Brief recap of the 2013 North Alabama Annual Conference

June 06, 2013

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The North Alabama Annual Conference met June 2-4, 2013, on the campus on the Birmingham-Southern College. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett presided over the Conference who gathered under the theme of Cultivate: New in Christ.

The Conference opened with the singing of “And Are We Yet Alive” led by guest worship leader John Elliott. Chair of the Episcopacy Committee Dr. Andy Wolfe introduced Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett who is serving her first year as the presiding Bishop of the North Alabama Conference. The Conference voted to accept Bishop Wallace-Padgett and her husband Lee Padgett, an ordained Deacon, as honorary members of the North Alabama Conference.

The Bishop officially called the Conference to order. President of Birmingham-Southern College Gen. Charles Krulak welcomed members to the college saying BSC is “your campus.” He also shared that as a Methodist-related college BSC strives to provide education which touches students’ souls. He shared a video of a march the campus held in April to honor the 50th anniversary of BSC student Marti Turnipseed joining seven African-American students at a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s food counter in downtown Birmingham. Following the video, BSC Chaplain Rev. Jack Hinnen led the Conference in an opening prayer.

Throughout Annual Conference those gathered prayed together,  worshipped together  and heard guest teacher Bishop Jonathan Holston. He reminded the Conference that “everyone has a story” and as a church our job is to make disciples not just church members.

On Sunday evening the Conference gathered in Bill Battle Coliseum for an opening worship celebration. The service celebrated the rich diversity of United Methodism in North Alabama and featured a hand bell acclamation, spirited organ music, a mass choir, a prayer of thanksgiving in the Korean tradition, commissioning North Alabama’s campus ministries leaders and the sharing of Holy Communion. Bishop Wallace-Padgett preached the sermon “Becoming New in Christ” during which she noted “New life in Christ starts with cultivation.” She affirmed the spirit and discipleship she has seen in North Alabama United Methodists saying, “Jesus is not just someone you talk about or read about. Jesus is your friend…your savior…your strength in your life.” She encouraged each individual to continue to become new in Christ through intentional holy habits.

On Monday evening the Conference celebrated a Service of Ordination, Commissioning and Licensing during which new local pastors received their license; four people were commissioned as provisional members; one person was ordained Deacon and eleven were ordained Elder. During the service Bishop Wallace-Padgett preached a message reminding those gathered that we are all called to be followers before we can be leaders.

The Conference held a Memorial Service on Tuesday morning during which it remembered thirty-seven clergy and clergy spouses who have died since the last Annual Conference. Dr. Bill Morgan preached a sermon entitled “Second Race.”

In addition to times of worship and business, Mission2Gather, a group of North Alabama United Methodist ministries, held a 5k run / 1 mile fun walk to raise money for these eight ministries working together to engage persons in mission and ministry to those in need and the Conference held it’s 2nd Annual Battle of the Bands for youth bands.

