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Bishop appoints new assistant, district superintendents (March 5, 2004)

Bishop appoints new assistant, district superintendents (March 5, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Bishop appoints new assistant, district superintendents

March 5, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0035}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND - In a recent release Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker announced changes to the Florida Conference cabinet effective following the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event June 3-6.

The Rev. Charles E. Weaver, superintendent of the Tallahassee District, will be appointed assistant to the bishop, succeeding the Rev. Dr. E. Keith Ewing, who is retiring in June. The Rev. Antonio Fernandez, pastor of Hispanic American United Methodist Church in the Miami District, will be appointed superintendent of the Tallahassee District. And the Rev. James R. Maxfield, who retired in 1998, will become interim superintendent of the Lakeland District, succeeding the Rev. Aldo O. Martin, who also retires this June. The position is an interim one because of the effects of a proposal to reorganize the districts that will be presented at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event.

In his release Whitaker said Fernandez will provide strong leadership to the Tallahassee District "as a person of theological depth and pastoral sensitivity." A native of Cuba, Fernandez served as a pastor and district superintendent in The Methodist Church in Cuba. He has been pastor of the Hispanic American United Methodist Church in Hialeah for 18 years.

Whitaker said he is thankful Maxfield accepted the appointment during this period when the cabinet is proposing a new district structure. Maxwell has been executive secretary of New Church Development in the General Board of Global Ministries, executive director of the Florida United Methodist Foundation and superintendent of the St. Petersburg District.

"I am very grateful to Jim for this special service during his retirement," Whitaker said.

Ewing is retiring as assistant to the bishop after serving more than seven years in that capacity. He said he accepted the position Jan. 1, 1997, at the "persuasive invitation" of the late Florida Annual Conference Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson.

"I have had the rare privilege of serving in ministry with three gifted servants of God," Ewing said. "The late Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson, Bishop J. Lloyd Knox, who served on an interim basis following the untimely death of Bishop Henderson, and our current Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker. Each of these brought his own gifts to this office."

Ewing praised Henderson for his love of people, Bishop J. Lloyd Knox for his compassion for people marginalized by society and Whitaker for his openness to hearing all opinions surrounding issues and then coming to a considered decision, a characteristic Ewing says is a hallmark of Whitaker's leadership.

Whitaker expressed high regard for both retiring elders.

"I am very grateful for the service of Dr. Keith Ewing and the Rev. Aldo Martin..." Whitaker said. "Keith provided stability in the Episcopal Office during the time of the illness and death of Bishop Cornelius Henderson, and he has been an invaluable aid to me in my work. Aldo has provided excellent spiritual leadership on the Lakeland District and in the cabinet."

Weaver said the lure of working with Whitaker was most appealing to him in accepting the position.

"It's a great honor to work with him," Weaver said. "He's a great gift to the Florida Conference and the whole United Methodist Church."

Weaver said he is also looking forward to working with colleagues and friends he has known since he joined the conference in 1972. He said his roles as pastor, former conference statistician and district superintendent will bring depth to his new position, adding it will be challenging to step into the role Ewing has perfected.

"Dr. Ewing is a living legend," he said. "He has such knowledge of the conference, the [United Methodist] 'Book of Discipline' and standing rules. It's going to be awesome sitting in his office."

Ewing offered words of encouragement for Weaver.

"My advice for the Rev. Charles Weaver is to be himself in this aspect of ministry," he said. "He is especially gifted, in my opinion, for this position. I encourage him to use this opportunity to learn as much as possible about leadership from Bishop Whitaker. He will find the relationships with the laity and clergy of our conference to be fulfilling. I encourage him to take every advantage of that opportunity."

Ewing said he leaves this phase of his ministry with fond memories.

"The relationships with laity and clergy developed in so many different aspects of ministry of this office are a pleasant memory," he said. "The opportunity to serve as a mediator and interpreter of the rules and policies of the general church and the annual conference has been very fulfilling."

Ewing said experiencing the diversity of the conference from Chattahoochee to Key West has shown him the wonderful challenges God places before the Florida Conference. He said for a person born in Moore Haven on the southwest banks of Lake Okeechobee, it has been a gift of God to become acquainted with the diversity of the conference.

As Ewing looks to the future, he said his plans are two-fold. "I am making myself available to the bishop and cabinet for any service they might feel I could fulfill," he said. "The other part of my retirement plans is to spend more time with my wife and our family, especially our four grandchildren."


This article relates to Conference Leadership.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service