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Florida Conference United Methodists gather as 'one body, one spirit'

Florida Conference United Methodists gather as 'one body, one spirit'

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference United Methodists gather as 'one body, one spirit'

June 8, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0308}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz** and Tita Parham

LAKELAND — Delegates become one body and one spirit through the worship and music featured at this year's annual conference event. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0177.

LAKELAND — It was a familiar location for the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event, but the mood was decidedly different as more than 2,000 Florida Conference clergy and laity gathered June 2-5 at the Lakeland Center.

Gathering under the theme "One Body, One Spirit," delegates experienced a new way of being in ministry together.

Delegates reach out to Lakeland residents, Florida's children

Returning to annual conference this year were Celebrate Jesus and Children's Harvest, but joining the roster of mission and outreach opportunities for delegates was Habitat for Humanity and Society of St. Andrew (SoSA).

A day before the annual conference officially convened, delegates had the opportunity to be the church in the Lakeland community by working on a local Habitat for Humanity home under construction and visiting residents in an area near downtown Lakeland through Celebrate Jesus, an evangelism ministry. Volunteers prayed with residents and invited them to a free block party from 2-4 p.m. June 5 at Lakeland's Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

LAKELAND — A Clergy Kid helps a delegate put school supplies in a backpack as part of the Florida Conference Children's Harvest ministry. The backpacks will be given to needy kids across the state. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0178.

The Rev. Fawn Mikel, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Pompano Beach, volunteered at the Habitat house. She said she thinks the mission opportunities before annual conference were a good idea.

"I think this should be our primary focus," she said. "This is what we're supposed to be about - being the arms, hands, feet of Jesus."

During the conference event, delegates donated five-pound bags of potatoes as part of a SoSA reverse potato drop. SoSA will give the potatoes to food distribution charities in the Lakeland area. Delegates also participated in the Florida Conference Children's Harvest as part of the Council of Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty (BICAP). Volunteers filled more than 1,000 backpacks with school supplies that will be distributed among the state's at-risk children and youth.

Event marks new beginning for conference

The annual gathering also marked a new phase of ministry as delegates began to connect with each other under a new district structure that officially takes effect July 1.

LAKELAND — A delegate pours one of 14 pitchers of water into a fountain as part of a brief ceremony at the opening session of the conference event. The 14 pitchers symbolize the 14 districts that are being reduced to nine. Photo by Geoff Anderson. Photo #05-0179.

Beginning next month the "Connecting for Transformation" proposal approved at last year's annual conference event will be implemented. The proposal, recommended by the Florida Conference Cabinet, reduces the conference's districts from 14 to nine, redefines the role of district superintendents in light of the change in districts, and requires all churches to be part of a cluster of churches within their district.

Delegates were given an opportunity to meet with the district superintendent and other members of their new district to ask questions related to the clusters: how they will be formed, who will lead them, what they will accomplish and other key issues.

At the opening session June 2, 14 pitchers of water were poured into a fountain on the center stage of the arena where the business sessions took place. At the end of the conference nine pitchers of water were taken from the fountain. Both symbolize the switch to the new structure.

LAKELAND — Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker dedicates the superintendents who will serve in the nine new districts effective July 1. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0180.

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker dedicated the superintendents of the new districts at the closing session June 5. They are the Rev. Tony Fernandez, North West District; the Rev. Dr. Rick Neal, North East District; the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, North Central District; the Rev. Wayne Curry, Gulf Central District; the Rev. Dr. Bert Blomquist, South Central District; the Rev. Dr. Jeff Stiggins, East Central District; the Rev. Mike Oliver, Atlantic Central District; the Rev. David Herman, South West District; and the Rev. Deborah McLeod, South East District.
Superintendents who will be ending their terms effective July 2005 are the Rev. Dr. Jim Maxfield, interim superintendent of the Lakeland District; the Rev. Dr. E. Keith Ewing, interim superintendent of the Miami District; the Rev. Dr. Kevin James, who has served for seven years as superintendent of the St. Petersburg District; the Rev. Dr. Sharon Patch, who has served for five years as superintendent of the Ft. Myers District; and the Rev. Dr. Terry Markins, who is ending three years of service as superintendent of the Leesburg District.

