Sharon Austin, co-chair of the 2017 Annual Conference planning team, describes the meeting as “an important time of gathering and fellowship as we connect around vision and mission.” The theme is "Revive Us, Again," and the team is building in time for revival.
Austin, director of Connectional Ministries, co-chairs the team with Alex Shanks, assistant to Bishop Carter. “We received more feedback than recent memory serves in planning this conference,” Shanks said, adding that the input was fully appreciated.
|Bishop Carter celebrated communion with African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Adam J. Richardson at AC 2016. Photo by Lance Rothwell.|
The 2017 event returns to Buena Vista Palace in Orlando and is slated for June 8-10. The hotel will have extensive site renovations completed prior to the meeting.
This will include expanded lobby areas, an indoor-outdoor terrace, full and quick service on-site restaurants, along with a lazy river addition and re-designed guest rooms.
“We are working with the hotel to address parking, food costs and availability of overflow plenary space, along with other factors,” Shanks said, referring to AC 2016 feedback. He also addressed concerns from 2016 members about not being able to discuss or vote on all resolutions that were slated. These will be forwarded to the appropriate conference body and discussed in the coming year.
“We highly value the work and considerable effort that goes into writing these resolutions,” Shanks said. He invited those who have additional questions regarding resolution specifics to contact him directly.
Keynote speakers for the 2017 Conference "have contributed significantly to several areas of our current ministries, including Fresh Expressions,” Austin said.
The speakers are Elaine Heath, a self-described theologian, preacher, teacher and writer, recently appointed Dean at Duke Divinity School, and Rev. Dr. Kevin Watson, assistant professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
Heath, author of numerous books and monographs, was described in a March 2016 article in Duke Today as someone presenting scholarly work “integrating systematic, pastoral and spiritual theology.” The publication further described her as someone who often bridges the gap between academy, church and world.
Rev. Watson, who formerly taught at Seattle Pacific University and Perkins School of Theology, has authored three books, including "Pursuing Social Holiness: The Band Meeting in Wesley’s Thought and Popular Methodist Practice" (Oxford University Press, 2014). He is currently working on a history described as the development and fragmentation of American Methodism as a theological tradition.
|Rev. Patti Aupperlee, First UMC Pahokee, accepts the Discipleship Ministries' One Matters award on her and the church's behalf at AC 2016. Photo by Lance Rothwell.|
For music the conference will welcome the return of Robert McMichael and Jarvis Wilson. McMichael serves the North Georgia Conference as worship leader at the Mt. Bethel/St. Philip UMC in the Atlanta area. Wilson is minister of music at Atlanta's Israel Missionary Baptist Church and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra gospel the choir.
Additional details for the conference will be announced as they become available.
The conference planning committee also announced Florida Southern College will be the site for the 2018 meeting, and the theme is "Remembering Who We Are."
“It’s an opportunity to not only return to our roots where the conference was held for many years, but also offers a chance to reconnect with one of our great Methodist schools as we look forward to a future filled with hope,” Shanks said.
The year 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary for the formation of The United Methodist Church.
Parking will be available throughout the campus, along with shuttles provided by the college. There will be several options for lodging and meal tickets. Shanks said the conference will be partnering with area hotels for the best available group rates, lowering costs to delegates. The conference plenary sessions will take place in Branscomb Auditorium.
The conference previously was held in Branscomb Auditorium from 1964 to 1989. FSC was recently named a United Methodist historic site by the General Commission on Archives and History.