Annual Conference 2013 Information

published 3/4/2013


Annual Conference 2013 is quickly approaching! This year's theme is the first part of the SEND Model many in the conference have adopted. It is, "The Great Commission: Seeking Disciples." We are most appreciative to Rev. Jeff Spiller and his staff at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL, for hosting us again this year as well as the Revs. Robin and Jeff Wilson and their staff at Dauphin Way United Methodist Church for hosting the ordination and commissioning service. This year we welcome Bishop Lindsey Davis from the Kentucky Conference and Dr. David E. Cann of ITC/Gammon Theological Seminary. There are several changes to annual conference you will want to make note of.

First, note that annual conference is Sunday, June 2-Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Registration is now available by clicking here.

Tuesday afternoon of annual conference is designated as "mission day." Susan Hunt, Director of Mission & Advocacy, has been hard at work with her committee organizing this meaningful afternoon. Box lunches and t-shirts will be provided at no charge if you are clergy or a delegate. Non-delegate participants may participate and a fee will be charged for the lunch and shirt. You may register for a project here. Please come dressed in appropriate work clothes and wearing your mission day t-shirt to Tuesday's morning session. It will be a casual day to accommodate our work in the mission field.

This year we will welcome back the staff from Lifetouch Photography. They will photograph and organize the pictorial directory our conference produces on a quadrennial basis. You will have a chance to signup online prior to annual conference so that you know your time slot to be photographed. A complimentary copy will be sent to all active pastors who participated in the directory. Conference staff and leaders will also be in the directory as usual. Please wear appropriate, professional clothing for your photo. This directory is very helpful for face recognition in many areas of our conference from the cabinet to the local church.

We are excited to announce that this year's missional offering will go to the New Jersey Annual Conference for their Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy raced ashore as a category two storm but devastated millions due to the densely populated area. The Greater New Jersey Sandy Relief Fund has been established to raise funds to repair homes of the elderly and low income residents in communities, as well as to repair parsonages and church buildings. Churches have sustained damage and many that have been flooded do not have flood insurance. Millions of dollars will be needed to repair all that was damaged. Please prayerfully consider reciprocating the generosity our conference received after Hurricane Ivan.

In lieu of the traditional spouse's luncheon, clergy spouses will gather at Christ United Methodist Church to assemble UMCOR relief kits. It is a designated project on the mission day registration. Please be sure to register if you are a clergy spouse to have a head count of box lunches and t-shirts (cost is covered for you by the eight districts).

To accommodate as many people as possible, most sessions of annual conference will be held in the Christ Center gymnasium including opening worship, memorial service, sending forth service and all business sessions. Smaller groups meeting at Christ UMC will be assigned a room like last year. You may eat at your preferred restaurant for lunch and dinner off campus throughout annual conference and time has been built into the agenda to allow for this change. Traditional group lunches may be at Christ UMC and will handle their own catering. The laity banquet will be the only meal catered to Christ UMC.

The laity banquet will once again be in the Christ Center. Since Tuesday afternoon will be the mission day, you are encouraged to come as you are. The speaker and menu will be announced soon.

Please note the ordination and commissioning service on Monday, June 3, will start at 7:00pm. This is 30 minutes prior to years past. We encourage you to attend this celebratory service at Dauphin Way UMC.

In order to be good stewards of the conference budget, we will not have printed worship bulletins for several services. Instead, a downloadable "Guide to Annual Conference" pdf will be provided several weeks before annual conference. In it will be an agenda, worship bulletins, pages that were previously bag inserts and other relevant notes. You may wish to utilize it on your computer, tablet or phone, or print a hard copy on your own to bring with you. Printed worship bulletins will be provided to family members at the memorial service as a keepsake. The traditional ordination and commissioning bulletin will be a printed version as usual.

Should you or your agency wish to submit an insert that normally would go in the tote bag, it must be laid out and submitted no later than April 15. It will go in the "Guide to Annual Conference" behind the agenda and worship bulletins that will be electronically distributed to all clergy and delegates. All inserts must be one page, 8.5 x 11 submitted as a pdf to No late submissions will be accepted.

Your Brochure of Reports will be sent to your district office and either distributed at a gathering or picked up by each pastor. Please look for instructions from your district office. Tote bags will be available for you to pick up should you need one at annual conference but will not be mass distributed. Feel free to bring your own bag if you wish.

Alabama-West Florida boards and agencies have been given priority for the limited number of available display spots. The deadline for their response is March 15. Other pertinent inquiries may go to to be placed on a waiting list. Should there be openings, she will contact you in order of request. Requests must be affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

We will be collecting UMCOR relief supplies again this year. However, all churches are asked to bring the supplies instead of completed kits. Click here to see which supplies your church (by district) is to collect.

As a reminder, we encourage you to prayerfully consider nominating someone for one of our conference awards: The Alice Lee Award, Jane Walker Scholarship Award, Francis Asbury Award and Harry Denman Evangelism Award. Click here for more information.

Special rates for hotels in Mobile have been announced. Check out for updates.

We look forward to seeing you at Annual Conference in Mobile, AL, June 2-5, 2013!

Mary Catherine Phillips
Director of Communications


AWF Conference Secretary Named

published 3/1/2013

Bishop Paul L. Leeland, in conjunction with the AWF Cabinet, is pleased to appoint Dr. Neil Epler as the interim Conference Secretary for our Alabama-West Florida Conference effective March 1, 2013. Dr. Epler will be nominated for election at the upcoming 2013 Annual Conference (¶603.7).

