Daily eVoice - Friday, June 4, 2010

Click here to see photos from Friday of Annual Conference.

Click here to see photos from the Ordination Service.

The 2010 North Alabama Conference opened on the morning of June 4, 2010, at ClearBranch United Methodist Church. The focus of the Conference is one of the five Conference priorities -- Effective Leadership.

After Bishop William H. Willimon called the Conference to order, Conference Secretary Rev. Sherill Clontz set the bar (areas where voting members may sit to have their votes counted) of the Conference.

The first report presented was the Statistician’s Report. Conference Statistician Rev. Lori Carden noted that the report did not contain good news. She explained that the numbers in every major area for the Annual Conference (membership, worship attendance, baptisms, etc) saw declines in 2009.

During the report she also presented the Property Resolutions naming the 12 churches to be discontinued as of this session of the North Alabama Conference. Those Churches included the following churches:

Central District
Fairfield First UMC
Simcoe UMC
Sipsey UMC
Cheaha District
Munford UMC
Mountain Lakes District
Hullets Chapel UMC
Northeast District
Esther UMC
Northwest District
Ashridge UMC
New Hope UMC
South Central District
Bessemer First UMC
Southwest District
Glenn Allen UMC
Musgrove UMC
West End UMC

Following the statistical report, the Conference moved into a stirring time of worship. Rev. Marcus Singleton challenged the Conference asking “Has all of God been invited into the Church?”

Focusing on the Holy Spirit, Rev. Singleton said, “We have supplanted the Holy Spirit with church growth models and leadership models… Effective leadership is not enough. … If we expect God to transform our church we have to broaden the invitation… Holy Spirit is giver of life.”
He concluded, “Until we are able to testify about what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives we will continue to get what we got.”

Following the sermon, Rev. Steve West told the story of Moses through song.

Conference Secretary then led members of Annual Conference through the organization of Conference and setting the consent agenda. Members then divided into the Clergy Executive Session and the Lay Orientation Session. This is the only time clergy and laity meet separately during the Annual Conference.

Following a lunch break, members were called back into the Worship Center as Worship Leader Rev. Bruce Williams led the gathering music. He was accompanied by Dr. Anthony Powell on piano.

Using 21st century technology, missionary John Funk opened the afternoon session with prayer via Skype. He and his wife Suzanne are missionaries from North Alabama serving in Bolivia.

The Conference approved the consent agenda and Conference Secretary Sherill Clontz shared the results of the worldwide vote of the United Methodist Constitutional Amendments. Members to the North Alabama Conference voted on those amendments at the 2009 meeting.

Conference Lay Leader Ellen Harris then presented the report from the Lay Ministry Team. The report included election of the District Lay Leaders and the Laity Address. Ellen Harris concluded the laity addresses reminding Conference members, “As long as we remember that God is the center of the Church and the center of our lives and that we are living out that the church is everywhere we are.”

Dr. Bill Brunson then presented the report of the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM).

During the BOOM report the Conference recognized those clergy and their spouses who are retiring. Those clergy include:

  • Beth Bost Nix
  • Joyce R. Akridge
  • D. Thomason Bell, Jr.
  • Carl M. Evans
  • Larry R. Horne
  • Marvin McDaniel Buttram
  • Mitchell L. Morton
  • Robert M. Mount
  • James R. Napp
  • Harold L. Noble
  • David F. Parker
  • Wylheme H. Ragland
  • O’neil Ridgeway
  • Jerry E. Sims
  • Ronald L. Smith
  • Paul L. Stephens
  • William Douglas Wells, Jr.

The Board also recognized those pastors who were memorialized during the Thursday night memorial service.

Dr. Bill Brunson then made a special presentation to the family Rev. Matt Miller. Matt was in the process of applying for Provisional Member when he died in January. He had turned in all his materials and the Board was able to review them. He was given honorary provisional membership in the North Alabama Conference.

The Board then recognized 27 newly licensed local pastors. Bishop Willimon welcomed them to the Annual Conference.

At the conclusion of the Board of Ordained Ministry report Rev. Rick Owen was introduced as the new chair person of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

Bishop Willimon then announced the clergy appointments were fixed and on the Conference website.

The Conference then heard the report from the Office of Connectional Ministries. Rev. Dale Cohen, Rev. Lori Carden and Youth Leadership team president Amanda Annonio.

