They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
—Jeremiah 17:8 (NRSV)
The North Alabama Annual Conference
June 1 - 4, 2014
Annual Conference 2014 Recap
by Danette Clifton, Director of Communication
The North Alabama Annual Conference met on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College June 1-4, 2014. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett presided over the Conference with the theme of Plant: Grounded in Christ.
During the Opening Celebration, worshippers heard stories of new life throughout Annual Conference. These included stories from members of new congregations; commissioning student leaders, mission interns and board members of the conference Wesley Foundations; and celebrating the work United Methodists are doing through Imagine No Malaria. The Conference received its special offering totaling $251,129.22 for Imagine No Malaria. This is the largest Annual Conference special offering in Conference history. It brings North Alabama to $911,035.96 toward it’s goal of $1 million to save 100,000 lives. Bishop Wallace-Padgett preached a sermon based on the theme verse of Jeremiah 17:8 and encouraged worshippers to “Plant where you can bloom." Opening worship ended with members of the Conference and visitors sharing Holy Communion together.
Throughout the Annual Conference, members and visitors took time to worship together. The guest worship leader was Cheryl Tolbert of St. Luke UMC in Lexington, Kentucky.
Bishop Lindsey Davis was the guest preacher throughout Annual Conference. His message focused on church planting. He noted “It is crucial to have a gospel strategy before you have a church plant strategy.“ He also noted leadership is key in planting churches and shared qualities he has learned are necessary in church planters.
On Monday evening, the Conference ordained seven Elders and recognized the orders of one additional Elder; commissioned nine provisional Elders and one provisional Deacon; and recognized those receiving local pastor licenses.
On Tuesday morning, the Conference remembered the 44 clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the last year.
During morning worship on Wednesday, Rev. Alan Beasley, pastor of Jasper First UMC, encouraged the Conference and its churches to take risks, noting the story of David found in 2 Samuel chapter 8. “Risk does not mean doing something different. Risk is something you do for the glory of God that you will absolutely fail at if God doesn’t show up,” he added.
The Conference also celebrated times of mission. On Tuesday, volunteers packed 50,000 meals working with Stop Hunger Now. That evening, the Conference held the annual Mission 2 Gather 5K run and 1 mile fun walk. Proceeds of this fundraiser benefit the Mission 2 Gather mission agencies and mission congregations of the North Alabama Conference working together to engage persons in mission and ministry to those in need.
- Adopted a Ministry Action Plan that sets the course for our future as an Annual Conference.
Spiritual leaders empowering life-giving congregations to transform the world.
The North Alabama Conference will be led by lay and clergy growing in an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. These leaders will guide the church in transforming the world through making committed disciples, through supporting vital congregations and through developing critical conference missions and ministries to impact people around the world.
Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.
- Working together to create a kingdom-like environment which transforms lives and communities with urgency
- Movement of the Holy Spirit produces personal and social holiness
- Centered in Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God
- The Bible as the inspired word of God which guides our work together
- Integrity—what we say, what we do and what we desire are aligned
What does the North Alabama Way mean?
- Team matters.
- Respond, not react.
- What we do is of critical importance. How we do it is of equal importance.
- The higher the expectations, the greater the outcome.
- Move as quickly as we can and as slowly as we need to, for as long as it takes.
- Following the process and honoring integrity at all levels of the system.
- New Faith Communities, Worship Services, Ministries to reach new persons
- Healthy Congregations
- Ethnic Ministries
- Ministry with the Poor
- Heard a report from the New Church Team which noted that the Conference’s new church starts comprise 4% of the worship attendance, 9% of the baptisms, and 12% of the professions of faith in North Alabama.
- The Conference Evangelism Team presented the Harry Denman Evangelism Award to Rev. Shane Harris, pastor of Bethlehem Station UMC, and Bobby Jack Kerley, a member of Alexander City First UMC.
- Passed a budget for 2015 of $10,155,717.
- Conference Statistician Rev. Amy DeWitte offered several reasons for the Conference to celebrate including 2,056 professions of faith in 2013, 1936 baptisms, 26,144 people engaged in mission serving 763,255 people. She also noted that the membership of North Alabama is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse,
- Had a time of worship led by the Youth Battle of the Bands winner from Cove UMC.
- Dr. Blake Horne President / CEO of United Methodist Children’s Home, introduced two Knabe Scholars. This unique scholarship program, begun last year, provides higher education for college-aged foster youth.
- Adopted a Vulnerable Adult Safe Sanctuary Policy.
- Introduced Rev. Jeanet Berruecos as the Ethnic Ministries Hispanic Resource Person.
- The Disability Ministries Team recognized 11 Bridge Builder congregations and presented the District Bridge Builder Award to the Southeast District.
- Recognized 21 retiring clergy who, as a group, contributed approximately 490 years of ministry.
- Accepted a recommendation from the Board of Ordained Ministry and The Ministerial Integrity Committee that all clergy under appointment, including lay speakers, be required to allow BOOM to obtain a background check every four years as part of their refresher ministerial integrity training.
- The Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women presented the Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker Award to Cindy Castro, a member of Lineville First UMC, and Dr. ML Roberts, Jr., a member of Trinity UMC in Tuscaloosa. An honorary award was also presented to Belle Carlisle a 31 year staff member of Urban Ministry.
- Heard a powerful testimony from a campus minister in learning about the Conference’s Campus Ministry missional approach.
- The Conference Commission on Archives and History presented the Wheeler Award for Church History to John Mark “Bruno” Hughes for his work on the new pictorial memoir of Camp Sumatanga called “Rest and Vision.”
- Heard from the Disaster Recovery Team noting the work that has been done since the April 2011 tornadoes.
General/Jurisdictional Conference Delegate Elections
Throughout Annual Conference clergy and laity members elected the North Alabama Conference Delegation to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
- Steve Lyles (Alexander City)
- Scott Selman (Vestavia Hills)
- Zac Riddle (Birmingham)
- Carol Toney (Huntsville)
- Robin Scott (Gadsden)
- Dale Cohen (Huntsville)
- Mary Bendall (Helena)
- Tiwirai Kufarimai (Anniston)
(includes delegates to General Conference plus the following 4 laity and 4 clergy)
- Charlie Carlton (Birmingham)
- Pat Meadows (McCalla)
- Emily Chastain (Fultondale)
- Judy Poole (Birmingham)
- Glenn Conner (Huntsville)
- Robert Sparkman (Hartselle)
- Mark Parris (Gallant)
- Julie Holly (Birmingham)
- Keith Russell (Decatur)
- Donald Johnson (Birmingham)
- Reid Turner (Alabaster)
- Lori Carden (Helena)
- Wade Griffith (Birmingham)
- Richard Stryker (Birmingham)
The Conference closed with a Sending Forth Service led by the Order of Deacons and featured the District Superintendents calling out the names of clergy moving to new appointments; District lay leaders praying for all pastors and congregations in their District; worshippers taking time to pray for the ministries in North Alabama.
Click to download a complete list of the 2014 clergy appointments.
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