I am calling for a special session of the Florida Annual Conference on Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 10:30 a.m. at the Branscomb Auditorium at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. The purpose of this session will be to vote on resolutions which pertain to selling the current Conference Center to Florida Southern College and purchasing another building in Lakeland.
This conference needs to be held soon in order for us to have the opportunity to purchase another building. That is the reason why I have called a special session to be held five weeks from now.
Full information about what will be presented to the annual conference will be posted on the Florida Conference Web site, www.flumc.org. The reason that this information is not posted at the moment of this writing is because certain types of negotiations are still in process. Within a week, I expect that conference officials will be able to provide significant specific information.
In the meantime, I wish to provide you with some general information.
For several years the conference has continued a task force to study opportunities to move to a new Conference Center. During the 2008 annual conference, the task force reported that Florida Southern College was interested in our property as the location of its school for children with certain learning needs. The 2008 annual conference voted to continue the work of this task force. Since the 2008 annual conference, there have been several developments that make it possible to actually proceed toward a new Conference Center. These developments have occurred almost simultaneously.
For one thing, since our 2008 annual conference Florida Southern College has obtained generous donors, who are not members of The United Methodist Church, who will make it possible for the college to purchase our Conference Center to become a school.
Moreover, the United Methodist Foundation will need to move to a new location in a couple of years, and the Foundation has indicated that it is interested in being a partner with the Trustees of the Florida Conference in purchasing a new facility. The interests of both the conference and the Foundation would be protected in a trust agreement.
Furthermore, a property under development became available as a new location for the Conference Center.
These developments represent a unique convergence of interests which will never come again. Therefore, the officers of the conference believe that this is an opportunity which should be seized at this time. As I indicated above, we cannot wait until June to consider this since the owners of the property we wish to purchase require that the conference make a decision in a timely manner.
If all of the pieces of this proposal come together, then it will be possible for the Trustees to sell the current property and purchase a new property to develop as a new Conference Center without asking the congregations for any financial giving to this project. Also, this transaction will not affect in any way our on-going Bishop's Capital Campaign, Together! Bringing Hope, Changing Lives.
We would not be proposing this project if it cost the congregations any money. Some may wonder why we would be proposing a new Conference Center in the midst of a recession. The answer is probably two-fold. First, as I said, there was a convergence of interests and opportunities whereby the Trustees of the conference, the Foundation, Florida Southern College and a developer could work together at this time to meet the needs of each one of the parties. Second, we do not think we would have had the opportunity to purchase and develop the new property if our economy were not in a recession. If we do not move forward with this project, Florida Southern College will secure another property for its school and the United Methodist Foundation will make other plans to move to new offices.
One detail worth mentioning is that the Georgia Florida United Methodist Federal Credit Union recently has indicated that it would also enter into an agreement for use of the proposed new facilities for its offices to serve the public.
I realize that you are eager to have all the specific information about this project. You will receive this via the Web site as soon as it can be provided. I ask you to understand that there are certain negotiations that are on-going because they involve protecting the interests of several corporations. However, we are in a place of general agreement among the parties so that I can announce the special session to give you as much advance notice as possible.