In Brief — April 13, 2007 {0655}

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

In Brief — April 13, 2007

April 13, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0656}

An e-Review News Item

This series includes:

n Lifeguard saves camper;
n Church and Society general secretary scheduled to speak at Florida churches;
n Deacons celebrate milestones as role evolves;
n Florida Southern College chosen for inclusion in guide of best colleges.

Lifeguard saves camper

By Erik Alsgaard**

A certified lifeguard on duty at the swimming pool at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park rescued a 12-year-old girl March 27.

The lifeguard began CPR immediately after the girl was brought to the surface, according to the Rev. David Berkey, executive director of the Florida Conference camps and retreat ministries.

An emergency 911 call was also immediately placed, Berkey said, in accordance with policies and procedures in place at the camp. Rescue responders, including ambulances, fire trucks and a helicopter, arrived at the camp in minutes, he said.

The guest was a member of a non-United Methodist youth retreat group from the Clearwater area, according to Berkey. She was flown by helicopter to an Orlando hospital.

A camp staff member arrived later at the hospital to offer assistance and monitor the situation for other campers and staff members. The guest’s immediate family was notified and arrived at the hospital that evening.

The evening of the accident Berkey also assisted with a short prayer service at the camp, informing the other retreat members of the guest’s condition.

“Our thoughts and prayers are for the guest and the guest’s family,” Berkey said. “Our number-one concern at Warren W. Willis is for the safety of our guests. Throughout this incident, camping staff followed our policies and procedures in an effort to save a life.”

Staff from the Warren W. Willis camp, retreat and camping board members, and nearby United Methodist clergy have offered pastoral assistance in the days since the accident.

The camper has since been released from the hospital.

The Warren W. Willis Camp is owned and operated by the Florida Conference and is accredited by the American Camp Association.

Church and Society general secretary scheduled to speak at Florida churches
By Tita Parham and J.A. Buchholz**

Jim Winkler, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, is urging United Methodists in the United States to contact their representatives about the war spending bill making its way through Congress. Winkler was part of a 13-member U.S. religious delegation that traveled to Iran in February in an effort to ease political tensions between the two nations and encourage dialogues for peace. A UMNS photo by Jay Mallin. Photo #07-0562.

LAKELAND — Jim Winkler, general secretary of the denomination’s General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), will be speaking at three Florida Conference churches in early May.

All conference laity and clergy are invited to attend a session of their choice to hear a one-hour presentation by Winkler, followed by questions and answers and discussion.

At each session Winkler will share information on issues related to conflicts in the Middle East and his recent peace mission to Iran, as well as how local congregations can engage in justice and advocacy issues related to children, in line with the recommendation made by participants at the Conference Table last January that all Florida Conference churches should focus on children’s issues as a common social justice focus for the conference.

The sessions will be held at St. Lukes United Methodist Church in Orlando May 5, College Heights United Methodist Church in Lakeland May 6 and Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa May 7. Each begins at 7 p.m.

Winkler has served as general secretary of GBCS, the international public policy and social justice agency of The United Methodist Church, since November 2000.

As chief executive of the board, Winkler leads a staff of 22. The board’s primary goal is implementing the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church through advocacy, education and witness. The board carries out a wide-ranging ministry of peace and justice throughout the world, with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Winkler has re-energized the work of the board around a three-part vision — to help United Methodists link mercy and justice, connect the work of the board with local churches/annual conferences around the globe, and be the premier denominational advocacy agency on Capitol Hill.

He has led delegations to the Middle East, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Germany, seeking peaceful solutions to global conflict. He has also traveled throughout the world to support the justice work of The United Methodist Church in Africa, Asia and Europe. Additionally, he has preached and led workshops and training events in Russia, Nigeria and the Philippines and is a frequent spokesperson for the justice work of The United Methodist Church to the national and international media.

Individuals needing more information about the sessions may contact the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of the Florida Conference’s Global Missions and Justice Ministries, at 800-282-8011, extension 131, or, or the Rev. Brett Opalinski, senior pastor of Memorial United Methodist Church in Fernandina Beach, at or 904-261-5769.

