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GCD October 2021 Newsletter

From D.S. Sharon

Harvesting Faith in October

When I transferred into The United Methodist Church, I was not accustomed to the excitement of selling produce (pumpkins) in the fall! From pumpkin patches and Halloween, we often rush to the first Sunday in November, where we mark the change of months by celebrating All Saints Sunday and setting our clocks' back' to mark the end of Daylight Savings time.  This well-worn annual path seems to mark the march to the fall and winter holy days and holidays.

Lest we forget, October is replete with days that are rich in the life of the Church.  Sunday, October 3rd is World Communion Sunday, which is a great leap into a month where we also celebrate the gift of the ministry of all  Christians on Laity Sunday (October 17th) and this year, the 504th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Sunday (October 31st).

Remarkably, World Communion Sunday celebrates the Church universal and inclusive. Imagine the immeasurable opportunities that we have to proclaim the love of Christ and actually live into the reality of the universal Church.  The current challenges which lie before The United Methodist Church as a denomination make it difficult to imagine that the universal Church is broader in scope in its message of God's grace and Christ's loving embrace. The Church is not divided but united in mission.  The universal, inclusive Church is seeking opportunities to bind itself to others in love. It enables the Church, our denomination, our FL Conference, and, yes, your congregation to be a part of what God in Christ is doing in the world.  The following affords reasons to give thanks:

This Sunday Churches Thank You...for your generosity in 2020. You gave $400,254 towards the ministries funded by the World Communion Sunday offering. This offering supports [a] diverse mix of national and international ethnic young adults to make a global impact for Christ. Half of the offering benefits World Communion Scholarships for graduate students from the U.S. and other countries; the remainder assists Ethnic Scholarships for U.S. and international undergraduates studying in the U.S. and Ethnic In-Service Training. These funds are administered by the General Boards' of Higher Education and Ministry and  Global Ministries. (

Imagine that in a time in the world where Covid-19 has wrought so much loss and grief, a light shines on celebrating diversity through the provision of scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students in the U.S. across the country and the world.  Our Conference is one of many which will support these programs with generous giving; for students, we may never meet because this is where 'money meets mission.' Equally important is the richness of our faith, our opportunity to live into the spirit of our Dismantling Racism/Anti-racism FL Conference Plan, and to give witness to our unity of mission in Christ through the celebration of this day and this season.

While World Communion Sunday allows for a unique monetary offering to assist so many, the greatest, the lasting offering will be the hearts of growing as committed people of God, guided by the Spirit of the Lord, a world in which God's love will prevail. 

Rev. Dr. Sharon G. Austin
Interim Co-Superintendent,
Gulf Central District

Charge/Church Conference Schedule & Information

We have reached the time of year when we begin planning and hosting
Charge/Church Conferences.  As last year, we will hold most of our Conferences

CLICK HERE see the GCD Charge/Church Conference schedule, including date/time/Presiding Elder.  Please review carefully.  WE THANK THE PRESIDING ELDERS, especially those presiding over more than one Charge/Church Conference!

CLICK HERE to reach the 2021 Charge/Church Conference home instruction page.
CLICK HERE for the GCD forms. Make sure you read ALL form instructions carefully, they should answer your questions.

NOTE:  On Friday, 10/1 emails were sent to Senior pastors, local church administrators and Presiding Elders.  If you did not receive this instructional email, please email right away.

The following unsigned forms/reports must be submitted to the District via email by the date on the charge conference schedule;  Agenda, Membership Audit, Senior Pastors Report, Appointed Clergy Compensation Report, Housing Resolution, Accountable Reimbursement, Local Church Committee on Nominations & Leadership, Annual Report of Finance Committee, Annual Report of Board of Trustees. 
Don't delay in starting the paperwork, many have been revised.  Please do not submit your paperwork late.

REMINDER - we continue to work remotely, email your forms.  If you have an issue, contact the District office at to discuss.


The Office of Clergy Excellence has a short report for retired pastors who are not under appointment.  Click HERE to access the form. If you are not participating in any ministerial functions, please just add your contact information, church name where your charge conference relationship is held & sign. We simply want to keep in touch with you! The report is to be submitted to the church where your Charge Conference relationship is held.  Please submit the report to your church in time for them to submit it with their Fall Charge/Church Conference paperwork. 

