Disaster Response Preparedness, August 23, 2012

published 8/23/2012


The Alabama-West Florida Conference Disaster Response Team is on standby in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac. We are closely watching the developments of this storm to see if it intensifies and the direction it will head. We have arranged a special conference call tomorrow afternoon with all conference disaster response coordinators to organize our efforts. We are also in communication with the Florida Conference as we anticipate where the storm will land.

Details about our efforts, how you can help and what is needed will be sent via e-mail, posted on Facebook and on the conference Web site as they are made clear to us. At the moment, we ask for your prayers for those that are in the line of the storm and for God to guide our efforts in the best way possible.

Amelia Fletcher
Alabama-West Florida Disaster Response Coordinator


Perdido Bay UMC's Flora-Bama Outreach Gains National Attention

published 8/15/2012

Perdido Bay United Methodist Church's Flora-Bama Outreach gained national attention on August 15 with a feature article about its unique ministry and the people it reaches. 

Click here to read the associated press article posted on

Bishop Robert Schnase's Episcopal Address

published 8/14/2012

Friends in Ministry,

Below is a link to an Episcopal Address that Bishop Robert Schnase delivered to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in July. I would like to ask each of you to take time to read or watch this. We are having similar conversations within the Alabama-West Florida Conference about developing an alignment around the Great Commission, while also developing effective leaders in fruitful congregations. 

A printed version of his address can be found here

To see the video version, click here and click on the first link

As always, should you have any thoughts on this, I welcome the chance to speak with you. I'm praying for each of you as you lead this wonderful conference in ministry. 


Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference 


Quietly Shaping the Future of the United Methodist Church

published 8/13/2012

An anonymous donation. A student quietly hearing the call to ministry. Letters from donors to seminary students to show their support. The Stegall Seminary Scholarship Endowment Foundation makes a monumental impact on the future of the United Methodist Church but much of their work goes unnoticed or is behind the scenes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012, the Stegall Scholarship Fund hosted its annual banquet at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Montgomery. A record number of supporters gathered to show their support of this ministry while also welcoming twelve seminary students back home; placing donors and students face to face, some for the first time. Despite a most elegant evening, the night was paid for by two generous donors so that no money was taken away from scholarships.

Dr. Karl K. Stegall, retired Alabama-West Florida Conference pastor and now executive director of the fund, was the host for the evening and welcomed all in attendance. Dr. Nathan Attwood, pastor at Millbrook First United Methodist Church, gave the invocation but before explained the importance of small checks that came in the mail while he was attending seminary. He stated, “Each young clergy person in this room knows what it’s like to have Dr. Stegall take an interest in him or her.”

The highlight of the evening was hearing from three current seminary students and one alumnus, now serving as a leader in the AWF Conference.

First speaking was Angie Long, who attends Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Circumstances of her childhood led her to be self sufficient and a non-trusting woman. She always had a strong sense of God’s presence in her life and after having two children, felt the need to search for a church home. She found that home in Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL and was introduced to Christ. She heard the call to ministry at the time in her life when she was married, 33 years of age, had two children and a full-time career--she had no idea how to respond. Long said to the donors in the room, “At any time I begin to feel alone or worry, you’ve been there. I’ve found what it means to be a part of your Christian family.” Hearing those quiet prayers during her long and monotonous travels to and from seminary.

Gabe Holloway delivered an emotional testimony about a very dark time in his life. He attends Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY and is from Opelika First United Methodist Church. After hearing what he was hoping wasn’t a call, he started work towards his master of divinity in 2010. In April of 2011, Gabe and his wife, Lynn, found out she was pregnant but the baby was diagnosed with anencephaly, a fatal defect of the neural tube that would not allow her to survive outside of the womb. Annie was born on a cold November morning and lived for 45 minutes. Holloway sincerely expressed, “No other organization stepped in like this one.” He explained that it wasn’t just the financial support but prayers, phone calls and e-mails. He concluded by saying, “Keep on loving and trusting Jesus.”

Before the other guest speakers gave their messages, a duet was provided by Susan Cooper, wife of former seminary student, Rev. Jay Cooper, and Jack Horner, Director of Music at First United Methodist Church Montgomery. They performed a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Drew Willis of Duke University, made the drive from Durham, NC to express his heartfelt thanks. His home church is Livingston United Methodist Church in the Demopolis District. Willis eloquently shared with the group, “You are the ones that we are stepping out in faith hoping to find.” Drew is a first-generation college student from a single parent home and did not think a seminary education at Duke University was within reach until he found out about the Stegall fund. Current pastors in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Tim and Cherie Meadows, supported and encouraged him and members of Demopolis District affirmed him. “I could only do it if I leaned out in faith and you all were there to support us,” he said. “Seminary is not a solo journey.”

Robin Wilson, seminary alumnus, grew up in Prattville First United Methodist Church and is now co-senior pastor at Dauphin Way United Methodist Church with her husband, Jeff. In 1996, at 22 years old, she had just finished her first year of seminary. Looking to explore how to answer a call into ministry, she interned with the Holston and Western North Carolina Conferences. Both conferences urged her to make her ministry home there. She and a friend made a journey to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference and met a man that would change her life forever—Dr. Karl Stegall. After learning her story, he promised she would receive a check from the foundation that became the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Fund. All of a sudden, she had a connection to home. She stressed the importance of financial commitment, but more than that, how much donors have made a difference in their lives. Wilson explained, “You have made us want to be not only better pastors, but better Christians.”

