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April 26, 2002


Delegates make decision on proposed forum

By Michael Wacht

LAKELAND — Delegates to the 2002 Florida Annual Conference Event May 28-31 here will have the opportunity to vote on a proposal calling for the creation of the new Conference Table.

“We’ll present the resolution as part of the CCOM’s [Conference Council on Ministries’] report,” said Bill Walker, the conference’s director of connectional ministries. “We’ll ask the bishop to invite specific action on it. The delegates will vote to approve and/or amend the resolution.”

Walker said the Conference Table is new to the Florida Conference. “It’s a forum at which all are welcome to address matters of strategic concern to our conference and at which some are expected,” he said. “It’s not designed around membership. It’s designed around helpfulness.”

The Conference Table will have no decision- making power or official authority, but it will be required to report its discussions and recommendations to the annual conference. It will be a place where people can “discern, consider and reflect upon recommendations to the annual conference,” Walker said. “The major conference entities don’t talk to each other easily. It’s not that they don’t want to, but there isn’t a forum for that. This creates that forum.

“My mental vision is the tribal council, in which there are persons who sit around and talk. Then, there is a larger group that sits around that and listens and participates.”

The topics for discussion will be matters that will “aid us in becoming the missionary conference that is our vision,” Walker said. Those topics will be brought to the Table by the conference’s laity and clergy. The Table’s meetings will be held across the conference so as many people as possible have a chance to attend.

Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker will act as chairman of the Table, and the conference lay leader, T. Terrell Sessums, will be the vice chairman.

Along with the open invitation to anyone in the conference, there are 17 people who will be expected to attend. Among them are representatives from the cabinet, conference Commission on Finance and Administration, CCOM, Division of Ministry, Office of New Church Development and Church Redevelopment, and communications. If the office of Congregational Transformation is approved, it will send a representative. There will also be a number of at-large representatives appointed by the bishop to help ensure fair representation based on gender, clergy/laity status and ethnicity.

Walker said the meetings will be videotaped, and information from the Table’s discussions will be available on the conference’s Web site.

Walker hopes participants will learn about each other, the work they do and how they are connected.

“It’s just people talking to each other, but we’re so desperate for that, it will be transformational in itself,” Walker said. “There’s also the expectation that God will be present among us.”   

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