming relationships, working collaboratively and speaking with integrity and respect for all as a delegate. (I also know Robert’s Rules of Order!)

My vision for The UMC is to see us continue to accomplish our historic mission: to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I recognize, though, that in our work to transform the world, we must also allow ourselves to be transformed by God. This means that no matter our views, we will act with integrity, showing respect for all God’s children, and not using power, prestige, or shaming as leverage in our theological disagreements. The world should see a UMC that strives for holiness in all our words and actions, and especially in our disagreements.

 

 

Mary Henley
Helena UMC

South Central District

I hope to serve again as a delegate because I love the United Methodist Church. I want to help strengthen it for our compelling mission in the world. Nineteen years of ministry, serving on numerous Conference committees and boards, along with the honor of serving as a delegate to General Conference 2016 in Portland, OR and the Special Session in St. Louis, MO have deepened my devotion to our church. Exactly how we navigate our most pressing problems and our most appealing opportunities is critical.

I remain energized by the United Methodist mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I believe transformation happens when United Methodists are relentless in finding ways to bring hope where there is despair, peace where there is anxiety, and love where there is hate. All in the name of Jesus who loved all. In our rich and beautiful diversity we are truly united by this expansive mission.

 

 

Thomas Hermans-Webster
Boston University School of Theology

Central District

The Church must work with God to serve the present age and bring God's Kingdom for the future. As a lifelong United Methodist, I appreciate the traditions and Gospel witness of the generations who have come before me. Without them, my faith would be radically different. As a young United Methodist, I know the deep need our world has for God’s justice, righteousness, and love. I’m called to serve as a delegate to represent the young voices of United Methodism across the globe as we work together to answer our Church’s call to participate in God’s New Creation.

My hope for The UMC is that we work for the health of God’s creation. We are blessed with abundant life across this world, and we have a responsibility to honor God in how we treat God’s creatures, including other humans. I hope we can strengthen our universities, colleges, and seminaries so that they can explore God’s world in all its abundance and work with God to heal creatures and relationships that have been broken in sin. North Alabama teems with life from our streams and forests to our cities, and we can lead the Connection in this holy work.

 

 

Lyle Holland
Jacksonville First UMC

Cheaha District

I feel called to serve as a 2020 General and Jurisdictional delegate because this is a pivotal time in the life of our church. My sense of call is rooted in my love for our church which has meant so much to me, and a conviction that the dynamic tension of grace and truth in Wesleyan theology is a vital gift for this present age. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ because I was loved, baptized, nurtured in the Christian faith and met Jesus through a local United Methodist congregation that embodied the vows of our Baptismal Covenant. As grateful follower of Jesus, formed through the faithful ministry of local United Methodist congregations, I offer myself to serve as a delegate in 2020.

My vision for the United Methodist Church includes continuity with the best of our rich Wesleyan heritage, and adaptation to effectively make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world in the 21st Century. Methodism has flourished, and will continue to flourish, as a people committed to the primacy of scripture, time tested Christian doctrine and ethics, and forming disciples in whom holiness of heart and life combines evangelism and social justice. A vibrant future Methodism shall include a vital connection that is both local and global for the purpose of making disciples. To that end, structures and bureaucracy must be streamlined and adapted while financial and human resources are to be redeployed.

 

 

Julie Holly
Birmingham-Southern College

Central District

I feel called to use my particular perspective, attained through experience in both local church ministry and college chaplaincy, to contribute with integrity to the work of our 2020 delegation. Thanks to the opportunity to work as a college chaplain, I possess a greater understanding of the issues important to both churched and unchurched young adults. Combined with my service as a jurisdictional delegate and a GC reserve delegate in 2012 and 2016, as well as my time in rural, urban and suburban churches, I am equipped for effective collaboration with a diversity of people.

My vision and hope is for the UMC to leverage the combined experiences of long-term UMC members and the passions of young UMC members to strengthen our world-wide mission and ministries. Instead of reflecting our culture, we are called and created to reflect the grace of God by faithfully demonstrating how to live, work and communicate with love and respect even in our differences. I hope we will all work to maintain the connectional nature of the UMC for the sake of cooperative ministry and disciple-making.

