June 27, 2016/Volume 15, No. 11
The NewsCONNECTION will not be published on Monday, July 11. Instead, daily updates from Jurisdictional Conference will be sent July 13-15.
2016 Annual Conference: In Brief and Archived Sessions
The 2016 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference was held June 12-15 in Montgomery, AL, with the theme, "The Great Commission: Sending Disciples." Bishop Paul L. Leeland, presiding over his eighth annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery. Full recap here. Many archived sessions have been added to the conference Website here.
Helms Named SEJ United Methodist Women President, Ester Named to Board
The 2016 meeting of the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) United Methodist Women was held June 1-3, 2016, in Charleston, South Carolina. The theme was, "A Fresh Wind Blowing." At this meeting, two Alabama-West Florida Conference members were elected to leadership positions. Mrs. Betty Helms of Dothan FUMC was elected to a four-year term as president of the SEJ UMW. Helms was the previous president of the Alabama-West Florida UMW and has also served as president of the Dothan District UMW. She has served on the conference CORE team and serves on the AWF Episcopacy Committee. Full story here.
A Word from Bishop Leeland: General Conference 2016
(Bishop Paul Leeland) - The General Conference of The United Methodist Church always creates great expectations and hopes for our denomination. This hope was certainly embraced by the 2016 General Conference held in Portland, Oregon, as it became evident that delegates, volunteers, bishops, clergy, and church leaders clearly and consistently expressed a desire for our United Methodist Church to remain cohesive in our witness and mission. The words of Christ, spoken to the church of Philadelphia in the book of Revelation contributes to this hope saying, “I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut…you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Rev. 3:8). These words remind us the Church is of God and as a response, our United Methodist Church has deliberately chosen to remain united for the sake of staying in mission. More here.
United Methodist Lawyers Seminar
(Bishop Paul Leeland) - The Chancellors for the North Alabama Conference and the Alabama-West Florida Conference are developing a seminar for lawyers which will be focused on church-related legal matters. I believe that this is a very important seminar and that it will benefit the lawyers who help our churches in various situations. I am contacting each of you to ask you to develop a list of lawyers who are members of the church you serve so that they will know about this upcoming opportunity. The Chancellors have worked hard on putting this seminar together. Click here to see full letter.
Around the Conference
Asbury Theological Seminary Provides Scholarship, Advanced Standing
(Huntingdon College) - The Department of Religion has received a letter from Asbury Theological Seminary announcing the seminary’s intention of awarding a $5,000 Scholarship of Distinction to any qualifying Huntingdon graduate. Students may also qualify for other scholarships. The letter states: “This scholarship will be awarded to students who enroll at Asbury Seminary within a year of completing undergraduate work, and then maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, continuous enrollment, and full-time student status. This scholarship can also be combined with our Advanced Standing program, which allows for college credit to be applied to their graduate degree at Asbury Seminary. Students with a major or minor in ministry- or religion-related fields may receive up to 18 credit hours toward the Master of Divinity degree or 12 credit hours toward a Master of Arts degree.”
Lawler Thanks AWF Conference for Disaster Response Work
(Rev. Michael Lawler) - On behalf of the People of Elba and Coffee County affected by the flood of December 2015, thank you for your generous response to our profound needs. Over 188 families were affected, (forced to leave their homes which suffered damage). After the flood waters resided, 62 homes were damaged beyond being livable; needing major repairs and the rest needed cleaning and repairs. Your generous response of Early Response Teams (ERTs) and other volunteers in mucking out homes, pressure washing, making repairs and being there for the families; brought hope and the presence of Christ in the immediate aftermath of our disaster. Full letter here.
Huntingdon Leadership Academy Welcomes New Group of Young Leaders
(Huntingdon College) - Huntingdon College welcomed a group of high school students who are members of churches in the Alabama-West Florida and North Alabama Conferences of The United Methodist Church for participation in the 2016 Huntingdon Leadership Academy yesterday. The Huntingdon Leadership Academy was established in 2015. Full release here.
