Date: February 16, 2017
To: The Clergy and Laity of the Florida Annual Conference
From: Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida Annual Conference Cabinet
Subject: Proposal to Annual Conference 2017
The purpose of this letter is to inform you about a proposal that will be coming to the Annual Conference during our June meeting in Orlando.
In the fall of 2016, the Cabinet and Strategic Leadership Team held its first meeting of the new quadrennium. We also toured the Conference as part of the Town Hall events. Around the same time, Dr. Walter Monroe, District Superintendent of the South Central District, informed us that he would be retiring at the end of this Conference year, after a life of profound ministry as a pastor, university chaplain and professor and administrator.
The retirement of a District Superintendent was one impetus for us to explore how the Florida Conference has changed since we reduced from 14 Districts to 9 Districts eleven years ago. We discovered that we have closed 93 churches in eleven years. This is more than the number of churches in any one of our Districts. There has been an equal reduction in the number of full time elder placements and, for various reasons, several more churches have lowered their clergy salary. The Book of Discipline (415.4) gives the Bishop the responsibility to “form the districts after consultation with the district superintendents and after the number of the same has been determined by vote of the annual conference.”
In response to the reduction of churches over the past 11 years, combined with a desire to reset the economic base of the Florida Annual Conference, the Cabinet, in consultation with other Conference leaders, is recommending a reduction in the number of Districts in the Florida Annual Conference from nine to eight. This motion regarding the number of Districts will be made during the opening plenary session of the 2017 Annual Conference.
It is our prayer and hope that this reduction of one district will be one piece of a continued journey of examining the sustainability of our Annual Conference budget, as well as continuing to redirect the flow of resources to the Local Church and support the vital ministries that take place at the Conference level such as Campus Ministry, Camps and Retreats, Missional Engagement and more.
Unlike the previous alignment from 14 to 9 Districts, this reduction does not impact every church. Most Districts will have fewer total churches than they did when we reduced from 14 to 9. The Cabinet is working on the final proposal for new District lines. We plan to release this proposal by the end of April and hold a pre-Annual Conference meeting in each District in May to allow for Annual Conference clergy and lay delegates to ask questions about this proposed reduction and realignment.
The working model will add some churches to each district. Criteria used in determining the new district lines include: where churches orient in terms of major cities, an attempt to balance the number of churches within each district and drive times. Given these criteria, the South Central District will likely be impacted the most with the churches within the South Central District being redistributed to the four districts that border it. This will result, eventually, in the integration of the operations of this district office with those of the surrounding district offices and the closure of the office in Plant City. It is projected that all other District offices will remain in their current location. Conference and District leaders impacted by this transition are already working on creating models of shared leadership.
If you have questions about this proposal, please direct them to your District Superintendent or to the Episcopal Office.