Annual Conference 2020

September 26, 2020
Virtual (online) Meeting

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 - Luke 4:18 -19

Download the 2020 Journal vol. 1

Download the 2020 Journal vol. 2


2020 Annual Conference Recap

by Danette Clifton
Director of Communication

See Photos

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, North Alabama United Methodists gathered in front of computers, tablets, cell phones and other internet-connected screens for their first virtual Annual Conference. The previous Sunday afternoon, September 20, clergy members had gathered online for the Clergy Executive Session.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett presided over her eighth Annual Conference in North Alabama. The theme was Singing God’s Song with the Forgotten. The focus on the Conference was one of its four ministry priorities - Ministry with the Poor.

The plenary session began with opening worship. After a prelude by Dr. Anthony Powell, an ensemble led the Conference in singing the traditional opening hymn of “And Are We Yet Alive.” Guest Preacher Bishop Leonard Fairley, of the Kentucky Annual Conference, offered an opening sermon based on the theme verses of Luke 4:18-19. In discussing ministry WITH the poor, Bishop Fairley reminded North Alabama United Methodists "You are both called and anointed to be bearers of God's grace and love and peace and justice. North Alabama, that calling remains the same even in the midst of fear - even in the midst of racism and polarization and anxiety. The calling remains the same, even in the face of COVID-19 and news cycles filled with sensational soundbites. Our calling remains the same even in the midst of hatred and division that is being spread through social media. We are called and anointed by God as passionate, spiritual disciples."

Conference Director of Ministry of the Poor Dr. Adlene Kufarimai said a prayer of thanksgiving for the special offering designated to support QuadW Missional Internships - a potentially life-changing mission experience for young adults, 19-25 years of age, which allows them to experience ministry with the poor. The Conference has sponsored 40 young adult interns over the past three summers. The generosity of local churches to this year's offering will provide for 2021 interns and beyond.

Worship concluded with the praise song “God of This City” performed by Huntsville First UMC Exalt Band.

Following opening worship, Conference Secretary Dr. Dedric Cowser led Conference members through their organizing work and adopting the consent agenda. Members used an online voting system to cast their votes. The voting totals were close to the largest number of votes cast last year during 2019 Annual Conference using an in-person electronic voting system. (And much higher than the vote totals cast on the final day of the 2019 Annual Conference.)

The Conference then began to work through the business not on its consent agenda.

  • The Conference voted to postpone indefinitely the discussion of changes to its Standing Rules with a stated intention of holding that business until the Annual Conference could once again meet face to face.
  • After much discussion, the Conference failed to suspend its standing rules to allow for nominations for Conference Lay Leader from the floor of the Conference. Current rules state the nomination of the Conference Lay Leader comes from the Nominations Team. The vote to suspend the standing rules needed a 2/3 vote but only received 58.3%. 
  • The Conference adopted the Nominations Team Spiritual Leaders Report of those who will serve on Conference teams and committees.
  • After hearing a report from Camp Sumatanga outlining the work of the Sumatanga Action Team, the Conference voted to approve the new Sumatanga Board of Trustees. The Conference also approved the sale of 58.23 acres of camp land previously leased by the buyer. 
  • The Conference voted on the closing of seven churches. They include the following:
    • Cheaha District
      • Antioch
    • Mountain Lakes District
      • Deerman’s Chapel
      • Samuel’s Chapel
      • Smith Chapel
    • Northeast District
      • Old Brashiers Chapel
    • Northwest District
      • Cambridge
    • Southwest District
      • New Hope

Bishop Wallace-Padgett invited the Conference to pause from its work as she and Director of Ethnic Ministries Rev. Donald Smith led Conference members and viewers through a time of guided prayer specifically focusing on the Church's response to the coronavirus pandemic and racism.

