The 2011 North Alabama Conference came to order on Saturday morning with the Service of Commissioning Provisional Members and Recognition of Licensed Local Pastors.
During the morning service 13 newly licensed Local Pastors were recognized including the following:
There were also 8 people Commissioned as Provisional Deacons or Elders. These included
As the business session began Conference members heard the report of Conference Statistician Rev. Lori Carden. They then approved the Committee of Nominations report.
The Conference then moved to the New and Renewing Communities of Faith report. Rev. Michael Freeman had requested the report removed from the consent agenda. He spoke of his concern that the North Alabama Conference had not started any primarily African American churches in the Huntsville / Madison area when census reports show there is a growing African-American community here. He also asked for specific actions regarding New and Renewing Communities of Faith including having the General Commission on Race and Religion audit the history of the Conference’s efforts at new church plants.
Through the conversation on the floor, it was noted that under the leadership of Congregational Development Director Tommy Gray, the process of planting churches has shifted and has focused on developing leadership and finding new models of successful plants – especial plants that reach more diverse demographics. Rev. Tommy Gray and New and Renewing Communities of Faith Team Chair Rev. Bill Gandy both agreed that North Alabama has much to learn. Rev. Gray said the plan was to announce an African American church plant – with a prepared leader – at the 2012 Annual Conference.
The Conference then heard from featured speaker Brian McLaren. Through his challenging talks he compared the United Methodist Church to the US Postal Service. He noted “a lot of us are prepared to answer the questions of the 1970s. We don't know what the questions of today are.”
He encouraged the church to focus on a new kind of evangelism and be aware that “people need a human being they can have a conversation with about religion.” He encouraged listening and building relationships with those early in a faith journey.
Following lunch, the Conference was treated to music by the children who have been participating in the Annual Conference Kids’ Camp. Then members had a time of question and answer with Brian McLaren.
The Conference then moved to an order of the day as Bishop Will Willimon introduced the new President of Birmingham-Southern College Gen. Charles “Chuck” C. Krulak. After sharing some of his faith story as to how he was led to seek the presidency at Birmingham-Southern Collge, Gen. Krulak then extended an invitation to the North Alabama Conference to hold its 2012 meeting on the campus of BSC. The invitation was enthusiastically accepted by Conference members.
Bishop Willimon and Gen Krulak also recognized the new Chaplain of Birmingham-Southern College Rev. Jack Hinnen.
As clergy continued taking ballots to elect their 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Delegates, Bishop Willimon invited several groups to share.
It was announced that Rev. Joe Elmore and Debbie Wade won the 2011 Branscomb Barrier Breaker Awards given each year by the North Alabama COSROW, Committee on the Status and Role of Women.
Nell Berry of the Conference Archives and History also announced a new annual award that group will give each year recognizing outstanding work in local church archives. This year’s winner was Caroline Thompson of Trussville First UMC.
The Conference also heard from:
Business concludes and the North Alabama Conference delegation to the 2012 General Conference and Southeastern Conference was finalized. That delegation includes the following:
General Conference Delegates
Neal R. Berte
Alt. Delegates to SEJ
General Conference Delegates
Alt Delegates to SEJ