St. Lukes United Methodist Church is located at 4851 S. Apopka/Vineland Road, Orlando, 32819 (407-876-4991). College Heights United Methodist Church is located at 942 South Blvd., Lakeland, 33803 (863-682-8191). Hyde Park United Methodist Church is located at 500 West Platt Street, Tampa, 33606 (813-253-5388).

Deacons celebrate milestones as role evolves

By Vicki Brown**

In the decade since the Order of Deacons was created, ordained deacons have taken The United Methodist Church outside its traditional brick walls and stained-glass windows. They have ministered to the homeless, worked with labor unions and served through fields as diverse as health care, education and even advertising and communications.

“Deacons are trying to put a swinging door on churches, going out into the world and serving and bringing people back into the church,” said the Rev. Anita Wood, a deacon who is director of professional ministry development at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

The church created the Order of Deacons to enable United Methodists to answer the call to an ordained ministry that connects the church with the world — both by work outside the church and by involving congregations in ministries that heal the world’s hurts. Such a call resounds with both young people in seminary and many second-career candidates for ministry.

According to the board’s Division of Ordained Ministry, 1,659 people are currently candidates to become deacons within The United Methodist Church. If most are ordained, the number will more than double. Currently, there are 1,381 active deacons and 213 retired.

Deacons and diaconal ministers will gather April 19-22 in Orlando, Fla., for “Celebrating Diakonia,” a convocation sponsored by the higher education board to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Order of Deacons and the 30th anniversary of the Office of Diaconal Ministry.

What do deacons do?

Even as they celebrate, deacons and candidates for the diaconate say the church is confused about their role.

“Folks are still learning what deacons do. I have to educate the people who are mentoring me,” said the Rev. David Brown, an associate to the senior pastor at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church in Philadelphia and a probationary member. “As an African-American man, I’ve been pushed to become an elder. Could I do that? Sure. Is that true to my calling? No.”

The role of deacons has evolved since the 1976 General Conference created the Office of Diaconal Ministry. When the 1996 General Conference created the Order of Deacons, many diaconal ministers were ordained as deacons.

The Book of Discipline provides for ordained deacons “called by God to a lifetime of servant leadership,” while elders are “ordained to a lifetime ministry of Service, Word, Sacrament and Order.” Both are clergy, theologically trained and have full membership in their annual conferences. However, elders can administer the sacraments of Holy Communion and baptism, while deacons may assist. Elders are appointed to jobs by the bishop, while deacons generally find their own employment and then are appointed by the bishop. Many deacons do specialized ministry within congregations in areas such as music, education or youth work, but a growing number serve in other settings.

The Commission on the Study of Ministry acknowledged confusion over the diaconate role in its recent draft report about the ordering of ministry. The draft recommended further study of the order, saying it now falls short of the work envisioned by the definition in the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

“The church needs to identify the barriers, challenges, and possibilities for realizing the full potential of this office,” the draft report stated.

‘Amazing potential’

The Rev. Matt Hunter, who is in his final probationary year as a deacon, said further study of an issue is a typical United Methodist approach to such matters.

“I still think the church does not quite know what to do with deacons,” said Hunter, executive director of Shepherd’s Way, a ministry to homeless families in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The order has amazing potential once we figure out how to achieve it.”

Hunter concedes he could do his current job without ordination.

“But the schooling I received, the theological training, has been really helpful in what is in many ways a ministry of reconciliation,” said Hunter, 36. “I just felt passionate about being committed to the church, and ordination is a very deep commitment.” He also believes “the reason for my longevity is that I consider this a calling.”

The Rev. Sharon Rubey, a deacon and director of candidacy and conference relations for the higher education board, said the order is “still in its infancy.” She notes the commission report is a first draft and that the commission, of which she is a member, is “encouraging and expecting the church to talk back to us” through an online survey at

“In a sense, we are still living into a new understanding of the ordering of ministry in The United Methodist Church,” Rubey said.

