2012 Annual Conference: In Brief

published 6/7/2012

The 2012 Alabama–West Florida Annual Conference was held June 3-6 in Mobile, AL with the theme, “Partnership in the Gospel....Serving the World.” Bishop Paul L. Leeland, presiding over his fourth annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Christ UMC in Mobile.

Prior to this year’s conference, Bishop Leeland urged the churches of the conference to receive a special offering for Imagine No Malaria. The people of the AWF Conference responded by contributing over $54,000. The offering collected at the commissioning and ordination service for the Ministerial Education Fund collected over $1,600. 
The 2012 Annual Conference session was opened on June 3 with hundreds from throughout the conference gathering for worship. Dr. Belton Joyner delivered the sermon, "What Color was the Carpet" based on Philippians 1:3-5, asking attendees if partnership was the same as being in agreement. He said, "Partnership in the gospel is not about being in agreement, or already being in perfection, but about serving the world and in one another, and thus, serving God." A combined worship band provided inspiring music for the service including a moving rendition of, "Holy, Holy, Holy." 
One deacon and two elders were ordained as members in full connection, and one provisional deacon and eleven provisional elders were commissioned on the evening of June 4 at Dauphin Way UMC. It also included the ordination of one being recognized from another denomination. Prior to the start of the service, the chancel choir, chancel ringers, brass quintet and men's ensemble of Dauphin Way UMC presented worshipful music led by John Ricketts. 
Twenty-seven clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during a Service of Commemoration and Holy Communion. Dr. George Mathison delivered the sermon, "The Hall of Saints." An overflow crowd remembered those that have given many years of service to the conference. Surviving family members were hosted at a special luncheon by the AWF Commission on Archives and History.
Twenty-seven clergy retiring this conference year were honored on Monday, June 4. Together, they represent 502 years of combined service to the United Methodist Church. Rev. Fred Zeigler spoke on behalf of the retiring class, passing the torch to Rev. Patsy Winford Gibson. Patsy represented the 2012 class of ordinands. 
The Conference was honored and blessed by the outstanding leadership of several guest speakers. Coach Mike Gottfried, former football player and coach and EPSN color analyst, gave the fourth annual “Mary Ellen Bullard Leadership Address” during Tuesday’s Laity Banquet. Dr. Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, led the conference in two morning Bible studies. Dr. Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission and co-director at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission; Boston University School of Theology, led two teaching sessions. 
Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. Dr. Gene Watson of Eufaula FUMC received the Francis Asbury Award and Dawn Wiggins Hare of Monroeville FUMC received the Alice Lee Award. Kenneth Elwyn Autrey of Pensacola First United Methodist Church and Freddie McCain of Skipperville United Methodist Church were co-clergy winners of the Denman Evangelism Award. This year's lay recipients are Stan Holmes of Woodbine United Methodist Church in the Pensacola District and Jeremy Fillingim of Creola United Methodist Church, Mobile District youth winner. Kathy Norberg of Gulf Breeze UMC and John Michael Ledkins, along with his parents and church pastor Rev. George Sedberry, of Thomasville UMC were all recognized for their outstanding work in scouting.
Dr. Shirley Woodie, AWF Conference Secretary, was recognized by Bishop and Mrs. Paul Leeland for her outstanding leadership in our conference. Dr. Woodie will retire from her duties as conference secretary but will remain active in the conference.

The clergy appointments for 2012-2013 may be found online here.

A compelling addition to this year's conference was the showing of eight district videos at the beginning of various sessions that informed the conference about fruitful activities going on within each district. Each district superintendent presented this information about their respective district.

The conference also participated in an UMCOR relief kit drive yielding more than 1.275 relief kits.

The 2013 budget was established at $11.131 million for mission and ministry, down 2.61% from 2012.

Membership stands at 146,782, down less than 1% from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 66,145, down 2%. Church school attendance stands at 28,131, down 2%. Small groups showed an increase: there was a 38% increase in persons in covenant discipleship groups, 6% increase in short-term classes for learning of all ages and mission teams showed increases in all categories.

The 2013 session of the AWF Annual Conference will be held June 2-5, 2013, at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL. We express our sincere appreciation to the Christ United Methodist Church Leadership Team and Rev. Jeff Spiller for their hospitality during this year's annual conference.

A downloadable pdf recap that can be used in your Sunday church bulletins can be found here. Full coverage of the 2012 AWF Annual Conference may be found at To see photos taken by Luke Lucas, click here

Cyclists Cross State to Raise Funds for Home Repairs

published 5/18/2012

(Lisa Pierce) - From Friday, May 4, through Sunday, May 6, ten bikers/cyclists crossed Alabama to raise awareness about the housing needs in some of the poorest areas of our country, while raising money for home repairs in Lee, Macon and Sumter counties.