During business

  • the Conference passed the consent agenda.
  • Conference Lay Leader Steve Lyles present the Lay Ministry Team report
  • Convenor of the Evangelism Team Rev. Robert Sparkman announced the winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. Lay winners are Davie Williams of Center Grove UMC and Dr. Hardin Coleman of Scottsboro First UMC. Clergy winner is Rev. Matt Scott pastor of The Gathering Place UMC.
  • Blake Horne, President and CEO of the United Methodist Children’s Home, shared about the ministry of UMCH and how it continues to adapt to meet the needs of children in Alabama. The Conference passed a motion by UMCH to amend their bylaws.
  • The Conference approved a budget for 2014 of $9,777,797.
  • The Conference voted to make an unrestricted gift to Birmingham-Southern College of $1 million. The gift will be financed through internal loans, modeled on the method the Conference used to finance the building of the current United Methodist Center.
  • Brant Sanders, Chairperson of the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits, announced there will be no increase in the health insurance premiums charged to Healthflex participants during 2014. However, increases will be covered through reserve funds. He also noted that how national changes in healthcare will affect Healthflex is still being studied. The Board of Pension and Health Benefits will present a full report at next year’s Annual Conference.
  • The Conference voted to adjust the formula used to calculate clergy pension benefits local churches pay each month. 50% of the new formula is comparable the formula used to calculate church apportionments and 50% will be allocated based on the average cost per full-time equivalent clergy serving each local church.
  • The Conference voted to change the standing rules of the Annual Conference to allow the 2014 North Alabama Annual Conference to elect delegates to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conference.
  • Announced the nine churches being disbanded. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett led the Conference in a liturgy to give thanks for the ministry and common store of memories of these congregations.
  • Rev. Nancy Cole presented the report of the Disaster Recovery Team explaining that United Methodists are still at work helping recovery efforts from the April 2011 tornadoes. North Alabama has received UMCOR Grants of $2.15 million and almost $2.7 million in in-kind services from volunteers from both North Alabama and many other parts of the country.
  • Rev. Randy Burbank, the Conference Disaster Response Director, greeted the Conference and shared his goal is to help the Conference be more proactive in preparing for Disasters.
  • Members voted in favor of all four amendments to the United Methodist Constitution that will adjust the Constitution to be in line with actions of the 2012 General Conference.
  • Rev. Nancy Cole presented a report on her new role as director of Church Transformation and Revitalization introducing a process specifically designed for small membership churches called Abide.
  • Rev. Clay Farrington, former Youth Ministry Coordinator, announced the winners of the Youth Battle of the Bands and introduced the Conference to the new Youth Ministry Coordinator Micah Dormann.
  • The Conference elected nominated Conference leaders.
  • The Commission on Archives and History presented the annual Annie Ford and Glynn Wheeler Award for outstanding contributions in the field of local church history to Ann Neighbors of Alexander City First UMC and Joe Coughton of Trinity UMC in Huntsville. The Commission also recognized three congregations who have qualified for the Charter Church award.
  • Conference Secretary Rev. Sherill Clontz presented the report of the General Commission of Race and Religion's audit of new churches in North Alabama. This draft report noted three recommendations. The Conference New Church Team will give a full report regarding North Alabama’s plan to undertake these recommendations at next year’s Annual Conference.
  • During the Ethnic Ministries report, Dr. Thomas Muhomba reported on the growth of the ministry with different ethnic groups. He introduced the incoming Conference Director of Ethnic Dr. Richard Stryker. Bishop Wallace-Padgett noted that Stryker will led this ministry as his full-time appointment as a priority to help the Conference grow in diversity.
  • The Board of Ordained Ministry recognized the nine Elders, one Deacon and seven Local Pastors retiring in 2013.
  • The new church team announced clergy being appointed in four new church situations. Bishop Wallace-Padgett led a prayer for these new church planters.
  • The children participating in Annual Conference Kid’s Camp presented Bishop Wallace-Padgett a “welcome” banner and sang for the Conference. Several of the children assisted Conference Children’s Coordinator Liz Bowlin in presenting the children’s ministry report.
  • The Conference voted to make changes to the Safe Sanctuary policy.
  • Chair of the Board of Higher Education Rev. Brian Erickson presented a strong message of why the Conference should support its campus ministries noting that the Methodist movement began with college students. He also noted the Conference is developing a Dashboard for its campus ministries.
  • Rev. Peter von Herrmann presented the report of the Adult Discipleship Team. He announced the team will be working on a curriculum review portion of the Conference website to allow teachers and small group leaders to review and share insights on curriculum.
  • Recognized the 125th anniversary of United Methodist Deaconesses and Home Missioners and recognized those serving within North Alabama.
  • The Disability Ministries Team recognized the seven churches who have qualified as Bridge Builder Churches this year and recognized the Northwest District with the District Bridge Builder Award.
  • Rev. Robin Scott, District Superintendent of the Mountain Lakes District, presented the report for Sumatanga. He noted it will take support of the Annual Conference, its local churches and individuals to allow for the future of Sumatanga. He said the Cabinet and Conference has taken the first step in appointing Rev. Mark Paris as Director of Development for Sumatanga. Rev. Parris' sole appointment for the upcoming year is to help tell the story of the camp and raise funds for the camp. He made a plea for the Conference to “vote with its actions” that it wants Sumatanga to have a future. These actions include local churches using the camp facilities for retreats; congregations sending campers to events; including Sumatanga in local church mission budgets; and individuals making financial donations to the camp.
  • Rev. Adlene Kufarimai presented about Imagine no Malaria. Imagine No Malaria is a $75 million effort of The United Methodist Church to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. The comprehensive approach includes prevention, education, outreach and treatment. She introduced the North Alabama Conference Imagine No Malaria Team and announced the North Alabama Conference goal of raising money to save 100,000 lives in the next year.
  • The Conference thanked Rev. Sherill Clontz for her dedicated work as Conference Secretary and elected Rev. Clauzell Williams to serve as Conference Secretary through 2015.
  • The Conference voted to hold the 2014 Annual Conference, which will be June 1-3, on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College.

Annual Conference closed with a Service of Prayer and Sending Forth. Rev. Wade Langer led the Conference through worship and times of prayer. Bishop Wallace-Padgett read the appointment changes and each District lay leader prayed for the clergy, laity and ministry of the local churches in their District.

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