Dr. Epler is currently appointed as Associate Minister of Congregational Care at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. He will now assume the responsibility of conference secretary for the annual conference, which he has also provided in the past.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Epler to our Annual Conference leadership!

With Gratitude,
Bishop Paul L. Leeland


AWF Holds Third Annual Prayer Breakfast for State Officials

published 3/1/2013

(Montgomery, AL) - The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church Board of Church & Society hosted a prayer breakfast on February 28 in the fellowship hall of River City Church (formerly Dexter Ave. United Methodist Church). Alabama Supreme Court Justices Lyn Stuart and Tom Parker, former Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb, Senator Bryan Taylor, Senator Trip Pittman and Representative Charles Newton gathered to pray for our state. Also attending were Senator Billy Beasley, Representation Randy Davis, Representative Jay Love, Representative Steve McMillan, Representative John Knight, Representative Harry Shiver and numerous area United Methodist pastors, United Methodist Women and lay persons.

Susan Hunt, Conference Director of Mission and Advocacy, welcomed the group. Dr. John Ed Mathison offered an opening prayer for our state and those serving it. Harry Hodges, Chair of the Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Church and Society, also welcomed those in attendance.

Guest speaker, Bishop Paul L. Leeland, addressed the group and added his personal thanks for the hard work our state leaders give to the citizens of Alabama. He compared the challenging role of pastors and state officials and how both careers are often filled with numerous challenges. He encouraged them by saying, “The heart of a leader is one that prays for wisdom. Leaders that I know pray for wisdom and work hard for all people and see the needs of all people.”

Guests were provided with a specially prepared pamphlet offering Social Principles from the Book of Discipline addressing some of the issues facing lawmakers at the present time.

"The AWF prayer breakfast continues to be a wonderful time of fellowship and prayer between our United Methodist leaders and state officials. This is the third year to host this event and each year we've increased attendance and participation. I'm especially grateful to the United Methodist Women for their help in hosting the gathering as well as Rev. Tony McCullough and his fine staff and volunteers from River City Church,” said Harry Hodges. “It is my prayer that our elected officials will seek God's guidance in every decision they make and feel His peace leading them in such crucial work."


February Cabinet Update

published 2/25/2013

(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session on February 19-20 at the Conference Office in Montgomery. During the two day meeting, Bishop Leeland, the district superintendents, and members of the extended cabinet participated in the Incubator process, reflecting on the mission and ministry of the annual conference, discussing Edwin Friedman's book, Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, and spending time in prayer for one another and various concerns from across the conference.

Among the many items discussed related to the mission and ministry of the conference, the Cabinet reviewed the new Voluntary Transition Program for clergy approved by the 2012 General Conference, explored ways to increase the partnership in ministry with the outstanding laity of our conference, and identified several "next-steps" in the process to raise awareness around clergy well-being in an effort to try to reduce the stressors of ministry faced by our clergy and their families.

A significant portion of the meeting was devoted to reviewing the preference forms submitted by clergy and Staff (Pastor) / Parish Relations Committees as part of the upcoming appointment process. Superintendents will continue in consultation with Staff (Pastor) / Parish Relations Committees and clergy as needed.

We celebrate the ways that we see God at work in our midst across the Alabama-West Florida Conference. We are grateful for the leadership provided by our clergy and laity in our effort to seek disciples of Jesus Christ. We continue to pray for our churches and clergy and would covet your prayers as we continue in this time of discernment related to the appointment of pastors for 2013-14.

May God continue to guide us as we journey through this holy season of Lent! 


Frisco City Suffers Fire Damage

published 2/25/2013

Frisco City United Methodist Church suffered damage due to a fire Sunday morning, February 24. It is believed that an upstairs heating unit could possibly be the cause of the fire. No injuries were reported. The damage was primarily in the sanctuary area and second floor offices, and included smoke damage and water damage from extinguishing the flames. The fellowship hall and other areas of the church property were structurally evaluated and have been cleared for use. Services in the coming weeks for Frisco City United Methodist Church will be held in the fellowship hall at their regular times. 

The United Methodist Men (UMM) of the church were preparing breakfast and meeting that morning but all safely evacuated. Rev. Elaine Hagenbuch, pastor at Frisco City UMC, explained that the UMM heard fire alarms sounding but could not find the fire. Thanks to a couple passing by in their vehicle who saw smoke rising from the roof, the men escaped unharmed. Five fire units were called to the scene to extinguish the fire. Insurance adjustors will be visiting in the coming days to assess the damage.

{Frisco City UMC sanctuary after the fire}

Despite the sorrow the congregation is feeling, Rev. Hagenbuch repeatedly commented that, "we were blessed." Blessed that the entire wing was not damaged, including the Sunday School classes. Blessed that they have electricity and that the remainder of the church is on a separate electrical unit. Blessed that it was not any more severe than it was. Blessed to still hold their 11:00am worship service on the front lawn just hours after the fire. Blessed to be part of a wonderful connectional system. She continued to look ahead by explaining that the church will celebrate its 100th anniversary on October 20, 2013. Their plan is to have everything back in order by that special date.

{Members of Frisco City UMC held morning worship on the front lawn, just hours after the fire occurred.} 

Other United Methodist churches in the district and conference have expressed a desire to help Frisco City UMC in any way possible. Should there be any needs requested from the church, the conference and district offices will communicate those in the coming days and weeks. Please keep Frisco City UMC in your prayers as they recover from this loss.  

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