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Florida Conference helps start new church in Mississippi

Florida Conference helps start new church in Mississippi

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference helps start new church in Mississippi

Nov. 20, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0767}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard and Woody Woodrick**

The Florida Conference is known for starting new churches in record numbers in the United States. This year alone, the conference’s New Church Development committee is anticipating starting 22 new congregations.

But that’s all in Florida. If you add the one being started in Mississippi, that number is 23.

The Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan (center), director of Florida Conference New Church Development, presents the first of three checks for $30,000 to the Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson (left), administrative assistant to Mississippi Conference Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, and the Rev. Kurt Appel, chair of Mississippi Conference New Church Development. Photo by Woody Woodrick. Photo #07-0707.

“The New Church Development Committee wanted to do something missional beyond Florida,” said the Rev. Mont Duncan, executive director of the Florida Conference’s New Church Development office. “God has blessed us with resources beyond our apportionment dollars, and I had a vision for planting a new church beyond our conference.”

That vision included helping the Mississippi Conference start a new church, Duncan said, and it came from his son, who was a junior at the University of South Florida and worked in hurricane Katrina relief during a spring break in Moss Point, Miss.

“I got to thinking about Moss Point and figured things might be tight in Mississippi,” Duncan said. “I wanted to do something within our jurisdiction and with a group that had a heart for planting new churches.”

Duncan went to his committee in September, and they approved his idea.

“I wanted a substantial gift,” he said. “I suggested $90,000.”

That gift is coming from the interest earned on loans given by the New Church Development committee to new Florida Conference churches for their first buildings. The interest is invested in a fund with the Florida United Methodist Foundation.

Duncan visited Mississippi in October to present the first of three $30,000 checks that will be given to the Mississippi Conference over three years.

The Rev. Embra Jackson, who serves as administrative assistant to the bishop in Mississippi and also works on new church development, said the timing of the gift was providential.

“This gift is a godsend,” Jackson said. “It means so much to us. When Mont called, we had just finished a cabinet meeting with (Mississippi Conference) Bishop Hope Morgan Ward where we had discussed starting additional new churches in our annual conference beyond the three per year that we had set as a minimum goal last year.”

That night, Duncan called with news of the gift, no strings attached, other than the money must be used to start a new church, not revitalize an existing congregation.

“I nearly shouted in his ears,” said Jackson. “I was overwhelmed by the Florida Conference’s gift.”

Bishop Ward also thanked the conference for the gift.

“We celebrate the wonderful gift from the Florida Conference and give thanks for their partnership in the expanding mission of the Mississippi Conference,” she said. “The Florida Conference has demonstrated in this remarkable way their commitment to new church development beyond the bounds of their conference. May we be inspired by this gift in every local congregation to reach out in to the world Christ came to save.”

Duncan said experts recommend the number of annual new church starts should equal 3 percent of the current number of churches in the conference in order to impact the culture. That means the Florida Conference should start about 21 or 22 new churches every year. The plans for 2007-2008, Duncan said, call for starting 23: seven predominately Anglo and 15 ethnic, including seven Hispanic, six Haitian, one Chinese and one Brazilian.

And one in Mississippi.


This article relates to New Church Development.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference. Woodrick is the editor of the Mississippi Christian Advocate.