Dr. Paulette Thompson, Stegall Seminary Scholarship Foundation board member, presented the second annual Stegall Scholarship Appreciation Award to John Bullard. Lovingly she said, “This recipient is unique in a singular way that sets him apart from the rest of us.” Bullard exemplifies what it means to be a United Methodist and has served at every level of the church. In the local church he participated and led Bible Studies, was the chairman of the trustees and administrative board as well as the finance committee, council on ministries and staff parish relations. He has served the district through the board of trustees, nominating committee and grounds committee. At the conference level he was an active board member of the UM Foundation, chaired the conference CFA as well as serves as a delegate to annual conference. He has also participated at the general church level and has attended world Methodist conferences. He has shown a lifelong commitment to time, talents and service. Bullard is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University in Civil Engineering. Under his leadership and at his home dining room table, others were pulled into the birthing process to make the Stegall Scholarship Endowment Fund a legal and functioning reality. Bullard was honored by a standing ovation of nearly 400 guests.

Dr. Stegall introduced Bishop Paul Leeland, resident Bishop of the AWF Conference, to share a few words. Bishop Leeland was proud to inform the guests that the AWF Conference has 55 persons enrolled in seminary and broke into the top ten conferences for receiving young adult clergy of 35 and under into their conference. He further explained that 70% of United Methodist seminarians leave with a tremendous amount of debt and stressing the important of the great work of the donors.

Terry Mitchell , treasurer of foundation, shared, “We have much to be thankful for and celebrate this night. Imagine the multitude of disciples that will be made from these seminary students.” A surprise $500,000 check from the estate of Irene Miller was presented to Dr. Karl Stegall, bringing the fund close to the goal of raising $5 million of funds within 5 years. Mitchell eloquently concluded by saying, “God’s blessings are flowing from your faithfulness.” Dr. Stegall emotionally expressed his thanks to God for the faithful ministry of Irene and Carlisle Miller. Quiet servants changing the lives of many.

A most appropriate conclusion was held by having each seminary student in attendance come to the stage where the Bishop offered a benediction and prayer for those taking on this quiet, but sincere call. Maybe you haven’t heard from these students yet, but rest assured, you will. For the future of the AWF Conference is quietly studying and preparing to lead you and future generations.

To see photos from the evening, click here. For more information on the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Fund, go to


{Angie Long, current Candler School of Theology Seminary
student, expresses her thanks to those in attendance who have
helped her follow her ministerial call.}

AWF Cabinet August Meeting Summary

published 8/10/2012

(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - Bishop Leeland and members of the Cabinet met this past week in a regularly scheduled session in Montgomery, AL. We celebrate the variety of ministries found across the conference and were able to receive updates on many of these initiatives during our gathering. Amelia Fletcher, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, provided essential information to guide superintendents in their role when an event occurs within the districts requiring assistance in response and recovery. Additional training has been scheduled for the Cabinet for later in the year. Fred and Laurel Blackwell, leaders of The Circles of Transformation ministry, an effort to eliminate the cyclical nature of poverty, shared about the expansion of this ministry from Dothan into Montgomery, Mobile, and Niceville, FL. They outlined a new aspect of the ministry creating "Circle Congregations" involving churches that take an interest in supporting and encouraging community development in their area. Reverend Neil McDavid, Director of Connectional Ministries, gave an overview of other ministries and programs of the conference, including the SBC 21 - Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century event which took place over the weekend.

Reverend June Jernigan, Director of Ministerial Services and Assistant to the Bishop, discussed changes to the Discipline affecting ordained ministry, particularly in the area of mentoring as the denomination shifts to a group mentoring model. Our Conference Board of Ministry is in the process of implementing this new mentoring approach under the direction of Dr. Alan Cassady and Reverend Kathy Knight. Other aspects of the conversation about Ordained Ministry included the legislation changing security of appointment and the upcoming hearings before the Judicial Council as well as a need for timely reporting of information and forms required by the denomination from local congregations and pastors.

Vital Congregations and the need for "turnaround" leaders continues to be an area of emphasis for the Cabinet. Superintendents will be in communication with local church leaders during the charge conference season regarding fruitfulness and vitality in our work to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The emphasis on the Great Commission is a central component to our call. In a season where many churches are diminishing or have plateaued in their witness and influence we are working to identify ways these congregations can reengage their particular context for the work of ministry in the world.

Superintendents were also given guidance on how to implement a decision from the Conference Council on Finance and Administration that calls for the financial services in each district to be provided by the Conference Fiscal Office. One district has already made the transition to this new system and other districts will begin the process in the upcoming months.

A significant amount of our time was spent participating in the Incubator process, under the direction of Spiritual Leadership Incorporated (SLI) directors, Greg Survant and Craig Robertson. We reviewed the Ministry Action Plan for the Conference and we seek to continue to work toward alignment of our resources, initiatives, and goals in the operation of the SEND model. The SEND model is the method in which we Seek, Engage, Nurture, and Deploy spiritual leaders for ministry in the conference and beyond. The SEND model effectively coordinates ministry across the diverse landscape of the conference, while providing the flexibility necessary to adapt to the local context for ministry.

We continue to celebrate the commitments of local churches toward the Connectional Giving and are hopeful that increases we have seen this year relative to last year will continue for the remainder of 2012. We are grateful for the many ways that clergy and laity across Alabama and West Florida seek to live in connection with each other and in mission to the world. We are excited to have Bishop Paul Leeland and his wife, Janet, assigned to our area for another four years and are eager to build upon the foundation that has been laid under his leadership. We sense an excitement at the "even greater things" yet to be done for the Kingdom of God here in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference! To God be the glory!


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