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Delegates gathered for the last day of the 2016 General Conference and once again began their day with worship together.
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky (Mountain Sky Area) reminded those attending that “we will not leave divided because God is not finished with us yet!”
Watch video: www.umc.org/who-we-are/gc2016-video-may-20-morning-worship-who-goes-where
Read transcript: http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/general-conference/2016/documents/05-20-sermon-stanovsky.pdf
Delegates spent most of their day diligently working through legislation. During their work on Friday they
Delegates spent their final moments together in worship. A litany reminded them of the “God-sized goals that unite us” and highlights of decisions they have made for ministry. It also reminded them “On Sunday morning, thousands of United Methodist pastors will be preaching the Gospel from our pulpits. As a new week begins, millions of lay members will carry forth that witness, fulfilling their own calling in various ways. Our churches will be engaged in leading people to Christ. Our doors will be open and our arms will be extended to those in need.”
Read the full closing litany: www.umcna.org/files/fileshare/gc2016/final+15+minute+script+5_20.pdf
“Injustice and poverty are evil,” said Bishop Yambasu (Sierra Leone) in the morning sermon based on Matthew 10:5-15.
Noting the millions of people struggling to survive every day, he said, “I am totally fed up! I am fed up! We need to engage each other! We need to embrace each other! We need to talk to each other!"
He also asked the General Conference, “How much time have we invested in prayer? We just think we can fix it.” Until we call on God, we are only fooling ourselves.”
He concluded with a challenge “to dismantle the demons of all sorts of inequalities in our world. We are called to do so with passion. But even more so, we must do so with compassion. Therefore, go!”
Watch video: www.umc.org/who-we-are/gc2016-video-may-19-morning-worship-go-to-the-lost-sheep
Read transcript: http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/general-conference/2016/documents/05-19-sermon-yambasu.pdf
Also, during morning worship, General Conference celebrated as the General Board of Global Ministries commissioned 29 new missionaries. Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/29-new-missionaries-commissioned-at-general-conference
Following worship, the General Conference began its ninth day of business and passed a consent calendar.
That morning, the Conference took time to recognize retiring Bishops and to recognize the new leadership team of the Council of Bishops. Bishop Bruce Ough is the incoming president, and Bishop Kenneth Carter is the president-designate. Bishop Cynthia Harvey is returning as secretary. Serving as executive secretary will be Bishop Marcus Matthews, and serving as ecumenical officer will be Bishop Michael Watson and the Past Council of Bishops President Warner H. Brown Jr.
Delegates heard an exciting report on Vital Congregations. The report featured a video telling the stories of creative ways United Methodist Churches in Germany are reaching out to its “young, secular and face-paced society.” This includes installing a climbing wall in a traditional church building, meeting in bars to build community, or using gummy bear candies as a way to start deep, spiritual conversations with people.
During the day delegates also took time to celebrate milestones in the life of the church including the 60th anniversary of full clergy rights to women and the 200th anniversary of Francis Asbury’s death. They also recognized the service of Neil Alexander, outgoing president of the United Methodist Publishing House.
Delegates spend most of the day discussing and voting on legislation. At some point in the day they voted to alter the rules of the Conference to speed up their discussions. Now each motion can have 2 speeches for and 2 speeches against it as opposed to the original 3 speeches for and against. Also, each speaker is now limited to 2 minutes as opposed to 3 minutes as originally decided.
During business today delegates:
As the evening drew to a close, delegates heard a Judicial Council Ruling about proposed legislation before them.
The Judicial Council ruled that the proposed “Standing Committee on Strategy and Growth” funded by $20 million taken from the General Church budget was unconstitutional. The decision noted that the amended petition did not include how the committee’s membership “is to be determined nor how the $20 million is to be spent.” The decision also noted that such committee also “cannot dictate the duties, functions or responsibilities of the general agencies.” Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/church-growth-committee-fails-constitution-test
As delegates completed their afternoon business session, they heard a powerful testimony of the work of the Korea Peace Committee.
