August 22, 2016/Volume 15, No. 13

Conference News

Conference Bids Farewell to Leelands

An overflow crowd gathered on the afternoon of Sunday, August 14, 2016, to say farewell to Bishop and Mrs. Paul Leeland. Clergy, spouses, lay leaders, conference staff and friends of the Leelands were welcomed by the staff and members of Montgomery FUMC. Dr. Paulette Thompson, chair of the AWF Episcopacy Committee, organized the event. Bishop Leeland was assigned as the episcopal leader to the Western North Carolina Conference at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, which was held July 13-15, 2016, at Lake Junaluska, NC. Full story here. Click here to read Bishop Leeland's letter of gratitude

A Greeting from Bishop David Graves

Dear Members of the Alabama-West Florida Conference,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nancy and I are so excited to join you in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. The week of July 12-15 was one of the hardest and best moments of my life. Going through the process as an Episcopal nominee is very difficult in that your life is put out there for everyone to analyze. To be elected is most humbling and an emotional experience that is hard to put into words. Nancy and I were overcome with joy when we were told that our assignment was to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. It confirmed that this whole journey was a God thing, and one that has been anointed by God. We are blessed beyond words to join you in ministry in just in a couple of weeks. We move into the episcopal residence either on August 26 or 27, depending how things go on the loading end. Full letter here

AWF Disaster Response to Louisiana Flooding

(Susan Hunt) - Our hearts are broken with the news of severe flooding in Louisiana over the last several days. Thousands of people have been displaced and are in temporary shelters after over two feet of rain fell in a short span of time, flooding many homes. Our brothers and sisters there need our help. Click here for comprehensive information

Services and Receptions Announced for Bishop and Mrs. Graves

Two services and receptions will be held in the Alabama-West Florida Conference for Bishop and Mrs. David Graves. A Service Celebrating the Episcopal Assignment of Bishop David William Graves to the Alabama-West Florida Conference will be held on Sunday, September 11 at Montgomery FUMC at 4:00pm in the sanctuary. A Service of Worship to Welcome Bishop David William Graves will be held Sunday, September 18 at Crosspoint UMC in Niceville, FL at 4:00pm in the sanctuary. Receptions will immediately follow both services. An invitation is forthcoming this week. 

Around the Conference

Bishop Announces September 1 Appointments

Bishop Paul L. Leeland, in consultation with Bishop David Graves, is pleased to announce several appointments in the Alabama-West Florida Conference that are the result of Bishop Lawson Bryan’s episcopal election and assignment to the South Georgia Annual Conference. More here

Beginning Pastors Trained for Appointments at Workshop

The Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Ordained Ministry held its 2016 Beginning Pastors Workshop at Spring Hill College in Mobile on July 29-30. Twenty-five pastors attended the retreat. Pastors serving a church in the conference for the first time attended the workshop, which is a requirement for all clergy taking their first appointment. Pictured above are the beginning pastors and session leaders. 

RIOM Group Facilitators Train for Quadrennial Leadership

The Residents in Ordained Ministry (RIOM) program is a requirement of all provisional elders and deacons who are in a period of reflection on practices of ministry as they transition from their academic studies to ministerial appointments. This residency program is a two-year commitment that is guided by the leadership of the Board of Ordained Ministry and occurs between commissioning and ordination. Those pictured above are members of the AWF Board of Ordained Ministry training to be group facilitators for the upcoming quadrennium. The event was led by Peg Aldridge, a lay person in the Western North Carolina Conference and co-founder of Passion in Partnership and Rev. Kelli Walker-Jones, an elder in the North Carolina Conference and director of Triangle Pastoral Counseling (TPC). Rev. Steve Warren is the AWF Residency Director. 

Guest Commentary: Dr. Robbins Sims

The Church often finds itself wrestling with issues related to biblical authority.  This gist of the question is typically, “What should we do in light of what the Bible says or doesn’t say about a particular issue?” Interpretation of scripture is always inseparable from our appropriation of its authority. For example, a self-assured proponent of Biblical literalism might argue, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” This sounds very definite and final, but it is doubtful that any contemporary advocates of this position would be willing to act in obedience to Leviticus 20:9, which says: “All who curse father or mother shall be put to death…” Even the most rigid literalists will find a way to “interpret” their way around the seemingly clear command of this text. The question is not whether we will question the face value of some texts, but how and why we question them. More here

