Main Menu

Realignment Team to chart the future of The Florida Conference

Realignment Team to chart the future of The Florida Conference

Bishop Tom Berlin Conference News

As The United Methodist Church approaches the post-disaffiliation world, its leaders must make a clear-eyed assessment of where we are and, more importantly, where we want to go as a denomination.

The Florida Conference is taking an important first step in that direction with the formation of the Realignment Team, implementing a recommendation from the Strategic Leadership Team that was affirmed at this year’s Annual Conference.

That group of clergy and laity, led by Bishop Tom Berlin, will meet in late August to begin the study of all aspects of the Conference and, especially, local churches. Its goals include:

• Help the Conference adapt to the changing demographics in Florida to ensure local church vitality through strengthened diversity. 

• Work with Conference leaders to create a vision for future new church development and the growth of new Fresh Expressions.

• Recommend strategic investments with our Conference budget and reduce the budget to match the loss in connectional giving caused by disaffiliations.

• Consider and recommend reductions in the number of districts and the number of district superintendents, and re-envision the support needed by local churches from a district level.

• Recommend the staff needed at the Annual Conference to accomplish our mission and vision.

• Recommend the level of ongoing support related to our connectional ministries.

“The Realignment Team will be on a journey with goals but no predetermined outcomes,” Bishop Berlin said.

The aim is to present recommendations based on its findings at the 2024 Annual Conference in Lakeland.

“Two factors have impacted the Florida Conference: continued decline in church attendance in the United States and the disaffiliation of approximately 30% of our congregations in 2023,” Bishop Berlin said.

That requires, the Bishop said, “a budget that adjusts to our new financial reality.”

He is in his first year as the Resident Bishop of the Florida Conference, which gives him the chance to approach this issue, he said, “with fresh eyes.”

“One contribution I can make is to ask questions about our current ministry and to join the Realignment Team in the learning process that will be foundational to this work,” he said.

“I have a bias toward existing Conference goals that include increasing vital churches and Fresh Expressions, being a part of a vibrant UMC, the work of anti-racism as discipleship, and clergy wellness.”

Rev. Alex Shanks, who serves as the assistant to Bishop Berlin, said the Realignment Team members were chosen from a pool of volunteers.

“About 50 people expressed interest or were nominated to serve. Each filled out a form showing their experience in realignment and reorganization,” he said. “We were looking at people who were passionate about the future of The United Methodist Church and could help us see where we are and where we are headed so we can best help the local church accomplish its mission.”

“This isn’t just about the Conference. The local church is where discipleship happens. It’s been Bishop Berlin’s stance that as we experience this change, we need to have a team that’s focused on supporting the mission of our local churches.”

The team’s initial August meeting will be virtual, with in-person meetings planned for September, October, and November. More meetings will be held if necessary.

“This realignment process is an opportunity to assess what we do as a Conference, how we do it, and how it is funded so that we can also keep apportionment costs affordable for local churches,” Gulf Central District Superintendent Rev. Emily Hotho said.

“I’m looking forward to working with this team on this important work.”

Conference Co-Lay Leader Derrick Scott III said it's important to focus on inclusion.

"As we look towards a structure that will hopefully set our Conference up for the next season of Florida United Methodism, I hope we will prioritize opportunities to deepen our connection to one another," he said.

"Our structure must facilitate our relationships, our collaborative efforts, and responsive compassion for the laity and clergy of the Conference."

On August 5, the Conference approved the disaffiliation of 46 churches, bringing the number of departures this year to 101. Even with that, though, there is a renewed sense of purpose and hope for the mission of the 460 churches that remain in The Florida Conference

“The United Methodist Church is entering a new day when we will experience greater unity in our shared love of Christ and Wesleyan heritage. We have spent much time and energy in a conflict that some felt necessary to resolve through disaffiliation,” Bishop Berlin said.

“As a church, we are, including the revitalization of our congregations, the development of new churches and Fresh Expressions, works of compassion and justice for our neighbors, and anti-racism.

“At the same time, we must adapt to our new financial reality. We realign our ministry to identify our key priorities as the Florida Conference. It also gives us the opportunity to create a sustainable financial future so that the ministry of our churches will not be negatively impacted by disaffiliation.”

Adaptation is also an opportunity to regain new relevance in local communities through service and sharing the love of Jesus. Churches that are successful in that could reverse the overall trend of declining attendance.

“The disaffiliation process has taught us a great deal about what we value as United Methodists. The Realignment Team will need to be mindful of our Wesleyan heritage so that we enhance the vitality that the early Methodists drew from their reading of scripture and practice of discipleship,” Bishop Berlin said.

“We are not working on a business plan, but a direction for the ministry of our Conference that will lead us to an ongoing experience of abounding hope that we celebrated at this year’s Annual Conference session.”

The team’s formation is the first step in a long-range effort to put division behind the Conference and move forward in love and service. What will The Florida Conference look like in five years? Rev. Shanks had a ready answer.

“It will be a strong, vital collection of local churches and Fresh Expressions,” he said. “And it will be focused on sharing the love of Jesus Christ as we make disciples who transform the world.”

Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for


Name Title 
Tom Berlin Resident Bishop Florida Conference
Derrick Scott Conference Co-Lay Leader
Rev. Emily Hotho Gulf Central DS, Dean of Cabinet
Tom Williams Retired CEO Universal Studios
Scott Davidson Committee on Episcopacy member
Piper Ramsey Fresh Expressions staff
Rev. Vidalis Lopez Chair, Order of Elders; Senior Pastor, First UMC Coral Springs
Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven Member, Board of Ordained Ministry; Senior Pastor, St. Paul's UMC, Tallahassee
Phyllis Klock Retired COO and President CompBenefits; Member Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry; Member, Board of Florida UM Foundation
Rev. David Miller Chair, Conference Council on Finance & Administration; Senior Pastor, First UMC Winter Park
Support Persons  
Rev. Alex Shanks Assistant to the Bishop
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Weems Assistant to the Bishop for Congregational Mission
Mike Bonem Consultant

Similar Stories