ACE^2: Academy of Clergy Excellence

ACE2: The Academy of Clergy Excellence

ACEis an alternative continuing education program for clergy serving in the North Georgia Annual Conference.  ACE2 encourages clergy to bond, learn and dream together in order to refresh self, church and community.  It is based on self-selected and self-directed clergy peer learning groups.  Each group designs and implements their own custom continuing education plan over a two year period. Plans include sharing best practices, gaining new tools and exploring adaptive adventures for making new disciples.  



Participation fee due by January 31, 2020

ACE2 participants are expected to pay a non-refundable $500 participation fee in January of each participating year.  

Pay by check: Make checks payable to "The North Georgia Conference of the UMC."  In the memo line, specify ACE2/ Group Name.  Mail checks to Center for Clergy Excellence/ ACE2  1700 Century Circle NE  Suite 100  Atlanta, GA  30345.  

Pay online




  • Application deadline- September 27, 2019
  • Approval notification- by October 4, 2019
  • Be sure to turn in your supporting signatures ASAP

  • SAVE THE DATE!  Orientation retreat at Callaway Gardens- November 4-6, 2019
  • $500 non-refundable participant fee due- January 2020
  • Funding starts- January 2020
  • Year 1 plan due- January 2020
  • Mid-point retreat- Fall 2020
  • Year 2 plan due- January 2021
  • $500 participant fee for year 2 due- January 2021
  • Funding ends December 31, 2021



  • Orientation retreat- September 17-19, 2018
  • Year 1 plan due- October 2018
  • $500 participant fee for year 1 due- January 2019
  • Present at one information session- August 12-15, 2019
  • Mid-point retreat- October 28, 2019- Oak Grove UMC 
  • Year 2 plan due- January 2020
  • $500 participant fee for year 2 due- January 2020
  • Funding ends December 31, 2020



Get to know the 2018-2020 ACE2 learning groups at


ACE2 Challenges Clergy

to Bond, Learn, and Dream

Meet Walking Women of the World: 

Their Boots are Made for Walking

 The “Walking Women of the World” ACE2 group objective is to build lifelong friendships, strengthen our mind , body and spirit, recognizing the spirituality of our physical selves and walking into the authentic individuals God created us to be through sharing experiences, and practicing different spiritual disciplines.   We began our first group trip on November 13, 2018 at a team member’s family cabin in North Carolina where we started developing trust to build our lifelong friendships.   Next we participated in a spiritual retreat at the Order of St. Helena in Augusta, Georgia in February 2019 where we expanded our spiritual disciplines and recognized our authentic spirituality with a spiritual director.  Our group decided our local physical test would include walking in the July 4th Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta in which our team mates completed the race.  We were so excited because several of us would have never participated if we had not received the encouragement of our clergy sisters.

We chose to walk the Ottawa Trail to Montreal, Canada for our spiritual and physical journey.   To prepare, we trained individually and we attended a three-hour class to learn from experienced hikers/pilgrims.  Seven North Georgia Clergy Women- Nancy Johnson, Anika Jones, Millie Kim, Terri Lemons, Karen Lyons, Pam McCurdy and Cyndi McDonald flew to Ottawa, Canada.  Our experience began with a worship service which included a blessing of our backpacks and radical hospitality.  Former pilgrims walked several miles of the journey with us sharing their stories of faith. 

We walked from Ottawa-Orleans to Orleans-Buckingham where we had vespers with nuns who only spoke French except one but the Holy Spirit had no language boundaries.  They hugged us, welcomed us and helped us.   We walked to Buckingham-Thurso and to Thurso-Plaisance where two former pilgrims surprised us by fellowshipping with us for dinner.   We ended our journey in Montreal where we enjoyed a Food Walking Tour.  We walked 12-14 miles a day.  As we were walking we were growing physically and spiritually.  We learned to listen to our bodies, and pace ourselves understanding that our personal best is good enough!  We would sing and meditate on Matthew 11:28-30 (our group Bible verse).    We encountered Christ in nature, in our guide and each other when we celebrated Communion each day. It reminded us we are all created in God’s image. 

Beyond the walls of the church, “grace” was expressed in word and deed by the store clerk, wait staff, the hostess who let us take a break, and Gracie, the puppy that accompanied us. We did not “earn” grace.  They simply extended it because it’s what you do for your “neighbor.”  We learned to be present, listen and extend grace to others.   Are we doing the same? Are our churches doing the same?

We strengthened and expanded our mind, body, and spirit through this journey. We are thankful to God, and the North Georgia Annual Conference.   It was a gift and grace of God!