Wood said she would like to see the church “fully embrace the order and affirm it.” She recognizes that stumbling blocks exist, including fears about lack of accountability. “The structure is there for accountability, and it can be done,” she said.

“There is also still confusion about whether it’s an order that serves in a local church. We need to affirm that the ministry of the deacon is in and beyond the church,” Wood said.

Ordaining a ministry

The Rev. Bob Carlisle, who was a diaconal minister before being ordained a deacon in 1997, said the 1996 General Conference action creating the Order of Deacons “validated the ministry in a way that only ordination could do.” He agrees, however, that United Methodists do not know enough about the order.

“We need to work to let people know that they don’t have to take the pulpit to be ordained,” said Carlisle, who is semi-retired and works part time with Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tenn. “We need to continue to educate people in local churches and annual conferences.”

Grace Estell, a retired deaconess and diaconal minister, never saw the need for ordination. Estell was consecrated a diaconal minister in 1978 and served as a church and community worker for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

“I think it’s better to remain lay,” said Estell, 82, of Asheville, N.C. “You have more freedom. If we remain lay, we are closer to the people in the pews.”

Brown, who owns his own advertising and public relations firm, works in an inner-city church in Philadelphia and views his special mission as communication — currently in a cross-cultural setting. His is a primarily African-American church with a white senior pastor.

“Communication helps to bring people to the church. As a deacon, I recognize that there are more people outside the church than there are inside,” Brown said.

The Rev. Alice Helfrich, 75, was one of the first three diaconal ministers ordained a deacon in 1997 at the New Mexico Annual Conference. She recalls that many did not welcome the Order of Deacons with open arms.

“Our district superintendent told us he did not approve of what the General Conference had done, but if we wanted to go ahead, he would support us. I was afraid to turn around and see who voted to accept us, but 99 percent of the conference, including that district superintendent, voted for us.”

Individuals interested in more information about Celebrating Diakonia or registering online for the April 19-22 meeting in Orlando may do so by visiting

Florida Southern College chosen for inclusion in guide of best colleges

By Florida Southern College Public Relations Staff
LAKELAND — Florida Southern College is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.

The New York-based company, known for its test-prep courses, books and other education services, has selected Florida Southern for inclusion in its upcoming edition of its annual “best colleges” guidebook, “The Best 366 Colleges: 2008 Edition” (Random House / Princeton Review Books, $21.95 paperback). The guide will be available in bookstores in late August 2007. 
“Only about 10 percent of the colleges in America are in this book,” said Robert Franek, vice president of publishing for The Princeton Review. “It is our flagship guide to ‘the crème of the crop’ institutions for undergraduates. We chose them as our ‘best’ based on several criteria, including our regard for their academic programs and other offerings, institutional data we collect from the schools, and the opinions of students, parents and educators we talk to and survey.”

“The Best 366 Colleges” includes public and private institutions of higher education. “We present a wide range of colleges in the book,” Franek said. “They vary by region, size, selectivity and character, but each one is an outstanding institution we recommend to our readers and users of our website.”

The Princeton Review’s annual “Best Colleges” guide is the only college guide offering both two-page profiles on the schools and college ranking lists in more than 60 categories, based on surveys of more than 115,000 students at the schools in the book who rate their own schools and report on their experiences at them. The book’s narrative profiles also include candid comments from students surveyed by The Princeton Review.

When each edition is published, The Princeton Review posts the book’s ranking lists and excerpts from the college profiles on its Web site,

Founded in 1885, Florida Southern College is a private, comprehensive, United Methodist college with a liberal arts core. The college offers 38 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business administration, education and nursing. U.S. News and World Report ranks Florida Southern as one of the top 10 Southern Comprehensive Colleges-Bachelor’s institutions; Princeton Review calls it a “Best Southeastern College.”


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.
   Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
   Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation, United Methodist Board of
     Higher Education and Ministry, in Nashville, Tenn. This information was written for and distributed
     by United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

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