Event highlights ministry to larger community, world

This year's "One Body, One Spirit" theme was developed by Whitaker to reflect the series of hurricanes that swept through the state last year and how Florida Conference United Methodists worked together to help their churches and neighbors recover from the storms.

During a presentation by members of the Florida Conference Storm Recovery (SRC) Center, delegates heard stories of individuals and churches that were helped by SRC staff and volunteers.

Tom Hazelwood, director of domestic disaster response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), said the UMCOR board of directors decided at its recent spring meeting to earmark $1.9 million of the money raised through its 2004 Hurricanes fund for the Florida Conference.

LAKELAND — Richmond Area Bishop Charlene Kammerer presided with Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker over a communion service held June 2 during the 2005 annual conference event. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0181.

Bishop Charlene Kammerer attended this year's conference as guest preacher and delivered sermons at the evening worship services June 3 and 4. She and Whitaker presided over a communion service and another in which attendees were encouraged to remember their baptisms and be thankful.

Kammerer is Episcopal leader of the Richmond Annual Conference and was elected to the Episcopacy from the Florida Conference. She shared a world view of the United Methodist Church as she relayed experiences from her relationships with the Roman Catholic bishop and Episcopal priest from the Charlotte Area, where she served as bishop before being appointed to the Richmond Conference, and her opportunity to witness a baptism in an Armenian church constructed by United Methodists.

The Rev. Clarence DeSue, pastor of Bethlehem United Methodist Church in High Springs, said the sermons, combined with the music, made him enjoy this annual conference more than any other year.

"I truly enjoyed the theme," he said. "I have the sense that we are 'One Body, One Spirit,' and it's encouraging that the power of the Holy Spirit is moving through the United Methodist Church. It has been an awesome time."

Churches were encouraged to bring an offering to be collected at the worship service June 3. A total of $118,778.36 was given, with more expected to be sent to the conference offices in Lakeland. Eighty percent of the offering will be used in East Angola for projects relating to the partnership between the East Angola Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Florida Conference.

LAKELAND — Delegates give to this year's annual conference offering, which will be used in East Angola for projects related to the partnership between the Florida Conference and the East Angola Conference of the United Methodist Church. A portion will also go to the Florida Conference Children's Harvest. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0182.

The partnership began in February 2003 after a three-person team from Florida visited Angola. The United Methodist Council of Bishops asked the Florida Conference to turn its attention to East Angola after the Florida Conference completed the Bishop Cornelius L. and Dorothye Henderson Secondary School in Mozambique.

The offering will be used to help rebuild the theological school at Quéssu, the United Methodist spiritual center in Angola that was almost destroyed during the country's civil war. The money will also help bring two Angolan students to Florida to study at Florida Southern College and share their experiences at local United Methodist churches.

Funds raised at past annual conference events have helped rebuild the church at Quéssua and buy bicycles for Angolan pastors, sewing machines for a women's center and medicine for a clinic.

The remaining 20 percent of the offering will go toward the Children's Harvest ministry.

Delegates tackle conference business

Delegates approved the Florida Conference Council on Finance & Administration's (CF&A) recommended 2006 total conference budget of $19,241,020, an increase of 2.3 percent.

LAKELAND — One of the youngest attendees of the annual conference event enjoys the One Celebration picnic dinner at Florida Southern College June 4. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0183.

Dan Johnson, president of CF&A, reported that 2004 marked one of the best years for the conference financially. Giving to conference and general apportionments totaled $16.38 million, an increase of more the $1.1 million over 2003. The percentage of apportionments given was 87.6 percent, compared with 84.5 percent in 2003. 

Delegates also approved increasing the salary of district superintendents to the average of the top 25 2004 salaries of pastors serving Florida Conference churches that paid 100 percent of their 2004 apportionments. This formula results in a salary of $87,450 for 2006. Superintendent salaries for 2005 were $79,850. Pension and other benefits will be paid accordingly.

Dr. Randy Casey-Rutland, Florida Conference statistician, reported conference membership in 2004 was 325,609, a decline of 3,409. Overall worship attendance was 161,038, a decline of 337. Throughout the past 12 years overall membership has steadily decreased by about 18,000 members and worship attendance has increased by slightly more than 10,000.

