News

United Methodist Bishops condemn President Trump’s “offensive” remarks against immigrants

published 1/12/2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued a statement today on behalf of the Council concerning remarks reported to have been made by President Donald Trump regarding immigrants. The statement follows:

We are appalled by the offensive, disgusting words attributed to President Donald Trump who is said to have referred to immigrants from African countries and Haiti, and the countries themselves, in an insulting and derogative manner.  According to various media accounts, President Trump made the remarks during a White House discussion with lawmakers on immigration.

As reported, President Trump’s words are not only offensive and harmful, they are racist.

We call upon all Christians, especially United Methodists, to condemn this characterization and further call for President Trump to apologize.

As United Methodists, we cherish our brothers and sisters from all parts of the world and we believe that God loves all creation regardless of where they live or where they come from.  As leaders of our global United Methodist Church, we are sickened by such uncouth language from the leader of a nation that was founded by immigrants and serves as a beacon to the world’s “huddled masses longing to be free.”

Thousands of our clergy, laity and other highly skilled, productive citizens are from places President Trump has defamed with his comments.  The fact that he also insists the United States should consider more immigrants from Europe and Asia demonstrates the racist character of his comments.  This is a direct contradiction of God’s love for all people.  Further, these comments on the eve of celebrating Martin Luther King Day belies Dr. King’s witness and the United States’ ongoing battle against racism.

We just celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, whose parents during his infancy, had to flee to Africa to escape from the wrath of King Herod.  Millions of immigrants across the globe are running away from such despicable and life-threatening events. Hence, we have the Christian duty to be supportive of them as they flee political, cultural and social dangers in their native homes.

We will not stand by and allow our brothers and sisters to be maligned in such a crude manner.  We call on all United Methodists, all people of faith, and the political leadership of the United States to speak up and speak against such demeaning and racist comments.

Christ reminds us that it is by love that they will know that we are Christians. Let’s demonstrate that love for all of God’s people by saying no to racism; no to discrimination and no to bigotry.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough

President – Council of Bishops


Saint Paul UMC Adds Soccer Field to Benefit Community

published 1/10/2018
(Kari Barlow for AWFUMC) - Saint Paul United Methodist Church in Gulf Breeze wasn’t looking to add a soccer field to its property on U.S. Highway 98, but God apparently had other ideas.

“How it started was I just answered the phone one day—you know how it goes,” says Rev. Christina Shaver. “It was the coach, Victor Ayala, … of the Gulf Breeze Breakers, which is a club soccer team.”

Ayala explained that his club for 9 year olds to 14 year olds had recently lost access to its practice field and asked if Saint Paul’s would allow his organization to use one of church’s vacant fields. He told Shaver the Breakers would make all the necessary improvements in return for the use. She immediately liked the idea and agreed to put it before the church council.

“We weren’t using that piece of our property,” adds Shaver, who has served at Saint Paul since 2016. “It was a flat piece of property that was dirt and patches of grass. It looked awful. … Someone says, ‘Can we come fix up your property and use it every day?’ and I said, ‘Yes, you can!”

The partnership became official in the spring, and Ayala began making improvements to the field in late April.

“It was really crazy because when they hydro-seed it, it’s bright blue, and our field was bright blue for a couple of days!” Shaver recalls. “It was funny.”

The soccer club also installed irrigation on the lot, two goals and a small shed to hold equipment. By the first week in November, the Breakers started practicing.

“It feels like we have our own home again,” Ayala says. “God put the church in our way, and the church opened their doors to us.”

Ayala, who grew up in Puerto Rico, started the Breakers because he has seen soccer and other sports make a positive difference in the lives of children.

“Sports kept me out of drugs,” he adds. “Sports kept me focused. I had somewhere to go after school. … There’s the camaraderie. You learn people skills, and you learn to work hard.”

For Shaver and the rest of the Saint Paul family, it’s nice to see the kids on the soccer field in the evenings.

“It was such a great thing to be part of,” she says, adding that she’s hoping to start a recreational soccer league in the summer. “We have enough property to where we’re hoping to be able to fundraise and even build more soccer fields and be a place that could host tournaments or larger, outdoor events.” 
 

Three AWF Local Church Council Training Videos Now Available

published 1/7/2018

Three 2018 local church council training videos are now online and available. These videos were written and produced so that committee members in the conference may be properly trained in the new year. Whether you are a veteran member of a committee or this is your first year serving, these videos will outline the duties, responsibilities and expectations of committee members. Videos for local church SPR/PPR committees, finance committees and trustee committees can be found in the links below. We invite each local church committee related to these topics in the Alabama-West Florida Conference to view these as a ministry team. Click on the image icon or the individual link under the image to view each session. 