 

 

Amy Howard
The Church at Stone River UMC

Northwest District

As a 31 year-old elder serving in my third full-time pastoral appointment, part of a clergy couple, a mother of two young children, and the product of a nurturing UMC congregation, the UMC is my home, and my heart is broken over our current division. I feel called to serve as a delegate so that I may listen and respond in hard conversations and bring a fresh perspective, honoring the connectedness of all United Methodists. I want to ensure that the love, nurture and community I have known within the UMC will only grow for future generations.

In the midst of deep hurt, pain and disappointment, a future united is really only possible if we begin first with forgiveness and grace, as all seek understanding. Perhaps the greatest vision is one where we truly empathize with each other, actively listening in the midst of all of our differences as we seek together the way we can embody the radical love of Jesus in our world today. I envision a Body that is able to use our diversity as our strength instead of weakness, rallying around our common vision of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

 

 

Mikah Hudson
Highlands UMC (Birmingham)

Central District

The UMC does so much good in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. And yet we do so much harm on the GC level. I feel called to refocus on the good and finally bring an end to the harm we are doing to the LGBTQ community. I will work with a diverse coalition of clergy and laity to discern a new or next form of Methodism. I will support legislation that is amicable and freeing. I want to explore ways we can disagree in love by creating space and new structures that show what unites us rather than what divides us.

I support our mission to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. Our polity needs major revision in order to fulfill our mission. The goal of such revision should allow for greater freedom and contextualization so more people can can fully experience the grace of Jesus Christ. Youth and young adults are leaving our church. They see hypocrisy, exclusion and institutionalism rather than an authentic Christian witness of love. My vision is for Methodism to reclaim our calling by God to be a life giving movement rather than a dying institution.

 

 

Tammy Jackson
ATEM - Family Success Center, Executive Director / Mountain Lakes District Staff

Mountain Lakes District

My perception is that many go to GC with their minds already firmly made up, with intention only to persuade or force to their position. This means we are not truly listening to one another, and I fear, even to God. My commitment is to listen with an open mind and open heart, to participate in conversations with grace and respect, to take all the information I receive before God in prayer‚ — listening for God’s voice and seeking God’s will more than my own, and only then to vote.

I want to see a wind of renewal in following Christ with the UMC leading rather than lagging. I want us to be doctrinal but not dogmatic and legalistic, to have unity around common core values and commitments without requiring uniformity, which denies the Holy Spirit room to set us on fire and push us out of our comfort zones. I want to see us focus on making disciples instead of just members, and for our testimony to the world to be that Jesus Christ transforms hearts and lives because he has done just that in us!

 

 

Adlene Kufarimai
West Huntsville UMC / Missions and Advocacy / Ministry with the Poor

Northeast District

My spiritual journey was shaped by women and men of faith who have prayed and nurtured me. I feel called to be a delegate to the 2020 General/Jurisdiction Conference to be a voice that understands both minority clergy women and the global context. I have worked with people of all walks of life as the director for Missions and Advocacy, coordinator for Ministry with the Poor, United Methodist Women and as a pastor. When it comes to the decision making for our denomination that advances God’s mission, I believe there is need for a fair representation in God’s redeeming story.

The United Methodist Church has lived fully to the great commission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. My vision for the United Methodist Church is that we continue to partner with God in transforming lives. My hope and prayer is that the church lives the gospel of faith, hope and love.

 

 

Tiwirai Kufarimai
St. Paul-Triana UMC

Northeast District

Having not grown up in the church, I feel God called me so that I can be a witness of the reach of God’s grace. I have been in ministry in Zimbabwe, then here in the United States. With the global nature of our church, I feel I can better understand the diversity and thereby engage conversations that are necessary with the mutualities necessary for who we are. Having attended General Conference before, this level of comprehension is urgent.