Delegates also approved a battery of standing rules, which outline the structure of the conference's ministries and its administrative procedures. The Standing Rules committee rewrote the rules to reflect changes in both conference structure and those directed by the 2004 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

Unlike past years when it appeared a wearisome task, the Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, clergy on voluntary leave, said approving the new Standing Rules was not as tedious this year.

LAKELAND — Youth of the Florida United Methodist Children's Home choir share their gift of song with conference delegates. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0184.

"It was really good to see the church in action," she said. "Everything has been really stream-lined."

In other business delegates approved:

n Giving the Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits the authority to conclude a process of reviewing proposals from major health-care providers and make decisions about providers and benefits based on those proposals. The goal is to provide clergy and lay employees of the conference and local churches with the best benefits at the best price without a significant increase over current costs.

n A recommendation by the Commission on Equitable Compensation to set the 2006 minimum salary for clergy in full connection with a master's of divinity or equivalent degree at $33,000, an increase of a little more than 3 percent over 2005.

n A call for a comprehensive plan for Haitian and African-American ministries in the conference.

n That funds donated by churches to Conference Advance Specials be sent directly to the ministries endorsed as Conference Advance Specials, instead of to the conference offices, to ensure that ministries receive the funds more quickly.

n Giving members of the Commission on Archives and History permission to enter into talks with Florida Southern College to establish a suite in the archives wing at the college's Roux Library to house the Florida Conference archives collection.

n Discontinuing seven churches: Woodlands United Methodist Church, Tamarac; Lakeview Hispanic United Methodist Church, Miami; Peace United Methodist Church, Miami; Lockhart United Methodist Church, Orlando; Venus United Methodist Church, Nocatee; Harris Temple United Methodist Church, Tampa; and Highland United Methodist Church, Tampa.

LAKELAND — Four candidates for ministry are ordained at the annual conference event's closing service June 5. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0185.

In the services of licensing, commissioning and ordination 29 people were licensed as local pastors; 18 were commissioned as probationary members (two as probationary deacons and 16 as probationary elders); and four were ordained as elders in full connection.

This year's annual conference celebrated the retirement of 25 clergy persons.

The Office of New Church Development reported it leads all United Methodist conferences in the number of new church starts, with 18 new churches launched or scheduled to be launched in 2005 and 15 scheduled for 2006. That exceeds the goal stated in the ministry's 2004 strategic plan to start 15 new churches and missions each year for the next five years beginning this year. Of the new ministries launched this year, three are Anglo, one is Korean, two are Haitian and 12 are Hispanic. The number of Hispanic churches, missions or communities of faith has doubled during the past three years.

The Florida United Methodist Foundation reported during its annual meeting, held each year before the body of annual conference, that it has more than $143 million dollars in assets under management, an increase of 15 percent over lat year. That makes the foundation the largest United Methodist Foundation supporting a single conference.

An offering collected June 5 for the Ministerial Scholarship Endowment Fund totaled $4305.22. The money will be used to assist ministerial candidates as they complete their theological education. The endowment fund is part of the Conference Capital Campaign being led by the Florida United Methodist Foundation and currently has $250,000 toward its $2 million goal.

LAKELAND — This year's 90 summer camp team leaders are commissioned by Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0186.

Whitaker commissioned 90 college-aged young adults June 4 to serve as team leaders of this year's summer camp ministry.

The 2005 Grindheim-Sims Award was given to the Rev. Wayne C. Stone. The award is given annually to the pastor of a small membership church who has distinguished him- or herself through efforts in evangelism and church growth.

The 2005 Denman Evangelism Awards were presented to the Rev. E. Dale Locke, pastor of Community of Hope United Methodist Church in Loxahatchee, and Jerry Frey, a member of Aloma United Methodist Church in Orlando.

The awards are presented annually to a United Methodist clergy and lay person in each annual conference for outstanding work in Christian evangelism. The award is named for the late Dr. Harry Denman, distinguished lay evangelist whom Dr. Billy Graham called "my mentor in evangelism." The Foundation for Evangelism, founded in 1949 by Denman, makes the awards possible.

The clergy award is given to the pastor of a small membership church who has distinguished him- or herself through efforts in evangelism and church growth. Criteria for the award are the ratio of persons received on profession of faith to number of members at the beginning of the year and performance in eleven ministry areas specified in the founding charter for the award.

Delegates voted to hold the 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event at the Lakeland Center.


This article relates to 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer with e-Review Florida united Methodist News Service.