Staff Parish Relations/Pastor Parish Relations Committee Training Video
Featuring Bishop David Graves, Resident Bishop

Click here to view SPR/PPR Committee training video
Click here for pertinent handouts that accompany this video. Click here to read written transcript

Finance Committee Training Video
Featuring Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent and member of AWF Council on Finance and Administration 

Click here to view Finance Committee training video.
Click here to read written transcript

Trustee Committee Training Video
Featuring Dr. Darren McClellan, Baypines District Superintendent and member of AWF Trustees

Click here to view Trustee Committee training video.
Click here to read written transcript

You may also listen to these messages as an audio-only podcast by clicking here, by searching for "AWFUMC Podcasts" on iTunes or in your preferred podcast player. We invite you to subscribe to these podcasts.


AWF "At the Table" Ministry Receives GCORR Grant

published 1/4/2018
A vision that became a reality has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race. "At the Table" is an event that was held in the spring and fall of 2017 and brought together those in the conference who are focused on ethnic ministries. The grant outlines that this event-turned-ministry will:
-Bring about change by training church leaders to effectively minister to all people;
-Train these leaders in cultural competency and effective community engagement;
-Provide them with resources to help begin the work of racial reconciliation;
-Continue with follow-up “At The Table” gatherings with Bishops, District Superintendents, and ethnic churches. 

"We are so grateful to GCOOR for this grant," said Bishop David Graves. "The work of Jenn Lusher, former Director of Leadership Strategies, was key to this outstanding news. Celeste Eubanks, our new Director of Leadership Strategies, is already involved with this ministry and will give leadership to this in the future. We look forward to building on this momentum and making a difference in our communities. The population in our conference is widely diverse and we celebrate the opportunities to minister to all people." 

A total of $463,025 was granted to projects in all five jurisdictions of the United Methodist Church. Rev. Stephen Handy, chair of CORR Action Fund (CAF) committee states, "We are grateful for all of the responses to GCORR's CORR Action Fund grant cycle theme of 'Disrupting Racism.' It is profoundly clear that racism continues to divide our country and even our church, but the investment of hope in these grantees offer an opportunity for incarnational ministries to not only disrupt, but to transcend the atrocities and evil of racism in our nation. Courageous and bold steps are being taken by local congregations, conference offices, and seminaries by starting to build bridges of intercultural communities in a hurting world. To be aligned with and able to help fund this incarnational movement is extremely humbling and a key aspect of the ongoing work of GCORR's ministry model." 

GCORR funds projects through the CAF that impact all segments of local community including after-school reading programs for children, mentorship for youth, as well as intentional church and community organizing to create stronger infrastructural support for those on the margins.

General Secretary Erin Hawkins states, "The fact that the majority of the grant funds will be going to local congregations is a testament to GCORR's commitment to supporting ministry 'on the ground.'  These projects are examples of disciples who are seeking to transform the world starting in their very own communities."

The CAF committee criteria for the U.S. 2018-2020 proposals was as follows:

  • Identify and change at least one racist and/or xenophobic system, policy or practice in the wider community
  • Engage people of The United Methodist Church with diverse community partners in frequent vital conversations about racism and xenophobia
  • Build understanding and trusting relationships among diverse people in the wider community

The CAF grants support community initiatives that disrupt racism and xenophobia, and are more important than ever in this time of polarization and racial strife.

For a complete list of CAF 2018-2020 grant recipients, click here.

GCOOR contributed to this article

Disabilities Sunday Designated in the AWF Conference

published 1/4/2018
Sunday, February 25, 2018, has been designated as Disability Awareness Sunday in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. As United Methodists, "We recognize that God made all creation and saw that it was good. As a diverse people of God who bring special gifts and evidences of God's grace to the unity of the Church and to society, we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus' ministry to [and with] all persons." (¶140, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2012). 
 
Disability Awareness Sunday calls the Church to celebrate the gifts and graces of persons with disabilities and calls the Church and society to full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the community.”(¶265.4) Berta Hurston, member of the AWF Conference Committee on Ethnic Local Church Concerns, Division of Disability Concerns stated, “This special Sunday will allow our local churches to acknowledge and show appreciation to those with disabilities. Often times these members are overlooked in our congregations because they are perceived to have limitations. We want to bring awareness that many of these members with disabilities bring a unique perspective to our congregations and can be leaders and contributing members to the United Methodist Church and our communities.”
 
This special Sunday gives every congregation the opportunity to challenge our hospitality and our inclusion of all persons into the full life of the church.
 
Ideas to celebrate Disability Awareness Sunday:
  • Plan a worship service themed around God’s love and acceptance of all of us.
  • Have persons with disabilities participate in the worship service as greeters, ushers, musicians and /or speakers.  
  • Highlight existing ministries in your church or programs in your community that serve those with disabilities.
  • Include a flyer in your church bulletin.
  • Incorporate ideas from these resources: http://www.umdisabilityministries.org/dasunday
For more details, contact Berta Hurston at bertahurston@gmail.com. Click here for resource flyer
 
 

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