From U2 to elections, conference ends on positive note

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

From U2 to elections, conference ends on positive note

June 13, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0686}

NOTE: See also “Conference begins with focus on next generations, church health,” FUMNS #0685, at:

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz** and Tita Parham

Youth attending the U2charist communion service during the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event wear the ONE Campaign T-shirts they purchased right before the service started. The ONE Campaign and its efforts to mobilize people in the fight against global extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS were highlighted during the service. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #07-0596.

LAKELAND — Finances, elections and administrative matters dominated the last two days of the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event, but an emphasis on global health concerns and youth balanced out the nuts-and-bolts business of the gathering.

Day three focuses on finances, church health

The morning session June 8 began with the Rev. Dan Johnson, president of the conference’s Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A), reporting on the financial health of the conference.

He said giving to conference and denominational apportionments was a little more than $16.7 million, $83,000 less than in 2005. He also noted that the Florida Conference contributes more to the functioning budget of The United Methodist Church than any other conference.

Apportionment giving was at 87.2 percent, slightly less than the 89.7 percent reported for 2005, but still above the five-year average. Johnson also noted the total collected for property and casualty premiums was slightly more than $14.9 million, up from $9.3 million.

Mark Thomas, director of the conference’s Department of Ministry Protection committee, later shared information about a potential liability for churches: 15-passenger vans, widely known for high rollover rates and fatalities. He said there are 96 such vehicles currently in use within the conference, and he urged churches and groups using them to consider alternative vehicles currently available and designed for the same number of passengers. He also stressed the benefits of making a switch: longer life expectancy than other vehicles, lower insurance costs and a higher trade value.

The Rev. Dr. Lovett Weems Jr., distinguished professor of church leadership and director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, helps break up the business of the conference June 8 during his Bible study on diversity. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #07-0597.

The Rev. Dr. Lovett Weems Jr. provided a break from the rigid statistical and data driven information provided that morning, focusing on the more relational topic of diversity within The United Methodist Church. Weems led the morning’s Bible study, using Ephesians 2:14 as his text. He stressed the importance of unity and said, despite areas of division within the church, there is hope and a strong possibility of reconciliation between groups that hold significantly different views.

While all mainline denominational churches have manifestos declaring they value diversity, Weems said none have been able to prove they are as capable of reaching other segments of the population as they do Anglos. He said public schools are more diverse than Sunday school classes, and the courthouse is more diverse than the Lord’s house.

The morning held a somber note as members approved the cabinet’s recommendation to discontinue several churches: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Orlando; St. Andrews United Methodist Church, Fort Lauderdale, to become a mission of the South East District; Edgewood United Methodist Church, Fort Myers, to become a mission of Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral; Scott Memorial United Methodist Church, Lowell; and First United Methodist Church, Hollywood. Members also approved the mergers of Wagg Memorial United Methodist Church with United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches and Wesley United Methodist Church Hispanic, Coral Gables, with Wesley United Methodist Church, Coral Gables.

Music, art and the fight to improve global health

Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker (far right) and other worship leaders clap to the music of the rock band U2 during the U2charist communion service June 8. More than 1,100 laity and clergy of all ages attended the evening service. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #07-0598.

The U2charist service in the evening June 8 reinforced the mandate to put faith into action. It featured communion, the music of the rock band U2, and a message urging all Christians to participate in the fight to end the global AIDS pandemic and extreme poverty and emphasizing what one person can do to transform the lives of people in the world’s poorest countries.

More than 1,100 members of all ages attended. Although the service’s emphasis on social issues had intergenerational appeal, the music was intended to reach younger audiences. Youth groups and campus ministries from around the conference were invited to attend, in keeping with this year’s emphasis on greater involvement by younger members at the conference event.

Hyde Park United Methodist Church’s praise and worship band shared U2’s songs, which often are a mix of biblically inspired and socially conscious lyrics. The band’s lead singer, Bono, has been a very public figure around the world in promoting the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals, endorsed by every nation and by many churches and denominational groups, including the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. Bono is the global ambassador for the goals.

The Rev. Magrey deVega, associate pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church, delivered the sermon, taking his text from Matthew 25:31-36.

DeVega said the present generation has a responsibility to pass on to the next generation a society that is better than what they inherited. He said Christianity is not about “pie in the sky when I die,” but about bringing heaven to earth by being an instrument of God’s grace. That includes working on solutions for those impacted by HIV/AIDS and systemic poverty.

