Message from Bishop Wallace-Padgett: Annual Conference Summary 2021


Dear Friends,

When elected as a bishop in 2012, the possibility did not occur to me of a 2020 and 2021 global pandemic that would result in virtual Annual Conference sessions. Yet, that is exactly what happened!

Though the length of time, amount of debate and sidebar conversations are different in a virtual than an in-person Annual Conference, a lot was accomplished!  Some highlights from the 2021 virtual North Alabama Conference are listed below.

Many thanks to Bishop Michael Watson, Dr. Bill Brunson, Rev. Ron Schultz and several Board of Ordained Ministry members for their contributions to the opening credentialing service. (See photos here and a list of newly credentialed leaders here.)

  • We emphasized “Disciples Building Disciples” as the primary mission for North Alabama Conference churches.  This included a teaching session from Tony Morgan, Amy Anderson and Mark Meyer of The Unstuck Group on the importance of local churches having clear discipleship paths.
  • We credentialed one deaconess, one global mission fellow, four elders, two deacons, one provisional elder, one provisional deacon and 27 newly licensed local pastors.  In addition, the Conference recognized 28 clergy entering a retired relationship.
  • Video reports were presented by:
    • General Conference Parliamentarian Dr. Leonard Young on “Nine Principles for Holy Conferencing”;
    • The Adult Discipleship Team on various spiritual formation resources developed for local churches;
    • Embrace Alabama Kids, previously known as the United Methodist Children’s Home, updating the Conference on their name change and expanded services;
    • Chair of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women Rev. Sarah Smoot on the 2018 Resolution on Parity in Appointments, including the recommendation that a more complete report be received at the next in-person meeting;
    • Birmingham-Southern College President Daniel Coleman on the school’s current accomplishments and challenges;
    • Director of Multicultural Ministries and Southeast District Superintendent Rev. Donald Smith on the Conference’s steps to dismantle racism;
    • New Conference Lay Leader Dr. Lisa Keys-Mathews  who gave an inspiring Laity Address emphasizing disciple-making;
    • The North Alabama Order of Deacons celebrating their 25th anniversary.
  • We also approved a $9,647,931 budget, updated the Conference Safe Sanctuary Policy, celebrated the lives of 23 clergy and 16 spouses who passed from this life to the next since the 2020 Annual Conference and fixed clergy appointments for the new Conference year which begins on July 1.  Thank you to Dr. Alan Weatherly who preached a powerful sermon from I Corinthians 13 as a part of the Celebration of Life Service.

A special word of appreciation to Director of Communication Danette Clifton, Director of Information Technology Pete Banish and GNTV Media Ministry for their guidance and expertise in facilitating the technological aspects of our 2021 virtual Annual Conference. Also, many thanks to Associate Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. John Fleischauer and Director of Connectional Ministries Dr. Adlene Kufarimai as well as a host of volunteers for investing countless hours in planning and implementing our 2021 Annual Conference.  The 2021 Annual Conference Planning Team consists of Nancy Beard, Dr. Nathan Carden, Danette Clifton, Rev. Toby Chastain, Rev. Sherill Clontz, Dr. Dedric Cowser, Rev. Andy Curtis, Rev. John Fleischauer, Dr. Randy Kelley, Dr. Adlene Kufarimai, Doris McCullers, Terry McElheny, Rev. Ron Schultz, Rev. Sarah Smoot and Tyler Smoot.  Finally, thank you to Dr. Kip Laxson and the staff and volunteers at Asbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham for hosting the ordination service and serving as the broadcasting site.

The 2022 Annual Conference is scheduled to be at The Von Braun Center in Huntsville on June 19-21. It will be great to see each other in-person again. In the meantime, join me in offering thanks to God for the technological means, gifted staff and planning and event production teams that made it possible for the North Alabama Annual Conference to meet virtually in the midst of a pandemic.

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

Debra Wallace-Padgett
Resident Bishop
North Alabama Conference

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