Annual event acknowledges shift to nine districts



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Annual event acknowledges shift to nine districts

May 21, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011   
tparham@flumc.org     Orlando  {0297}

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

LAKELAND — The "One Body One Spirit" 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event will celebrate and kick off a major initiative that was passed at last year's annual conference.

Beginning July 1, the conference's 14 districts will cease to exist and nine new ones — formed from the restructuring and blending of the old districts — will officially begin to operate.

Delegates to the 2004 annual conference passed the "Connecting for Transformation" recommendation that was proposed by the Florida Conference Cabinet and called for the conference's 14 districts to be reduced to nine. It redefined the responsibilities of the district superintendents in light of the new structure and encouraged churches to form clusters — groupings of four to seven churches based on a natural association developed around a common disciple-making mission or shared ministry experience.

The purpose of the clusters is three-fold: to provide a place where congregations can share their ministry experiences and learn from each other, discern together God's will for each congregation, and be intentional about finding ways to "touch our world" — to make disciples, meet needs, eliminate suffering. The ultimate goal is to help churches be as effective as possible in their ministries, as measured by the conference's vision and mission statements.

The new districts have been restructured to be as equal as possible in terms of the number of churches and missions comprising each district, membership, finances, land size and ease of transportation within the district. Each has between 50 and 85 churches and missions.

The Rev. Charles Weaver, assistant to Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and chairman of the annual conference program committee, said there will not be a great deal of emphasis placed on the new districts at this year's annual conference. Instead, there will be an overall recognition of the change in how the conference will begin to operate this July.

At the opening ceremony 14 pitchers of water will be poured into a fountain, and at a later time, nine pitchers of water will be taken from the fountain, symbolizing the switch to the new structure, according to Weaver. There will also be a brief dedication of the superintendents who will lead the new districts at the closing ceremony Sunday.

"All through this past year, things have been happening in the districts," he said. "There have been ceremonies in various places saying farewell to the old districts and people getting acquainted with the new districts. People have been aware this was coming and getting ready for it."
 
Last fall each district established a leadership council of 12 to 15 clergy and lay leaders who have assisted the superintendent in major strategic decisions and functioned as the superintendency, finance and nominations committees, and board of trustees. The leadership council has also acted as the transition team empowered to address nominations, budgets, reorganizations, and district offices and parsonages.

Florida Conference Lay Leader Bill Walker said the conference will benefit from the reorganization.

"I think the redistricting is good," he said. "I think it will cause the conference to operate in greater efficiency. It's going to create mutual learning among the districts through the clusters."

Weaver said the districts have been hard at work getting ready for the change. "This has been a very big job for the districts," he said. "No district will be the same."

For more information about the new districts and clusters visit the Florida Conference Web site at http://flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=262. For more information about the annual conference event go to http://www.flumc.org/ac2005/.

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This article relates to the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham is 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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