Report from 2019 Florida UMC Annual Conference · Heritage UMC

Report from 2019 Florida UMC Annual Conference

Monday, June 24 2019 by Anna Moore

FLORIDA UNITED METHODIST ANNUAL CONFERENCE
JUNE 4-8, 2019
REPORT FROM HERITAGE UMC LAY DELEGATE

What power there is in the singing and praise of 1600 Methodists! Once again, the FLUMC Annual Conference was held at Florida Southern College in Lakeland which was a most gracious and organized host. More food venues and constant buses and golf carts to parking served the delegates well. Matt Horan (Clergy) and Sue Blanchard (Lay) represented Heritage UMC. Other delegates from Heritage who represented the District include Mel Swets, Dan Byrd and Jodie Byrd. Youth delegates included Ashley Horan, Avery Gross and April Allen.

There were a few changes this year. For the first time in my memory, we had four armed officers outside and in the lobby of where we met. My first thought: “We Methodists must be a rowdy bunch!” It took me until the second day to realize why they were there – a disturbing sign of the times. Another change was an improved voting method that used electronic voting buttons through a WiFi system. Results were almost instantaneous and made the voting process much more efficient.

Truthfully, I did not find the worship music to be as exciting as last year, so I won’t be linking you to that as I have done in previous years. I do recommend two speaker videos: Rev. Cynthia Weems and Rev. Will Willimon. Both are gifted speakers and brought wonderful messages. These will be worth your time!

Some points of interest:

  • We elected our 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegations which will be led by Alex Shanks and Molly McEntire. Sixteen delegates were elected to the SE Jurisdictional Conference; eight of these were also elected to the 2020 General Conference. Delegates elected to the General Conference overwhelmingly favor revisiting the decisions made at the February General Conference.
  • We celebrated the Ordination, Commissioning and Licensing of 56 persons. This is a record!
  • Over $37,000 was given to the Bishop’s Offering in order to start a new church within the Lowell Correctional Institute in Reddick (the largest women’s prison in the US) and for the revitalization of FAMU Wesley in Tallahassee. The Bishop is hoping that this grows to $50,000 when all is said and done.
  • We now have 301 Fresh Expressions in Florida and we chartered a new church (Good Samaritan UMC in Tallahassee). Over 4600 people have been attending our eleven new church plants. Four of these churches have grown in attendance and finances so that they will be chartered soon.
  • The Florida Conference (which ends at Tallahassee) donated 1.5 million dollars to Hurricane Relief for the Panhandle!! UMCOR Recovery efforts are ongoing there. The Methodists have not forgotten this coast!
  • Over the last year, 14 new churches became involved in ZOE and over 1,000 children have entered the program. ZOE is a program in Africa that teaches orphans to be self-sufficient. When children graduate, they have the skills and know-how to support themselves and, in some cases, hire other ZOE participants in a small business. A new challenge grant of $42,000 will hopefully double the number of children supported by ZOE.
  • Apportionment giving increased last year to 88%. The Conference reduced the Conference 2020 Budget by 5.4%, returning more resources to the local churches to make disciples.
  • We enthusiastically approved a new ministry plan for Latino/Latina ministries. The Conference appointed a designated minister to develop our outreach to this population throughout the state.
  • We approved funding for seminary scholarships for the next five years. The average seminarian graduates with $45,000 debt. Beginning pastors’ salaries make this debt quite burdensome. Each 2019 ordinand received $5000 this year.
  • Eight resolutions were considered, discussed and voted upon:

Resolutions summary
From Conference with my additions in {} brackets.

Resolution No. 1: To maintain through 2020 the current levels of financial support for the Ministerial Education Funds for seminary students and course study in the ministry formation process. It also provides continued MEF support through 2024. The body approved without dissent.

Resolution No. 2: That the Florida Annual Conference lend public support and advocacy efforts at local, county and state government levels to build and maintain affordable housing in all Florida communities. Also, that Florida Conference churches will learn about housing affordability in their local areas and work to ensure all of God’s children have safe places to live. The body approved without dissent.

Resolution No. 3: This resolution was brought forth by Lifewatch members to recognize unborn children as our “neighbors” (Matthew 22:39 NRSV). Also resolved, encourage and urge all pregnant mothers and fathers that their unborn children are worthy of love, value, and life, and to do them no harm. We offer compassion to those women who experienced unintended pregnancy, including by rape or incest, through church support groups that assist women during and after their pregnancies. The body did not approve the resolution. {The recognition of LifeWatch, a non-methodist organization beyond UMC control, was a problem here. Many supporters of the rest of the Resolution voted against it because they did not want to endorse this specific organization.}

Resolution No. 4: Resolved that our churches adopt the Creation Care practices to minimize the use of single-use plastics, plastic straws, plastic bags and polystyrene foam to recognize our relationship to God’s oceans, rivers, lakes, streams and God’s aquatic creatures thereby loving our neighbors. Also, that churches encourage the elimination of single-use plastics, bottles, and cutlery for all events and that we teach everyone to be faithful stewards of Creation. The body approved the resolution. {This does not legislate any church actions but encourages churches to work on taking care of creation.}

Resolution No. 5: Resolved that the Florida Annual Conference continues to affirm and support the guidance of the 2016 Book of Discipline on homosexuality as amended by the 2019 General Conference, including the full enforcement of its current statements on human sexuality, ordination, and marriage. The body did not approve the resolution. {Proposed by Traditionalists. Even some traditionalist speakers noted the lack of loving language, perceiving this resolution as harsh. Failed 29% to 71%, reflecting the U.S. vote at the February Special General Conference.

Resolution No. 6: That members of the 2019 Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church commit to an examination of conscience and repentance from our own unwilling complicity, by our silence and by our market participation, in a media culture which uses portrayals of violence and casual sexual relations as entertainment. The body did not approve the resolution. {The language of this resolution was vague, ranting against a wide variety of issues other than media, including (ironically) discouraging rants. Did not garner many votes, most likely due to this broad, vague language.}

Resolution No. 7: That the Conference live in an attitude of learning, welcome and missional focus with all people. By our Baptism, we commit ourselves to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in all forms and affirm the sacred worth of all people. We will continue to create space and affirm the full participation of all ages, nations, races, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations and abilities. The body approved the resolution. {This resolution was sponsored by a page and a half of lay and clergy persons. Emphasis on “ALL persons” was meant to include the LGBTQ community. Passed 70%-30%}

Resolution No. 8: That the Florida Annual Conference condemns the decision of the 2019 General Conference to pass the Traditional Plan and apologizes for the harm that it has caused LGBTQ+ persons, their families, friends and the body of Christ. The body approved the resolution. {This resolution went further than #7 using stronger language. It passed with over 60% voting for it.}

A Lay Member Conference summary is on the FLUMC website:
https://www.flumc.org/files/fileslibrary/ac+2019/2019-lay-summary.pdf

A more complete summary is available at: https://www.flumc.org/newsdetail/friendship-is-foundation-for-mission-and-unity-12831846

This report submitted by Dr. Susan Blanchard, Lay Delegate to FLUMC Annual Conference from Heritage UMC. June 2019

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