“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6 (NRSV)
The 2012 North Alabama Annual Conference began on the evening of May 31 with the Memorial Service held at Trinity UMC in Homewood.
During the annual Memorial Service the Conference pauses to remember those clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the last year. Dr. Charles Gattis was the preacher. In the sermon he used various Psalms to illustrate the hard times and high times of ministry. He noted all those being remembered kept going on their journey when that faced the hard times and when they faced the exciting moments.
Those clergy and clergy spouses remembered included the following
On Friday morning, June 1, 2012, clergy and laity from North Alabama United Methodist congregations gathered on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College.
The Praise Team from Ginghamsburg UMC opened the session with music. Bishop James Swanson of the Holston Conference then presented a Bible Study / Sermon. During the powerful message he urged the United Methodists gather to use the connection to change the world.
Birmingham-Southern College President General Charles Krulak then welcomed people to campus and offered an invitation for the 2013 North Alabama Annual Conference to return to campus. That invitation was accepted by vote of the Conference.
Birmingham-Southern College then recognized Gloria Holt, who has served in many leadership roles at all levels of the United Methodist Church. Holt was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Birmingham-Southern in recognition of her service and leadership in the church.
Conference Secretary Rev. Sherill Clontz then gave instructions and led those gathered through the organization of the Conference and the consent agenda.
Bishop Willimon then reflected on his time in North Alabama in an address entitled, “This Far by Faith.”
The Clergy then gathered for the Clergy Executive Session and the Laity gathered for the Laity Session. This is the only time during Annual Conference that clergy and laity meet separately.
Click to download the updated version of the Condensed Minutes from the Clergy Executive Session.
Following lunch, Bishop Swanson held a question and answer session during which members of the Conference asked a variety of questions and he gave more reflection about the United Methodist Church.
Conference Lay Leader Steve Lyles then spoke introducing the District Lay Leaders and giving the Laity Address.
The Council of Finance then presented its reports. The Conference adopted the proposed budget of $9,273, 761 for the year 2013. This is just a 1.69 percent increase over this year’s budget.
The Board of Pension and Health Benefits also reported. For the third consecutive year, there will be no increase in health insurance premiums. They will remain at $698 individual; $698 dependent and $1396 family.
Promise Homes, a Conference Advance Special which provides residential and day services to persons with intellectual disabilities, thanked the Conference for its support and hosted and ice cream break.
The Board of Ordained Ministry then reported. Executive Director of the Office of Ordained Ministry and Superannuate Homes Rev. Don Neal noted that the current number of seminary students and people in the ordination process is much greater than the number of clergy who will be retiring over the next 10 years. He encouraged the Conference to nurture those who may be hearing a call into ministry.
The Board then recognized those clergy who will be Ordained during the evening worship service and those clergy who are retiring. The 2012 Retiree class includes
The Birmingham-Southern College Trustees then presented a petition to amend the Birmingham-Southern Charter, which would make changes to the organization of the Board of Trustees. The petition passed without discussion.
Conference Secretary Rev. Sherill Clontz then presented the property resolutions announcing the churches that will be closed. These included the following:
Scott Gilpin, Executive Director for Fund Development from the General Board of Discipleship, then brought greetings and mentioned the resources GBOD could offer local churches.
The Committee on Episcopacy then thanked Bishop Willimon and his wife Patsy, for their ministry with the North Alabama Conference over the last 8 years. Bishop Willimon will be retiring at the end of August. As a token of thanks the Willimons were presented with a commissioned painting. The Committee also announced they were giving a $15,000 scholarship to a BSC student in honor of the Willimons.
There was then a motion from the floor to refer a decision of Bishop Willimon’s regarding a complaint filed to the Judicial Council for a review. The vote was taken on written ballot and results will be announced later in the Conference.
As the afternoon session concluded, people gathered in the United Methodist Center for a farewell reception for the Willimons.
The Conference then gathered for the Service of Ordination at Canterbury UMC. Bishop Willimon preached a message on being sent to share the message of God. During the service, four elders were ordained and the orders of one elder previously ordained in another denomination was recognized. The newest elders in the North Alabama Conference are
The North Alabama Annual Conference continued its gathering on Saturday, June 2 on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College.
The morning opened with the Service of Commissioning and Licensing. During this time of worship, those receiving their local pastor license were recognized and new provisional members of the Conference were commissioned.
Those being Commissioned as Provisional Elders included the following:
At the close of the Service of Commissioning, Bishop Willimon announced that clergy appointments were “fixed.” Click here to download the 2012 Clergy Appointments.
The Conference then heard from guest speaker Rev. Michael Slaughter, Lead Pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC in Tipp City, Ohio. During his presentation, Slaughter he had been told his spiritual gift was that of “agitation.” Telling stories of Ginghamsburg, a church in a small rural area that draws more than 4500 people each week to worship and other smaller churches the Ginghamsburg congregation has helped revive by sending “urban missionaries” to help the congregations regain vitality, he challenged and encouraged those gathered to be true to Methodist theology and to work to make a difference in their communities.
Following a morning break, members and visitors to Annual Conference then enjoyed a musical performance by some of the children who have been participating in the Annual Conference Kid’s Camp. The children sang a version of “He’s got the whole world in his hands” with energy and joy. Conference Children’s Ministry Director Liz Bowlin encouraged more participation in Kids’ Camp next year by both children and adult volunteers.