My vision for the United Methodist Church is that we become a church that is known for growth in discipleship and impact on people’s lives in our communities and around the world

 

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Wade Langer
Conference Director of Campus Ministry / University of Alabama Wesley

Southwest District

As the conference director of campus ministries and a professor at the University of Alabama, I spend a great deal of time reaching, teaching and training a generation that the Church often misses. These roles also afford me the opportunity to hear their dreams, fears and deeply rooted convictions. Inspired by their hopes for the world, the Church and their own lives, I feel called to prepare the way for that good future by lending my voice to the General Conference. As a delegate, I hope to speak on behalf of those I serve everyday, the 19-25 year old college students — and pass legislation that will cultivate a Wesleyan revival and awakening that has not been seen since the earliest days of Methodism at Oxford University.

I believe the Church can be a place for all people to discover their God-given identity as they fulfill their God-ordained purpose. The UMC can uniquely accomplish this by promoting a deeply passionate faith, governed by scrutinizing reason, that results in holiness of heart and life overflowing in meaningful social action in the world. I dream of a day when the UMC is heralded as the premiere place to go for discerning and realizing God’s plans, will and purpose for a person’s life through a covenant discipleship community steeped in worship and service to the world.

 

 

Paul Lawler
Christ Church UMC

South Central District

I feel called to be a delegate because I believe in the potential of a renewed Methodism. Raised in the United Methodist church and agnostic until my 20s, I was discipled and sensed a call to ministry in the UM church. With a passion for intentional discipleship, the church I serve has led over 20,000 persons to 1st time professions of faith and has planted over 700 churches around the world. The church conducts outreach to refugees in America, Eastern Europe and serves the urban poor through a 25 year commitment to the inner city. I believe Methodism can be renewed because I see renewal on a daily basis. I believe we can operate leaner fiscally and do better in recruiting gifted church planters and revitalizers who will aid in ushering forth a new day for United Methodism.

The expression of Christianity in North America is rapidly changing. If trend lines continue, mainline Protestantism will vanish in the next 35 years. The “method” in Methodism was originally related to Christian discipleship and maturity and not denominational process and polity. Methodism was once a great Christian movement because Methodism was once a great discipleship movement. Depth fueled breadth. Recapturing the originating impulses necessary for flourishing and reaching post modern America is necessary for a renewed expression of United Methodism.

 

 

Michael Miller
Fort Payne First UMC

Mountain Lakes District

It is an incredible blessing to serve in the Body of Christ. Every day I get to see the Lord's fingerprints. I believe God calls us to be faithful in our sphere of influence on every level and I believe I can serve our great church in the capacity as clergy delegate to further reach others with a grace that eclipses me. I’ve been blessed to serve as our Conference's Chair of Evangelism for five years as well as serving as a church planter in India, missionary in the Philippines and Hong Kong and serving as pastor in the US.

At the epicenter of our United Methodist Church’s mission we find the call to make disciples of Christ every day. This happens through a diverse portfolio of grace, with each global part of the Body ministering uniquely yet in tandem. I believe we attain this divine call by letting God’s heart beat in our chest, through the Spirit, and through a daily dying to self and living for Christ and others. This encapsulates the two greatest commandments, our call and the vision of the church which is God’s grace-filled vehicle on earth today that is driven for His plan.

 

 

Chris Montgomery
Asbury UMC (Madison)

Northeast District

There is no greater honor within our beloved and global United Methodist Church than to serve with our highest decision making bodies. The women and men who have and will serve in these roles give themselves to a holy work for the cause of Christ in the world. My self-nomination is simply my willingness to not only pray for, but work with my sisters and brothers in Christ in the deeply discerning task of Holy Conferencing at a most crucial time within our church’s history. Therefore, my prayer is and will be, “not my will, but Yours be done.”

My prayer and vision for our church is simple. I pray that we would not become the church that John Wesley feared we would. That is, to “only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power...And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit and discipline with which they first set out.” May our hearts burn for people to come to Christ and our world to be transformed and may our work be to this end alone.

 

 

Sherri Reynolds
District Superintendent

Southwest District

After prayerful consideration, I offer myself in service to God and the North Alabama Conference. This is a critical time as we continue to sort through General Conference 2019 and elect new bishops. I would be honored to represent you in this process. I promise to seek God’s will, pray, be informed and commit to the needed time.

