To see pictures of Monday at the North Alabama Conference go to http://www.northalabamaumc.org/galleries/detail/73
Monday morning of Annual Conference began with worship led by John Elliott. Bishop Jonathan Holston then led the Conference in Bible study reminding Conference participants that “everyone has a story” and as a church our job is to make disciples not just church members.
As business began the Conference passed the consent agenda. The first report was from Conference Lay Leader Steve Lyles who presented the Lay Ministry Team report and affirmed the ministry of so many helping to work toward the church’s mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Convenor of the Evangelism Team Rev. Robert Sparkman then announced this year’s winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. Lay winners are Davie Williams of Center Grove UMC and Dr. Hardin Coleman of Scottsboro First UMC. Rev. Matt Scott pastor of The Gathering Place UMC received the clergy award.
The Conference then heard from Blake Horne, President and CEO of the United Methodist Children’s Home. He shared about the ministry of UMCH. The ministry continues to adapt to meet the needs of children in Alabama. One new focus is that the group homes in Tuscaloosa and Florence will focus on helping their residents achieve a college degree. At the end of the report the Conference passed a motion by UMCH to amend their bylaws.
The Conference then heard reports from the Conference Council on Finance and Administration. The Conference approved a budget for 2014 of $9,777,797. The Conference then 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, then presented the report of that committee. During the report he 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 then voted to adjust the formula used to calculate clergy pension benefits local churches pay each month. The new formula is 50% comparable to the formula used to calculate church apportionments and 50% to be allocated based on the average cost per full-time equivalent clergy serving each local church.
The Conference then 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. This change is in line with legislation the General Conference passed which allows Annual Conferences to elect their delegations one year earlier to allow for better preparation.
Conference Secretary and Recording secretary of the Cabinet Rev. Sherill Clontz then presented the property resolutions to the Conference. There are 9 churches being disbanded. After the Conference voted on those resolutions, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett led the Conference in a liturgy to give thanks for the ministry and common store of memories of these congregations. The closing congregations include the following:
Rev. Nancy Cole then presented the report of the Disaster Recovery Team. United Methodists are still at work helping recovery efforts from the April 2011 tornadoes. She announced the Conference expects at least one more year of Disaster Recovery work. She thanked the many people who have help with the recovery efforts and noted that 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, then greeted the Conference and shared his goal is to help the Conference be more proactive in preparing for Disasters.
The Conference then took a lunch break. During this time the Lay Ministry Team hosted the Laity Luncheon which featured music by Rev. Keith Elder and a message by Dr. Cam West, the president of Huntingdon College.
John Elliott opened the afternoon with worship and Bishop Holston led a Q&A session based on his teachings from the morning session.
During business sessions throughout Conference, members voted on four amendments to the United Methodist Constitution that will adjust the Constitution to be in line with actions of the 2012 General Conference.
Bishop Wallace-Padgett then took a moment to share about a process she, the District Superintendent and some members of the extended Cabinet are undertaking led by Spiritual Leadership, Inc. This process is one in which they are focusing on their personal growth and leadership skills. By meeting together eight hours each month they are supporting and holding each other accountable in these areas. She encouraged each participant of Conference to also focus on their own growth to best be able to do the ministry to which God is calling us.
Rev. Nancy Cole then presented a report on her new role as director of Church Transformation and Revitalization. This effort includes not only Natural Church Development but also other efforts to equip existing churches from growth. She also shared about a process specifically designed for small membership churches called Abide.
Rev. Clay Farrington, former Youth Ministry Coordinator, then announced the winners of the Youth Battle of the Bands which took place at Conference earlier in the day. Winners include (3rd place) Riverchase UMC; (2nd place) Cove UMC and (1st place) Gardendale-Mt. Vernon UMC. Clay then introduced the Conference to the new Youth Ministry Coordinator Micah Dormann.
Linda Holland presented the Nominations report. The Conference elected those 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. This year’s winners are 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. They are Jacksonville First UMC, Center Grove UMC and Turkeytown UMC.
Conference Secretary Rev. Sherill Clontz then presented the report of the General Commission of Race and Religion audit of new churches in North Alabama. This audit was requested at a previous Annual Conference. The draft report has been given to North Alabama and Rev. Clontz shared we are expecting the final report soon. The draft noted three recommendations including creation of equitable plan for new church starts; training for leaders; developing a strategic plan (including funding) for new church plants. She also noted that 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.
The final report of the afternoon came from the area of Ethnic Ministries. Dr. Thomas Muhomba reported on the growth of the ministry with different ethnic reports. He then 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 emphasis on the Conference to grow in diversity. Dr. Stryker thanked Muhomba for his six years of leadership, shared he is already working with a team to lead the Ethnic Ministries ministry of the Conference and invited everyone in the Conference to Worshipful Launch for New Ethnic Ministries Strategy on Sunday June 23 at 3 p.m. at New Beginnings UMC in Birmingham.
The Conference then moved to Vestavia Hills UMC for the Service of Ordination, Commissioning and Licensing. Bishop Wallace-Padgett preached a message reminding those gather that we are all called to be followers as the Conference welcomed new licensed local pastors, commissioned provisional members and ordained deacon and elders.
Those ordained Deacon
Those ordained Elder