Annual Conference 2015
Sunday, May 31 to Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The North Alabama Conference gathered on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College May 31- June 2, 2015. Designed to be a 48-hour worship experience during which participants heard reports, conducted business, experienced times of learning and shared testimonies of ministry, the mission-driven Annual Conference began with an Opening Celebration during which participants not only organized the Conference, but, through prayer and worship, set the tone for a time of Christian Conferencing under the theme of Nurture: Growing in Christ.
During the Conference, presiding Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett led Conference members and guests in a time of remembering their baptism and in Holy Communion. At the close of Conference she led a time of identifying a next steps commitment for ministry as participants were sent forth to their church and community.
Special guest Bishop B. Michael Watson, Resident Bishop of the North Georgia Episcopal Area, preached focusing on the Conference mission of Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World telling the Conference, “Good news! You have got absolutely everything it takes to grow in Christ into the Church God is calling you to be. … You’ve got a future. You’ve got what it takes. …You’ve got the power of the Holy Spirit. … Nurture it and grow in Christ.”
Bishop Watson also joined Bishop Wallace-Padgett each day for a time of “Conversations with the Bishops” during which they discussed spiritual leadership and answered questions from those gathered.
Each morning, Dr. Paul W. Chilcote, Academic Dean, Professor of Historical Theology & Wesleyan Studies, and Director of United Methodist Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio, led sessions entitled “Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition.” He focused the Monday teaching time on Foundations focusing on what he called holistic spirituality of the Wesleyan Tradition that includes both works of piety and works of mercy. He noted spiritual practices – such as prayer, silence, Biblical engagement and Eucharist – and why they are important to Methodist leaders. On Tuesday he focused on Character asking and answering the question “What is the character of the leader that is shaped by Wesleyan Heritage?”
On Sunday evening, as clergy were gathered in the Clergy Executive Session, the laity heard from guest Craig W. Robertson, founding member and Development Partner of Spiritual Leadership, Inc., who explained the L3: Loving, Learning and Leading process which the North Alabama Conference is adopting in its ministry work.
Throughout the worshipful Conference, leaders of local churches shared Glory Sightings of their congregation’s ministry. Emcee Chris Greene interviewed these leaders who shared stories of growth and professions of faith; reaching out to those in work release and drug court; partnering with a recovery ministry; and partnering with other churches to transform a food pantry into a food co-op bringing hope to the participants and community.
In alignment with the mission-driven Annual Conference, teams reported on the four Conference priorities. The Church Health Operational Team, led by Rev. Robin Scott and Rev. Nancy Cole, described resources the team is developing to help congregations of all sizes grow healthier. The Ethnic Ministries Operational Team, led by Rev. Richard Stryker, shared highlights and stories from the team and introduced Rev. Clinton Hubbard as the Conference’s next Director of Ethnic Ministries. Rev. Dale Cohen presented the report of the New Church Operational Team. He introduced those who are helping to start six new faith communities. He also invited everyone in the Conference to become a church planter and help the effort either through prayer, funding, inviting others to a new congregation or using their spiritual gifts to help start new ministries. Earlier in the Conference Bishop Wallace-Padgett introduced the incoming Director of New Church Development Dr. Richard Hunter. Rev. Lewis Archer presented the report from the Ministry with the Poor Operational Team. He offered a vision of how congregations can work toward this Conference ministry priority. He noted, “People of means cannot practice Methodist Christianity without engaging with people with needs.”
On Monday afternoon the Conference gathered for the Memorial Service during which time the Conference remembered those Clergy and Clergy Spouses who died in the last year. Dr. Andy Wolfe preached a sermon entitled “Remember.” During the service the Conference also said a litany of thanksgiving for the nine churches that were closing.
On Monday evening, the Conference gathered at Canterbury UMC for the Service of Ordination, Commissioning and Licensing. During the service five elders were ordained (average age of 45); ten provisional elders and one provisional deacon (average age of 34 ) were commissioned; and 11 local pastors received their license.
The Annual Conference adopted four Resolutions:
In other business the Conference:
Some notable statistics for 2014: membership was 133,695 (down 313); average worship attendance was 66,007 (down 269); Sunday School attendance was 30,835 (down 356); amount given to mission was $9,879,218 (up $784,754); 2533 people were received on profession of faith (up 477); 2087 people were baptized (up 151); 115 people were restored to membership by affirmation (up 3); the number of people engaged in mission was 33,329 (up 7,185).