AWFUMC is on Instagram

The Alabama-West Florida Conference is on Instagram! Follow us by searching awfumc. Instagram is a mobile app that allows users to share photos and videos to followers. You'll see various photos from around our conference. We also welcome submissions for consideration. You may send those to

Connectional News

Council Launches Prayer Initiative: Praying Our Way Forward

(UMNS) - As plans are underway for the establishment of a Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops is setting in motion a parallel prayer initiative called “Praying Our Way Forward.” “We are a people of prayer and enjoin the entire church to fervently pray that the Holy Spirit will breakthrough and lead us into a future with hope,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Council president, in a statement following a meeting of the executive committee in July. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference, who chairs the “Council Life Together” team, and Bishop Al Gwinn, who leads the prayer subcommittee of the Council of Bishops, were chosen to design and guide a complementary prayer component that involves the whole church. Full release here

Bishops Approve Plan for Sexuality Panel

(UMNS) - Amid growing concerns for the denomination’s future, United Methodist bishops approved a plan for establishing a commission dealing with church teachings on homosexuality. The bishops’ executive committee also took a step toward a special session of General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, in early 2018. The Council of Bishops executive committee met July 19-20 in Chicago behind closed doors to discuss creating the Commission on a Way Forward, which General Conference authorized in May. The full council has charged its 17-member executive committee with developing a framework for the new commission. More here

What Churches Do Young Adults Attend?

(UMNS) - The Rev. Lovett H. Weems Jr. examines the findings of a new report on engaging young adults and shares clues about the types of churches those ages 18–34 are most likely to attend. “The characteristics of churches with thriving young adult engagement are virtually the same as any thriving congregation,” he writes for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. Read commentary.

Tool Helps Worship Leaders Select Contemporary Songs in Wesleyan Tradition

Worship leaders and musical directors can now use a new online tool developed by Discipleship Ministries to select contemporary Christian songs for worship that most closely align with the Wesleyan theology of The United Methodist Church. The tool has information on the 100 songs that Christian congregations of all denominations performed and sang the most during 2015, which were evaluated by a diverse group of 10 scholars and practitioners and rated according to how well they adhere to Wesleyan theology, their appropriate use of language for God and humanity, and their sing ability. More here


Resources for Back-to-school Season

(UMNS) - As many families know, a new year doesn’t really begin with “Auld Lang Syne” but the first ring of the school bell. United Methodist Discipleship Ministries offers worship and devotional resources for churches to celebrate the start of the new school year and reach out to kids in their areas. See resources.

UMCom Offers Digital Advertising Grants

(UMCom) - United Methodist Communications is now offering 150 digital advertising grants to local United Methodist churches for Advent. The pre-designed, online ads with a Rethink Church message will link to the church website. The ads will be purchased and placed by United Methodist Communications and will help raise community awareness of churches. The application for the Advent grants is open now until Oct. 1 or all ad grant slots are filled. Read press release.

How to Save Money with Technology

(UMCom) - Penny pinching isn’t fun for most of us, but thriftiness can be good stewardship and using technology wisely can help cut costs for your church. United Methodist Communications offers several tips on utilizing free or inexpensive tech tools to help your church's budget go further. Tricia Brown reports. Read story.


Dothan District Lay Servant Training, August 26-27

Becoming a Healthy, Growing Church, August 26-27

Global United Methodist Clergywomen Gathering, August 29-31

Pensacola District Lay Servant Ministry Training, September 9-10

A Service Celebrating the Episcopal Assignment of Bishop David William Graves to the Alabama-West Florida Conference & Reception, September 11

AWFC Historical Society Annual Meeting, September 15

Becoming a More Effective Leader, September 15

Ultimate Training Event (UTE), September 17

A Service of Worship to Welcome Bishop David William Graves & Reception, September 18

Blue Lake Sunday - Mobile District, September 18

United Methodist Lawyers Seminar, September 22

Marianna/Panama City District Hosts Fall Lay Servant Training, September 24

UMVIM Team Leader Training, September 24

World Communion Sunday, October 2

Fresh Expressions Vision Day, October 3

Mid-Career Retirement Seminar, October 6

Blue Lake Sunday - Montgomery-Opelika and Montgomery-Prattville Districts, October 16

Five-day Spiritual Academy, October 16-21

Prayer Shawl Retreat, October 24


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