July 17, 2020
Dear Lay and Clergy Members of the Florida Annual Conference:
Bishop Carter, the Cabinet, and the Annual Conference Planning Team are announcing today that the regular session of Annual Conference 2020 will be a virtual only event on Saturday September 19th. We had hoped to be able to host a hybrid event at First Lakeland allowing for some to attend in person and some virtually. After careful discernment and review of the latest information about COVID-19, Conference leaders have determined that we cannot plan to safely gather a large group inside a sanctuary in September. We are learning alongside every other annual conference who are shifting to virtual only large events.
The virtual 2020 Annual Conference Session will utilize an online platform that will allow members to securely participate using an internet-connected device. A focused agenda is being finalized and will include voting on essential matters of business.
All lay and clergy members of the annual conference should plan to be present on the online platform in order to participate in the virtual annual conference session on September 19th from 9 AM to Noon. We are planning to virtually honor our retiring clergy and share in a virtual memorial service during that day. The first order of business will be to amend our standing rules to authorize virtual voting. The method of remote communication will enable every member to speak and vote at the session and hear the proceedings of the session. The Annual Conference Planning Team will release a plan next week explaining how all lay and clergy members will be able to fully participate. This plan will include ways to assist persons who may be uncomfortable with technology or lack access to adequate internet. Details and instructions for how to prepare are forthcoming.
Additionally, we have determined that we cannot adequately and safely accomplish everything on Saturday September 19th. To that end, Bishop Carter and Conference Leaders announce the following livestreamed events that will take place on Saturday, September 12th:
- The Board of Lay Ministry will host a virtual laity session from 10 AM to Noon on Saturday September 12th. The laity session will conclude with a livestreamed service led by Bishop Carter to commission two new deaconesses.
- Bishop Carter will lead an outside Service of Commissioning for the new probationary clergy members at 1 PM on Saturday September 12th.
- Bishop Carter will lead an outside Service of Ordination for the newly ordained elders and deacons at 3 PM on Saturday September 12th.
- Bishop Carter will lead an outside service of Installation of our two new District Superintendents at 4:30 PM on Saturday September 12th.
All of these outside services will take place at the Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park on the shores of Lake Griffin, a place where many Florida United Methodists have received their call to ministry. The services will be livestreamed and recorded so that everyone in the conference can participate. In person attendance at these outside services will be strictly limited to those being commissioned and ordained and their immediate families. All in person attendees will follow the mandated safety protocols related to social distancing, required face coverings, screening for symptoms, etc.
We want to thank all of you for your flexibility during this time. We are praying for each of you, your families and your churches as we continue to navigate these uncertain waters.
The Peace of the Lord,
Bishop Carter, The Florida Cabinet and the Annual Conference Planning Team
Note: More details will be forthcoming next week. If you have immediate questions, please contact Rev. Alex Shanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.