Last day of conference focuses on most vulnerable

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Last day of conference focuses on most vulnerable

June 5, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0863}

An e-Review Feature
By e-Review Staff

LAKELAND — Most churches spend more effort pleasing current members than attracting new ones.

That assessment was made by Northern Illinois Conference Bishop Hee-Soo Jung during his morning Bible study May 31, the final day of the “Living The United Methodist Way” 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event.

Mayuris Pimentel speaks to conference members about the church’s call to provide radical hospitality to Florida’s immigrants. Pimentel was recently hired as the new Central Florida regional attorney for the conference’s Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) immigration clinics, which offer free legal services and advocacy to people needing help with immigration issues. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #08-0883.

Comparing The United Methodist Church to the biblical character Zacheus, Jung exhorted members of the conference to leave their places of comfort and climb their “Zacheus trees” to get a better view of Jesus’ work and ministry.

That theme reminded members of their call to provide salty service and radical hospitality — two of the five practices of The Methodist Way — and undergirded reports given by conference ministries throughout the remainder of the conference session.

Welcoming the stranger

Mayuris Pimentel, a lifelong United Methodist, agrees the church needs a new vision: reaching out to migrants, immigrants and the refugees in Florida’s communities.

Pimentel was recently hired as the new Central Florida regional attorney for the conference’s Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) immigration clinics, a ministry of the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) and a cooperative effort between local churches, the conference’s refugee and immigration ministry and UMCOR.

The clinics offer free legal services and advocacy to people needing help with immigration issues. They are held monthly in the Orlando area at First United Methodist Church and Berea Haitian Mission in Pine Hills, and in Tampa at Faith Community Haitian United Methodist Church. A third clinic is scheduled to open in the Fort Pierce area.

After being introduced to conference members by the Rev. Marilyn Beecher, a General Board of Global Ministries Church and Community Worker and director of outreach for the conference’s East Central District, Pimentel told conference members that every person, regardless of geographic or political borders, has been created in God’s image and deserve to be treated with love, respect and dignity.

“Justice For Our Neighbors seeks to be an instrument of radical hospitality,” she said.

Giving children a better chance

The conference is also working to extend that radical hospitality and salty service to Florida’s children.

Melinda Trotti, director of Justice and Spiritual Formation Ministries, a division of the conference’s Global Mission and Justice Ministries, and Lynette Fields, executive director of Servant Ministry at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, shared the conference’s vision to end childhood hunger in Florida.

Fields is Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker’s appointee to the Core Advisory Group for the Partnership To End Childhood Hunger, a coalition of more than 50 organizations around the state working to make Florida the first state in the nation to end childhood hunger.

Melinda Trotti (left), director of the conference’s Justice and Spiritual Formation Ministries, and Lynette Fields, executive director of Servant Ministry at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, report to conference members on the work being done by the recently-formed Children’s Advocacy and Ministry Coalition to end childhood hunger in Florida. Members voted at the 2007 conference session to make children the top social witness priority of the conference. The coalition’s work and vision to end childhood hunger stem from that mandate. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #08-0884.

According to Fields, 20 percent of Florida’s children have limited access to nutritious food. She says doesn’t understand why children still go hungry when they live in a state that produces food year-round.

“Today,” Fields said, “we have the opportunity to participate in a modern day miracle: the feeding of Florida’s children.”

Fields and Trotti reported on the work being done by the conference’s Children’s Advocacy and Ministry Coalition to make that vision a reality.
The idea for the coalition emerged during a children’s summit in February. The coalition’s goal is to develop strategies that encourage local churches to be involved in ministry and advocacy for children.

Trotti said the group is focusing on prayer and education, promotion of advocacy at the annual Children’s Week events in Tallahassee, and the Florida Partnership to End Childhood Hunger’s Ten Point Plan. Among its 10 goals, the plan aims to provide all of Florida’s children with a healthy breakfast, help after-school programs provide healthy meals and snacks, and expand the reach of summer meal programs.

Every conference member received a CD toolkit that includes resources and information on ways churches can help end childhood hunger.

Celebrating a centennial of service

Members celebrated one ministry that has been meeting the needs of children for a century.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, founded by the Florida Conference in 1908. A special time set aside to honor that milestone punctuated the important work the conference is undertaking on behalf of the state’s children.

“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we have been on duty serving children and families,” Children’s Home CEO and President Mike Galloway said.

Located on 100 acres of land in Enterprise, not far from DeLand, the Children’s Home serves children ages 5 to 18 who are unable to live with their parents or other family members because of abuse, abandonment or family breakdown caused by divorce, drug abuse, illness or the death of a parent.

About 40 children from the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home dance and sing during the 100th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Children’s Home. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #08-0885.

After the Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan introduced a video showcasing the history of the Children’s Home, about 40 children from the Home sang songs and danced, expressing their appreciation for the support the Children’s Home has received from conference churches.

“We are excited about celebrating 100 years of ministry,” Galloway said. “We celebrate the churches that have supported us through their Fifth Sunday offerings. We have been blessed by you.”

Conference members also approved a statement of relationship between the Children’s Home and the Florida Conference, renewed every four years as required by the agency accrediting the Children’s Home.

In other business:

•  Members approved a 2009 budget of nearly $18.5 million — an increase of slightly more than 6 percent over the 2008 budget.

Annie Woods addresses resolutions submitted by Florida Conference Global Mission and Justice Ministries, a division of Connectional Ministries, during the last day of the conference session. Woods is chair of the mission and justice committee. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #08-0886.

•  Members adopted resolutions: setting March 31, 2009, as a Florida Conference day of celebration of children at the state’s capitol in Tallahassee, coinciding with annual Children’s Week activities; encouraging greater participation from Florida Conference churches in celebrating Peace With Justice Sunday with the collection of an offering; and resolving that the 2008 Florida Annual Conference endorses U.S. House Resolution 1078, which calls for the development of a global Marshall Plan, and urges Florida’s congressional representatives to sign on as cosponsors of the resolution. Members also approved a resolution that calls for the creation of a procurement task force, recommending that a team explore the feasibility of developing a process and report its findings to the 2009 Florida Conference session. A resolution calling for each Florida Conference congregation to adopt and implement a Green Church Covenant submitted annually with charge conference reports was referred to the “In Defense of Creation 2” Conference Table June 14, which will focus on nuclear proliferation, global poverty and environmental issues.

Members vote on resolutions during the final business of the conference session. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #08-0887.

•  Barbara Pearce, co-chair of the Pensions and Benefits committee, reported 524 lay and clergy members visited this year’s health and wellness fair, twice as many as in 2003 when the last fair was held. The majority were in good health, she said, with 209 people receiving reports of healthy blood pressures and 216 with good cholesterol levels. In 2003, three people were sent to the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure, and seven were diagnosed as diabetic. No one was sent to the hospital this year.

•  Members approved the discontinuance of seven conference churches, with two becoming district missions.

•  Members approved the annual conference site committee’s recommendation that the annual conference event be held at Bethune-Cookman University in 2009, the Lakeland Center in 2010 and the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa in 2011 as a preview for the 2012 General Conference, which will be held there.
More information about the conference session, including a schedule of activities and reports presented, is available at

Steven Skelley contributed to this report.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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