How to reach your GCD team: 

The best way to reach the District staff is:

Laurie Hofts - Interim GCD Administrator - Administration/Financial related items - 
DS's Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans and Rev. Sharon Austin Co-GCD DS' - District Superintendent -
Beth Potter - Congregational Vitality -
We continue to work remote, however, if you need to reach by phone the  number is 727-585-1207


We look forward to welcoming Rev. Emily Hotho as our District Superintendent effective 1/1/2022.  

Please do not text or email Rev. Emily Oliver at Skycrest for District matters.  She remains Sr. Pastor at Skycrest until the end of the year. and needs to attend to those responsibilities.

Thank you!




Save the Date:  We Want to Hear from YOU!

Mark your calendars now for the Conference Table to be held on Saturday, November 6th from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. 

Join leaders of FLUMC ministries in discussing Bishop Carter’s four key priorities for our Annual Conference and engage in conversation about the future of The United Methodist Church. Laity or clergy who have a passion for our Annual Conference and the future of The UMC will want to be a part of this conversation. Engage the Conference Table conversation virtually by Zoom or attend in person (following Covid-19 protocols) at one of the regional gatherings provided around the state.
More details, including in-person site locations and registration, will be available in the coming weeks.

Ware Grant Application Released:

The Florida Conference has been entrusted with the responsibility of discerning and dispersing funds from the Ware Trust. The intended recipients are Florida Conference churches / ministries which reflect spiritual formation or ministry initiatives.

The funds for such initiatives originate from the Rev. H. Melton and Adelaide S. Ware Trust. Many Florida United Methodists are already aware of the contributions of the late Rev. and Mrs. Ware. Their gracious gifts have served to underwrite the cost of the prayer chapel at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park along with this perpetual grant.  Their financial and spiritual generosity is intended to enhance the experience opportunities for spiritual formation within our Conference.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND APPLICATION.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!

Encouraging Church Leaders This Pastor Appreciation Month 2021
By Troy Pollock  •  January 20, 2021

After all the changes and unpredictability brought about in 2020, churches were forced to pivot overnight and build completely new ministry strategies  to reach their communities. In the same way, church attendees were compelled to change the way they attend a worship service, engage with other members, and participate in Christian community.

However, one thing that does not have to change is the way we show pastors our appreciation for all they do.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

We are fast approaching  October, which happens to be Pastor Appreciation Month. This celebration was established in 1992 with the mission of uplifting and encouraging pastors, missionaries and religious workers. And, in 2020, they could probably use a little more encouragement than normal.


At Summit Conference 2019 in Dallas, TX, Carey Nieuwhof polled a live audience of more than 1,300 church leaders. He asked, “Over the past year, how many times have you experienced burnout symptoms?”

A shocking 46% said they’ve experienced burnout once or twice in the past year. Another 38% said regularly (3-6 times) in the past year, and 9% said constantly. That’s 92% of church leaders who have experienced burnout in the past year. And this was last year, before any of us had heard of COVID-19. What would the survey results look like now, if we asked 1,300 church leaders the same question today? I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing it would be closer to 100%.

Why? Pastors and church leaders went into ministry because of purpose and calling. They want to help people. They want to share the good news, make heaven more crowded, and make the world a better place. But today, the stresses and expectations of the role  mean pastors have far less time to pray and care for the spiritual needs of their congregation. Additionally, as a result of our politically charged and divided culture, pastors often feel pressured to speak about current events and issues dominating the news cycle.

A senior pastor recently said to me, “This is not the job I signed up for. I went into ministry because I wanted to share the same grace and forgiveness I found from God with others. But today, I am forced to talk on things I know very little about.. It’s challenging. For the first time in my 35 years of ministry, I have contemplated resigning more often than ever before.”

So, what can you do? Here are a few little suggestions that can make a big difference in the life of your pastor. Click HERE to continue reading.

Bishop Ken Carter

Dear Florida Conference Clergy:
If you missed the September 16 webinar, register now for the October 12 webinar. These two webinars are the same and you only need to attend  one. Attendance is not required but your participation is highly encouraged. Please do not register twice. If you've already registered, check your email for the Zoom link.

