News

Resisting Racism Training Announced for AWF Clergy

published 8/1/2019

It is oftentimes an eye-opening, embarrassing, and/or troubling moment when a person realizes they have offended someone with a racist comment or action. Situations like this are often the result of a lack of awareness.

In an effort to address and reduce the number of occurrences of unintentional and intentional racism within the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Bishop Graves is requiring all full-time appointed clergy and those part-time clergy whose schedules will allow to attend one of the three mandatory diversity trainings being offered throughout our Annual Conference in the month of September.

At this training, clergy experts on this subject from outside of our Annual Conference will be equipping our clergy with the tools and knowledge needed to resist all forms of racism in their church and community.

“If we are going to move forward as a Church, in society and in our communities, we must all come to the table not just for conversation, but transformation," stated Bishop David Graves. "Transformation begins with each of us. It has been conversations with people from all walks of life that has changed me. I am still a work in progress and look forward to seeing each of you at one of these trainings.”

Trainings will be 9 am – 3 pm. Dates and locations for the trainings are:
 
Thursday, September 12, 2019
St. James UMC
9045 Vaughn Rd.
Montgomery, AL 36117
 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Marianna First UMC
2901 Caledonia St.
Marianna, FL 32446

 
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Christ UMC
6101 Grelot Rd
Mobile, AL 36609
 
 
The link to register can be found below. Deadline to register for this required training is Friday, September 6, 2019.
Click Here to Register
 
For questions and concerns related to registration, please contact Sarah McWilliams at sarah@awfumc.org.

For questions or more information about the training event, contact Celeste Eubanks at celeste@awfumc.org.
 

.5 continuing education units (CEUs) will be awarded to those who participate fully in the day.
 
 


Alabama-West Florida Conference Establishes Discernment Task Force

published 7/16/2019
Under the direction of Bishop David W. Graves, a task force of conference leaders assembled on Thursday, July 11, 2019, at Aldersgate UMC in Montgomery, AL.
 
In its initial meeting on Thursday, the group began by establishing a behavioral covenant based on Julia Kuhn Wallace’s, “The Church Guide for Making Decisions Together.” The body of leaders is chaired by Dr. David Saliba, senior pastor of Perdido Bay UMC.
 
Although the task force is in its early stages and still in a self-defining period, the group agreed that their main goal would be to better prepare the people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference for what could come before and after General Conference 2020. This leadership group will look at the best next steps for our conference in the coming months, while still encouraging the conference to remain focused on mission and on making disciples in their corner of the world.
 
Conversation was centered around commonalities, non-negotiables, possible outcomes and responses/implications of General Conference 2020 related to human sexuality. The group explored what holds us together and makes the Alabama-West Florida Conference unique and also asked the difficult, yet important question many local United Methodist churches use to better define their ministry and priorities, “What would be lost if we ceased to exist?”
 
“These conversations are challenging yet they offer a glimpse into the many perspectives that are in our conference,” said Bishop David Graves. “I have stated before that we are not of one mind. Yet when we have honest discussions with one another, we deepen our relationships, which in turn allows us to invest in authentic dialogue. I am grateful for the servant leaders in this group.”
 
Necessary conversation was conducted around accountability, potential plans to be presented at GC 2020, new congregations and expressions of faith, those discerning a call into ministry, structural changes, budgetary projections and implications for general ministries, to name a few.
 
“I am honored that Bishop Graves asked me to chair this committee of leaders,” stated Dr. David Saliba, task force chair. “The work we are doing to better prepare the Alabama-West Florida Conference is difficult yet necessary. I look forward to working with this group and sharing more about our efforts in the coming months. More than anything, we exist to bring hope and possibilities to those in ministry in this conference.”
 
The committee members are:
Rurel Ausley
Dunford Cole
Ashley Davis
Celeste Eubanks
Bishop David Graves
Cortney Howard
June Jernigan
Bill Kierce
Emily Kincaid
Suzanne Krejcar
Beverly Maddox
Bob Northcutt
Mary Catherine Phillips
Audrey Rogers
David Saliba
Roman Shaul
Terri Turner
Jeff Wilson
 
The committee will convene again in August to further their discussions.  
 