The closing time of worship for the day included a time to remember Bishops and Bishop spouses who have died in the last four years. Bishop Bob Morgan and Bishop Lloyd Knox were both remembered during that time.
Friday, May 20 is the closing day for the 2016 General Conference. Delegates once again will begin their day with worship together at 8 a.m. PDT / 10 a.m. CDT.
Morning worship began with a powerful sermon by Bishop James Swanson (Mississippi Episcopal Area). He said, “If you are going to go, there is a shadow figure that follows you also. You need to know that while you go, evil is going also.”
Preaching on Matthew 12:43-45 he reminded those gathered, “We Christians do not believe in a struggle for humanity where evil is equal to good. No! No! No! Greater is God who is in us than the evil in this world.”
Watch Video: www.umc.org/who-we-are/gc2016-video-may-18-morning-worship-evil-is-going-too
Read Transcript: http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/general-conference/2016/documents/05-18-sermon-swanson.pdf
During the morning offering delegates were reminded that UMCOR celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. Every penny given goes directly to relief efforts.
As the Plenary session began, delegates heard committee reports and approved the Consent Calendars for the day.
The Conference then paused for an exciting celebration of Imagine No Malaria, the initiative to end malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, where one child dies from malaria every two minutes. The celebration also introduced a new initiative - Abundant Health. Abundant Health is being coordinated by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, with the goal of reaching 1 million children with life-saving interventions by 2020. Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/imagine-no-malaria-celebration-rocks-the-house
Delegates then heard from the Council of Bishops. On Tuesday, delegates asked the Council of Bishops to offer a non-binding suggestion for a path forward considering the “painful condition” in the church caused by differences around human sexuality and the full inclusion of LGBTQ people. President of the Council of Bishops presented a statement from the Council of Bishops.
The statement urged the General Conference to affirm its commitment to “maintaining and strengthening” the unity of the church. It then suggested a “’pause for prayer’ to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God's will for the future.”
The Council then recommended the General Conference defer all votes on legislation regarding human sexuality and refer it to a special Commission to be named by the Council of Bishops who would develop a “complete examination” and develop “possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Disciple regarding human sexuality.” This Commission could possibly bring recommendations to a called General Conference prior to the year 2020.
Read the full statement from the Council of Bishops: www.umcna.org/files/fileshare/gc2016/cobstatement05182016.pdf
After taking 30 minutes for intentional prayer and discussion together, delegates then began to discuss the Bishop’s proposal.
At first a motion made by Rev. Adam Hamilton to follow the Bishop’s recommendation and defer voting on the 56 petitions regarding human sexuality was heavily debated and eventually voted down. After more discussion another motion was made to approve the Council of Bishops’ recommendation and act on it as written. Delegates eventually accepted that motion in a vote of 428 to 405. Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/bishops-ask-for-hold-on-sexuality-debate
During business sessions, delegates also celebrated the 30th anniversary of DISCIPLE Bible study and the work of the Global AIDS Fund.
Delegates closed the day hearing a report on the Sandy Creek massacre which occurred on Nov. 29, 1864 along the Big Sandy River of the Colorado Territory. Col. John Milton Chivington, a Methodist Episcopal Church pastor who had joined the Union Army, led a surprise attack which into slaughter, claiming about 200 Native American lives, including women, children and the elderly.
The 1996 General Conference of 1996 apologized for the Methodist involvement in the massacre, but erred in some historical details. So leading up to General Conference 2016, historian Gary L. Roberts prepared a 173-page report titled “Remembering The Sand Creek Massacre: A Historical Review of Methodist Involvement, Influence, and Response.” Roberts presented an oral report of the details of the massacre to the delegates and called his study of the Methodist involvement “sobering and challenging.” He concluded with an admonition to the delegates, “Listen, learn and do not forget.” Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/gc2016-recalls-laments-sand-creek-massacre
On Tuesday and Wednesday, many delegates from the Southeastern Jurisdiction took their lunch break to meet together and hear from episcopal candidates. The Southeastern Jurisdiction will elect new bishops for the Southeast on at the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, on July 13-15. North Alabama’s Robin Scott presented to delegates on Tuesday.