They addressed how Connectional Ministries is attempting to adapt to do ministry in new ways to help churches do ministry in the 21st century. They mentioned the challenges of this adaption as Connectional Ministries staff and resources have been reduced. Rev. Carden also invited clergy and lay members to complete a local church ministry survey.

During the Connectional Ministries time Rev. Matt Lacey and Rev. Mike Stonbraker made a presentation to Rev. Ray Crump the Director of the Disaster Warehouse in Decatur. The North Alabama Conference has reached out to help those facing disasters in Haiti, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and those in Albertville and other areas of North Alabama. Rev. Mike Stonbraker read a proclamation from Alabama Governor Bob Riley in recognition of Rev. Crump and the volunteers from the Disaster Warehouse.

The Conference then heard a report from Sumatanga. Chair of the Sumatanga Trustees Mike Byrne presented the report. He thanked the Conference for its support of the camp. Last year the Camp was near bankruptcy. Byrne announced that Sumatanga was debt free. He also announced that reservations and usage of the faculty is up. He then took time to thank outgoing Executive Director Bob Murray and to introduce new executive director Michael Coward.

Conference Members then received an invitation from Rod Moss, Executive Director of Promise Homes (formerly UMRA). He thanked the Conference for its support of this ministry with adults with intellectual disabilities. He then invited them to enjoy ice cream as a gift from Promise Homes during the afternoon break.

As members gathered following the break, Jerry Haas of the Upper Room shared a video with the Conference. The Upper Room celebrates 75 yrs in 2010. This year the Upper Room will print the 1 billionth copy of its daily devotional guide!

The Conference then heard the report from the Council on Finance presented by Rev. Jimmy Basham. The Conference passed a budget for 2011 of $10,725,625. This is more than $130,000 less than the 2010 budget. The Conference also passed Reports 2, 3 and 8 from the Council on Finance. As the report closed, Bishop Willimon thanks all those congregations who paid 100% of their connectional giving (apportionments) in 2009.

The Conference then heard the report from the Board of Pensions presented by Rev. James Haskins, Scott Selman and Sandy Reynolds. There was discussion of the Conference Health Care plan – HealthFlex. Insurance rates continue to increase due to the high risk group in which insurance companies place clergy. All the reports passed.

Following the report a couple of moments of personal privilege were granted. Including a motion from the floor by Rev. Robin Scott and Dr. Bill Morgan who requested the Conference take $100,000 from its pension reserves to give in 5 equal payments over 5 years to Central Conference Pension Initiative. After much discussion the motion passed.

The Conference then passed the Committee on Nominations report and electing officers.

Rev. Bill Gandy made the report from the Center for Congregational Development. He noted the following pastors who are leading new church starts:

  • Ted Amey from Asbury UMC in Madison who offers 24 hour prayer ministry.
  • Cam Price starting satellite ministry from Clear Brach UMC
  • Todd Owen is starting a new church from Aldersgate UMC in Huntsville.
  • Matt Scott is starting a new church in the Margaret/Moody area and it is also out of ClearBranch UMC.
  • David Luke is partnering with Aldersgate UMC in Birmingham for a new church start in Birmingham.

Rev. Robert Sparkman then presented the Evangelism report. He recognized the Conference Denman Evangelism Award nominees and winners. The Conference winners are Walt Maddox (lay member of Forest Lake UMC) and Rev. Mike Pope (clergy).

The Conference business session closed with an invitation by Rev. Alan Weatherly, pastor of Asbury UMC in Madison. He invited the North Alabama Conference to meet as Asbury in 2011. That invitation was accepted.

Following a dinner break the Conference gathered at Canterbury United Methodist Church. During the Service of Ordination of Deacons and Elders at Canterbury UMC, 1 Deacon and 10 Elders were ordained. The Ordination of one additional Elder was also recognized. Those new deacon and elders are:

  • Michelle Hunter
  • William Timothy Alexander
  • William Baxter Chism
  • Andrew Scott Dressler
  • John. M. Hill
  • Bobby W. Owens
  • Gregory Lee Anderson Reynolds
  • Minnie Stovall
  • Timothy Wood Tatum
  • Peter Frederick von Hermann
  • Clauzell Ridgeway Williams
  • Kevin E. Payne