Sometimes "Thank You" Is Not Enough

published 2/29/2012

Sometimes “thank you” is not enough. It doesn’t always capture the depth of our gratitude and we don’t always recognize the sacrifice that has been made by others. However, I did think about the sacrifices made by congregations in our Alabama-West Florida Conference when I looked at the large stack of certificates awaiting my signature in gratitude for the acknowledgement of paying 100% of their Missional Giving. As United Methodists, we truly represent a Movement within the world. Thank you!

This Movement, of which we are a part, represents 340 United Methodist missionaries who share the word of God and the love of Jesus Christ in more than 60 nations. Seven of these missionaries are directly related to our Alabama-West Florida Conference. What a Movement of Christ being proclaimed throughout the world. Thank you.

As I signed the certificates of a vast majority of our local churches completing 100% of their Missional Giving, I thought about the United Methodist students attending Huntingdon College, all of whom receive a 50% reduction in their tuition. What a gift from our United Methodist churches and an investment in our future leadership representing an amazing Movement of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for the years to come. Thank you.

We could record a significant list of communities and people directly impacted by our local congregations. Such a list would include:
• Women who do not have to spend the night on the streets in Mobile, AL, because of our support for Mobile Inner City Mission
• Alleviating the fatal disease of malaria throughout the world
• Breaking the cycles of poverty because of our CIRCLES of Transformation initiative
• Creating new congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ
• Conference staff who work with congregations of small membership churches who cannot afford additional church staff
• Offering retreats and events in our camping ministry where many of our current clergy leadership experienced the Presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.
What a movement. Thank you.

For all who completed their goal of 100%, I want to say thank you. And for those congregations who came close but did not quite make 100% this year, let me thank you as I encourage you to remain faithful to the covenant shaped by our sisters and brothers who work on our conference budget to represent these missional priorities. If we can contribute to other meaningful missional initiatives in our community and around the world while still remaining faithful to our covenant, then I say, “Thanks be to God.”

Gil Rendle, in his book, Back To Zero, acknowledges the great Movement our United Methodist Church has become and reminds us, “Ours is a church that would be a movement. We cannot dismantle our institutional side because we do, in fact, need some form of infrastructure to organize and align us. But if enough of us shift from self-interest to missional purpose, we have the capacity to birth a movement within our institutional self” (p.67). Gil Rendle acknowledges there are different types of movements and his primary question is “what kind of movement are we seeking?" I would encourage all congregational leaders to read this insightful resource in our search to rediscover the Methodist Movement. I believe the covenant set by our sisters and brothers expresses a major movement impacting our annual conference, our denomination and our world. So, I say once again, “thank you.”

Each person representing a local church can find a complete list of all churches who were faithful to the covenant set by our sisters and brothers, many who sacrificed to remain faithful, completing 100% of their apportionments, allowing us to be a presence, a witness for Jesus Christ, a United Methodist Movement throughout our world. This complete list of 2011 Missional Giving is found here

Sometimes “thank you” is never enough. It isn’t enough for the wonderful work you have accomplished this year. Still, there is no other word that captures the depth of my appreciation. Thank you.

With Appreciation,
Paul L. Leeland

Prayer Breakfast Held for State Leaders

published 2/24/2012

(Montgomery, AL) - The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church of Montgomery’s Work Area on Church & Society hosted a prayer breakfast on February 23 in the fellowship hall of The New Church at 301 Dexter Avenue (formerly Dexter Ave. United Methodist Church). Alabama Supreme Court Justices Tom Parker and Lyn Stuart, numerous state legislators, area United Methodist pastors and lay persons gathered to pray for our state.

Susan Hunt, Conference Director of Mission and Advocacy, welcomed the group. Guest speaker Dr. Lawson Bryan, Senior Minister at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, encouraged those present to follow the example of Priscilla and Aquila as told in the Book of Acts and find ways to work together with mutual respect for each others’ differences.

Dr. Bryan also pointed out the similarities between the governance of the United Methodist Church and the democratic model on which the federal and state governments are based. He suggested that government officials and church leaders can benefit from each others’ counsel and explained that the eight million members of the United Methodist Church are governed by their Book of Discipline, which includes thoughtful discussion of many issues in the contemporary world. 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. Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent Rev. Ron Ball concluded the program with a benediction.

“We appreciate our elected state officials taking time from their busy schedules to join us in prayer and reflection,” said Brenda Boman, Chairperson of the Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Church & Society. “We pray that the decisions they make for our state are grounded in the teachings of Jesus, who commanded us to love one another as ourselves.”

Boman also stated, “I would also like to express my appreciation to Rev. Tony McCullough and the congregation of The New Church for their hospitality and support of this event. Our Conference is very fortunate to have such a wonderful facility so conveniently located in downtown Montgomery.”


3.0 Missional Summer Internship Availability

published 2/20/2012

The 3.0 Missional Summer Internship (a partner of Forge America) offers young people an amazing opportunity to serve the underprivileged in Mobile, Alabama. We need your help in spreading the word! Selected interns will be challenged to grow spiritually, develop leadership skills, receive mentoring, and live in Christian-community. We will recruit up to 28 interns for the summer of 2012. An online application, reference forms, testimonies of past interns, and much more can be found at A brochure is here for you to print and share with prospective applicants. The deadline is March 18 but applications will be accepted until all positions are filled. 

The name “3.0” (three-point-O) references the history and present situation of both the Church and Methodism. Started as transformational movements (version 1.0), they have largely degenerated into declining institutions (version 2.0), and must now regain the Missional ethos necessary to reach a post-Christendom world for Christ (version 3.0). The “Quad W Foundation” ( was established in memory of Willie Tichenor who died of osteosarcoma at age 19. Their purpose is to honor Willie’s desire to make positive changes in the world around him. Please visit their website to learn more about this amazing young man and the Foundation’s amazing work!