Members of the youth/young adult delegation attending the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event help serve communion during the U2charist service June 8. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #07-0599.

Members did take action that evening by giving to a conference-wide offering that will support the work of the East Angola-Florida Partnership and Children’s Harvest, helping provide funds to purchase backpacks and school supplies for at-risk children and youth in Florida. A little more than $127,307 was given that evening. An additional $5,974 was given by churches before and after the conference, bringing the total to a little more than $133,281.

After the U2charist, many members and guests traveled to nearby Florida Southern College for Expressions ’07, an art festival featuring art, films and the music of five bands, provided by youth and young adults of the conference.

In the morning session June 9, youth were once again front and center, with presentations from three conference youth. Having youth address the conference was part of the mandate given by members at last year’s conference event to provide significant opportunities for youth to be an integral part of conference business this year.

In other business:

Members approved a 2008 budget totaling $17.3 million — more than $1.1 million or 6.15 percent less than the 2007 budget — and 12 recommendations proposed by the Council on Finance and Administration relating to housing allowances, travel reimbursement, setting district work fund apportionments and other items, including increasing the salaries of district superintendents by 4.9 percent to $90,430.

Three resolutions related to church membership were tabled after members approved a motion to do so made by the Rev. Dan Johnson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville. He said the 2008 General Conference would likely be considering a variety of resolutions on the topic and suggested it would be a better use of time to wait until the 2008 annual conference to consider what comes from the 2008 General Conference related to the issues.

Members attending the Saturday morning session of the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event vote on one of nine resolutions considered by the assembly. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #07-0600.

Several resolutions did pass: one encouraging all United Methodist churches to advocate for and be in ministry with immigrants, with input and support from the conference’s Connectional Ministries office, Church and Society team, Religion and Race committee and the Hispanic Assembly; another supporting the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries; and a third calling for the formation of a task force to study the comprehensive ministry needs of missional churches within the conference.

Resolutions that did not pass included a recommendation that secretaries of general agencies be elected by the Council of Bishops, instead of the boards of the agencies, and a proposal that the Florida Conference petition the 2008 General Conference to more clearly define the role of pastors in determining readiness for membership. It suggested adding the line “It shall be the privilege and responsibility of the pastor to prayerfully assist each person in discerning their readiness to” before the word covenant in paragraph 217, The Meaning of Membership, of the 2004 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

Members elected the remaining delegates to the 2008 General Conference and the full slate of delegates to the 2008 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. The Revs. Clarke Campbell-Evans, St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Tallahassee, and Phil Roughton, Christ Church United Methodist, Fort Lauderdale, were the final clergy delegates elected to General Conference. Remaining lay delegates included Mickey Wilson, Florida Conference treasurer, and William “Russ” Graves, a member of First United Methodist Church, Melbourne. The first two clergy and lay delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference will attend the General Conference as alternate delegates.

Accompanied by his grandfather, the Rev. Rick Neal, superintendent of the North East District, Joseph Culbreath, a youth member from the Atlantic Central District, offers a prayer before a ballot to vote for delegates to the 2008 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #07-0601.

Clergy elected to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference delegation are: the Revs. Catherine Fluck Price, Harvest United Methodist Church, Bradenton; Wayne Curry, superintendent, Gulf Central District; Preval Floreal, Grace Haitian United Methodist Church, Miami; Moses Johnson Jr., Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church, Jacksonville; Mont Duncan, director, Florida Conference New Church Development office; Terri Hill, Suntree United Methodist Church, Melbourne; Marta Burke, Fulford United Methodist Church, North Miami Beach; Annette Pendergrass, First United Methodist Church, Ormond Beach; Wayne Wiatt, superintendent, East Central District; Joe MacLaren, University Carillon United Methodist Church, Oviedo; Jeff Stiggins, director, Florida Conference Congregational Transformation office; Migdalia “Lia” Icaza-Willetts, First United Methodist Church, Tampa; and Vicki Walker, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa.

Clergy reserve delegates are: David Brazelton, Mandarin United Methodist Church, Jacksonville; Rinaldo Hernandez, La Nueva Iglesia Mission, Hialeah; E. Tracy Hunter, Lakewood United Methodist Church, St. Petersburg; Kevin James, Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, Tampa; Walter Monroe, Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church, Daytona Beach; Melissa Pisco, The Studio, Coral Gables; and Lawrence “Larry” Rankin, director, Florida Conference Global Missions and Justice.

