2020 Florida Annual Conference

Faced with the reality of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic sweeping our world, this year’s annual conference was held virtually. The usual days-long, in-person gathering shifted to a one-day livestreamed session hosted in Lakeland at the Florida Annual Conference building in an effort to do no harm and love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39) through social distancing. 

Leadership report

Voters approved nominations for members of conference boards, agencies, committees, and task teams.

Lay leader

Alice Williams was elected to serve a four-year term (2020-2024) as conference lay leader. Williams succeeds Paulette Monroe, who served as the lay leader since 2016. She attends St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando and is the former lay leader for the East Central District. She also served on the Commission on a Way Forward and continues to serve on The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and other leadership within The United Methodist Church. 

She serves as the co-convener of the Beloved Community, which is one of three teams within Bishop Carter’s Task Force on Anti-Racism. She is a member of the  Florida delegation to the postponed 2020 General Conference.

Voting items

Thirteen essential voting items were presented. Each item listed below was approved during the plenary session. Visit flumc.org/essential-voting-items for an explanation of each item.

1. Motion from Standing Rule Committee to allow virtual voting.
 
2. Organizing Motions from conference secretary around procedures, agenda, and secretarial staff.
 
3. Approval of Conference Committee on Leadership Report.
 
4. Election of Conference Lay Leader. 

5. Approval of Council on Finance and Administration Budget Presentation and Recommendations.
 
6. Resolutions to discontinue churches. 

7. Motion from Board of Trustees: Permission to Sell Camp Property at Riverside and Centenary Camps.
 
8. Commission on Equitable Compensation Report.
 
9. Statement of Relationship between the Florida Annual Conference and the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home.
 
10. Approval of Florida United Methodist Foundation Board of Directors.
 
11. Approval of Housing/Rental Allowance Resolution for Retired or Disabled Clergypersons of the Florida Conference.
 
12. Setting of Date and Location of 2021 Annual Conference: June 10 – 12, Florida Southern College, Lakeland.

13. Motion from Committee on Journal: Allows the Committee on Journal to edit and approve the minutes of the conference proceedings. 

Strategic Leadership Team Report

The Strategic Leadership Team has continued to focus on a few key initiatives to clarify the vision of the conference, ensure this vision is accomplished, and ensure the alignment of all annual conference resources and ministries with the vision.

Highlights of the team’s work include:

Studying reverse mentoring with presentations from Audrey Warren, Michael Beck and Derrick Scott;

Meeting with pastors of large churches to discuss the future of the church and the use of design thinking;

Hosting the first M-LAB for laity;

Spending a day on INNOVATE FLUMC with key clergy leaders looking at our future vision, our plan for Latino/a Ministries, the continued expansion of Fresh Expressions and the development of new metrics;

Partnering with the Committee on Finance and Administration to look at the future sustainability of the annual conference. The future vision for the conference includes the realization of 500 Fresh Expressions and 500 local churches, while doubling the number of vital congregations.

Committee on Episcopacy, Bishop’s Offering and Initiatives

Co-chair Molly McEntire announced a gift of $57,000 to the African University Scholarship fund in honor of Bishop John K. Yambasu, who died recently in a car accident. She also invited other Florida United Methodists to make a gift to the scholarship fund.

Additional updates were provided on the launch of two major initiatives by Bishop Ken Carter this year, Fill the Table and the Bishop’s Task Force on Anti-Racism.

Fill the Table: The conference set a goal of providing 3 million meals over the next year to those most in need. The aim is to engage 100,000 United Methodists throughout Florida to help provide food to individuals and families facing devastation during this pandemic. This year’s Bishop’s Offering wasdedicated to that initiative. Donations can be made online at Fill the Table or by sending a check to Florida Conference Treasurer with Advance # 100015 clearly marked in the memo.

Anti-Racism Task Force: In response to the public deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, and in support of movements toward conversation and action, Bishop Carter recently announced the formation of a Bishop’s Task Force on Anti-Racism. The task force will include three teams: Training and Accountability; Public Policy and Witness; and Beloved Community. This work is in continuity with ministry that has taken place over many years. 

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed inequities in our society, and the recent killings have led to the urgent need to respond more clearly and intentionally to racism within our conference and across our state.

Latino/a Ministries

The Rev. Rini Hernandez, director of Latino/a Ministries, gave an update on the vital Latino/a initiative:

The team has been meeting regularly to develop new and existing congregations to ensure growth, particularly in the 18-30 age group.

They have been investing in leadership development and helping Latino/a pastors discern their specific call to different ministries – doesn’t necessarily have to be pastoral ministry.

They have met with various groups around the state to launch new Hispanic initiatives.

Finances

COVID-19 presented special financial challenges for churches throughout the state. Accordingly, the conference approved an overall budget of $16,807,719 for 2021. That represents a $2.5 million reduction from 2020. Since 2017, the overall annual budget has been reduced $4.1 million or about 20%. This includes reductions in both General and Conference annual budgets. 

While apportionments received through June 30 were down for the same period in 2019, related expenses are down even more as the conference has worked to realign staff positions and reduce expenses.

Laity Session, Commissioning and Ordination, Installation of District Superintendents

Laity Session and the Services of Commissioning and Ordination were held offsite at the Warren Willis Camp on Sept. 12. There were two commissioned deaconesses, two provisional deacons, 10 provisional elders, one associate member, two ordained deacons and 11 ordained elders.

The Rev. Thom Shafer, senior pastor at Cypress Lake United Methodist Church in Fort Myers, was installed as the superintendent of the South West District and the Rev. Wayne Wiatt was installed as superintendent of the North West District. Click here for a recap of the event. To watch video of each session, click here.

Local Pastors

Click here to view a list of local pastor appointments by district as of September 1, 2020.

Retirement Recognition

Thirty-seven retiring clergy were recognized. There were short videos of each retiree with testaments to the work they did and the difference they made. Click here to view the retirement book. Click here to view a video of the service.

Memorial Recognition

The conference concluded with an inspiring Service of Remembrance for the clergy and clergy spouses who died in the last year. The ceremony included a sermon from the Rev. Debbie McLeod that focused on Chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi. View the service here.

Local churches

Eighteen churches are celebrating milestone anniversaries:

• 175 years: Tustenuggee

• 150 years: Apopka, First; Ocala, Zion; Paisley; Perry, First; Williston, First

• 125 years: DeLand, Trinity; Mayo; Tampa, Lake Magdalene; Winter Garden, First 1

• 100 years: Canal Point, First; Tampa, Hillsborough;

• 75 years: Auburndale, Lena Vista; Clewiston, First; Jacksonville, Lake Shore

• 50 years: Marco Island, Wesley; Spring Hill, First

• 25 years: Fleming Island

Conference members approved discontinuation of five churches.

Complete coverage of this year’s annual conference event is available at flumc.org/ac. Full ministry reports are included in the 2020 annual conference workbook.

— Submitted Brittany Jackson, conference communicator


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