About The Internship:

• to provide a deeply significant, potentially life-changing mission experience for college students.
• to holistically meet the needs of the poor.
• to partner with churches in troubled communities, helping them re-connect with the people of their area in the love of Jesus Christ and for the glory of his name.

Mission Site
The heart of the internship is extensive daily hands-on ministry. Interns are placed in a challenging urban ministry environment where they engage in relational community ministry focusing on both physical and spiritual needs. This aspect is a cooperative effort of area United Methodist pastors, churches, and United Methodist agencies.

Reflection time with experienced Missional leaders to process field experiences on a deeper personal level.

Equipping Sessions
These weekly sessions help interns re-evaluate what it really means to follow Jesus, move beyond a consumer spirituality, focus on the needs of the world, and prepare to launch future initiatives that contribute to the transformation of communities. Specifically this involves assigned reading and training in the areas of “Missional church,” race relations, and poverty. Equipping also takes place through weekly field trips to visit with leaders of local ministries that are dramatically impacting their communities.

Small group gatherings and activities to share stories, questions and ideas with the goal of relationships building and greater effectiveness.

Next Step Planning
Developing concrete strategies and plans for the future so that what is learned through the internships is applied in the communities to which the interns will return.

Spiritual Disciplines
Weekly worship together and at host churches, and weekly Life Transformation Groups (groups of two or threes of the same genders who meet for the purpose of accountability, Scripture reflection, and prayer).

Additional information is posted at If you have any questions, please contact Don Woolley at 251.689.4333 or, or Jean Tippit at


Living Into a Dream: The Teaching Parish Program

published 2/13/2012

Guest Commentary: Rev. Jay D. Cooper

History reminds us that unless we learn from the past we are likely to repeat it. No other appropriate words could apply to the way Montgomery has witnessed strides toward racial reconciliation than these. Although we should all acknowledge that more may be done to bridge the divide between all boundaries we create for ourselves, we should also celebrate the sacrifices and efforts of those who have paved the road toward justice and peace. This reality could not have landed any more closely to home than it did on February 6th.

Student/Pastors from our conference who attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University are afforded the opportunity to participate in The Teaching Parish Program. This twenty-hour per semester program allows students to study leadership models for ministry. Some of the requirements include secular and congregational analyses, system theory models, ministry acts, homiletical praxis, and theological reflection papers. Under the leadership of Dr. Karl K. Stegall, the Teaching Parish group meets five times each semester to fulfill these requirements in keeping with the Contextual Education requirements of Candler. 

On February 6th, however, Dr. Stegall heightened the program to a new level by inviting the group to attend a field trip. Much to our surprise we were offered the chance to engage in a private tour of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and its parsonage. These historical sites launched the ministry of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. After being greeted with radical hospitality our group viewed a video which explained the history of Dexter Avenue Baptist. We were also privileged to experience the events of the Civil Rights Movement through mural artwork painted on the wall of the fellowship hall. Our assignment for the day, however, was to divide Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech into seven parts so that each student would be able to preach a segment of the August 28, 1963 speech, which has been heralded as the greatest speech of the 20th century. It is fair to say that none of us who embarked on this journey were ready to encounter the exhilaration and humility of preaching Dr. King’s speech from Dr. King’s pulpit. Imagine a group of seven white seminary students preaching from Dr. King’s pulpit. To think that we could preach from Dr. King’s pulpit in a city that was once ravaged by racism and intolerance was indeed a profound experience. Thus, we do well to learn (and remember) the mistakes and events of the past lest we repeat them. Praise be to God who is the author and sustainer of reconciliation and peace!

As each student read her or his assigned portion of the speech our imaginations raced with the indelible truth that we were living into a dream cast so long ago. For twelve minutes or so we glimpsed the possibility of a dream that foretells of a humanity who is “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” Brought to life was the notion that, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” In that moment we were all reminded as church leaders that we must no longer be the tail lights in the community, but that the church must now be the head lights, illuminating the dark places of injustice and intolerance wherever these may exist. We caught a glimpse of the dream which calls for “justice to roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Mostly, though, we longed for the day when all God’s children may experience the freedom of equality and the hope of renewal. 

As we celebrate Black History Month I would encourage our churches to consider making the trek to Montgomery to visit Dr. King’s church on Dexter Avenue and the parsonage on Jackson Street. Not only does history come alive in these hallowed places but as Christians we recognize that we are called to proclaim with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength that: “one day all God’s children, black men and white men, Jew and gentile, protestant and Catholic will join hands and sing together that familiar old spiritual…‘Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last.” Until the day this dream is fully realized may we love one another as we have been loved by our God.

World Without End…





Housing Allowances for Clergy

published 2/10/2012

The following information was shared with us from the Legal Department at the General Council on Finance and Administration regarding housing allowances for clergy:

In December 2010, the U.S. Tax Court issued a controversial decision in a case involving the clergy housing allowance. The decision held that a ministerial taxpayer could apply the housing allowance exclusion to more than one home. The IRS appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On February 8, 2012, the 11th Circuit reversed the Tax Court’s decision and held the housing allowance can only be applied to one home. We won’t bore you with the details behind the fairly short opinion, as the result was not at all surprising. Almost everyone (except for the taxpayer and a majority of the Tax Court!) had thought the housing allowance could only be applied to one home. So we are back to where we were.

This return to the status quo may be important information for any clergy who were planning on claiming an allowance for two homes on their 2011 returns or who requested designations to reflect the cost of two homes for 2012.

If you have questions you may call the Conference Treasurer or ask your personal tax preparer or CPA for further information.


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