The Alabama-West Florida Conference Discernment Task Force met on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, at Greenville FUMC. This group had its inaugural meeting on July 16, 2019.
Since the first gathering in July, several denominational structure plans have come forth from various sources. The three working plans, thus far, are as follows.
The Indianapolis Plan
The task force was divided into three teams to review the working plans. Each team was assigned a specific plan to review and was asked to comment on the following:
- The strengths and challenges of the plan assigned;
- How our annual conference would likely respond to the plan’s adoption by General Conference 2020;
- How our local churches would likely respond to the plan’s adoption by General Conference 2020.
The three aforementioned plans are a glimpse into potential legislation at General Conference 2020, which will be held May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, MN. The legislation deadline for the upcoming conference is September 18, 2019. It is projected that these plans will continue to be modified until the deadline and new plans could emerge.
“Although it can be difficult to speculate on how General Conference 2020 will unfold, it is important to bring various theological perspectives to the table in our conference,” stated Bishop David Graves. “I feel that it will benefit our conference to project multiple scenarios so that we can properly lead the Alabama-West Florida Conference in the coming year. We ask for your prayers that we will arrive at a solution that will glorify God and enable us to reach people in the name of Jesus Christ.”
The goal of the discernment task force is to have conversations that will provide guidance to potential strategic decisions that could come before the annual conference. The next meeting, under the direction of Dr. David Saliba of Perdido Bay UMC, will be in the fall after the legislation deadline has passed.
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October 10, 2018, changed the lives of thousands as well as the landscape of the beautiful states of Florida and Georgia. The Alabama-West Florida Conference is home to numerous churches that received significant damage in addition to many clergy and church member residences that were devastated. The conference is inviting all churches in Alabama and West Florida to participate in this time of remembrance.
“We will never forget the fear of watching a category five hurricane descend on our conference,” said Bishop David Graves. “The residents of Panama City, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Marianna and many surrounding inland communities suffered significant property loss and experienced trauma that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Sadly, these communities continue to lose neighbors when the trauma becomes too much for some to handle. As a conference, it is imperative we all recognize and remember this catastrophic event. This conference continues to walk alongside residents of the gulf coast through the Hurricane Michael Recovery program. I am so grateful for a talented team that is dedicated to helping those impacted by the storm rebuild their homes and lives. Despite all of our denominational heartache, our disaster response program, with the help of UMCOR, exhibits what is best in our connection.”
The conference will remember the historic event in the following ways:
- We invite all churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference and the global connection to ring their church bells at noon on October 10, 2019;
- Prayers written by pastors of churches in the impacted areas will be shared online in the coming weeks. We ask that you select one to be used in your worship services on the weekend of October 6, 2019;
- A brief video will be available to share in your weekend worship services on October 6 for those churches who have audio visual capabilities;
- Bishop Graves will be writing a guest column that our churches can use in place of the regular letter from the pastor in church newsletters;
- We will also supply a bulletin insert you may use the weekend of October 6 highlighting the ongoing disaster response work;
- Bishop Graves will offer a video prayer on our conference social media pages on October 10 – we invite you to share this on your local church social media pages;
- October 10 will serve as a Hurricane Michael Remembrance Day of Giving with all donations going to UMCOR to honor the partnership and significant grants we have received from them. Specials offerings in worship services on October 6 are also welcome and encouraged.
- Bishop Graves will be present in churches in the impacted areas in September and October where he will preach and participate in worship.
Materials will be available in late September. Please join us in this combined effort to remember a day that we will never forget in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. For more information on Hurricane Michael Recovery, visit www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org.
Ms. Marth Rovira, Coordinator of Hispanic and Latino Ministries, has announced her retirement, effective November 1, 2019. Rovira has faithfully served in this role for twelve years and has been a dedicated advocate for this ministry.
“I am grateful for Martha’s commitment to the Alabama-West Florida Conference Hispanic and Latino Ministries,” said Bishop David Graves. “She has a heart for those in our conference who are often overlooked. There are many challenges in developing and implementing Hispanic and Latino Ministries in our churches and she has been an outstanding resource for our clergy, the cabinet and me. I wish her the very best in retirement and am thankful for her ministry.”
The Alabama-West Florida Conference is actively working with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry of the United Methodist Church to explore ways to continue and strengthen this ministry. With the help of Rev. Francisco Cañas and Manuel Padilla of the National Plan, the AWF Hispanic/Latino Advisory Team will evaluate the needs of this ministry and move forward with a recommendation in the coming months.
Rovira will continue to serve in her current role through November 1, 2019, where she will complete several ongoing projects.
When Mrs. Belin and her daughter first saw the house after Hurricane Michael, they thought it would be easier to throw a stick of dynamite in the middle of it than repair the home. They cried tears of joy in her living room when they saw the house for the first time after the repairs were completed. Belin’s fellow members of FUMC Port St. Joe were instrumental in completing the home repairs.
Dr. Geoffrey Lentz, senior pastor at FUMC Port St. Joe, celebrated with her and prayed over this restored space. “Every church member and resident of Port St. Joe has been deeply impacted by Hurricane Michael,” said Dr. Lentz. “The greatest way we can minister to our members and community is to walk alongside them while they restore their lives and rebuild their homes. We continue to process the pain, grief, and loss while looking ahead to better days in our community. I am so grateful to be a part of a church that is such an integral part of the future of Port St. Joe.”
FUMC Port St. Joe continues to assess their church needs as they plan for their own rebuilding process after their sanctuary was destroyed on October 10, 2018, in the category five storm. Their worship services are held in the Great Hall, which is a newly constructed worship area that survived the winds and storm surge.
The Alabama-West Florida Conference is still encouraging each church to send teams to the panhandle area and teams from outside the area are welcome. More information can be found at www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org.