Lay delegates elected are Jacob Lupfer, young adult member, First United Methodist Church, Kissimmee; Sarah Mitchell, youth member, First United Methodist Church, Cocoa Beach; Paulette Monroe, Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church, Daytona Beach; Melanie Fierbaugh, young adult member, First United Methodist Church, Lutz; Oscar Negron, Nueva Vida United Methodist Church, Pembroke Pines; Martha Gay Duncan, First United Methodist Church, Lakeland; Suzanne Zipperer, Port Charlotte United Methodist Church; John Dowell, First United Methodist Church, Tampa; Jeffrey Stricklin, youth member, First United Methodist Church, DeLand; Barbara Stricklin, First United Methodist Church, DeLand; Aggie Reed, Ebenezer United Methodist Church, Miami; Pam Alexander, First United Methodist Church, Port Orange; and Carol Mack-Harrell, Ocala West United Methodist Church.

After introducing the newly-electing delegates to the 2008 General and Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences, Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker leads members attending the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event in a prayer for the delegates. Photo #07-0602.

Lay reserve delegates are: Janet Kelley, First United Methodist Church, Ormond Beach; Nora Madan, Wesley Hispanic United Methodist Church, Miami; Ellen Lyons, Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church, Tallahassee; Bud Fowler, Aloma United Methodist Church, Winter Park; Eduardo Rodriguez, Coral Way United Methodist Church, Miami; Marian Goodman, Anona United Methodist Church, Largo; and William “Bill” Fackler, First United Methodist Church, Jacksonville.

Several members received awards this year.

The Denman Evangelism Award was given to Steve Peck and the Rev. Matthew Hartsfield. The award is named for the late Dr. Henry Denman, a distinguished lay evangelist, and is presented annually to a United Methodist lay- and clergyperson for outstanding work in Christian education. Peck, a member of First United Methodist Church, Oviedo, leads the Faith Journey band at the church and has volunteered extensive hours to create a repertoire of more than 100 songs for contemporary worshippers. Hartsfield, senior pastor at Van Dyke United Methodist Church in Tampa, leads a ministry that revolves around helping people discover a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. Since his appointment to the church in 1993, the church has grown from an average of 493 in worship each week to 1,600, the third largest congregation in worship attendance in the conference. Worship attendance grew by 119 people in 2006, an 8 percent increase.

The Grindheim-Sims award is given annually to the pastor of a small membership church who has distinguished him- or herself through evangelism and church growth. Criteria for the award are the ratio of people received into church membership on profession of faith to membership at the beginning of the year and performance in 11 ministry areas specified in the founding charter of the award. The Rev. Jimmie Brown, pastor of Harris Chapel United Methodist Church, received the award. Worship attendance at the church during 2006 grew to 160, an increase of 40 people or 33 percent, and 16 people joined the congregation through professions of faith, an increase of 10 more than the previous year.

Members of churches celebrating significant anniversaries process into the Lakeland Center arena June 8 during the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event, opening the afternoon session. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #07-0603.

The Rev. Jerry Dyken, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Brandon, received the G. Ross Freeman Award, awarded by Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) United Methodist Men. He is among 39 pastors from the nine-state SEJ who have received the award in the last five years for inspiring men’s ministries related to evangelism, missions and spiritual growth. He is the fifth pastor from the Florida Conference to receive the award.

Members celebrated significant church anniversaries: 150th anniversaries — First United Methodist Church, Gainesville; Morrison United Methodist Church, Leesburg; and Wellborn United Methodist Church; 125th anniversaries — First United Methodist Church, Kissimmee; Lochloosa United Methodist Church; First United Methodist Church, Palmetto; and Wildwood United Methodist Church; 100th anniversaries — Faith United Methodist Church, Jacksonville, and Greensboro United Methodist Church; 50th anniversaries — Christ United Methodist Church, Bradenton; Community United Methodist Church, Ridge Manor; Faith United Methodist Church, Orlando; First United Methodist Church, Cocoa Beach; Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, Miami; St. James United Methodist Church, St. Petersburg; Sunset Heights United Methodist Church, Plant City; Temple Terrace United Methodist Church, Tampa; and Trinity United Methodist Church, Lighthouse Point.

Members approved the annual conference site committee’s recommendation that the annual conference event be held at the Lakeland Center in 2008, at Bethune-Cookman University in 2009 and at the Lakeland Center in 2010.

Videos, photos, summaries and additional information about the conference event are available on the Florida Conference Web site at


This article relates to 2007 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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