As the Conference returned to its business:

  • The Conference heard the report of the Ministry with the Poor Team which included ways local churches and districts could participate in this Conference priority.
  • Steve Lyles presented his last Laity Address as Conference Lay Leader. He has served the Annual Conference since 2011. His address focused on the past, present and future of the church.
  • The Conference then affirmed the Nominations Team's nomination of Northwest District Lay Leader Lisa Keys-Matthews as the new Conference Lay Leader.
  • Business closed with the report from the Board of Ordained Ministry which highlighted new pastors, retiring clergy and those clergy who have died since last Annual Conference. This year's class of retiring clergy have approximately 607 years of service. Click here to watch a video honoring these retirees. They include the following:
    • Charles E. Brown, Jr.
    • C Dale Clem
    • Glenn Keith Elder 
    • Gregory Ellie Foust 
    • James Alton "Al" Geise Jr
    • Kathy Griffith
    • Joseph Harris, Sr
    • Paul D. Hillard, Jr
    • Preston E. Irving
    • Mark Stephen Lacey 
    • Al Lewis 
    • Ron McKay 
    • Deborah Moon
    • Bill Morgan
    • Marian Thrasher New 
    • Timothy William New 
    • Percy Lee (Bud) Nolan, Jr
    • Mary Quillin
    • Dorothy Ann Jones Webster 
    • Fred E. Webster, Jr.

The Annual Conference plenary then closed with a time of Closing Worship. The service began as new appointments, most of which took place on July 1, were officially fixed. District Superintendents read the names of those clergy who had moved to new appoints as all clergy appointments scrolled across the screen. The District Lay leaders then joined together in a prayer of blessing for the clergy, churches and their ministry together.

Bishop Fairley shared another message with the Annual Conference focusing primarily on his life story and how individual Christians who purposely reached out to his family living in poverty had made a difference in his life. He said, "It's amazing what happens when you are in ministry with the poor. I would not be here with you now if there had not been people who took seriously what Jesus said on that day in that synagogue as was his custom. That the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, release to those who were oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. And the acceptable year of the Lord is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and share words of health, healing and hospitality."

An ensemble led by Nancy Beard led the Conference in the closing hymn "Jesu, Jesu." Bishop Wallace-Padgett then sent Conference members and guests forth with a benediction.

On Sunday, September 27 two special worship services were held and live-streamed so all in the Conference could be a part. During the Service of Licensing and Commissioning of new local pastors and provisional deacons and elders, the Conference presented licenses to new local pastors:

  • David Bryant III
  • John David Crowe
  • Renee Garlen
  • Richard Garlen
  • Wilson Myers
  • Shannon Odom
  • Keith Owens
  • Noah Phillips
  • Kenneth Sanders
  • Dylan Scott
  • Sam Wilson

The Conference also commissioned one Provisional Deacon:

  • Philipp Galyon

And commissioned two Provisional Elders:

  • Brittany D. Camp
  • Raul Dominguez

Later that afternoon during The Service of Ordination the Conference ordained five new full-connection Elders: 

  • Zach Langer
  • Christy Noren-Hentz
  • Cam Price
  • Chris Stallings
  • Reid Turner

On Thursday, October 1, the Annual Conference will honor those clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the last year with a recorded Memorial Service that will premiere online at 6 p.m. North Alabama United Methodists are invited to watch this special service together on the Conference website ( Those who will be remembered include:

  • Rev. Jimmy R. Beck
  • Rev. Stanley P. Clark
  • Rev. Dewayne Clifton
  • Elizabeth M. Collins
  • Rev. John Cosby
  • Edward H. (Ted) Cramer
  • Donna F. Ellison
  • Barbara Euler
  • Irene Gandy
  • Mildred Gilbert 
  • Phillip Grissom 
  • Dorothy Grove 
  • Rev. Robert Wilbanks Gunn
  • Annie Nora Hart
  • Rev. John Hassell, Jr.
  • Betty Daniel Hazel 
  • Dr. Phillip Huckaby
  • William O. "Bill" Lipp
  • Annie Masters
  • Rev. L.B. "Jake" Mays
  • Jimmie Parris 
  • Karen Robinson 
  • Mildred J. Sears 
  • Rev. Robert W. Smith, Jr.
  • Katherine Savage (Kay) Twilley (Retired Missionary)
  • Roy Wolfe
  • Lessie Wren


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