A New Era of Leadership: Tuskegee University and AWFUMC Celebrate Inauguration of First Woman President at Tuskegee University
Rev. Audrey Rodgers, Director of the Tuskegee Wesley Foundation;
Rev. June Jernigan, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Ministerial Services;
Rev. John Brooks, Director of Multicultural Ministries;
Rev. Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries;
Deaconess Celeste Eubanks, Director of Leadership Strategies;
Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent;
Rev. Robin Wilson, Senior Pastor of Opelika FUMC;
Rev. John Russell, Pastor of St. John United Methodist Church;
Rev. Richard Williams, Associate Pastor of Aldersgate UMC.
Proceeds from the gala generated more than $600,000 in scholarships for promising students at Tuskegee University. Specifically, the Alabama-West Florida Conference's participation in this historic event provided two Tuskegee Wesley students with funds that have allowed them to finish the spring semester without debt. The scholarship also helped the Tuskegee Wesley Foundation strengthen the relationship between the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and Tuskegee University by continuing the UMC tradition of investing in the educational and spiritual development of students.
Notably, the Methodist church paid for the education of famed Tuskegee scientist, George Washington Carver, whose experiments and discoveries with the peanut and soybean helped to propel the southern economy for years to come. Carver became a lifelong Methodist because of the investment and the support of the Methodist Church during his collegiate years. The students of the Tuskegee Wesley foundation have the same potential as George Washington Carver, and I am certain that the seeds the AWFUMC has sowed in their spiritual and educational development will yield the next lay and clergy leaders of the United Methodist Church. Partner with us as we continue to develop the next lay and clergy leaders by donating to the Tuskegee Wesley Foundation at https://www.tuwesley.org/donate. It takes a village to create and fund the education of the next George Washington Carver.
Rev. Lisa Pierce, current Director of Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM), has been named as the Lee County United Methodist Disaster Response Director. Pierce is an ordained deacon in the conference and has served as the ARM director since 2013. “This was an obvious selection,” stated Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent. “Lisa is a gifted individual who not only knows how to compassionately respond to people in need but also a leader who is a seasoned veteran in working with under-resourced communities and building strategic community partnerships.” She will continue to serve as the Director of ARM while also offering her gifts to the Lee County tornado survivors.
The Lee County response is classified as long term, meaning the UMC will be in the area as long as there is a need. She will work with Rev. Ashley Davis in the Office of Connectional Ministries and will utilize resources from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Churches who are interested in sending teams or partnering with this relief effort can contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tippit currently serves as the Discipleship Pastor at Christ UMC in Mobile, AL. Her previous appointments include St. Francis Street/West Wilmer/Whistler as an associate, Grace UMC in Mobile and Bonifay UMC. She was ordained as an elder in 2016. She served as a youth minister for twenty years in the Alabama-West Florida Conference before answering her call into pastoral ministry. Tippit completed her undergraduate studies in communications at the University of South Alabama and received her Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. She is married to Keith and they have two adult daughters; Amy (Adam) and Ashley.
Glaize currently serves as senior pastor of Fairhope UMC. His previous appointments include Beulah UMC, Montgomery FUMC as an associate, Tallassee FUMC and Brewton FUMC. He was ordained as an elder in 1994. Glaize completed his undergraduate work at Huntingdon College; received his Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and earned his Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. Glaize was awarded the Denman Evangelism Award in 2001. He is married to Rev. Alecia Glaize, who serves as a deacon in the conference. They are the proud parents of Anna Grace and the late Curtis. Anna Grace is a seminary student at Yale Divinity School and is a candidate for ministry.
“It is an honor to announce these two servant leaders as incoming district superintendents,” stated Bishop Graves. “Rev. Tippit and Dr. Glaize bring outstanding leadership skills to the cabinet and I look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have on the ministries in their respective districts. Please join me in expressing our deep appreciation to Dr. Darren McClellan and Rev. Sara Shaver for their dedication and faithfulness to the cabinet. They will certainly be a blessing to their new churches.”
The appointments to Christ United Methodist Church and Fairhope United Methodist Church will be announced with other clergy appointments at a later date.
While many people are preparing for Spring Break and the Lenten season, critical disaster relief work continues in Lee County. The afternoon of March 3, 2019, will forever be remembered as the day where lives were lost and, for those left standing, permanently changed. VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) reports that 199 homes were destroyed, 108 received major damage, and 251 incurred minor damage. In the midst of this devastation, The United Methodist Church continues to help lead the tornado relief work, which is primarily based out of the Montgomery-Opelika District and the Lee County churches.
“As with any natural disaster, the national news is now focused on other stories; but for those who live in the area, the devastation is very real,” stated Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent. “The district has utilized local and national resources to respond in the most appropriate ways. We are lucky to have strong community leadership in east Alabama, so this relief effort has been a partnership of many organizations, including the United Methodist Church.”