I love Jesus and the United Methodist Church. My vision is that Jesus may be glorified; and the United Methodist Church may be fruitful and faithful to Christ’s calling.

 

 

 

 

Robin Scott
Director of New and Renewing Church

Northeast District

We are in a time of great deliberation and discernment. We need experience and compassion, the desire to keep sacred the orthodox practices that have guided us for centuries and the willingness to reach out in new ways to those yet to know Christ. As Jesus came in grace and truth, we must not sacrifice truth in the name of grace nor be ungracious as we strive to uphold truth. We are indeed all people of sacred worth, but some choices cannot be affirmed by those who follow Christ. I will have a heart of grace, while standing for truth.

I desire our church to once again be intentional about making disciples, creating environments that foster transformation. We must keep up with every person who entrusts their souls to our care. We must help seekers discover Jesus through a personal relationship. We must help those who discover Christ to develop their gifts, skills and abilities, growing in faith and knowledge, finding places to serve and share. Then we must help deploy them as they hear and answer the call of God, so that they might share the good news with others.

 

 

Marcus Singleton
Family Leave

Northeast District

My love for Methodism wasn’t inherited, I discovered and embraced Wesleyan Theology. I am convinced at her best the UMC offers the most inclusive hope for salvation because we believe that God’s grace is for ALL. I believe like the schism over slavery, we’re abandoning our spiritual-moral conscience and succumbing to political expediency. Methodism was born of necessity for spiritual renewal! With confidence, we can continue our mission realizing our theology can withstand the tension of divergent views. As a Black United Methodist, I believe we must dare to exemplify that God’s love and grace is far reaching.

I envision a truly united, diverse and inclusive church. I believe we as United Methodists have the theology and capacity to demonstrate to ourselves and the world that the depths of God’s love for ALL people is greater than our differing interpretations of Scripture and God’s will. My vision is a United Methodist Church that shares decision making power across our differences (theology, race, gender, politics, sexual orientation, class, education, etc.) enabling us to lead the church and world closer to God’s preferred future for ALL people.

 

 

Ricky Smith
Guntersville First UMC

Mountain Lakes District

In the summer of 2018, I began to sense an inner calling to attend General Conference 2019 as an observer, and I attended. As we all know, issues of marriage and sexuality were in the spotlight. I am of a traditional mindset and was curious to see how the issues at hand would be treated. As we all know, General Conference 2019 was a painful experience for all involved. However, I was very pleased with how our North Alabama delegates conducted themselves. There is more work left to do, and I feel called to be a part of that work.

 The United Methodist Church is one of holiness of heart and life. When I first began attending the United Methodist Church as a young adult, I was struck by the beautiful message of grace, emphasis on spiritual gifting paired with service, holy living, deep spiritual formation, and evangelism. I believe those are the keys to a vibrant future for the United Methodist Church. The Book of Discipline is a unique document guiding the life of our church and should be upheld.

 

 

Sarah Smoot
Druid Hills/Holt UMCs

Southwest District

My calling is to build bridges of relationship, which is a significant need in General Conference. Watching Conference, I notice people talk about issues rather than listening and speaking to one another. As a former UM missionary in an international cohort and leader of an English as a Second Language ministry in my church, I have experience listening and building bridges across cultural differences. I am excited by the idea of further participation in our church’s global conversation. I have been active in North Alabama’s ministries most of my life and hope to be part of our voice in General Conference.

My vision for the UMC is to be a diverse body of people who follow Jesus in deep connection to both God and neighbor. That vision comes from years in an active UM youth group, mission service with an international Young Adult Mission Service cohort, and currently leading English as a Second Language in my church’s diverse community. I serve on North Alabama’s teams for New Church Development and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, which reflect my values of growing our connection through new ministries and seeking to include the voices and leadership of all people.

 

 

Vaughn Stafford
Clearbranch UMC

Central District

I love the UMC and believe she is the sleeping giant of Protestantism. Our call to holy living and grace-filled loving empowers us to live above reproach while never beyond approach. I have served seven diverse UM churches in four annual conferences over the past 23 years. They have ranged from mid-size to some of the largest churches in Methodism. I have been blessed to serve on Boards of Evangelism, Missions, Finance, and Trustees as well as DCOM, Large Church Initiative, and more. I have a track record of building the church in relationship with people across the theological spectrum.