Bishop Carter Fall Clergy Meeting: A Dialogue with Scripture (Luke 10:41-42)
"Calling, Focus, and The One Thing That is Necessary"
Tuesday, October 12
10:00 - 11:00 am

Luke 10:41-42:
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

Bishop Carter will share and engage in dialogue with clergy around the question: What is our focus as an annual conference? Or said differently, what is the one thing that is necessary? (Luke 10:41).

In preparation, participants are asked to give thirty minutes to a reading of Luke 10:25-42 (which includes the Good Samaritan parable and the Mary and Martha passage) and reflect on the following four questions:

  •  What word or phrase resonates with my spirit in this season?
  • What is this teaching of Jesus calling me to do?
  • What is this teaching calling our annual conference to be?
  • What is the one thing that is necessary in the present moment? 

When registering, participants will be asked to give their response to the “one thing that is necessary in the present moment.” These answers will frame the reflection shared by Bishop Carter. 

Register here for webinar on Tuesday, October 12, 10 - 11 am

These webinars are limited to active and retired clergy. You will receive a Zoom email confirmation after your clergy status has been verified by staff. Please do not register twice. If you've already registered, check your email for the Zoom link. If you have questions, please contact Shannon Redden in the Episcopal Office


Save the Date

SPRC Training November 18, 2021 7-8:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Stay tuned for details!


Your church has changed through the Pandemic

Your community has changed through the Pandemic

Your congregation has changed through the Pandemic

No better time than now to request a Mystery Worshipper.  One our Gulf Central District Vitality Servants will visit your church online/in person to give you an unbiased, fresh view of your church’s worship experience.  Contact today to get set up! 

GCD Anti-Racism

Your District Anti-Racism Team is coming to you.  Yes, as we live into our purpose of “equips and empowers individuals and local churches to challenge racial injustice” we need to hear from you what your church needs to continue the conversation and journey.  A member of the GC Anti-Racism Team will be reaching out to every district senior pastor for a conversation during the next couple of months.  What you share will be critical in helping us support you and the local church.

 Coaching and Mentoring available.  Your District Anti-Racism Team is ready to support you in developing a plan to bring the Anti-Racism Journey to your church.  Contact to get connected.

Need resources and ideas.  Two great ways for you and your church to discover and learn more while to a resource to all as we work to end racism:  

  1. Gulf Central District’s Anti-Racism webpage at A glossary of terms; recommended books, podcasts, documentaries; and information on programs for your whole church are readily available to you. 
  2. Gulf Central District’s open FaceBook page, Call to Discipleship-End Racism ( is a great place to plug in.  Historical information, UMC resources referenced and so much more is constantly shared for the curious and for the advocate.


Guidance Related to Renewing BSA Chartering Agreements

On August 16, 2021, an email was sent from Bishop Carter, the Conference Chancellor, and the Conference Treasurer recommending to churches who host Boy Scout Troops that if they are asked to re-charter prior to January 1, 2022, that they do not sign a chartering agreement, but instead sign the Facilities Use Agreement that was attached. It was recommended that churches limit the duration of the agreement to no later than December 31, 2021. The Facility Use Agreement was developed by an ad hoc committee comprised of the General Counsel for the General Council on Finance and Administration, a number of Conference Chancellors and leaders from the General Council of United Methodist Men.

Since that August 16 email was sent out, there has been some confusion caused by some churches being presented a different Facilities Use Agreement by their local Boy Scout Council that came from the Boy Scouts of America and correspondence from the Boy Scouts earlier this month again encouraging churches to renew their charters. 

The Facilities Use Agreement proposed by local Boy Scout Councils is not the agreement that was sent in the above referenced email from the Bishop, Conference Chancellor, and Conference Treasurer. We do not recommend that you sign a Facilities Use Agreement presented to you by the Boy Scouts of America but you instead use the Facilities Use Agreement that was sent to you on August 16 and is again attached here. We also continue to recommend that local churches not enter into new chartering agreements at this time.

