|Dr. Dana L. Robert, Boston University School of Theology, was guest speaker Friday morning. -Photo by Lance Rothwell|
During Friday morning’s Annual Conference plenary session, guest speaker Dr. Dana L. Robert, a leading scholar of mission studies and world Christianity, delivered a message of mission and unity.
Mission and unity must be built on the foundation of friendship, she said.
“These days, the ‘together’ part of mission might be the toughest part of the mission we face,” she said. She cited being asked by a student if it’s possible for blacks and whites to be friends. The question shook her, and she said it underscored the challenges of “together.”
Friendships and being together were a vital part of Jesus’ life.
She cited numerous passages in the book of John in which Jesus spoke of love and friendship. Friendship, she said, is fundamental to building a loving, inclusive, witnessing community, particularly one that attracts younger persons.
Community leads to mission, which includes sharing the good news of Jesus, serving God and your neighbor, setting the oppressed free and making people whole.
Dr. Robert is a lifelong United Methodist and serves as director for the Center for Global Christianity and Mission at the Boston University School of Theology.
The Conference adopted the the Council of Finance and Administration recommendation calling for a 5.39 percent overall reduction in local church apportionments for the 2020 budget.
The Conference office will see a 10.23 percent reduction from $11.5 million in 2019 to $10.3 million in the coming year.
|Photo by Lance Rothwell|
“We want to make sure that we have a budget that is sustainable,” Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino said.
The general church budget will be increased by 1.2 percent while the district budget remains unchanged.
The reduced apportionments will allow local churches to better control expenses and use more resources in their neighborhoods.
“We want to be in touch with where we think you are as a church,” Bishop Carter said. “We think this does that.”
Members approved the Conference recommendation to close three churches: Dinsmore UMC and St. Joseph UMC, both in Jacksonville, and Lealman UMC in St. Petersburg.
The Conference celebrated the lives of 43 clergy and their spouses who died in the past year. Click here for a photo essay of the service.
|A candle was lit for each clergy and spouse who passed away during the past year. -Photo by Lance Rothwell|
Retiring Atlantic District Superintendent Gary Spencer’s sermon focused on learning the lesson of humility from his mentor, the late Rev. Tom Price, while he was a student at Florida Southern College.
“I came to this campus a flaming fundamentalist, telling people they were going to hell if they didn’t accept Jesus – my version of Jesus,” he said. “What happened here, and Tom walked with me through this, my faith was deconstructed. That was the beginning of God’s work on my life and my understanding of grace.”
With that deconstruction can come a feeling of unworthiness like Moses and other Christians throughout the centuries have felt.
“It is easy to get puffed up in ministry,” he said. “However, if we are fortunate to have a Tom in our life, a person to remind us of our beginning and the posture of ‘I’m not worthy,’ God can continue to use us for the Kingdom.”
Administrative Assistant Winnie Dean has spent four decades at the Florida Conference office. She was honored at the Friday morning plenary session on her retirement.
“This is a person who genuinely loves the church and loves God,” Assistant to the Bishop Alex Shank said.
Pam Carter, wife of Bishop Ken Carter, also is retiring from active ministry. She will continue to volunteer for mission work with Haiti and in other areas.
“It’s been my honor to serve in the church,” she said. “It has been meaningful.”
Donations were made on her behalf to Haitian relief and on behalf of Bishop Carter for the Innocence Project, which seeks to bring justice for people wrongfully imprisoned.
|Children's Home CEO Kitwana McTyer|
Florida United Methodist Children’s Home
President and CEO Kitwana McTyer gave an overview of the facility’s mission and successes.
“We are working for providing wellness services for those children and families most in need,” he said. “Today, the Children’s Home serves an average of 1,000 children a week throughout the state of Florida. We are only able to do this “On Mission Together” with the Florida United Methodist Church.”
The Children’s Home was established in 1908 in Enterprise as the Florida Methodist Orphanage. The name was changed the Florida Methodist Home in 1939, then to the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in 1971 after merging with Sarah Hunt Methodist Children’s Home in Daytona Beach.
“The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home will continue to be a beacon of hope for families in need,” McTyre said.
Board of Pensions and Health Benefits
Rev. Clare Chance gave an encouraging report on the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits.