Response from within the Montgomery-Opelika District
- Several United Methodist pastors from the Lee County area responded the evening of March 3, providing crucial pastoral care to survivors and grieving families. These pastors continue to provide care and support as recovery moves forward.
- District churches continue to provide generous care and capable leadership through pastoral care, overnight shelters, work teams, supplies, food, coordination, and financial support for survivors.
- Alabama Rural Ministry, a United Methodist Ministry based in Macon and Lee Counties, has deployed staff and volunteers to assist in the effected areas.
- District churches and East Alabama Medical Center are working to locate and furnish temporary housing for survivors.
- Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, is working with churches and emergency agencies to coordinate our United Methodist response.
- Many of our local pastors are working closely with the East Alabama Medical Center as it seeks to coordinate relief efforts through “MEND: Rebuilding Lee County One Life at a Time.”
United Methodist Support from the Annual Conference and Beyond
- Churches from around the conference responded with immediate supply needs the week of the storms. Churches are also sending working teams to clear debris and begin clean-up work.
- A special offering was requested on Sunday, March 10th. All funds collected from this offering will go towards immediate and long-term relief.
- Bishop David Graves called for prayer in various regional meetings in the days after the storm.
- Conference leadership visited the area on Friday, March 8. Bishop Grave and the cabinet are making plans to visit next week, as well.
- The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) sent a trailer of supplies and issued a $10,000 grant in the days after the storm. They are also providing supplies as requested by the District Disaster Response Coordinator.
- A representative of UMCOR visited the Lee County area on Friday, March 8, to have a better understanding of the damage.
How You Can Help
- Continue praying for those in Lee County and for our response efforts.
- Financial donations are the number one way you can help. Checks may be sent to the conference office with a notation of “Lee County tornadoes” in the memo line.
- At this time, additional supplies are not needed.
- Churches wishing to send teams for day trips are asked to visit leecoema.com. Because the response is rapidly changing, please check this site before sending a group. Currently, all groups must register with EMA on the day of their trip and receive wristbands for admittance to the disaster area.
- Smaller groups of five or less people can contact Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, at John.Fox@aumc.net to connect with a local work team.
- Teams seeking overnight accommodations can contact Rev. Lisa Pierce at email@example.com for availability.
The response to the Lee County tornado will be another long-term recovery ministry in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. As we partner with UMCOR and churches throughout our conference, we believe our connection will be an important part of rebuilding lives and homes. Additional questions can be directed to Rev. John Fox, District Disaster Response Coordinator, at John.Fox@aumc.net, or Dr. Jeff Wilson, District Superintendent, at DSMontOp@gmail.com.
The regional gatherings in Montgomery, Dothan and Mobile were a time of worship and reflection where attendees heard from Bishop David Graves, the delegation and conference staff. “General Conference brought a lot of pain and anger to many people, regardless of one’s desired outcome of the conference.” stated Bishop Graves. “My intention was to provide a safe space for United Methodists in our conference to hear more about the intricacies of the general conference results while encouraging everyone in this season of Lent to see how we can heal wounds we might have caused and reach out to someone who might not look or think like we do. It is difficult to legislate human emotion and feeling and I wanted our conference to understand that we have significant work to do for the Kingdom in our own back yards. The topic of human sexuality is important, and I am grateful for the brave voices who were willing to share their hearts and perspectives in this time.” Graves also mentioned the recent tornado destruction and loss of life within the bounds of annual conference and how pastors from the Montgomery-Opelika District had ministered to grieving families just days ago. It was an example of showing the love of Jesus to those who are hurting and how our corner of the world need the United Methodist Church.
Rev. Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries, led the gathering in the responsive reading, Psalm 51, and each host district superintendent offered a time of silence and centering prayer.
Dr. Larry Bryars, head of the Alabama-West Florida Conference and lead pastor at Frazer Memorial UMC, gave an overview of the petitions addressed and presented commentary he used with his own congregation about the results of General Conference. A Wespath information sheet was also distributed.
The question and answer time gave Bishops Graves the opportunity to answer frequently asked questions from members around the conference. A dedicated gmail account was established to field questions ahead of time in order to maximize time at these events. Over 100 questions were sent through this account. Many people expressed similar interest in topics such as the Judicial Council, the exit plan passed, the Wespath plan passed, upholding the Book of Discipline, ways churches can welcome LGBTQIA+ persons, to name a few. Click here to read the questions and answers discussed at the three meetings.
“Ask the UMC,” which is managed by the United Methodist Infoserv, published this summation of General Conference on Tuesday, March 12.
Each meeting concluded with Holy Communion, served by the delegates in attendance.
Click here to see photos by Luke Lucas.