As business began for the morning, Conference Secretary Sherill Clontz announced that the vote from the day before regarding a referral to the Judicial Council had received more than the need 20% of the votes and it would be referred. Also, finishing business from the previous day, the Conference accepted the Committee of Episcopacy report.
The Bishop then took a moment of personal privilege thanking the North Alabama Conference for being in ministry with him over the last 8 years, noting it was a “complete undeserved opportunity to serve as your Bishop.”
The Conference then heard the report from Sumatanga. Executive Director Matt Johnson reported the Camp is making much progress in overcoming financial troubles, but noted “there are many miles before we sleep.” He then asked churches to remember Sumatanga with their prayer, presence and gifts. The Conference then approved a request from Sumatanga to sell two unused parcels of land on the edges of the Sumatanga property. They also approved three new Trustees for the camp.
The Conference then heard a moving report and watched a heartwarming video about the ministry of the United Methodist Children’s Home and the difference the ministry makes to the lives of children. The report was met with a standing ovation. The Conference also passed a proposal from the Children’s Home to amend its Charter.
The Conference then heard from local pastor Rev. Junior Plunkett who made a request for a Judicial Council Ruling as to the legality (considering the paragraph 161.J of the United Methodist Book of Discipline) of the General Board of Church and Society and Women’s Division participating in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. After a short discussion, the motion passed by more than the needed 2/3s of the vote.
As lunchtime drew near, the Conference heard a report from Rev. Nancy Cole who serves as the Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator. She gave an update on the work being done in North Alabama since the April 2011 tornadoes. She noted the hours of volunteer work being done from many churches both inside and outside the North Alabama Conference totaled more than $2 million in in-kind donations. She also encouraged more North Alabama congregations to join in the continued rebuilding effort. For more information on Disaster Response, and to sign up a team from your church, go to www.northalabamaumc.org/rebuild. At the conclusion of the report the pastor of Wesley Chapel UMC in the Southwest District, spoke from the floor to thank the many volunteers who have helped the congregation fully restore their building was heavily damaged on April 27, 2011.
Following the lunch break, the Conference heard the Senior High Choir from Asbury UMC and then another session from Rev. Mike Slaughter which included a time of Q& A about ways to reach out to the community.
North Alabama Conference Youth Coordinator Rev. Clay Farrington then gave an update on Conference Youth Ministry. He invited the Conference to the Bread and Butter Youth training in august, the annual Encounter Retreat next February and to also look for a District youth training event in all 8 Districts. He then announced the winners of the Battle of the Bands which had happened earlier in the day in Munger Auditorium. 3rd place – Alexander City UMC; 2nd place – Jacksonville UMC and 1st place - Asbury UMC in Birmingham.
The Conference then heard a report from the General Conference delegation given by Rev. Mark Parris and Gloria Holt.
Conference Statistician Rev. DeWitte then reported. She noted that both membership and worship attendance both declined, but the attendance vs. membership percentage grew. She also noted, that stats reflected a lot of churches had taken Charge Conference actions to remove people from the roll. She commended churches for getting the stats more accurate. She concluded noting that one of the most encouraging things the stats show was a large growth in missions and serving – numbers of teams and individual sent out by congregations in mission as well as the number of people being served by mission ministries.
Director of Connectional Ministries Linda Holland then presented the nominations report.
During the afternoon Rev. Doreen Duly asked for a moment of personal privilege to announce that Rev. Greg Reynolds, pastor of New Vision UMC in Florence has been award the Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker Award earlier in the day.
Deb Wade, Convenor of the Conference Disabilities Team, presented Monte Sano UMC a certificate for being a Bridge Builder Church and also recognized the Northeast District as the Bridge Builder District for 2012. For more information about Bridge Builders go to www.northalabamaumc.org/DisabilityMinistries.
Rev. Matt Jones then gave the Congregational Development report highlighting the four new congregations that will be started this year. The first church plant is actually an established church, committed to become new for its community. The East Gadsden UMC is a historic congregation who, facing great decline, has made the decision to reinvent itself to meet the needs of its local community. Rev. Jones noted, that while he is sometimes cautious about an established congregation transitioning, he said when he met with the East Gadsden congregation they explained the first step they took in this process was to “get down on their knees and repent for feeling like thy must remain an all-white congregation in a non-white neighborhood.” Troy Walker is being appoint Senior Pastor of East Gadsden. As he introduced the three additional pastors who will start new church, Rev. Jones noted the intense process the Conference now uses to help find pastors who can be successful church planters. Those new church planters for 2012 are Rev. Dave Barnhart, Rev. Marcus Singleton and Rev. Gary Liederbach.
Rev. Robert Sparkman then presented the Harry Denman Evangelism award. This year’s lay recipient is Judy Berry of Monte Sano UMC in the Northeast District and the clergy recipient is Rev. Albert Smith of Huguley UMC in the Southeast District.
As the Conference began to close, Rev. Dale Cohen asked for a moment of personal privilege to speak words of thanks to Bishop Willimon for his eight years of leadership in North Alabama.
Bishop Willimon announced that the 2013 Annual Conference will meet May 30 – June 1, 2013 at Birmingham-Southern College.
The Ginghamsburg UMC praise team then led the Conference in a closing hymn and Conference was adjourned.