In the latest Lay Ministry Blog, Conference Lay Leader Steve Lyles shares how a 15 minute train ride through Portland helped him realize he was seeing Jesus in the face of others. Read blog: www.umcna.org/postdetail/4800412
The Judicial Council announced Decision 1318 which came on a referral from the Judicial Administration Legislative Committee of General Conference 2016. The ruling says that imposing a mandatory penalty during the “just resolution” process for a clergyperson admitting to committing a chargeable offense is unconstitutional. Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/mandatory-penalties-ruled-unconstitutional
Tuesday morning worship began by celebrating Ecumenical Day. Bishop Ivan Abrahams; General Secretary, World Methodist Council, preached the morning’s sermon. Abrahams, a member of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, said “Jesus demands costly discipleship and spirituality that feels the pain of the world,” Abrahams added. “All Christian theology is a public theology shaped on the anvil of justice for those on the margins.”
Watch video: www.umc.org/who-we-are/gc2016-video-may-17-morning-worship-go-despising-none
Read Transcript: http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/general-conference/2016/documents/05-17-sermon-abrahams.pdf
During the morning, General Conference recognized the 200th anniversary celebration of of the Africa Methodist Episcopal Church.The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society established by Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. As black Methodists faced racism, Allen called them in to form a new Wesleyan denomination. He was consecrated as its first bishop.
Another highlight recognized this morning was Full Communion relationships between The United Methodist Church and the Moravian Church (Northern and Southern Provinces); and The United Methodist Church and the Uniting Church in Sweden.
Council of Bishops and Church Unity
As delegates gathered for the morning plenary, they first heard from Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the Council of Bishops. He presented a statement in response to rumors on social media which indicated bishops were creating a special commission to explore the differences in the church and to discuss schism. He informed the Conference that was not correct information.
He said, “As shepherds of the entire flock, the Council of Bishops is committed to maintaining the unity of The United Methodist Church. Not a superficial unity to serve to veneer over our pain and disunity, but an authentic unity born of the Holy Spirit; a unity not afraid of the truth and respectful of all. Even as we call for unity in the entire church, we confess our Council is not united. This work begins at home and we have acknowledged such. We are not advancing or advocating any plan for separation or reorganizing the denomination. We clearly understand and respect the constitutional prerogative of this body to propose and act on legislation. As your presiders, we are committed to enabling this body, by the grace of God, to perform your legislative function.” Read full statement: www.umcna.org/files/fileshare/gc2016/oughstatementtogeneralconference051716.pdf
Later in the day, General Conference delegates voted 428-364 to ask the Council of Bishops to lead the church by offering a non-binding suggestion for a path forward considering the “painful condition” in the church caused by differences around human sexuality and the full inclusion of LGBTQ people. The Council of Bishops were asked to bring back their report tomorrow, Wednesday, May 18. Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/conference-pleads-with-bishops-for-leadership
Throughout the day delegates acted on legislation. The worldwide nature of the church was evident during the late afternoon plenary. Bishop Patrick Streiff (Central and Southern Europe Episcopal Area) was the presiding Bishop and presided in French. All delegates have been given interpretation headsets that allows for simultaneous translation in eight languages - English, French, German, KiSwahili, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.
Some of the decisions of General Conference on Tuesday included the following:
The day ended with delegates celebration the ministry of United Methodist Men. A video told stories of the various ways United Methodist Men are in service throughout the world - such as working with Scouting ministry, local mission projects, prison ministry and more.
General Conference continues on Wednesday. Delegates will continue discussing and acting on legislation, they will hear from the Council of Bishops and will observe special celebrations recognizing the success of the Imagine No Malaria campaign and also recognizing the 30th anniversary of DISCIPLE Bible Study.
During morning worship, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey (Louisiana Episcopal Area) preached a sermon based on the parable of the king’s banquet found in Matthew 22:1-14.
