Florida Conference celebrates annual gathering in new way and place

June 7, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0089}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

DAYTONA BEACH —  More than 2,000 Florida Conference clergy and laity gathered June 3-6 at Bethune Cookman-College (BCC) here for the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event.

DAYTONA BEACH —  Delegates kicked off the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event June 3 at Bethune Cookman-College here with afternoon laity and clergy sessions and evening worship featuring Bishop José Quipungo of the Eastern Angola Conference preaching the sermon, a special offering collected to help that conference rebuild its churches and ministry, and communion. Photo by Geoff Anderson, #04-0027.

Under the theme “A Light to the Nations,” delegates experienced both a new setting and new ways of being in ministry together.

This year's event was held outside Lakeland for the first time in many years. United Methodist-related Florida Southern College served as host for the event until attendance became too large for its facilities. In recent years the college provided housing and meal support for delegates, with most of the business held at the Lakeland Center. This year Florida's United Methodists spent time on the campus of Florida's other denominationally-related school, BCC. The event's plenary sessions took place in BCC's new Performing Arts Center.

The gathering was also held over a weekend to give families who work an opportunity to attend.

A highlight of the gathering was the presence of Bishop José Quipungo, who presides over the Eastern Angola Conference. He preached during the evening worship services June 3 and 4. The conference’s theme was developed, in part, to honor Quipungo’s visit.

The relationship between the Eastern Angola and Florida conferences began when a three-person team from the Florida Conference traveled to Angola Jan. 28-Feb. 11, 2003, on a fact-finding and relationship-building visit sponsored by the Florida Conference’s Council of Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty and Hope for the Children of Africa task force.

The Council of Bishops has asked the Florida Conference to shift its attention to the Eastern Angola Conference now that Florida had completed fund-raising for the Bishop Cornelius L. and Dorothye Henderson Secondary School in Mozambique.

In addition to celebrating the presence of Quipungo and his wife, Dr. Laurinda Vidal Quipungo, a physician, delegates considered and voted on a number of proposals that will reshape the way the conference does its business.

Delegates approved the Florida Conference Cabinet’s “Connecting for Transformation” recommendation, which will reduce the conference’s districts from 14 to nine, encourage churches to be part of a cluster group of churches within their district and change the responsibilities of district superintendents.

Each of the nine new districts will be as equal as possible regarding the number of churches and missions, membership, finances, land size and ease of transportation within the district, and each will have between 50 and 85 churches and missions. Each district will also establish a leadership council of 12 to 15 clergy and lay leaders that will assist the superintendent in making major strategic decisions and function as the superintendency, finance and nominations committees, and board of trustees.

Each new district will hold a gathering of clergy and laity in the fall of 2004 to elect the leadership council, which will act as the transition team empowered to address nominations, budgets, reorganizations and issues related to district offices and parsonages.

District conferences will be eliminated, with the district leadership council empowered to review district budgets and determine connectional giving responsibilities. The district annual conference orientation will elect district leadership. The new district structures will take effect July 5, 2005.

Delegates also approved eliminating the Conference Council on Ministries in favor of the Conference Equipping Network (CEN). The creation of the CEN is intended to move the conference away from maintaining programs and toward identifying and fulfilling future ministry and leadership needs.
 
The CEN’s core is the Leadership Connection, a team of no more than 15 laity and clergy who will be responsible for setting the vision for and identifying ministry needs. That group will also create task teams to focus on meeting the identified ministry needs and visions.

The CEN will focus more on providing information, researching ministry trends and needs, developing ministries and equipping people for those ministries, and seeking and evaluating input and feedback to assist in future research.

Attendees also had the opportunity to live their faith by taking part in a mini-Celebrate Jesus mission June 4. More than 400 people canvassed the streets surrounding Daytona’s Community and Stewart Memorial United Methodist Churches, knocking on doors to pray with people and invite them to a Family Fun Day held the next evening at the Daytona Beach Band Shell as the culmination to the Celebrate Jesus mission.

Normally, a Celebrate Jesus mission is a weeklong effort during which local churches reach out to their community. During annual conference it was condensed to three hours. Delegates also participated by giving away bottled water and light bulbs.

In other business:

Delegates approved increasing the salary of district superintendents to $79,850 for 2005, an increase of about $5,000 above the 2004 salary. Delegates also approved the Florida Conference Council on Finance & Administration’s recommended budget of a little more than $18.8 million. This is a $124,091, or 0.7 percent, increase over the 2004 budget. That includes an estimated 7 percent increase in general church and jurisdictional apportionments.

William (Bill) Walker was elected Florida Conference lay leader, succeeding T. Terrell Sessums who served in the position for four years. Walker served as the conference’s director of Connectional Ministries from June 1999 to June 2003.

Several awards for evangelism were presented to laity and clergy recipients. The 2004 Grindheim-Sims Award was given to the Rev. St. Clair Moore, pastor of Rogers Memorial United Methodist Church, Bradenton. The award is given annually to the pastor of a small membership church who has distinguished him- or herself through efforts in evangelism and church growth.

The 2004 Denman Evangelism Awards were presented to the Rev. Jocelyn Jean Baptist Adhemar, pastor of the St. Johns United Methodist Haitian Mission, Boynton Beach, and Rafael Ortega, a lay member of Village United Methodist Church, North Ft. Lauderdale. The awards are presented annually to a United Methodist clergy and lay person in each annual conference for outstanding work in Christian evangelism. They are named for the late Dr. Harry Denman, distinguished lay evangelist whom Dr. Billy Graham called “my mentor in evangelism,” and made possible by The Foundation for Evangelism, which was founded in 1949 by Denman.

Dr. Randy Casey-Rutland, Florida Conference statistician, reported conference membership in 2003 was 329,018, a decline of 3,106 people. The average worship attendance was 161,375.

In the services of licensing, commissioning and ordination 36 people were licensed for pastoral ministry (full time, part time and student local pastors); 19 were commissioned for ministry and received as probationary members (four on the deacon track and 15 on the elder track); one was received as a probationary member from another Christian denomination; two were ordained as deacons in full connection; and 12 were ordained as elders in full connection.

This year’s annual conference celebrated the retirement of two deacons in full connection, seven elders in full connection, one associate member and five local pastors.

To view daily photos of the event’s activities and business visit http://www.flumc.org/ac2004/index.htm.

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This article relates to the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.


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