The Third Annual Cycle of Service benefited Alabama Rural Ministry’s (ARM) home-repair efforts. Most of the families ARM serves are the elderly, disabled or single parents who live on limited or fixed incomes. ARM also hosts two free summer camps for underserved children in Livingston and Tuskegee. Most of the work is done in the summer time with two mission camps coordinated for visiting youth and church teams.

This year’s goal is to raise $30,000, which will be applied to the cost of purchasing the construction materials we use in repairing homes for up to 30 families. Riders had already raised more than $20,000 toward that goal. Sponsors include the Alabama Retail Association, Best Copies, Carr Allison, Country’s Barbecue, Dilworth Development Inc., Dynamic Sports Products, James Bros. Bikes, J. Smith Lanier & Co., Mann’s Wildlife Timberlands, Scott Bridge Co., Shakey’s Pizza, Singleton Marine Group, Leigh Ann Tyler/State Farm Huntsville and Young Photography. Other contributors include the 122nd Troop Support Command Selma, Aldersgate United Methodist Church (UMC) Montgomery, Auburn UMC, Epworth UMC Columbus, Livingston UMC, Memorial UMC, Montgomery Multisport, SES Montgomery, St. Mark UMC Columbus and Tuskegee UMC.

We are also grateful to Liberty UMC from Notasulga who served one of our families, Ms. Sweeney, on Saturday May 5th! They repaired sheetrock and electrical work after Ms. Sweeney’s home was broken into and vandalized for her copper wiring.

You and your church can still contribute to the cause now by credit card at or mail in a check to P.O. Box 2890 Auburn, AL 36831.

Bikers participating in the Cycle of Service rode during most of the day and then helped with community events. Profiles of the riders can be found at

Some riders will participate all three days, while others will join various legs of the ride, mostly along U.S. 80: These were the routes and legs of the journey:
• State-Line- to-State-Line Challenge including the Century Ride, 250 miles from the Alabama/Mississippi to the Alabama/Georgia borders, begins in Livingston and goes through Cuba, Selma, Montgomery and Tuskegee, then ends in Phenix City.
• Century Ride, 115-mile ride on the first day of the three-day ride.
• State-Line- to-State-Line Challenge, 223 miles from Cuba to Phenix City.
• Final 45 miles from Tuskegee United Methodist Church parsonage to Phenix City. This leg begins at 8 a.m. Sunday, May 6.
To see pictures of the ride you can see our facebook profile below.

For more information, go to or


Alabama-West Florida Leads The Academy for Spiritual Formation

published 5/11/2012

(Pat Luna) - Every three years the Upper Room offers The Academy for Spiritual Formation in the Southeast Jurisdiction. Three of the six members of the leadership team are from AWF: Pat Luna (Point Washington UMC) is the Retreat Leader. Dr. Robbins Sims (FUMC-Eufaula) is the Theologian. Kathy Norberg (Gulf Breeze UMC) is the Hospitality Coordinator. Minta McDavid, Chair of the AWF Spiritual Formation team said "This is very exciting to have so many people from AWF to lead this important ministry. The Academy experience is a life transforming one and one I would hope all in our conference could have if and when they feel that deep yearning and call to attend."

The Academy is a two-year intentional journey of spiritual formation that was started nearly 30 years ago by a group of people including Danny Morris, Bishop Rueben Job, Glenn Hinson, Douglas Steere, Wendy Wright, John Mogabgab and Gerald May. The Academy is a ecumenical, covenantal community where the participants seek a deeper relationship with God as they grow in the image of Christ for the sake of others. Participants meet at Camp Sumatanga for five days each quarter for two-years. Clergy and laity are selected to be a part of the Academy from all over the country.

A typical day includes worship, meditation and reflection, covenant group meetings, and morning and afternoon curriculum sessions with faculty. During each two-year academy, a total of sixteen courses are offered. These courses, taught by outstanding scholars and leaders in today's church, offer insights into the history and practices of Christian Spirituality. Over the course of the two years, two topics per session are examined. Topics include Spirituality of the Psalms, Early Christian Spirituality, Healing and Wholeness, Prayer and many more. Faculty for Academy #34 includes Roberta Bondi, Bob Mulholland, Don Sailers, Robert Benson, Margaret Guenther, Elaine Heath, and UMC Bishop Jung.

The next Academy for Spiritual Formation begins July 31, 2012. A number of people from AWF have already been selected to participate. Space is filling fast so if you are interested in participating apply soon! For more information, visit or contact Pat Luna at or 334-262-9440.


From left to right Pat Luna (AWF), Kathy Norberg (AWF), Robbins Sims (AWF), Irene Brownlee (MS), Linda Beasley (LA) and Blake Kendrick (NC).

