The 142nd Session of the North Alabama Conference was called to order at 9 a.m. on Friday morning, June 3. The Conference is meeting at Asbury UMC in Madison. Although it was once the custom for the Annual Conference meeting to move to a different church in different parts of the Conference year to year, the last time the North Alabama Annual Conference met in the Huntsville area was 1953. In 1954 the Conference met at Birmingham-Southern College and the Conference meeting has remained in the Birmingham area until this year.
Bishop Will Willimon called the Conference to order and Conference Secretary Rev. Sherill Clontz led in organizing the Conference and establishing the consent agenda.
The first report was a celebration of growing more disciples. The Evangelism Team announced the winners of the annual Harry Denman Evangelism Awards. When each winner was announced a short video was shown about that person’s disciple-making ministry. The 2011 Denman Evangelism Award winners are: Robert Riggs (lay), Wannell Scott (lay), and J. David Sherrell (clergy).
The opening session drew to a close with an extended time of prayer. Bishop Willimon and Asbury Senior Pastor Rev. Alan Weatherly led the prayer time. Rev. Weatherly explained that prayer is one of the major aspects of the ministry of Asbury UMC and invited Conference members and visitors to participate in this act of prayer. There were two main focuses for the prayer time – 1.) those directly affected by the devastating storms of April 27 and 2.) clergy of the North Alabama Conference who daily are called to be in ministry. As the Asbury praise team led a time of worship storm survivors and clergy were invited to the altar rails, where lay members of Asbury UMC’s prayer ministry were there to pray with each individual.
At 10 a.m. Annual Conference members divided into the Lay Orientation Session and Clergy Executive Session. During these sessions each group began taking ballots for General Conference Delegates.
During the 2011 Annual Conference, members will elect 6 lay and 6 clergy delegates to the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church and 6 lay and 6 clergy delegates to the 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. (They will also elect 3 alternates decided with a rule change vote following lunch on Friday.)
Ballots were taken throughout the day on Friday and by the close of the business session the following delegates had been elected.
Following the lunch break members gathered backed together and began to conduct Conference business. They adopted the consent agenda. They also elected Sherill Clontz to serve as the Conference Secretary ; Terry McElheny to serve as the Conference Chancellor and Amy DeWitte to serve as the Conference Statistician for terms to expire in 2015.
Members then recognized the youth and young adult members of Annual Conference and then heard the Conference Youth report from Amanda Anonio. One highlight of the report was announcing Rev. Clay Farrington is working with the Conference youth ministry team.
The Conference then heard from Conference Lay Leader Ellen Harris. She introduced District Lay Leaders and gave the Laity Address. During her address she noted, “We are gifted and have been anointed to be God's people. We have chosen to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.”
The Conference then elected Steve Lyles, current Southeast District Lay Leader, to be the new Conference Lay Leader.
Adam Neal of the General Board of Global Ministries then thanked North Alabama for the nearly one million dollars churches gave to UMCOR and The Advance last year.
The Conference then heard a report from Sumatanga. New Sumatanga Director Matt Johnson reported “God is at work at Sumatanga!” Rev. Paul Messer who has been appointed Camp Pastor at Sumatanga also addressed the Conference.
Rev. Rick Owen then presented the Board of Ordained Ministry report. He began by recognizing the clergy who are retiring this year. This includes the following clergy:
The Bishop also asked for the Conference to observe a Moment of Silence to honor those clergy and clergy spouses who died in the last year and were remembered during the memorial service.
Bishop Willimon then declared the clergy appointments fixed. Click here for a list of the 2011 Clergy Appointments.
He then welcomed Rev. Alfred T. Day III, pastor of Historic St. George’s UMC in Old City, Philadelphia, who announced that two pieces of American Methodist History will be used in Ordination Service tonight - Frances Asbury Bible & Wesley’s Chalice.
After hearing a report from Rod Moss on the ministry of Promise Homes, members were invited to an ice cream break - a gift of Promise Homes of North Alabama.
As the Conference reconvened members heard from the new Wesley Foundation Director at the University of Alabama Creighton Alexander and then heard a report from the United Methodist Children’s Home.
Rev. Sara Cameron then explained changes Rev. Richard Stryker had made to a resolution he had submitted that he intends to send to the 2012 General Conference.
Bishop Willimon then introduced Linda Holland to give the Connectional Ministries report. She discussed the major efforts the Conference and its churches has made in Disaster Response since the April 27 tornadoes. She then introduced Rev. Matt Lacey and Rev. Nancy Cole who discussed the disaster response and the Conference’s commitment to long term recovery from the storms.
Rev. Cole also gave the Natural Church Development report noting how many churches had found their ministry responding to needs in their communities following the storms. She then invited Rev. Sheri Ferguson to discuss upcoming workshops focusing on Long Term Spiritual & Emotional Care Following
Bishop Willimon then invited Bishop Robert Fannin to preside over the financial reports. The Conference passed all reports presented by the Council on Finance including the 2012 budget of $9.1 million. This is a 14.97% reduction from 2011. There was an amendment from the floor to add $150,000 to that budget to go to Birmingham-Southern College and Huntingdon College, but the amendment failed.
Next the Board of Pension and Health Benefits presented their reports. The most notable report was that Healthflex premiums would see no increase in 2011. Sandy Reynolds explained, the board anticipated a change in the insurance plan in 2013 and has decided to use reserve money to fund differences in 2012.
As the afternoon session drew to a close Conference secretary Rev. sherill Clontz presented the resolutions from the Cabinet regarding eight church closings. These include the following:
The evening ended with the Service of Ordination at 7:30 p.m. During the service the Conference ordained 17 new elders and 1 deacon in full connection. Bishop Willimon preached a sermon titled “Don’t be afraid” which were words of encouragement to the 18 ordinands.
During the service the Conference recognized 3 associate members:
Ordained 1 Deacon:
And Ordained 17 Elders:
The Conference will continue on Saturday.