Main Menu

Conference Table examines reorganizing camps and retreat center (April 2, 2004)

Conference Table examines reorganizing camps and retreat center (April 2, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference Table examines reorganizing camps and retreat center

April 2, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0051}

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

ORLANDO - A proposal presented at the March 13 Conference Table gathering seeks to drastically restructure the way the Florida Conference camps and retreat center operate and increase their usage by United Methodists and non-denominational groups.

The Rev. Dick Wills, senior pastor at Christ Church United Methodist in Fort Lauderdale, said there is a need for restructuring because there have been numerous problems with the camps in the past. He said the camps and Life Enrichment Center (LEC) have overspent income since 1997, resulting in a $918,550 deficit. The facilities receive funding from a variety of sources, such as the conference board of trustees and subsidies from apportionments.

"There is much confusion since there is a camp facilities committee, which has not had contact with program and ministry arms of the conference," Wills said. "Also, there is confusion about funding sources. The new structure will allow ministry to be put first, as well as having facilities and those needs at the same table. It also allows for persons and groups who have a special interest in a camp site to be part of the local booster group to help with additional fund raising and volunteer possibilities."

The meeting at First United Methodist Church, Orlando, was led by the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office, and Wills.

The proposal calls for the Centenary Camp in Tallahassee, Manfred Retreat Center in Miami, Lake Asbury Retreat Center in North Florida, the South Florida Camp near Alva and both the LEC and Warren W. Willis Camp in Leesburg to be operated by a Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries (BCRM).

BCRM would oversee the facilities, establish their vision and mission, develop a comprehensive master plan and long- and short-term goals, support the facilities, and maintain the properties.

BCRM members would be nominated by the Conference Committee on Leadership, elected by the annual conference in four classes of three people each and serve no more than eight years. Members would strive to combine decisions about ministry, facilities and land and have a management approach to promote financial stability.

The proposal also calls for local advisory committees at each site to act as advocates or boosters for the property. They would also identify special projects, needs and ideas for the ministry of the site and implement them with the approval of BCRM.

An executive director would oversee the ministries, facilities and development of the camps and retreat facilities and manage senior staff at each location. That person would report to BCRM and the director of Connectional Ministries.

The proposal also suggests hiring a retreat and camps ministry specialist who would act as a liaison to conference staff and groups responsible for major conference events, such as summer camp and United Methodist Men's and Women's retreats. That person would also develop retreat and camping programming formats and resources for groups.

Burkholder said she realizes the proposals are a major change from how the conference has viewed the camps and retreat facilities.

"This is a huge theological and philosophical shift," she said.

While many United Methodist groups use the camps and LEC, more usage is needed to offset the overspending. Sixty-two United Methodist groups and 27 non-United Methodist groups used the camps and LEC in 2003. Major users are the summer youth campers, United Methodist Men and Women, Boy and Girl Scouts, Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis participants, family campers, Hispanic Ministries and the Methodist Student Movement.

ORLANDO - Mike Standifer (left), director of the Florida Conference Council on Ministries' summer camp ministry, talks with Michel D'Annecy, executive director of the camps and retreat center for nearly 10 years, after the March 13 Conference Table meeting at First United Methodist Church here. The meeting examined a proposal that will be voted on at annual conference to reorganize the conference camps and retreat center. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #04-0018.

After the meeting Michel D'Annecy, executive director of the camps and retreat center for nearly 10 years, said he is in favor of the proposal. He retires June 6.

"I am ecstatic about the new proposal, and I pray that it will be highly accepted and approved by the annual conference," he said.

D'Annecy said the proposals could turn the deficit of operating camps and retreats into the profit margin.

"Several factors prevented the camps and retreat centers from operating at clear profit," he said. "One being the high cost of maintenance versus the low room/cabins rates. The other factor is the impossibility to get a clear reality relationship between ministry, revenue, services and costs, including the reality of capital amortization and replacement/maintenance reserve."

Sue Cepurl, a member of the Florida Conference Family Camp Committee, said the proposals were very encouraging.

"Avenues are opening up," she said. "We are starting to address some problems. Family campers have different needs, and I hope they have voice on roles and regulations."

Leland McKeown, president of the Florida Conference board of trustees, said he supports the overall reorganization. He said the proposals promote better communication between the conference, conference groups and the facilities.

"The camps and retreats are evangelical in nature," he said. "I went to my first Men's retreat in 1973. There I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. I've been in church all my life, but I had that kind of experience at a Men's retreat, and I know other men and pastors who have similar experiences. I think we need to support camps and retreats with conference dollars. If we can send money to Africa, we can keep money here at home in Florida because camps and retreats are mission projects."


This article relates to the Conference Table 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.