Furr Challenges General Conference Through Personal Testimony

published 4/25/2012

(Montgomery, AL) - The 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist reconvened this morning at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, FL by starting the day off with several challenging and energetic messages. Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the Boston Episcopal Area gave the first of five addresses and challenged the conference to focus on discipleship instead of membership in a powerful way that resonated with many. Following his address, three laity addresses were given by Betty Katiya, Dr. Steve Furr and Amory Peck.

Dr. Furr, a resident of Jackson, AL and the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church lay leader, incorporated a video presentation of his personal account of weight loss and transformation into leading a healthy lifestyle. Furr realized that when his wedding band no longer fit, it was time to make a change. Furr is a family practitioner physician in Jackson and explained that his patients were able to better follow his medical advice by him leading as an example. The video also showed his daily routine of work, family and exercise all blended in an appropriate fashion. He expressed in his address that, "Being or living a sermon is a whole different matter. A part of me had to die so the real me could live. I was desecrating the temple God has given me. I had to decide to BE a sermon." As God tells his followers our bodies are a temple, Furr said, "my personal temple was in disarray." At one point, Dr. Furr was 5'6", 236 pounds. He now proudly weighs in under 175 pounds. He concluded by saying that, "Jesus Christ is the best personal trainer ever."

Furr made a poignant statement in saying, "You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." Rev. Rurel Ausley, a member of the Alabama-West Florida Conference delegation, commented on Dr. Furr's statement by saying, "Steve masterfully articulated his physical transformation into a spiritual parable for personal transformation in Christ. Inspiring and at times tearing up, Dr. Furr electrified the General Conference and made all of Alabama-West Florida burst with pride."

To see Dr. Furr's video testimony, click here. The full address is archived here

After the three laity addresses were given, Krin Ali delivered an impressive young people's address using the words, "Charged, Rooted and United" as his theme.

General Conference is the top policy-making body of the international United Methodist Church and is the only body that officially speaks for the denomination. It meets on a "quadrennial basis," or ever four years. During the session, delegates (half clergy, half laity) elected by their annual conferences and specialized bodies, will revise the Book of Discipline, which is the law and doctrine of the United Methodist Church.

The Alabama-West Florida Conference includes the geographical area of south and central Alabama and northwest Florida. There are over eight million United Methodists residing in the United States. More than 146,000 United Methodists reside in the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

For additional information on General Conference, visit For Alabama-West Florida Conference information, visit



 Photo by UMNS Photographer, Mike DuBose

United Methodist Children's Home Announces New President/CEO

published 4/18/2012

The board of directors of the United Methodist Children’s Home is announcing the appointment of Dr. K. Blake Horne as the agency’s new President/CEO effective May 16th, 2012.

“I am truly humbled to have the privilege of serving the children and families of Alabama and northwest Florida through the United Methodist Children’s Home,” said Horne. “My first counseling-related position was with the Methodist Home for Children and Youth of the South Georgia Conference. Leaving to further my education was a very difficult decision, as I don’t believe I have ever felt the presence of Christ more in my work. The United Methodist Children’s Home has a rich history of following the example of Christ by caring for all God’s children, and an even more promising future. I look forward to traveling extensively throughout these great conferences of United Methodism to tell the compelling story of a ministry that stole my heart many years ago.”

A native of Hawkinsville, GA, Dr. Horne has served as the Executive Director of The Samaritan Counseling Center since it was founded in 1999 by First United Methodist Church of Montgomery. Under his leadership, The Samaritan Counseling Center has grown from its very beginnings into one of the largest private providers of mental health services in Alabama, extending the ministries of congregations by providing approximately 8,000 hours of counseling, mediation, and educational services to children, adolescents, adults, and families on an annual basis. Under Horne the center also developed and holds the River Region Ethics in Business and Public Service Awards in cooperation with Auburn University Montgomery.

UMCH Board Chair Terry McCartney stated, "The Board is pleased and excited to have Dr. Horne serve as our President/CEO. Dr. Horne exceeds the criteria set for this position and has the skill set and personal traits to be an inspirational leader in this ministry’s efforts to continue to meet the needs of children and families in Alabama and northwest Florida."

Horne holds degrees from Mercer University (B.A. – Christianity), Mercer University School of Medicine (Master of Family Therapy), and Florida State University (Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy). He also completed a three year course of post-doctoral study at the Georgetown Family Center in Washington, D.C., from 2004-2007.

He is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery and First United Methodist Church of Montgomery where he serves on the Stewardship Leadership Team. He currently serves on the board of directors for Hospice of Montgomery and the Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has been married since 1998 to the former Tracy Prudames of Atlanta, GA, who is a Sr. Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch of Montgomery. The Hornes have two daughters, Brooke (9) and Arden (5).

The United Methodist Children’s Home has helped to transform thousands of lives since 1890. Abused, neglected, and traumatized children, young mothers, and struggling families find comfort and safety through our residential group homes, foster care programs, and family preservation services.
Our mission: To follow the example of Christ by embracing all God’s children… one child, one family at a time.



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