 
 

A Word from Bishop Graves and Rev. Chris Ackerman: Tropical Storm Barry and the 2019 Hurricane Season

published 7/11/2019

To our friends, neighbors, and churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference:
 
Based on the most recent forecasts from the National Weather Service, it appears that Tropical Storm/Hurricane Barry will eventually have some impact within the Alabama-West Florida Conference. While the track of direct landfall appears to be to the west of us, it is possible that some of us will experience storms with heavy rain, winds, and perhaps tornados that often accompany this type of weather event. Whether this event impacts us or not, it is imperative to prepare for the 2019 hurricane season now
 
Please carefully review the below list of ways you and your church can prepare for any such eventuality. This is also covered at our Connecting Neighbors training, which will be held in the coming weeks. Click here for a training near you

  • Back up your church and home systems (computers, databases, etc.) onto devices that can be taken with you should you need to evacuate, or to a location that will not be affected by the storms.
  • Protect your electronic devices, sensitive equipment, musical instruments, organs, pianos, etc. Covering them with a tarp or plastic sheeting will protect them from leaks that might occur. Any equipment that can be elevated at least four inches off the floor will help prevent damage if waters do get into the building. Many computer towers sit on the floor under desks….put them up on the desk if you can.
  • Protect your records and historical documents (technical drawings, pictures, paper files). Placing them in sealable, waterproof plastic bags within a safe or file cabinet would help if you cannot relocate them to a safe place.
  • Secure your building, bringing inside loose items that could be blown around. This is especially important for church playgrounds.
  • Verify that there is a contact list for all facility personnel, neighbors, family, etc. Do not rely on cell phones; land lines may be disrupted as well.
  • Check on your fragile/elderly folks: are they evacuating? Where will they be going? If they are not leaving, who will check on them following the storm?
  • Be aware of where shelters are in your community.

There are many resources for church preparedness and disaster protocols found on our website 

We would also like to share with you the following videos on what steps your church and district leadership should take in the event of a disaster in your area. Please click on your district’s link.
 
Baypines District

Demopolis District

Dothan District

Marianna-Panama City District

Mobile District

Montgomery-Opelika District

Montgomery-Prattville District

Pensacola District

Our conference is blessed with capable leadership, resources, and a spirit of courage and love – together we will handle whatever forces nature sends our way. Join us in prayer for those in the path of this storm. 
 
Be safe and be blessed,

Bishop David W. Graves
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference

Rev. Chris Ackerman
AWF Director of Disaster Recovery


General Conference 2020 Petition Submission Process Opens

published 7/8/2019

Nashville, Tenn.: Petitions for consideration by the 2020 General Conference may be submitted to the Petitions Secretary now through September 18, 2019.

According to church law, "Any organization, clergy member, or lay member of The United Methodist Church may petition the General Conference...".

Detailed instructions for submitting a petition are available on the General Conference website atumc.org/gcpetition. Petitions must be typed and may be submitted through the General Conference website, by postal mail or fax, or via e-mail to petitionsecretary@umcgc.org. This e-mail address should be used for petition submission only. All other correspondence should be directed to aherrera@umcgc.org

Due to the passage of legislative material by the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, an addendum to The Book of Discipline 2016 may be found at https://www.umofficialresources.com/updates. These paragraphs replace what is printed in The Book of Discipline 2016.  Petitions related to these paragraphs must reference the material in the Addendum.  The Errata (corrections) for The Book of Discipline 2016 are included at the end of the Addendum document and should also be considered in petition texts.

The mailing address for petitions (hard copy accompanied by digital version on USB drive) is:

Abby Parker Herrera, Petitions Secretary
United Methodist General Conference
7409 Barcelona Drive
Austin, TX  78752

Eligible petitions are given numbers and assigned to one of 14 legislative committees or the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. The committees will debate the proposals and determine whether to approve, amend, combine or reject them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference.

When submitting a petition, you must indicate whether a petition has "general church budget implications," meaning a petition that causes the need for funding (i.e., creation of a new program, staff position, support requirements, etc.) through the general church apportionments. Such petitions require review by the General Council on Finance and Administration to verify if the funding is already included under the recommended quadrennial budget.