Saturday Night's All Right: Churches Offer Alternative Service for Alternative Schedules
(NW Florida Daily News) - Churchgoers who would rather spend Sunday morning lounging at the beach or catching some ZZZs, now have another option in some towns. Crosspoint and Destin United Methodist churches have found Saturday night’s all right for worship services. Leah Johnson of Northwest Florida Daily News has the story.
Florida Bishop Responds to Massacre
(UMNS) - Florida Area Bishop Kenneth Carter Jr. urged churches to share the message of God’s unconditional love after the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. The early-morning massacre at an gay nightclub left at least 50 dead and 53 injured. Read statement here.
UMCOR Responding to West Virginia Flooding
Please join us in praying for the people of West Virginia where flooding has caused havoc. UMCOR is working with local officials to respond. Those who wish to support UMCOR’s response to, and preparedness for, disasters in the US, are always encouraged to give to the US Disaster Response Advance #901670 (directly to UMCOR). We are asked not to send teams at this time, but will share information when ERT teams and mission teams are needed. There is continued need for UMCOR Relief Supply Kits. Find assembly information at http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies.
Helping with the Flint Water Crisis
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has not been in the news headlines as much recently, but the people who live there are still affected and will be dealing with the problems for years to come. Lead-tainted water, infrastructure problems, lack of trust between officials and residents, and so many other issues have meant there are many complex challenges to overcome. In the midst of these challenges, however, the United Methodist Church is present and doing what it can to be in ministry to their community at this time of great need. You can read a statement from the bishop of the Michigan Area Conference by clicking here. More here.
Understanding Wage and Hour Laws
(ChristianToday.org) - Last week, we mentioned the breaking news about the US Department of Labor's final decision regarding a new salary threshold for overtime pay. The threshold has been increased significantly, making countless more employees nationwide eligible to receive time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week. All employers—including churches and nonprofits—are affected by this change, which goes into effect on December 1. Except for ministers, all hourly employees and some salaried employees are covered by this update, posing potentially significant challenges to many church budgets. Richard Hammar has recorded a 10-minute video further explaining this major development.
How to Have a Vacation When You Can’t Leave Town
(UMNS) - The demanding responsibilities of a pastor or church volunteer makes ministry burnout a very real danger and vacations a very real necessity. But for many churches, the traditional vacation season of summer is one of the busiest times in ministry. How can you “get away” when getting away seems impossible? A summer staycation might be the inspiration you need. A staycation is a vacation spent right where you are. Instead of traveling to find a place of rest, relaxation or fun, it’s finding a way to do those things from your own home or community. More here.
We’re Getting a New Pastor! What Can I Do?
(UMNS) - One Sunday during worship, you notice a visitor who looks vaguely familiar. Suddenly the pastor invites her forward to address the congregation. Now you remember. She is your District Superintendent. Oh no! Why is she here? A numbness overcomes you as you hear the words. Your pastor is leaving. In several weeks, he will move to a new church. The DS then promises to return soon to introduce you to your new pastor. United Methodist churches repeat this scene whenever elders are appointed to new churches. More here.
Clergy Health & Wellness Initiative Requirements
As of January 1, 2016, the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits launched the Health and Wellness Initiative Program. The goal of the program is to encourage our pastors and their dependents to live healthier lifestyles by providing them with personal health information, screening and coaching, thus helping the Conference to reduce and control the cost of health insurance claims. Clergy members on the conference active health insurance plan are required to complete the HealthQuotient and Biometric Screening by August 31, 2016. Dependents, retired clergy and their dependents and employees who are on the annual conference health plan are not required to complete the HQ and Biometric Screening but are welcome and encouraged to participate. Complete information here.
Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, July 13-15
The Summer Young Clergy Leadership Forum, July 18-21
Pensacola District Clergy Welcoming Dinner, July 19
Montgomery-Prattville Clergy Family Summer Gathering, July 21
Baypines District Clergy Orientation, July 28
Mission u 2016, July 29-30
Festival of Wisdom and Grace, August 1-4
Blue Lake Christian Ashram, August 5-7
Montgomery-Opelika Clergy Family Summer Gathering, August 9
Dothan District Lay Servant Training, August 26-27
Becoming a Healthy, Growing Church, August 26-27
Global United Methodist Clergywomen Gathering, August 29-31