“In today’s uncertain climate, clergy can still completely count on the security of their present and future retirement moneys,” she said. “And churches can count on us to fulfill their promises to all the clergy who have faithfully served their communities.”
|Jarvis Wilson of Atlanta returned to Annual Conference to lead worship with his son, Keith Wilson. -Photo by Lance Rothwell|
The Preacher’s Relief Board assists active and retired clergy families facing medical expenses. Chance said those in need should go to www.flumc.org and enter “Preacher’s Relief Board” in the search box.
With the uncertain future faced by the UMC, Chance emphasized plans exist to fulfill pension needs “in any of the possible organizational scenarios that are being considered for the future of The United Methodist Church.”
Conference members discussed and voted on eight resolutions Friday afternoon. A summary of this work is at the end of this story.
In addition to the ordination service, the session included the Board of Trustees report and the setting of the dates for the 2020 and 2021 Annual Conferences. The dates for 2020 are June 4-6 in Lakeland and June 10-12 in 2021, the location to be determined.
Yoenice Dixon presented the Trustees report. Since the 2018 AC, the Board sold the following properties: Kendale Faith church and parsonage, Miami; St. Rd. 16 land, St. Augustine; Christ, Sanford; First, South Miami; Wesley Chapel parsonage, Ft. Lauderdale; Trinity, Plant City; First Bowling Green; Lake Butler; Lakewood Park, Lakeland; Trilby parsonage and Community, Lake Como.
The proceeds, in part, assist paying off the debt of FSU Wesley’s construction and help restart the Wesley Foundation at FAMU.
|Bishop Ken Carter delivered the ordination sermon on Saturday morning. -Photo by Lance Rothwell|
There were 52 persons ordained, commissioned and licensed Saturday morning.
Resolution No. 1: To maintain through 2020 the current levels of financial support for the Ministerial Education Funds for seminary students and course study in the ministry formation process. It also provides continued MEF support through 2024. The body approved without dissent.
Resolution No. 2: That the Florida Annual Conference lend public support and advocacy efforts at local, county and state government levels to build and maintain affordable housing in all Florida communities. Also, that Florida Conference churches will learn about housing affordability in their local areas and work to ensure all of God’s children have safe places to live. The body approved without dissent.
Resolution No. 3: This resolution was brought forth by Lifewatch members to recognize unborn children as our “neighbors” (Matthew 22:39 NRSV). Also resolved, encourage and urge all pregnant mothers and fathers that their unborn children are worthy of love, value, and life, and to do them no harm. We offer compassion to those women who experienced unintended pregnancy, including by rape or increase, through church support groups that assist women during and after their pregnancies. The body did not approve the resolution.
|A member speaks about one of the eight resolutions Friday afternoon.|
Resolution No. 4: Resolved that our churches adopt the Creation Care practices to minimize the use of single-use plastics, plastic straws, plastic bags and polystyrene foam to recognize our relationship to God’s oceans, rivers, lakes, streams and God’s aquatic creatures thereby loving our neighbors. Also, that churches encourage the elimination of single-use plastics, bottles and cutlery for all events and that we teach everyone to be faithful stewards of Creation. The body approved the resolution.
Resolution No. 5: Resolved that the Florida Annual Conference continues to affirm and support the guidance of the 2016 Book of Discipline on homosexuality as amended by the 2019 General Conference, including the full enforcement of its current statements on human sexuality, ordination and marriage. The body did not approve the resolution.
Resolution No. 6: That members of the 2019 Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church commit to an examination of conscience and a repentance from our own unwilling complicity, by our silence and by our market participation, in a media culture which uses portrayals of violence and casual sexual relations as entertainment. The body did not approve the resolution.
Resolution No. 7: That the Conference live in an attitude of learning, welcome and missional focus with all people. By our Baptism, we commit ourselves to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and affirm the sacred worth of all people. We will continue to create space and affirm the full participation of all ages, nations, races, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations and abilities. The body approved the resolution.
Resolution No. 8: That the Florida Annual Conference condemns the decision of the 2019 General Conference to pass the Traditional Plan and apologizes for the harm that it has caused LGBTQ+ persons, their families, friends and the body of Christ. The body approved the resolution.