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biweekly digest

biweekly digest

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Biweekly Digest

March 11, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   Orlando  {0039}

Feb. 29 - March 11, 2004
Biweekly Digest PDF version click here

Worship team opens communication between church and community over movie
[March 3, 2004 {0033}]

ORLANDO - When the worship design team at Aloma United Methodist Church decided they wanted to get out of the box and do something different they really did something different. The church rented a local movie theater and invited both church members and residents in the surrounding community to attend private showings of "The Passion of the Christ." The Rev. Bruce Williams, senior pastor at the church, said it took about six weeks of planning. The effort was worth it when 226 people were seated for the first showing at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 24. Church members were available to pray with people and gave away free religious books for seekers. Williams also designed several sermons to help provide answers to questions raised by the movie for people who aren't members of the church and want to learn more. "We want to open the scriptures and be able to invite people in to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," Williams said. Churches searching for United Methodist resources related to the movie should visit for commentaries, an extensive study guide and a review from denominational leaders. full story

Treasurer says 2003 ends on low note, high hopes for 2004
[March 4, 2004 {0034}]

LAKELAND - Florida Conference Treasurer Dr. Randy Casey Rutland said apportionment giving continued to be down in 2003, but he stopped short of saying a declining trend is emerging for the conference. "Apportionment giving for the conference in 2003 ended three quarters of a percent lower than 2002," Casey Rutland said. "We were at 84.47 percent in 2003 and 85.21 percent in 2002." Casey-Rutland said the decrease could be attributed to a weaker economy and the high cost of property and health insurance, resulting in some churches not meeting apportionment obligations. "We ended up better than it appeared we were going to do," he said. "December 2003 was a very, very strong month. It's always the biggest giving month." Now that the 2003 numbers are in, Casey-Rutland said he is concentrating on the 2004 annual conference budget, which increased 3.7 percent or $660,405 above the 2003 budget. He said identifying priorities is an enormous challenge for the conference and is encouraging General Conference delegates to be aware of issues addressed at the denomination's gathering this April that will increase the budget. A report of the proposed churchwide budget for 2005-08 is available on the General Council on Finance and Administration's Web site at http:// A summary of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits proposals is available at      full story

Bishop appoints new assistant, district superintendents
[March 5, 2004 {0035}]

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. full story

Conference gears up for 2004 annual event
[March 8, 2004 {0036}]

LAKELAND - Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker is encouraging attendees and delegates to embrace the new format for the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event. "This is nothing we can't handle," Whitaker said. "This is a lot of change, and that's OK. Change is not bad, and we can do this." The annual conference event will be June 3-6 at Bethune-Cookman College (BCC) in Daytona Beach. The theme is "A Light to the Nations." One difference between the 2004 annual conference event and previous ones is the new location. This year's event is being held outside Lakeland for the first time in many years. It is also a weekend event, beginning on Thursday and ending Sunday. Whitaker said the change will hopefully allow working people who have an interest in the annual conference event to participate at higher levels than in recent years when the event was held during the week. Additionally, a number of important issues will be addressed, such as reducing the number of districts within the conference and reorganizing the Conference Council on Ministries and camping and retreat ministries. For more information about the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event visit       full story

Visitors flock to Port Orange church
[March 9, 2004 {0037}]

PORT ORANGE - Visitors are part of the life of most churches, but the sheer numbers of people visiting First United Methodist Church here have been more than ordinary. The church, located on the south side of Daytona Beach, logged a record number 460 visitors last year alone. The Rev. Kim Joyner attributes that high number to a variety of factors-the location of the church in a community experiencing rapid growth, the construction of a new sanctuary, the church's involvement in and commitment to positively impact the community, and its welcoming nature. He said the church offers a variety of worship styles to fit all preferences. Many of the visitors are also choosing to join, according to Joyner. He said about 25 percent of the church's visitors become members. "I believe our visitors sincerely find a church that is a church, not some special club where visitors are not welcome," said church member Heidi Fleming. "Our church has so much to offer every age group. We have mighty music and powerful preaching; you can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit." 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.