AWF Conference Secretary Named

published 3/1/2013

Bishop Paul L. Leeland, in conjunction with the AWF Cabinet, is pleased to appoint Dr. Neil Epler as the interim Conference Secretary for our Alabama-West Florida Conference effective March 1, 2013. Dr. Epler will be nominated for election at the upcoming 2013 Annual Conference (¶603.7).

Dr. Epler is currently appointed as Associate Minister of Congregational Care at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. He will now assume the responsibility of conference secretary for the annual conference, which he has also provided in the past.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Epler to our Annual Conference leadership!

With Gratitude,
Bishop Paul L. Leeland


AWF Holds Third Annual Prayer Breakfast for State Officials

published 3/1/2013

(Montgomery, AL) - The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church Board of Church & Society hosted a prayer breakfast on February 28 in the fellowship hall of River City Church (formerly Dexter Ave. United Methodist Church). Alabama Supreme Court Justices Lyn Stuart and Tom Parker, former Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb, Senator Bryan Taylor, Senator Trip Pittman and Representative Charles Newton gathered to pray for our state. Also attending were Senator Billy Beasley, Representation Randy Davis, Representative Jay Love, Representative Steve McMillan, Representative John Knight, Representative Harry Shiver and numerous area United Methodist pastors, United Methodist Women and lay persons.

Susan Hunt, Conference Director of Mission and Advocacy, welcomed the group. Dr. John Ed Mathison offered an opening prayer for our state and those serving it. Harry Hodges, Chair of the Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Church and Society, also welcomed those in attendance.

Guest speaker, Bishop Paul L. Leeland, addressed the group and added his personal thanks for the hard work our state leaders give to the citizens of Alabama. He compared the challenging role of pastors and state officials and how both careers are often filled with numerous challenges. He encouraged them by saying, “The heart of a leader is one that prays for wisdom. Leaders that I know pray for wisdom and work hard for all people and see the needs of all people.”

Guests were provided with a specially prepared pamphlet offering Social Principles from the Book of Discipline addressing some of the issues facing lawmakers at the present time.

"The AWF prayer breakfast continues to be a wonderful time of fellowship and prayer between our United Methodist leaders and state officials. This is the third year to host this event and each year we've increased attendance and participation. I'm especially grateful to the United Methodist Women for their help in hosting the gathering as well as Rev. Tony McCullough and his fine staff and volunteers from River City Church,” said Harry Hodges. “It is my prayer that our elected officials will seek God's guidance in every decision they make and feel His peace leading them in such crucial work."


February Cabinet Update

published 2/25/2013

(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session on February 19-20 at the Conference Office in Montgomery. During the two day meeting, Bishop Leeland, the district superintendents, and members of the extended cabinet participated in the Incubator process, reflecting on the mission and ministry of the annual conference, discussing Edwin Friedman's book, Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, and spending time in prayer for one another and various concerns from across the conference.

Among the many items discussed related to the mission and ministry of the conference, the Cabinet reviewed the new Voluntary Transition Program for clergy approved by the 2012 General Conference, explored ways to increase the partnership in ministry with the outstanding laity of our conference, and identified several "next-steps" in the process to raise awareness around clergy well-being in an effort to try to reduce the stressors of ministry faced by our clergy and their families.

A significant portion of the meeting was devoted to reviewing the preference forms submitted by clergy and Staff (Pastor) / Parish Relations Committees as part of the upcoming appointment process. Superintendents will continue in consultation with Staff (Pastor) / Parish Relations Committees and clergy as needed.

We celebrate the ways that we see God at work in our midst across the Alabama-West Florida Conference. We are grateful for the leadership provided by our clergy and laity in our effort to seek disciples of Jesus Christ. We continue to pray for our churches and clergy and would covet your prayers as we continue in this time of discernment related to the appointment of pastors for 2013-14.

May God continue to guide us as we journey through this holy season of Lent! 


Frisco City Suffers Fire Damage

published 2/25/2013

Frisco City United Methodist Church suffered damage due to a fire Sunday morning, February 24. It is believed that an upstairs heating unit could possibly be the cause of the fire. No injuries were reported. The damage was primarily in the sanctuary area and second floor offices, and included smoke damage and water damage from extinguishing the flames. The fellowship hall and other areas of the church property were structurally evaluated and have been cleared for use. Services in the coming weeks for Frisco City United Methodist Church will be held in the fellowship hall at their regular times. 

The United Methodist Men (UMM) of the church were preparing breakfast and meeting that morning but all safely evacuated. Rev. Elaine Hagenbuch, pastor at Frisco City UMC, explained that the UMM heard fire alarms sounding but could not find the fire. Thanks to a couple passing by in their vehicle who saw smoke rising from the roof, the men escaped unharmed. Five fire units were called to the scene to extinguish the fire. Insurance adjustors will be visiting in the coming days to assess the damage.

{Frisco City UMC sanctuary after the fire}

Despite the sorrow the congregation is feeling, Rev. Hagenbuch repeatedly commented that, "we were blessed." Blessed that the entire wing was not damaged, including the Sunday School classes. Blessed that they have electricity and that the remainder of the church is on a separate electrical unit. Blessed that it was not any more severe than it was. Blessed to still hold their 11:00am worship service on the front lawn just hours after the fire. Blessed to be part of a wonderful connectional system. She continued to look ahead by explaining that the church will celebrate its 100th anniversary on October 20, 2013. Their plan is to have everything back in order by that special date.

{Members of Frisco City UMC held morning worship on the front lawn, just hours after the fire occurred.} 

Other United Methodist churches in the district and conference have expressed a desire to help Frisco City UMC in any way possible. Should there be any needs requested from the church, the conference and district offices will communicate those in the coming days and weeks. Please keep Frisco City UMC in your prayers as they recover from this loss.  

An Invitation from Bishop Paul L. Leeland

published 2/21/2013


It is my sincere pleasure to invite you, as pastors and clergy, to our Alabama-West Florida Conference “Bishop’s Day Apart” which is scheduled for March 11, 2013, at St. James United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL from 9:00am-3:00pm.

Dr. Maxie Dunnam, a United Methodist clergyman, is a scholar, preacher, leader and popular author of more than forty books. Dr. Dunnam is the Pastor Emeritus and Director of Christ Church Global at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, TN. He also has extensive experience in church planting in Georgia, Mississippi and California. Prior to his appointment at Christ United Methodist Church he served with The Upper Room, seven of those years as World Editor. He left Christ Church to serve as President of Asbury Theological Seminary for 10 years where he currently serves as chancellor.

It is my hope Dr. Dunnam will give insight and inspiration to us as ministers of the Gospel. During this time of Lent we look to God for renewal and spiritual refreshment. Dr. Dunnam will help inspire this desire through his transformational teachings.

Please feel free to invite any of your church leadership who would like to join the clergy of our conference for this Bishop’s Day Apart. While this day is intended to strengthen our calling, a broad base of persons are inspired and shaped by Dr. Dunnam’s ministry. We would certainly extend hospitality and invitation to all who wish to join us on this day.

To ensure lunch is provided, it is critical to register for this event. To register, click here. The $10.00 registration fee will cover the cost of lunch and will only be guaranteed to those who pre register. If you need help in the registration process, simply call Megyn or Traci at our Conference Center.

As always, I am very proud of our Alabama-West Florida Conference, for your ministry, and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ you proclaim and invite others to follow. May you join me in giving thanks for the words of the Apostle Paul who said, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Lenten Blessings,



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