Rovira Announces Retirement for Fall 2019

published 8/8/2019

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.

Longtime FUMC Port St. Joe Member Celebrates Home Restoration

published 8/5/2019
Mrs. Mary Belin, 94 of Port St Joe. FL, is celebrating her home restoration after Hurricane Michael severely damaged the residence. She started working at age 14 so she could put herself through school and moved into this house after her honeymoon and has lived in the same place for the last 71 years!  
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

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

For questions or more information about the training event, contact Celeste Eubanks at

.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

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