Noting that God is the host of our “banquet” – be that General Conference or the kingdom on earth, she challenged those gathered, “Could this be the banquet that’s filled with the things that really, really matter? Like a world free from addiction; where families are built on love and a trust that defies the headlines; where children do not die of diseases that can be prevented; a world where parenting is a joy not a burden; a world where children go to bed with full bellies; a world where women don’t have to sell their bodies or themselves to survive; a world where children are safe in schools; where everyone is paid a fair wage … where loved ones are free from random mass shootings; where terrorists are no more? A world turned upside down!”
During worship new deaconesses and home missioners were consecrated. These are lay persons called to a lifetime relationship in The United Methodist Church for engagement with a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service.
Delegates spent the morning and part of the afternoon electing member to the Judicial Council, new secretary of General Conference, members of the Commission on General Conference and the University Senate.
The new clergy members of the Judicial Council, the top judicial body or “court” of the United Methodist Church, are the Rev. Øyvind Helliesen of Norway and the Rev. Luan-Vu Tran of Lakewood, California. Elected as lay members were Ruben Reyes of Manila, Philippines; Deanell Reese Tacha of Lawrence, Kansas, and Lídia Romão Gulele of Maputo, Mozambique. Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/five-elected-to-judicial-council
The Rev. Gary W. Graves of the Kentucky Conference will be the new secretary of General Conference. Others elected to the Commission on the General Conference, the group with has oversight responsibility for all arrangements necessary for the meeting of the General Conference, are Betty Katiyo and the Rev. Mills Maliwa, Africa Central Conference; Phebe Cosmiano, Philippnes Central Conference; the Rev. Beth Ann Cook and the Rev. Gary George, North Central Jurisdiction; the Rev. Joseph DiPaolo, Northeastern Jurisdiction; the Rev. Laura Merrill and the Rev. Juliet Spencer, South Central Jurisdiction; Steven Furr, Southeastern Jurisdiction; and Marie Kuch-Stanovsky, Western Jurisdiction.
Elected to the University Senate, an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church, are the Rev. Owan Kasap Tshibang, North-West Katanga Conference; the Rev. Djoman Nathanael Ohouo, Côte d’Ivoire Conference; the Rev. Bill T. Arnold, Kentucky Conference; and the Rev. David F. Watson, United Theological Seminary.
Delegates then began to discuss and vote on legislation based on recommendations from the legislative committees. Some of the legislation included:
The General Conference also had moments of celebrating important ministries of the church.
They recognized the 150th Anniversary of United Methodist Women hearing stories of how “women organized for mission” have made a difference in the world.
They celebrated Africa University which is approaching it’s 25th anniversary. The University boasts 6,100 graduates from 32 African countries and currently has more than 1,500 full-time students and 800 part-time students. Read more: www.umc.org/news-and-media/gc2016-celebrates-africa-university.
The day ended with a celebration of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education.
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar (New England Conference) preached the story of the Magi used to urge delegates to find “a new epiphany” by listening to each other and most importantly to God. He encouraged General Conference to look to Jesus saying “look at the ministry and mission of Jesus, and ask the question, with our Wesleyan DNA: ‘Will the 2016 General Conference go down in history declaring that we have offered Christ to the world?’”
Young People's Address
Chelsea Spyres of Detroit and Peter Cibuabua of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, shared the Young People’s Address. They noted that while they were the only two speaking, they were serving as “ambassadors sharing young people’s voices from around the world.”
They noted: “The objective of this message is to help you, our brothers and sisters in the church, to understand how deeply the young people are engaged in Christ’s journey with energy and love. We hope that through our voices you hear the challenges our generation is facing and solutions we are finding, so that together we can build the church of God with love, faith and hope.”
The day ended with the final legislative committee meetings.
Sunday, May 15 will be a Sabbath for General Conference delegates with no business sessions.
Friday morning began with worship. Bishop Sally Dyck (Chicago Episcopal Area) preached a sermon based on Matthew 9:9-13 where Pharisees question Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. She called the church to “Go, learn, mercy. It’s who we are as United Methodist Christians at our best.”
