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Conference holds meetings on restructure proposals (April 1, 2004)

Conference holds meetings on restructure proposals (April 1, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference holds meetings on restructure proposals

April 1, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0050}

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

GAINESVILLE - Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker said the meetings he and the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Florida Conference's Connectional Ministries office, have attended throughout the conference to gain feedback from laity and clergy about restructuring the conference's districts and Council on Ministries (CCOM) have been positive overall.

"There has been excellent attendance at the meetings," Whitaker said. "We have had healthful discussions. The atmosphere has been very good, and people appear to be open to receive the proposals. I hear positive things when I talk with people after the meetings."

The proposals to restructure the conference's 14 districts and replace the CCOM with a structure called the Conference Equipping Network (CEN) were first presented during a Conference Table meeting Jan. 30. Both proposals will be presented at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event for approval.

Whitaker and Burkholder met at Trinity United Methodist Church here, their third stop, March 17. The two will visit their fifth and final site, First United Methodist Church, Lakeland, April 15.

After the meeting here the Rev. Kenneth Hamilton said he was excited about the proposals. During the question and answer period the senior pastor at Bethel United Methodist Church in Lake City used his time at the microphone to talk about the importance of the district office being easily accessible.

"I think there's a lot of work to do," he said. "My only concern about restructuring the districts is that we be sensitive to the location of district offices."

Another participant wanted to know if the redistricting process would hinder the exposure of Hispanic and ethnic churches. Whitaker said it could mean greater exposure because ethnic churches would work in conjunction with other churches and not necessarily be in the same district or cluster.

Whitaker assured the crowd that delegates would have an opportunity to meet in small groups and discuss the proposals before voting on them and voting would not occur the first day of annual conference.

"Many annual conferences are moving toward restructuring," Whitaker said. "There needs to be a reorientation of our lives together. I think if we use this proposal God can work with us in ways God could not work before."

The Florida Conference's cabinet developed the 13-page redistricting proposal, titled "Connecting for Transformation." It would reduce the number of districts from 14 to nine, encourage churches to be part of a cluster and change the responsibilities of district superintendents. Each of the nine new districts would be as equal as possible in the number of churches and missions, membership, finances, land size and ease of transportation within the district, and each would have between 74 and 94 churches and missions and 20,000 to 51,000 members.
Each district would establish a leadership council of 12 to 15 clergy and lay leaders that would assist the superintendent in major strategic decisions and function as the superintendency, finance and nominations committees, and board of trustees.
The Rev. Robinsky Reed, pastor of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church here, said he thinks the restructuring proposal is good for the future of the church.

"It's going to take time to implement, but I like it," he said. "I think it's a fresh approach. It's really going to make us people who are united."
The second proposal eliminating the CCOM in favor of the CEN is intended to move the conference away from maintaining programs and toward identifying and fulfilling future leadership needs.
The CEN's core is the Leadership Connection, a team of no more than 15 laity and clergy who would be responsible for setting the vision for and identifying ministry needs. That group would also create task teams to focus on meeting the identified ministry needs and visions.
The CEN would focus more on information, research into ministry trends and needs, developing ministries and equipping people for those ministries, and seeking and evaluating input and feedback to assist in future research.

Burkholder said the current CCOM structure no longer works. "We can't function in the old way any longer," she said at the meeting.

Eddie Nattiel, a member of Banks United Methodist Church in Archer, said the proposals sound like excellent ideas to him. He said he hadn't given much thought to either one before the meeting, but is a supporter after hearing about the possible benefits.

Carolyn Buie, a member of Ocala West United Methodist Church, said she wanted to attend the meeting after hearing rumors about the proposals.

"I think the proposals sound good," she said. "We have gotten so large, and it's hard to move."

Whitaker said he's proud of the work the cabinet and CCOM have put into the proposals and the time invested to make them successful.

"These are proposals that will better order our life together as an annual conference," he said. "They are relevant for our mission today. They will make us more effective in mission."

Whitaker says he trusts "the authority of the annual conference to make its own mind up."

To read the full text of the cabinet and CCOM proposals visit

Portions of this article first appeared in a Feb. 25 story by Florida Conference Communications Director Michael Wacht.


This article relates to the Conference Table, Council on Ministries and Conference Restructure.

*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.