Message from Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett: Context Team


Dear Friends,

Early this year I convened twenty North Alabama Conference clergy and laity to participate in a “Context Team.” The goal was for this diverse group of leaders to provide insights to the Conference Leadership Team as our denomination moved toward and presumably beyond the 2020 General Conference. Participants on this team were asked to meet together monthly through the end of December 2020. Of course, this was prior to our denomination’s decision to postpone General Conference because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Context Team has met once in person and five times by Zoom calls this year. Recently we determined that the team’s tenure would extend until after the postponed General Conference scheduled for August 31-September 10, 2021. As a result, four persons rotated off of the team and seven new participants were added. Our meeting pattern for the remainder of 2020 and for the first half of 2021 will alternate between full team gatherings on odd months and smaller task group meetings on even months.

This team’s purpose is twofold. First, our diversity allows us to grow in understanding of the various perspectives throughout North Alabama Methodism, especially as related to the 2020 and 2021 Annual Conferences. Secondly, we will work together to navigate and respond creatively and constructively to legislation passed at the postponed 2020 General Conference. The Context Team’s insights will inform the Conference Leadership Team’s response planning and actions.

The Context Team’s values align with those of the Conference Ministry Action Plan.

  • Christ-Centered, Scripture-Guided, Spirit-Empowered Life & Work Together
  • The Sacred Worth of All Persons
  • The Transformative Power of the Spirit for Personal & Social Holiness
  • Intentional Discipleship: Models Discovered, Developed, and Deployed
  • Integrity: the Alignment of Our Words and Actions

The team is committed to functioning according to the principles of “The North Alabama Way.”

  • Team Matters
  • Respond not React
  • What We Do and How We Do It Are Both of Critical Importance
  • Higher Expectations Lead to Greater Outcomes
  • Move as Quickly As We Can, As Slowly As Needed, For As Long As It Takes
  • Follow Process and Honor Integrity at All Levels of the System

Participants of the team are Rev. Stephanie Arnold (Birmingham First UMC), Rev. Bill Brunson (Vestavia Hills UMC), Rev. Tyler Christiansen (Grace UMC), Rev. Glenn Conner (Huntsville First UMC), Rev. Dedric Cowser (Center Grove UMC), Rev. Brian Erickson (Trinity UMC - Homewood), Rev. Donna Godwin (Huffman UMC), Abby Holcombe (Trinity UMC - Homewood ), Rev. Tiwirai Kufarimai(St Paul-Triana UMC), Ambria Lankford (Center Grove UMC), Ann Lee (Guntersville First UMC), Tommy Limbaugh (Childersburg UMC), Lisa Keys Matthews (Florence First UMC), Pat Meadows (Pleasant Hill UMC), Rev. Lucy Morales (Conference Hispanic Strategist), Rev. Joy Morgan (Heflin UMC), David Rickard (Birmingham First UMC), Rev. Robin Scott (Asbury UMC - Madison), Rev. Vaughn Stafford (Clearbranch UMC), Rev. Sarah Smoot (Church of the Reconciler), Carol Toney (St Paul-Triana UMC ), Rev. Kevin Thomas (Forest Lake UMC), Rev. Steve West (Jacksonville First UMC) and Michael Wilder (Guntersville UMC). Three District Superintendents resourcing the team are host/moderator Rev. Rick Owen and Rev. Kelly Clem and Rev. Tom Parrish in listening roles. My role is convener/facilitator.

I encourage you to pray often for God’s leadership of the Context Team and our North Alabama Annual Conference as we move toward the postponed 2020 General Conference. For more information about the Context Team, feel free to contact any of the participants.

As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.

Debra Wallace-Padgett
Resident Bishop
North Alabama Conference

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