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Saliba assigned to Florida church

David Saliba, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Greenville is pictured with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Joseph following his graduation from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., where he earned his doctorate. Saliba, who has served as pastor of Greenville’s First United Methodist Church since March of 2013, has been appointed to pastor Perdido Bay United Methodist Church in Pensacola, Fla. (File photo)

David Saliba, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Greenville, is pictured with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Joseph following his graduation from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., where he earned his doctorate. Saliba, who has served as pastor of Greenville’s First United Methodist Church since March of 2013, has been appointed to pastor Perdido Bay United Methodist Church in Pensacola, Fla. (File photo)

Dr. David Saliba, who came to Greenville’s First United Methodist Church in March of 2013, will be moving on to a new ministry next month.

On April 29, Saliba learned that he had been appointed to pastor Perdido Bay United Methodist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

“We are deeply saddened about our upcoming move, but trust that it is God’s will being done in our lives and in the lives of the two congregations involved,” said Saliba. “We know that God will be faithful to us, as He will be to the church here in Greenville.”

Saliba said the move was created by a medical emergency, which led to an unexpected opening at Perdido Bay United Methodist Church.

“After prayerful discernment the bishop and cabinet of the Alabama West-Florida Conference decided that Elizabeth, Joseph, and I would become the new pastoral family for Perdido Bay,” he said. “We were told on Friday. We were not asked to consider a move, we were assigned this move.  As an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church our commitment is to the greater mission of Christ’s church and our denomination; therefore, we have given ourselves over to the intenerate system to be appointed where we can best serve the mission of Christ.”

In The United Methodist Church, clergy appointments are made annually by the bishop, who has the responsibility for setting all the pastoral appointments in the conference. This unique system of assigning clergy dates back to John Wesley. This is not the type of system where the church “calls” or “hires” its pastor.

The pastor parish relations committee consults with the district superintendent and communicates if they desire a change in pastoral leadership. Recommendations of the pastor parish relations committee are advisory only.

Pastors also can indicate whether they wish to stay at their current appointments, wish to move to another appointment, or have no preference. However, they are not assured that they will get their first choice. Pastors in the United Methodist Church agree to serve where sent and to accept and abide by the appointments.

The bishop and the cabinet (all district superintendents in the conference) look at appointment needs throughout the conference, taking into consideration the needs of each church, the gifts and talents of each pastor, and other circumstances in the conference. They then determine the appointments for each church in the conference. The bishop typically sets the appointments at the annual conference meeting each year. At this year’s conference, Saliba was told he would remain at FUMC until at least June of 2017, but the recent circumstances in Pensacola led to his reassignment.

Saliba said telling the congregation at FUMC about the move was difficult.

“One of the most difficult things to do is to bid farewell to people that you love, but when those people are your family it hurts deeply,” he said. “Even though we still have a month and half with our large Greenville family, it is tough to think that these will no longer be the people we share our lives with on a daily basis.  So our hearts are heavy and sad at the great loss this creates.”

Saliba, who previously served as a youth minister in Dunwoody, Ga., for three years while attending Candler School of Theology at Emory University and as executive minister at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery for seven years, said Greenville is a special place to his family.

“The best way to describe our time in Greenville is in one simple word — home,” he said. “Faith and family are the two most important values to most people within this community, and they are our highest priorities. Greenville is such a blessing because the church is still a central player in the town and a center of community life. With the emphasis that townspeople place on the church and the home we feel like we are a perfect fit, and have felt nothing but comfortable from day one. Anyone would be blessed tremendously to live in Greenville.”

Saliba has been an active member of the community since arriving in Greenville.

He has served as the president of the board of directors for Safe Harbor, as a board member for the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Achievers Award, as well as serving as president of the Butler County Ministerial Association. He was also set to begin his term as president of the Rotary Club of Greenville in July and has played in a key role in the formation of the Butler County Education Alliance, which is a foundation that supports the public schools in the county. Alabama Business Magazine recently named Saliba as a “mover and shaper” in Butler County for his work in the community.

“The thing I will miss most is the people,” said Saliba. “Day to day, it is the beautiful people of FUMC and Greenville that make life interesting, fun and meaningful.  Not a day will go by that my family will not be mindful of the people of Greenville, for they are forever embedded in our hearts. I will also miss tremendously my ministry within this community. I feel like at times that I am a professional board member and do church work on the side. My family loves Greenville so much that we chose to make sacrifices of our time in order to be a part of making Greenville even better. We will miss the opportunities for making a positive impact on the community, but with God’s help we know we will be able to offer this in our next community as well.”

Saliba will preach his final sermon in Greenville on June 19. His first Sunday at Perdido Bay United Methodist Church will be July 3.

“We came here with a mission to love others as we have been loved in Christ,” he said. “We came here prepared to pour our hearts, souls and lives into loving God, loving the church and loving the community. What we will take away is the amazing way that God, the church and the community have all loved us. God’s love never fails. The FUMC loves us in ways we never imagined were possible and they made us a part of their family. Greenville has a way of loving its citizens that is life-giving. We are incredibly grateful for our time here.”