The General Conference then heard the Laity Address. It was presented by six lay persons from throughout the connection. -- Dr. Scott Johnson, Upper New York Annual Conference; Courtney Fowler, Great Plains Annual Conference; Brian Hammons, Missouri Annual Conference; Warren Harper, Virginia Annual Conference; Simon Mafunda, Zimbabwe East Annual Conference; and Holly Neal, Tennessee Annual Conference.
Together they called the church to all discipleship entails. Johnson said, “The challenges facing the church are, in part, the result of the failure to live the discipleship we claim.”
They called attention to the fact that the Book of Discipline says the witness of the laity is the primary evangelistic ministry of the church (Book of Discipline ¶127). Noting that this call to ministry has not been embraced by everyone Johnson added “Far too often, we will settle for people willing to fill pews and offering plates, hoping that ‘the Jesus thing’ happens at some point. While we have valid reasons for that, our Lord demands and deserves better.”
The other lay leaders joined in encouraging the church to practice hospitality, help persons find a sense of purpose in life, and to engage the world around us.
The Connectional Table, which coordinates the work of church agencies, and the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, gave reports highlighting ministries of the United Methodist Church throughout the world. (Read more http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/gc2016-what-can-churchgoers-do-together)
Moses Kumar, the top executive of the General Council on Finance and Administration, reported that in 2015 United Methodists gave more than $130.6 million to general church funds and included the largest number of conferences paying full apportionments in 16 years.
Delegates also discussed the new electronic queuing system. This system has delegates using a tablet computer to make their requests to be recognized by the presiding Bishop in order to speak and make motions during plenary business sessions. Concerns was raised that the new technology was particularly problematic for delegates from Africa. After discussion, a motion to go back to the method of waving paper place cards to get the Bishop’s attention was narrowly defeated. (Read more http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/bumpy-start-for-gc2016).
Delegates continued their work in legislative committees throughout the day.
Thursday morning began, as each each day of General Conference does, with a time of worship.
Bishop Christian Alsted (Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area) preached a message based on the story of the Roman centurion in Matthew 8.
He called the church to humility saying, ““Humility is not really part of our vocabulary. We have lost any sense of not being worthy, of not having anything to offer, of not having any rights. And yet humility is the only appropriate attitude we can have coming to Christ, realizing that we have no rights to claim, our hands are empty and we are not worthy.”
He added, “The starting point of all transformation is to humbly and wholeheartedly submit myself to the wounded healer Jesus Christ and to unconditionally depend on him for the healing of the church.”
Following worship delegates began a plenary session. Most of the time was spent discussing Rule 44, a proposal from the Commission on General Conference for a Group Discernment Process that delegates could vote to use an alternative process to Robert’s Rules of Order for complicated or contentious pieces of legislation.. After much discussion, the Conference voted down the proposed rule 477 no to 355 yes.
Delegates then continued their work in Legislative Committees. A Committee is the first step for any petition. A Committee can approve, disapprove, amend and combine their assigned petitions and then make recommendations to the full body of the General Conference. The recommendations of these committees are then presented to the entire body of the General Conference for discussion, action and vote. No legislation is final until the entire General Conference approves it.
General Conference continues on Friday. May 13. A highlight of the day will be the Laity Address. This address will be at 8:45 a.m. (PDT) / 10:45 a.m. (CDT) on Friday, May 13. This address will be presented by a group of laity. The main speaker is Dr. Scott Johnson of the Upper New York Annual Conference. Supporting him will be Courtney Fowler (Great Plains Conference), Brian Hammons (Missouri Conference), Warren Harper (Virginia Conference), Simon Mafunda (Zimbabwe East Conference) and Holly Neal (Tennessee Conference).
For 131 days, United Methodists around the globe have been in continual prayer for the 2016 General Conference. In the linked video, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and Bishop Al Gwinn share details about the ongoing prayer focus, which is continuing throughout the conference thanks to bishops and their spouses.
