2019 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference

June 2-5, in Montgomery, Alabama 

The 2019 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference was held June 2-5 in Montgomery, Alabama, with the theme "This We Proclaim." Bishop David Graves, presiding over his third annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery.

A capacity crowd attended the opening worship service held Sunday evening, June 2, in the sanctuary of Frazer Memorial UMC. A mass choir from around the conference, and led by Frazer Memorial’s music director, Wayne Sigler, provided inspiring music for the service including powerful renditions of, "Come, Christians Join to Sing," "O, Praise the Name" and "Amen," which featured soloists Courtney Selman and Adam Murphy.
 
Bishop David Graves welcomed those in attendance and emphasized how honored the Alabama-West Florida Conference was to have two special guests this evening. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of the East Ohio Conference and the Rev. Eric Soard from the Tanzania Conference were participants in tonight's service. Bishop Malone preached her heartfelt sermon based on 1 John 1:1 entitled, "This We Proclaim," which was appropriately titled to reflect the theme of the 2019 Annual Conference. 

Wesley College, a part of Teaming with Tanzania, was the recipient of this year's missional offering. The Rev. Eric Soard, Global Ministries missionary appointed to the Tanzania Conference, was present and shared a few words about our partnership. A brief video was shown as part of his presentation. Wesley College has quickly outgrown its current space in downtown Mwanza and plans have been made to build a campus that will offer more courses and will feature dorms, classroom space, a cafeteria, offices, and more for the projected 2,500 students who will become part of Wesley College. Our annual conference offering will help Wesley College realize this dream of a campus that will better meet the needs of its students. In the Monday morning worship service, Bishop Graves signed a partnership covenant with the Tanzania Annual Conference. Click here for more.
 
For the third year, each day of conference began with morning worship. These worship services, under the direction of the Rev. Michael Precht of Crestview FUMC, incorporated people from around the conference. A special emphasis was made to involve people representing the various stages of ministry, which included seminary students, local pastors, deacons, elders, laity, clergy spouses and conference staff. 

Thirty-seven clergy and clergy spouses who passed since the 2018 AWF Annual Conference session were remembered during the Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion. Bishop David Graves offered the opening prayer and the Rev. Dan Morris of Gulf Breeze UMC delivered the inspiring and uplifting sermon, entitled "The Lamb Our Shepherd." It was based on Revelation 7:9-17, which was read responsively by the congregation under the leadership of the Rev. Richard Williams of Aldersgate UMC, Montgomery. Each individual name was read aloud by Dr. Olivia Poole of St. Luke UMC, Enterprise, AWF Commission on Archives and History Chair. The acolytes lighted a candle for each person we remembered today. Jarvis Wilson and Keith Wilson led the congregation in favorite hymns while communion was served. The AWF Commission on Archives and History hosted surviving family members at a special luncheon prior to the service. To see photos from this service, click here.
 
Eighteen clergy were recognized upon their retirement by the Rev. Kathy Knight of Kingswood UMC during today's order of the day. The Rev. Doc Kirby of Pine Level UMC spoke on behalf of the retiring class. Back by popular demand was the "passing of the torch." The Rev. Brad Goode of Good News UMC, who was ordained an elder in full connection Monday evening, spoke on behalf of the newly ordained class, signifying new leadership in the conference. Together, these 18 clergy have 434 years of service in our conference. 

The retirees are:

John L. Bracther
M. Vann Bush
Donna Cumbie
Mark Dees
John C. Friedman
David Mitchell Kirby
Steve Kopp
Roy C. Lane, Jr. 
James Calvin Moore
Gene Nelson
Freddie S. Nichols
Jamie E. Pickard
Mike Sigler
William Robbins Sims
Jo Spivey
Joel Thaddius Wasson, Jr. 
Paul Douglas Wolfe
Robert Charles Yawn

The Service of Commissioning and Ordination was held Monday evening in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. The congregation represented family members and special friends of those being commissioned and ordained. Prior to the start of the service, the cathedral choir of Montgomery FUMC presented worshipful music led by Dr. James Seay. The service included the commissioning of one provisional deacon and seven provisional elders and the ordination of two elders in full connection. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone preached a spirited sermon entitled “The Courage of Conviction," based on John 14:15-31. A special offering was collected for the Ministerial Education Fund. To see photos from this service, click here.

The Alabama-West Florida Conference elected 10 clergy and 10 lay delegates and four reserves to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. The delegates are as follows:

General Conference delegates
Larry Bryars, clergy
Lisa Ausley, clergy
Sung Kuk Hong, clergy
Lester Spencer, clergy
Steve Furr, laity
Beverly Maddox, laity
Gene Floore, laity
George Mingledorff, laity

Jurisdictional Conference delegates
Allen Newton, clergy
Rurel Ausley, clergy
Virginia Kagoro, clergy
Doug Pennington, clergy
Frank Moore, laity
Notalsia Whiting, laity
John Moneyham, laity
Robert Brooks, laity
Reserves
Misty Barrett, clergy
Matt Mobley, clergy
Tripp Gulledge, laity
Antonius Barnes, laity

The conference was honored by the outstanding leadership of several guests. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of the East Ohio Episcopal Area preached the opening worship service and Service of Commissioning and Ordination. The Rev. Eric Soard, Global Ministries missionary who is appointed to the Tanzania Annual Conference, shared a few words Sunday evening and preached the Monday morning worship service. Sean Dietrich of Sean of the South entertained guests at the spouse's lunch and laity banquet. Jarvis Wilson and Keith Wilson, talented musicians from the Atlanta area, blessed our worship time together. 

Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. Tanner Williams UMC is the recipient of the Local Church Heritage Award. The One Church Matters Award was given to Haleburg UMC by the AWF Town and Country Commission. Lee Thomas of Millbrook FUMC received the Francis Asbury Award for his work with the Tuskegee University Wesley Foundation. President Cam West was in attendance to present Bishop Graves with the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award. There were three winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. The clergy winner is the Rev. Dunford Cole of Campground UMC and Rutledge UMC. The Youth recipient is Amber Gay of Robinson Springs UMC and the Lay recipient is Matt Hull, youth director at Trinity UMC, Ft. Walton. This year's Alice Lee Award recipient is Geraldine Stiffler of Foley UMC. Blake Horne with the United Methodist Children's Home was in attendance to present this year's Guardian of the Bell Award to Montgomery FUMC. Rebekah Antonelli was presented a $1,000 scholarship on behalf of the United Methodist Federal Credit Union. Allen Dunham, AWF UMM President, presented the fifth annual Susanna Wesley Award for Excellence. The recipient of this annual award is Judy Reiter of Enterprise FUMC. Complete award winner bios may be found here.

Two resolutions were presented to the annual conference voting body at Tuesday's session. A Resolution Concerning Predatory Lending in Alabama was presented and recommended by the committee. It was approved. Evaluation for Continuing Formation for Full Members and Local Pastors was recommended by the committee. A clarification amendment was made but not passed. It was approved. Approved resolutions may be found here.

The conference established a $9,606,334 million budget for mission and ministry for 2020, a 10% decrease from 2019 and the lowest budget in 20 years. The recommended district superintendent salary for 2019 is $122,764, a 1.9% increase from the previous year to be in alignment with Conference Average Compensation. The unqualified audit report will appear in the 2019 Journal. In 2018, 377 churches paid 100% of their apportionments. Thank you for your faithful giving! 

Ms. Suzanne Krejcar, AWF Treasurer, reported that membership stands at 130,250 and worship attendance stands at 57,963. Native American, Multiracial, Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino attendance all showed areas of increase over the past year. Children and Youth in Christian Formation also showed an increase. Direct giving to United Methodist causes slightly decreased but showed a 274% increase since 2009. 

Christy Crow with the AWF Trustees presented the GCFA disaffiliation plan which was a result of petition 90022 from the 2019 special-called General Conference session. Each conference Board of Trustees could propose amendments for this petition. Click here to see the proposed document that was approved.
 
Bishop David Graves took intentional time to diligently thank those who were an integral part of annual conference and expressed what a collective effort it takes to make an event like this happen. In his Episcopal address, Graves told of the trials of the past year from a hurricane to general conference to struggles with challenging personalities using the comparison of this and that. With that being the things that bring people and a conference down. "We take our eyes off of this, and focus on that," he said. He referenced Mark 1:15 as what we proclaim. "If we focus on that, we are doomed," he stated. Graves outlined several thriving churches, even through challenges like a pastor diagnosed with cancer or a church devastated from a hurricane. He mentioned numerous upcoming events and opportunities where we expect God to show up because this is what we proclaim. He challenged the conference to spend more time proclaiming than on tedious other things that distract us from the call. He communicated four priorities we should all focus on:

• Growing God’s kingdom by making disciples and developing a multiplication mindset throughout the annual conference.

• Attracting and retaining exceptional talent that helps promote a culture of call for clergy and laity.

• Teaching, training, and coaching to support excellent preaching so that people encounter Jesus and live out the Great Commission.

• Being adaptive leaders through uncharted times emphasizing connectionalism and focusing on Kingdom work.

Graves concluded his address with inviting everyone to joyfully sing in unison, "Victory in Jesus." 

Hundreds of UMCOR kits and countless supplies from each district were collected over the course of the annual conference. The Dothan District had the biggest percentage of their churches participating in the collection. Aldersgate UMC, Montgomery, Mulder Memorial UMC, Woodland UMC and Frazer Memorial UMC sent youth group workers who managed the collection truck. Thank you for your donations and to the youth who received these supplies!
 
The clergy appointments may be found online here. A friendly URL has also been established: www.awfumc.org/apt2019.
 
The 2020 session of the AWF Annual Conference will be held June 7-10, 2020, at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery. Montgomery First United Methodist Church will host the Service of Commissioning & Ordination. We express our sincere appreciation to both of these staffs for hosting us this past year.

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