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Commissioning and Ordination Services Take On Special Meaning

Commissioning and Ordination Services Take On Special Meaning

Leadership Missions and Outreach

On a warm Saturday morning on September 12 at the Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park, men and women from across Florida came together to accept leadership roles in the Florida United Methodist Conference.

There were two Deaconesses, 11 provisional Deacons and Elders, 13 ordained Deacons and Elders, and two District Superintendents. This service is always a highlight in the Conference's calendar year.

But this year, as everyone knows, is unlike any other. Those stepping up to serve and lead in this time of division and disease accept a special calling. Bishop Kenneth Carter, who presided over the service, made that clear.

"We are United Methodist followers of Jesus, and we are deacons and elders of the church. We live in a large, dynamic, and diverse state. Change all around us is constant," he said. "We live in a season of two viruses – COVID, over 12,500 of our neighbors have died of this virus in the last six months, and the virus of racism, which has also led to death.

"We trust in the providence of God to walk with us during an extraordinary season. And we feel called to lead, precisely because we are being led."

These positions are about service, leadership, and placing others higher than yourself – traits that Jesus made clear through multiple acts of servanthood.

Bishop Ken Carter (left) and two new District Superintendents: Rev. Dr. Thom Shafer (center) and Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt.

Rev. Dr. Thom Shafer, Senior Pastor at Cypress Lake UMC in Fort Myers, noted that in brief remarks before he was formally commissioned as the Superintendent of the South West District. It is his second time to serve as a Superintendent.

"Twenty years ago, when Bishop Cornelius Henderson invited me to his office, he simply said, Thom, I want you to be the chief servant of the Jacksonville District," Shafer said.

"Back in December when (Bishop Carter) called, maybe not in those precise words, but I was asked once again to be a chief servant.

"Place others before, be mindful of that which you are called to do – to proclaim goodness, to find hope, to find peace, to find joy, to the world in which we live."

Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt also stressed service as he took on the role of North West District Superintendent. He remains the Senior Pastor at Trinity UMC in Tallahassee. Like Shafer, he also previously served as a Superintendent.

"When Bishop Carter asked me to serve again as a District Superintendent, in this hybrid role as a District Superintendent and Pastor, it was really kind of an answer to prayer for me," he said.

"I have always loved the local church, and when I served as Superintendent in the Central District, I loved being a Superintendent. It helped me merge these two roles of ministry."

Commissioned as Deaconesses: Ester Kim, who works with Metropolitan Ministries and Bay Area Legal Services in Tampa, and Paulet Royes-Neale, who works with Community Health Services in Ft. Lauderdale.

Provisional Deacons: Rachel Paul Hartman, Sharon Grubbs Surrency.

Provisional Elders: Madeline Baum, Beth Demme, Tamara Isidore, Nicole Deanne Logan, Avis D. Smith, Jeffrey Taylor, Janet “Nicki” Taylor, Ashley Tippens, Missy Michelle, Lorene Turbeville.

Associate Member:  Deborah Anne Casanzio.

Ordained Deacons: Amy Greene, George S. Pellington.

Ordained Elders: Jim Berlau, Robert Bledsoe, Nelson Robert Cowan, John A. Denmark, Pamela A. McMillan, Elyse Denae Milligan, José David Nieves, Latricia Edwards Scriven, Danielle Upton, Timothy Carl Willcox, Tiffania Icaza Willetts.

--Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for

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