Attachment: Facilities Use Agreement

Grace & Peace,

Craig A. Smelser
Treasurer/Director of Administrative Services

Be Vigilant - Cyber Issues are Everywhere 

These are trying times for all of us, dealing with changes in how we work & live.  However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the constant threat of cybercrime.  Please be extra diligent during these times with respect to opening attachments and clicking on links in emails.  ONLY do so if the email is from a trusted source which means that you need to pay attention to who the email is from… not just the name (which can be spoofed) but the actual sending URL.   If you don’t know the source, DELETE the email

Questions to aid you in determining if your email is safe:

  1. Do you know the person or organization sending you the email?
  2. Was the email addressed to you or a group of which you are a member?
  3. Do the link destinations make sense?  (did you examine every link in the email by resting your pointer over the link (without clicking) to see where the link is really taking you?)
  4. Does it make sense that you would be receiving this information from this person or organization?
  5. Is the spelling and grammar in the email correct?
  6. Is the content of the email non-threatening?

Always stay on the side of caution! 

All Things Church Dashboard

Church Dashboard Access

Click HERE for the tutorials. Please review these tutorials which answer most questions!

  • You access the dashboard from the same place as before. It is at the top row of
  • All passwords have been reset to your GCFA number. The Username and Password are your GCFA number. Once you change the password, share it with others who access your church dashboard.
  • We know that all of the data did NOT transfer correctly. Please review all sections of your church dashboard and edit accordingly.

Are your church worship times correct in the church dashboard?

Take a moment to ensure that your worship times are accurately listed in your District dashboard so they are accurate on the Conference website! 

Most of our churches ensure that their websites include updated information for persons seeking to connect with their church.  However, fewer may realize that the Conference also posts worship information for most of our congregations.  Is your church’s dashboard outdated or incomplete?

As communities receive new residents and online viewing expands, accurate information on your church will become an asset for everyone!  Want to see what others see?  click here and search for your church.  You can review the information and if incorrect, go into your dashboard and make the adjustment.

Input your Social Media Links

A section has been added to the church dashboard so it accepts social media links for the following platforms

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
    Live Streaming

Click here for a tutorial (about 2 minutes) on how to enter your links! 

Lay Servant Ministries update

God Does Not Call The Equipped – God Equips The Called!

LAY SERVANT MINISTRIES is a leadership development program in The United Methodist Church, focused on equipping and empowering laypersons who have responded to the call of God to serve in mission and ministry, and live out their own discipleship as servants in leadership through the ministries of leading, caring, and communicating.

Through this equipping and empowering system, lay servants have the opportunity to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ and who then go and make other disciples.

To become a Certified Lay Servant, you must:

1. Obtain recommendation from the pastor and the church council or charge conference of the local church

2. Complete “Introduction to Lay Ministries: BASIC Course."    

3. Complete an advanced Lay Servant Ministries course.

In the Basic LSM course - which is the prerequisite for becoming a Certified Lay Servant - you will gain clarity around your talents and the needs of your community. You'll also reconnect with our United Methodist history and faith and learn how to reach out to others.

David Palmer, Director of the North Central District Lay Servant Ministries, will lead the Basic Lay Servant Ministries course online NOVEMBER 1-15. Easy and doable even if you are new to online learning, the two-week class will consist of 3 Zoom meetings of small groups and worship sessions.

The first Zoom meeting for this course will be held Monday, November 1, 6:00-7:30 pm EDT.  The second and third meeting days/time will be scheduled with learner input during meeting 1. Contact David at (352) 598-9823 or at with any questions.

Cost is $45.00  Learners will need the Lay Servant Ministries, Participant’s Book (Basic Course)

Join this one-of-a-kind online course in Lay Servant Ministries!

Click here to register at

Rental & Electric Assistance

The Conference Disaster Recovery team has informed by Hillsborough County about their emergency assistance program.  This information might be helpful information to share when you cross paths with someone who may need it.  Click here for details.

Electric Company Scam Alert!

We wanted to alert you to an electric company scam happening in our area.

You will receive an automated call that your electric will be shut off within 30 minutes or 1 hour and you are asked to contact a phone number.  Some have called the phone number and speak with a real person trying to obtain payment.  

Don't return the call, contact your electric company to verify.  One report was for TECO and the address they were trying to collect for was with Duke Energy.  TECO actually has an automated message on their recording stating to watch for the scam.



Let your staff know as they sound very convincing.  Just letting you know this seems to be happening a lot in our District.

Holiday Schedule for The Florida Annual Conference

The conference and district offices will be closed the following days.

November 11 Veteran's Day holiday

November 25-26 Thanksgiving holiday

December 24 Christmas holiday

December 27 Christmas holiday

December 31 New Year's Day holiday