Submitters must also indicate whether a petition has "global implications," meaning it is a constitutional amendment, has a direct effect on the global work of general agencies, places requirements or expectations on all annual conferences, districts or churches, or speaks to societal concerns regardless of the particular form of secular government.

Questions about the petition submission process may be submitted by e-mail to the Petitions Secretary at aherrera@umcgc.org.


Partners in Recovery: Disaster recovery partnerships form in wake of Hurricane Michael

published 6/18/2019
(Kari C. Barlow for AWFUMC) - More than seven months after Hurricane Michael toppled countless trees around Grace United Methodist Church and peeled back the corners of its metal roof, the tiny church continues to struggle.
 
Most of the trees have been cleared, but every member of the congregation had damage from the massive storm, and many were displaced indefinitely.
 
“Some of the individuals were in a retirement home, and the retirement home’s roof was destroyed, and they’ve all been sent to other locations,” said Birdie Perkins, treasurer at Grace UMC. “We’re very small and we’ve lost seven people. We’re down to, like, 15 on a good Sunday.”
 
Grace UMC is one 28 churches across the Alabama-West Florida Conference damaged by Hurricane Michael and still grappling with long-term recovery. To aid in that process, the   conference is helping churches outside the disaster area form partnerships with congregations in recovery.
 
“When you live in a disaster area, the reminders are constantly there — broken trees, debris everywhere, tarped roofs,” said Susan Hunt, director of mission and advocacy for the AWFUMC.  “Those reminders can sap your energy, cause discouragement, and make the recovery that much harder. Through the partnerships, the members affected by the storm are reminded that they’re not alone or forgotten.”
 
Hunt said the support can take many forms, but the goal is to lift spirits and offer hope to keep going.
 
“We can do so much more together than we can as isolated congregations or as individuals,” she said. “We come together for each other in times celebration as well as times of tragedy and disaster.”
 
Grace UMC found a partner in FUMC Eufaula, which sits about two hours due north of Marianna. Cathie Wilbourne, a long-time member at FUMC Eufaula, said she and many others in her Sunday school class jumped at the chance to offer their support.
 
“We knew there was a lot of destruction,” she said. “We want to be ongoing partners and to be helpful in any way we can.”
 
Their first effort was to let Grace UMC know that FUMC Eufaula was praying for its continued recovery.
 
“Their prayers—that meant more than anything,” Perkins said. “There are still a lot of people in need.”
 
A few weeks later Wilbourne and two other members drove down to Grace UMC to attend a women’s Bible study class. In March, Perkins and four other women from Grace UMC traveled to Eufaula where they enjoyed a tour of the city’s historic homes and a luncheon with Wilbourne and other women from FUMC Eufaula.
 
“It was wonderful,” Perkins said. “They were so gracious, and it was very personal.”
 
FUMC Eufaula has plans to send a adults and youth to help some of Grace UMC’s members demolish a damaged shed.
 
“We also have a person here who is willing to go down and fill their pulpit one weekend,” Wilbourne said. “It’s just a matter of scheduling.”
 
Thus far, 25 of the 28 churches have agreed to having a partner, and 10 of those 25 have at least one partner. Another 15 — mostly small, rural congregations — still need partners.
 
Wilbourne and Perkins said the partnership between their congregations has shown them that God is very much at work in the area’s ongoing hurricane recovery.
 
“Mission doesn’t have to be far away,” Wilbourne said. “We have people in our own backyard who are struggling after events that were out of their control, and we want to be of help.”
 
For Perkins and many others, simply being in touch with FUMC Eufaula helped them feel less alone.
 
“It was a godsend, to me, that they were interested in connecting with us,” Perkins said. “I feel like if we had a real issue, we could call.”  

Pictured are ladies from Grace UMC and Eufaula FUMC: Henrietta Harbert, Carolyn Grimsley, Birdie Perkins, Becky Strickland, Sheila Adams, Lou Martin, Cathie Wilbourne, Terri Tarquinee. 
 
WANT TO HELP?
To participate in a Disaster Recovery Partnership, contact Susan Hunt, director of mission and advocacy, at susan@awfumc.org.
 

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