General Conference delegates started Wednesday morning worshipping together. During their times of praise, they gave God thanks for ministries around the world transforming lives such as medical clinics in Africa and prison Bible studies happening throughout the world. They also spent time in prayer and confession.
Delegates then heard a power Episcopal Address from Bishop Gregory V. Palmer (West Ohio Conference). During the address, he urged the Church to act with humility and tried to set a tone for General Conference by calling the Church back to its mission.
“Our capacity to turn on each other is destroying the soul of this church and underserving the mission,” he said. “Our theme and our mission statement are a rallying cry to get out, act together and get focused on what God is focused on — which is nothing less than new creation for people, nations, cultures and the earth.”
He reminded delegates and visitors, “We have nothing less than the promise of the risen Christ that he will be with us.”
Rules Debate Continues
The full body of General Conference then picked up their debate of Rule 44, a proposed Group Discernment Process that delegates could vote to use for complicated or contentious pieces of legislation. After momentarily tabling the proposal, delegates reopened the motion and began discussion. Several amendments were offered. This means the matter needs to be sent to the Rules Committee to make recommendations regarding those amendments. They will bring those recommendations back to the body of General Conference on Thursday, May 12.
Committees begin their work
The rest of the day was spent in Legislative Committees. Delegates were divided into their 12 Committees. They spent the afternoon organizing those committees by electing officers.
On Monday, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett joined others in the dedication of the Prayer Chapel at General Conference. The Prayer Chapel is available to delegates and visitors. The Council of Bishops is also engaged in a 24-hour a day prayer vigil during the 10 days of the 2016 General Conference.
The 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church began on Tuesday, May 10 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon.
General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. It meets once every four years. Elected clergy and lay delegates from every Annual Conference and Central Conference will gather to worship, pray, debate and vote as one body. Bishops preside at the sessions of the General Conference but do not have the privilege of voice or vote in its deliberations.
The General Conference revises The Book of Discipline, which outlines the organization, beliefs and official policies of The United Methodist Church. Delegates also revise The Book of Resolutions, a volume declaring the church’s stance on a variety of social issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs.
The morning began as the 864 delegates from around the world checked in and attended orientation sessions.
That afternoon delegates, bishops, and guests gathered for the opening worship service. The service reflected the worldwide nature of the church as voices joined together in worship using many different languages and styles of music. President of the Council of Bishops Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr (San Francisco Area) preached the opening sermon. The sacrament of Holy Communion was celebrated.
Read more about the opening service: www.umc.org/news-and-media/general-conference-2016-officially-begins
Following worship, General Conference was called to order and the delegates began the process of organizing the Conference. The majority of their time was spent discussing the Rules of General Conference the Commission on General Conference had presented for the 2016 gathering. At the end of the day, the delegates had adopted all of the proposed rules except Rule 44 – a proposed Group Discernment Process that would be used to specifically discuss legislation regarding human sexuality. They deferred the discussion and vote on this proposal until Wednesday.
Read more about the Rules of General Conference: www.umc.org/news-and-media/gc2016-adopts-most-rules-but-defers-rule-44
This year the Conference will consider will consider 1,000 petitions. Each piece of legislation, which was submitted by individual members, local congregations, annual conferences and other groups and organizations of the United Methodist Church. The legislative process of General Conference is that each petition will first go before one of the 12 legislative committees of the General Conference. A Committee can approve, disapprove, amend and combine their assigned petitions and then make recommendations to the full body of the General Conference. The recommendations of these committees are then presented to the entire body of the General Conference for discussion, action and vote. No legislation is final until the entire General Conference approves it.
The work of the Legislative Committees is scheduled to begin on Wednesday afternoon.
Prior to the opening of General Conference, two groups made announcements regarding legislation that will come before the Conference. Click the links below to read more.
The North Alabama Conference Delegation includes four clergy and four lay delegates. Below are the delegate names and Legislative Committee assignments.
Additionally, the delegation has alternates who are available to sit in the place of a delegate if necessary
Please keep the North Alabama delegates in your prayers.