Route 66: Our ACEPilgrimage Begins

"We, the Intentional Pilgrims, chose for our ACE² project a pilgrimage along Route 66. Crossing prairies, rivers, mountains, and deserts, connecting large cities, small towns, and forgotten hamlets, we traversed perhaps the most iconic roadway in our American culture."

Learning, Bonding, Dreaming: 2018-2020 ACECohort

"Bond, learn, and dream" was the mandate given to the participants of North Georgia’s Academy of Clergy Excellence, otherwise known as ACE2. Thirteen groups, representing more than 80 clergy in the North Georgia Conference, will rally for two years around an essential question as the launch pad for their learning adventures. After an intensive orientation and planning retreat at Callaway Gardens in September 2018, ACE2 groups are embarking on their learning adventures near and far.


ACE2 Launches Clergy Peer Groups

This summer ACE2 rallied more than 90 clergy in the North Georgia Annual Conference into 13 peer learning groups. When asked why this program generated such enthusiasm, participants said they were looking for: connection, lifelong learning, adventure, renewal, and a desire for God to do a new thing in me and my church.


Questions about ACE2

Please contact the Conference ACE2 Coordinator
Rev. Leigh Martin


Who's eligible to participate?

  • Any combination of the following: 
    • Full-time full connection elders
    • Full-time full connection deacons
    • Full-time local pastors who have completed Course of Study or seminary
    • Extension ministers in the above categories
    • Clergy enrolled in degree programs or currently in provisional status may not apply as these are also peer learning groups.  

What was the application process?

  • Identify a group of 6-8 North Georgia United Methodist clergy to learn and grow with over a two year period.
  • Develop a general idea of what you would like to learn in your time together.
  • Submit your general application by September 20, 2019.
  • Approved applicants will be notified by October 4, 2019.
  • Once approved, your group will participate in a two-day orientation retreat at Callaway Gardens November 4-6, 2019. At the retreat your group will meet with a coach to refine your group plan.
  • Groups will submit their continuing education plan no later than January 31, 2020.
  • Groups will be required to attend a mid-point retreat.

What's the time commitment?

  • ACE2 requires participants to be involved in peer learning 14 days per year for two years.  This includes 2 continuing education Sundays.  Although it will be different for each group, overnight retreats and travel are expected for all groups.  

Why does my group have to be 6-8?

  • From experience, a group of 6-8 is an ideal size. It is small enough to feel like an intimate group and also practical enough to travel together. It is large enough to have variety and an engaging dynamic.

What if I don't have a group or if there are not enough people in my group? 

  • It is strongly encouraged that clergy self-select; however, for those without a group ACE2 will help facilitate group formation by making available a list of interested clergy on an ACE2 Match-Up web page . Participants must commit to a group of 6-8 clergy in order to participate.
  • Groups that fall short of the 6-8 group requirement are still encouraged to recruit for members on the ACE2 Match Up web page.  Groups who do not meet the minimum required number of participants will not be approved.
  • ACE2 will NOT assign people to groups. Groups must self-select.

Can people join the group after it is formed?  

  • No.  Once approved, groups are closed for two years.  No one new may be added, even if the group is less than 8 members.

Can I be in more than one group? 

  • No.    

What am I supposed to study?

  • Your group of 6-8 clergy will determine what continuing education you need in order to refresh your self, church and community. In order to apply, your group needs to have a general idea of what you would like to learn together. A detailed plan is not required to apply. Groups are encouraged to dream and explore learning experiences beyond church. 
  • ACE2 funds are limited to custom learning experiences designed by peer groups. Prepackaged continuing education events are discouraged. Groups are encouraged to design their own unique continuing education experience. While Pastor’s School and prepackaged conferences are beneficial, they will not be funded by ACE2.

Do I get CEUs for ACE2?

  • Yes.  Your two year participation in ACE2 will earn you all 6 CEUs required per quadrennium.  

What does it cost to participate? 

  • Approved ACE2 participants are expected to pay a non-refundable $500 participant fee in January of each participating year.  The first year's payment is due January 2020.  Participants are encouraged to use their continuing education budget for this fee.   

How does funding work?

  • ACE2 will allocate funding for groups ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 per participant per year. Groups that demonstrate diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, life stage, appointment context, as well as, theological diversity are encouraged. Funding levels for each group will be communicated before the orientation retreat.
  • ACE2 funds are not grants, but allocations accessed through a reimbursement process.  
  • Due to the unconventional nature of this continuing education, ACE2 funds are considered taxable income.  Participants will receive a 1099 each year on the actual funds used.