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 Petitions must be typed and may be submitted through the General Conference website, by postal mail or fax, or via e-mail to This e-mail address should be used for petition submission only. All other correspondence should be directed to

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 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

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. 
To participate in a Disaster Recovery Partnership, contact Susan Hunt, director of mission and advocacy, at

2019 Annual Conference: In Review

published 6/6/2019

The 2019 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference was held June 2-5 in Montgomery, AL, with the theme, "This We Proclaim." Bishop David Graves, presiding over his third annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery.

A capacity crowd attended the Opening Worship Service held Sunday evening, June 2, in the sanctuary of Frazer Memorial UMC. A mass choir from around the conference, and led by Frazer Memorial UMC Music Director, Wayne Sigler, provided inspiring music for the service including powerful renditions of, "Come, Christians Join to Sing," "O, Praise the Name" and "Amen," which featured soloists Courtney Selman and Adam Murphy. Bishop David Graves welcomed those in attendance and emphasized how honored the Alabama-West Florida Conference was to have two special guests this evening. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of the East Ohio Conference and Rev. Eric Soard from the Tanzania Annual Conference were participants in tonight's service. Bishop Malone preached her heartfelt sermon based on 1 John 1:1 entitled, "This We Proclaim," which was appropriately titled to reflect the theme of the 2019 Annual Conference. 

Wesley College, a part of Teaming with Tanzania, was the recipient of this year's missional offering. Rev. Eric Soard, Global Ministries Missionary appointed to the Tanzania Annual Conference, was present and shared a few words about our partnership. A brief video was shown as part of his presentation. Wesley College has quickly outgrown their current space in downtown Mwanza and plans have been made to build a campus that will offer more courses and will feature dorms, classroom space, a cafeteria, offices, and more for the projected 2,500 students who will become part of Wesley College. Our annual conference offering will help Wesley College realize this dream of a campus that will better meet the needs of their students. In the Monday morning worship service, Bishop Graves signed a partnership covenant with the Tanzania Annual Conference. Click here for more

For the third year, each day of conference began with morning worship. These worship services, under the direction of Rev. Michael Precht of Crestview FUMC, incorporated people from around the conference. A special emphasis was made to involve people representing the various stages of ministry, which included seminary students, local pastors, deacons, elders, laity, clergy spouses and conference staff. 

Thirty-seven clergy and clergy spouses who passed since the 2018 AWF Annual Conference session were remembered during the Service of Remembrance and Holy CommunionBishop David Graves offered the opening prayer and Rev. Dan Morris of Gulf Breeze UMC delivered the inspiring and uplifting sermon entitled, "The Lamb Our Shepherd." It was based on Revelation 7:9-17, which was read responsively by the congregation under the leadership of Rev. Richard Williams of Aldersgate UMC, Montgomery. Each individual name was read aloud by Dr. Olivia Poole of St. Luke UMC, Enterprise, AWF Commission on Archives and History Chair. The acolytes lighted a candle for each person we remembered today. Jarvis Wilson and Keith Wilson led the congregation in favorite hymns while communion was served. The AWF Commission on Archives and History hosted surviving family members at a special luncheon prior to the service. To see photos from this service, click here

Eighteen clergy were recognized upon their retirement by Rev. Kathy Knight of Kingswood UMC during today's order of the day. Rev. Doc Kirby of Pine Level UMC spoke on behalf of the retiring class. Back by popular demand was the "passing of the torch." Rev. Brad Goode of Good News UMC, who was ordained an elder in full connection Monday evening, spoke on behalf of the newly ordained class, signifying new leadership in the conference. Together, these eighteen clergy have 434 years of service in our conference. The retirees are:
John L. Bracther
M. Vann Bush
Donna Cumbie
Mark Dees
John C. Friedman
David Mitchell Kirby
Steve Kopp
Roy C. Lane, Jr. 
James Calvin Moore
Gene Nelson
Freddie S. Nichols
Jamie E. Pickard
Mike Sigler
William Robbins Sims
Jo Spivey
Joel Thaddius Wasson, Jr. 
Paul Douglas Wolfe
Robert Charles Yawn

The Service of Commissioning and Ordination was held Monday evening in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. The congregation represented family members and special friends of those being commissioned and ordained. Prior to the start of the service, the cathedral choir of Montgomery FUMC presented worshipful music led by Dr. James Seay. The service included the commissioning of one provisional deacon and seven provisional elders and the ordination of two elders in full connection. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone preached a spirited sermon entitled, “The Courage of Conviction," based on John 14:15-31. A special offering was collected for the Ministerial Education Fund. To see photos from this service, click here

The Alabama-West Florida Conference elected ten clergy and ten lay delegates and four reserves to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. The delegates are as follows:
General Conference delegates
Larry Bryars, clergy
Lisa Ausley, clergy
Sung Kuk Hong, clergy
Lester Spencer, clergy
Steve Furr, laity
Beverly Maddox, laity
Gene Floore, laity
George Mingledorff, laity

Jurisdictional Conference delegates
Allen Newton, clergy
Rurel Ausley, clergy
Virginia Kagoro, clergy
Doug Pennington, clergy
Frank Moore, laity
Notalsia Whiting, laity
John Moneyham, laity
Robert Brooks, laity

Misty Barrett, clergy
Matt Mobley, clergy
Tripp Gulledge, laity
Antonius Barnes, laity

The conference was honored by the outstanding leadership of several guests. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of the East Ohio Episcopal Area preached the Opening Worship Service and Service of Commissioning and Ordination. Rev. Eric Soard, Global Ministries Missionary who is appointed to the Tanzania Annual Conference, shared a few words Sunday evening and preached the Monday morning worship service. Sean Dietrich of Sean of the South entertained guests at the spouse's lunch and laity banquet. Jarvis Wilson and Keith Wilson, talented musicians from the Atlanta area, blessed our worship time together. 

Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. Tanner Williams UMC is the recipient of the Local Church Heritage Award. The One Church Matters Award was given to Haleburg UMC by the AWF Town and Country Commission. Lee Thomas of Millbrook FUMC received the Francis Asbury Award for his work with the Tuskegee University Wesley Foundation. President Cam West was in attendance to present Bishop Graves with the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award. There were three winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. The clergy winner is Rev. Dunford Cole of Campground UMC and Rutledge UMC. The Youth recipient is Amber Gay of Robinson Springs UMC and the Lay recipient is Matt Hull, youth director at Trinity UMC, Ft. Walton. This year's Alice Lee Award recipient is Geraldine Stiffler of Foley UMC. Blake Horne with the United Methodist Children's Home was in attendance to present this year's Guardian of the Bell Award to Montgomery FUMC. Rebekah Antonelli was presented a $1,000 scholarship on behalf of the United Methodist Federal Credit Union. Allen Dunham, AWF UMM President, presented the fifth annual Susanna Wesley Award for Excellence. The recipient of this annual award is Judy Reiter of Enterprise FUMC. Complete award winner bios may be found here.

Two resolutions were presented to the annual conference voting body at Tuesday's session. A Resolution Concerning Predatory Lending in Alabama was presented and recommended by the committee. It was approved. Evaluation for Continuing Formation for Full Members and Local Pastors was recommended by the committee. A clarification amendment was made but not passed. It was approved. Approved resolutions may be found here.

The conference established a $9,606,334 million budget for mission and ministry for 2020, a 10% decrease from 2019. The 2020 budget is the lowest in 20 years and ten percent lower, as previously indicated, than 2019. The recommended district superintendent salary for 2019 is $122,764,a 1.9% increase from the previous year to be in alignment with Conference Average Compensation. The unqualified audit report will appear in the 2019 Journal. In 2018, 377 churches paid 100% of their apportionments. Thank you for your faithful giving! 

Ms. Suzanne Krejcar, AWF Treasurer, reported that membership stands at 130,250 and worship attendance stands at 57,963. Native American, Multiracial, Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino attendance all showed areas of increase over the past year. Children and Youth in Christian Formation also showed an increase. Direct giving to United Methodist causes slightly decreased but showed a 274% increase since 2009. 

Christy Crow with the AWF Trustees presented the GCFA disaffiliation plan which was a result of petition 90022 from the 2019 special-called General Conference session. Each conference Board of Trustees could propose amendments for this petition. Click here to see the proposed document that was approved. 

Bishop David Graves took intentional time to diligently thank those who were an integral part of annual conference and expressed what a collective effort it takes to make an event like this happen. In his Episcopal address, Graves told of the trials of the past year from a hurricane to general conference to struggles with challenging personalities using the comparison of this and that. With that being the things that bring people and a conference down. "We take our eyes off of this, and focus on that," he said. He referenced Mark 1:15 as what we proclaim. "If we focus on that, we are doomed," he stated. Graves outlined several thriving churches, even through challenges like a pastor diagnosed with cancer or a church devastated from a hurricane. He mentioned numerous upcoming events and opportunities where we expect God to show up because this is what we proclaim. He challenged the conference to spend more time proclaiming than on tedious other things that distract us from the call. He communicated four priorities we should all focus on:

  • Growing God’s kingdom by making disciples and developing a multiplication mindset throughout the annual conference;
  • Attracting and retaining exceptional talent that helps promote a culture of call for clergy and laity;
  • Teaching, training, and coaching to support excellent preaching so that people encounter Jesus and live out the Great Commission;
  • Being adaptive leaders through uncharted times emphasizing connectionalism and focusing on Kingdom work.

Graves concluded his address with inviting everyone to joyfully sing in unison, "Victory in Jesus." 

Hundreds of UMCOR kits and countless supplies from each district were collected over the course of the annual conference. The Dothan District had the biggest percentage of their churches participating in the collection. Aldersgate UMC, MontgomeryMulder Memorial UMCWoodland UMC and Frazer Memorial UMC sent youth group workers who managed the collection truck. Thank you for your donations and to the youth who received these supplies! 

The clergy appointments may be found online here. A friendly URL has also been established:

The 2020 session of the AWF Annual Conference will be held June 7-10, 2020, at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL. Montgomery First United Methodist Church will host the Service of Commissioning & Ordination. We express our sincere appreciation to both of these staffs for hosting us this past year.

A downloadable pdf recap that can be used in your upcoming church bulletins can be found here. Click here to see the recap video produced by Jeb Hunt. We invite you to share both of these resources in your worship services this weekend. Full coverage of the 2019 AWF Annual Conference may be found here. To see photos taken by Luke Lucas, click here. To access an archived session, click here

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