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Biweekly Digest

Biweekly Digest

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Biweekly Digest

Feb. 13, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   Orlando  {0023}

Feb. 2-13, 2004
Biweekly Digest PDF version click here

Church donates $250,000 to conference for land near camp
[Feb. 3, 2004 {0017}]

LAKELAND - The Rev. Riley Short has always had a place in his heart for the Florida Conference's Warren W. Willis Camp in Leesburg. Short was among the first campers when the facility opened in 1949, and his father preached at the camp dedication ceremony. "I know the value of church camp and the spiritual life it helps develop in young people," said Short, who has served as chairman of the Florida Conference Camp Facilities Committee. "It is holy ground." As pastor at First United Methodist Church here for 12 years before retiring last June, Short said it was a logical step for the church to raise $250,000 through its capital funds campaign to help the conference pay the mortgage on 19.1 acres of land adjacent to the Warren W. Willis Camp in Leesburg purchased in 2002. Short and other First Church leaders presented the money to Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker Jan. 23 at the church. "The church made a commitment to conference youth for years to come," said the Rev. Robert Gibbs, who was appointed to the church in June 2003. "This is something for others, for the larger church."  full story

Wesley House makes plans to help state, county manage foster care
[Feb. 9, 2004 {0020}]

KEY WEST - Wesley House Family Services has come a long way since its creation in 1927 when it was founded by the Methodist Church as a settlement program for Key West's Cuban community. It has expanded its ministry to include a variety of social, religious, educational and recreational services for Key West's diverse population, but it has never strayed from its mission of promoting and enhancing the safety, well-being and development of children. That commitment is the reason Wesley House is now applying to the state to provide services for children in protective supervision, foster care and pre- and post-adoptive homes as the state begins to privatize or transfer specific services currently performed by the Florida Department of Children and Families. Two other Monroe County agencies have also applied. Wesley House is supported by the Florida Conference and the General Board of Global Ministries, as well as the state, other organizations and individuals. Wendy Nunn, Wesley House's director of development, said the agency's history of working with the state makes taking on new responsibilities logical. "Some private agency has to take that responsibility, and due to our history, mission and goals, we think we should do it," she said. "We have been supporting foster families, training foster families to receive their license and maintain their license. Everything we have done previously is to protect the safety and well-being of children. We've just never had direct responsibility for the children."  full story

Numbers reveal more than half conference's churches in decline
[Feb. 12, 2004 {0021}]

LAKELAND - The numbers don't lie. Data shows nearly 90 percent of Florida Conference churches and missions that submitted charge conference surveys asking questions to determine each individual church's health were categorized as plateaued or declining. Approximately 537 of the conference's 740 churches, new church starts and missions had submitted the surveys as of the end of January, according to the Rev. Kendall Taylor, director of the Office of Congregational Transformation (OCT). "The numbers are terribly disappointing," Taylor said, adding he had predicted the survey figures would hover around the 70 percent mark and was surprised they were higher. "It means these churches are ineffective at making disciples. It means they are primarily taking care of their members. The numbers bore that out. It can't be denied." OCT was established during the 2002 Florida Annual Conference Event to expand on the conference's former Operation Evangelization Ministry. Its goal is to breathe new life into maintaining and dying churches using a church revitalization process called Natural Church Development (NCD). In 2003 annual conference delegates approved classifying churches using five categories: beginning, transforming, reproducing, maintaining and dying. The data gathered through the surveys was based on those categories.   full story

Hispanic Ministry assembles translation dream team
[Feb. 13, 2004 {0022}]

LAKELAND - The Rev. Edwin Santos said more and more Hispanics will have a higher level of participation now that the Florida Conference will be providing translation services from English to Spanish for conference materials. The Florida Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM) will immediately begin offering the translation services for written, as well as spoken, communication in conjunction with the CCOM's Hispanic Ministry. "This is something I've wanted for a long time," said Santos, director of the Hispanic Ministry. "We are thrilled." The translation services are limited to conference ministries, but Santos hopes to expand services in the future to district offices. He said providing the services means the conference is committed to Hispanic Ministry and he is happy conference leadership is reaching out to the 3,000 Hispanics who worship at the 53 conference churches and missions. "If Spanish translation goes well we would like to get teams together to translate documents into Creole, Korean and Portuguese," Santos said. "This is the first step." full story

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*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service