My vision is a UMC which more practically lives out personal and social holiness. The church of tomorrow is more concerned with being on the front lines of touching and transforming lives with the overwhelming, extravagant love of God. Every level of the church is more focused on the ways we are living out our mission and vision of making disciples and transforming the world. Then we will see a church challenged, equipped and empowered to invest more of her resources in eternal things, which make God's kingdom come closer, and Christ's cause go further.

 

 

Richard Lane Stryker
River of Living Water UMC

Southwest District

During this season of challenges and transition for the United Methodist Church, I would like to ask you to consider electing me as one of the clergy delegates to General Conference. A moderate in theology, I will bring creativity and wisdom to this important responsibility. I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Bishop’s Cabinet for eight years (six as District Superintendent and two years as Ethnic Ministries Director) and I believe that role informs my thinking of the church. I will bring to the North Alabama Conference team, a commitment to multi-ethnic, counter-cultural church. Thank you for considering me as your delegate.

My vision for the United Methodist Church is that the church will reach new people for Jesus Christ by empowering local congregations and helping individual members become faithful disciples. It is my hope that we remain a global church, shaping the world in a manner that reflects Christian principles of love, peace and harmony. In my mind, evangelism should be the primary focus of the church. Even though we are not of the world, I hope the church will continue to do all the good we can in the many places of the world that are opened to us.

 

 

Kevin Thomas
Forest Lake UMC

Southwest District

I have a deep love for Christ and this wonderful Wesleyan tradition that has nurtured me through 31 years of ministry. I am also heart-broken by the divisions that currently damage our witness. I believe that God is calling me to use my gifts of reason, administration and compassion to be a part of the solution. Rather that complain about our problems, I feel led to become a part of the resolution. The church belongs to Christ, and I am dedicated to discerning Christ's will for the future of His church.

The Methodist movement has always been a wildly practical pioneering movement. Wesley broke with tradition to preach in open fields, to authorize laity and women to preach, and to form a new denomination for the sake of American Methodists. Our past is a valuable guide to our future. In a post-Christendom era, we will pioneer new ways to reach new people for Christ. The future of the United Methodist church flourishes outside our walls as lay ministers lead ministry in restaurants, offices, schools and even bars. My vision for the United Methodist Church leads us from institution to movement.

 

 

Keith Thompson
Canterbury UMC

South Central District

I have spent my life leading and working alongside people of different perspectives, consistently finding ways to get people to work together in order to achieve the best possible outcome. God's calling on my life, through the United Methodist Church, has placed me in unique leadership positions where I have worked with the poor and the wealthy, the lost and the found, the powerful and the powerless. I believe I have the ability to reach across the aisle on any issue and help find solutions.

I believe we are called to share the love of Christ with the whole world, inviting them into deeper relationship with Christ and others. We do that best when we recognize our kinship to each other as a child of God. The UMC, better than any other denomination, has the ability to show the world the way of Christ.

 

 

Steve West
Arab First UMC

Northeast District

These are divisive times, and I offer a calm and reasoned approach to moving forward after 2019. I am decidedly centrist and feel voices get lost in a chorus of extremes. I believe calls for schism are an offense to the Body of Christ. But I am willing to do the compassionate and discerning work of Christian ethics in legislating what appears to be the inevitable disaffiliation of some on one or both sides. This does not need to be the fracture that causes more hurt and further harms our witness. God can create new things in spite of our brokenness.

I am sold out on the vision of making disciples of Christ for world transformation. Followers are more than fans. They are called to a life of spiritual formation that leads to both personal and social holiness, and the church was created for both relational evangelism and the work of justice and mission. Wesley had the most balanced theology in the world, so we have in our bones the very resources to work through any impasse. We have to recognize we disagree on the interpretation of scripture, but must gracefully continue to interpret it through tradition, reason and experience.

 

Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.