South Georgia Annual Conference
Jekyll Island Convention Center, Jekyll Island, GA
June 4-7, 2017
Bishop R. Lawson Bryan, presiding
Just outside the doors of the Jekyll Island Convention Center, the Atlantic Ocean stretched as far as the eye could see. Inside, the South Georgia Annual Conference gathered Sunday, June 3 through Tuesday, June 5 for its 152nd annual conference session under the theme “Alive Together in Worship.”
“Stretch,” Bishop Bryan said as he preached the opening worship service sermon and encouraged South Georgia United Methodists to respond to Jesus’ call to follow Him and love and serve others.
“Even John Wesley had to learn to stretch,” he said. “John Wesley stretched the church.”
Bishop Bryan recounted the stories of the women at Jesus’ tomb, the man with the withered hand, and the woman at the well to help illustrate a believer’s response to Jesus’ calling on their lives.
“The real issue is, do I want to let myself wither? Do I want to let myself die? Or do I want to be healed? Do I want to stretch?”
“Stretch out your hand,” Bishop Bryan said, noting those four words from Mark 3:5 summarize Jesus’ ministry. “At the end, Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross so that all the world might come within the embrace of His saving love."
During the service, nearly $30,000 for Abundant Health and the Special Relief Fund for South Georgia clergy was given in order to provide gifts of hope to enrich the health and lives of people in South Georgia, the United States, and around the world. Dr. Simbo Ige, Executive Director of Global Health for Global Ministries, was present to receive the check and share about the Abundant Health initiative.
Throughout the three-day conference, members stretched up in worship and stretched out to each other and to the world. Claire Bowen, church consultant and guest teacher, encouraged churches to work to develop a plan that creates a vision of greatness and vitality. Clergy and laity, sitting together in teams, worked together to develop a plan for vision and ministry as Bowen taught them how to put a "Plan on a Page" to bring new life and to their congregation.
“A vision that stretches us inspires us to be God’s children making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world,” said Bowen. “What inspires you to lead your church to be all that it can be? What vision would make you want to stretch your arms and shout ‘Yes, God, let’s do it!’”
In other action, members:
Four persons were commissioned as provisional elders, and two persons commissioned as provisional deacons. Two persons were ordained into the Order of Deacon.
Eighteen pastors retired, and four were recognized for achieving their 50th anniversary in ministry. Thirty-one clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during the memorial service.
Annual Conference 2018 ended with a Service of Sending Forth as Bishop Bryan encouraged each person to ask themselves, “Where am I stretching?”
“We hold our communities in our hands,” Bishop Bryan said. “Hope is a wonderful thing. Where are you bringing hope in your community? Stretch out in ministry to the world. Stretch out your hands to the world.”
Membership stands at 110,926, down 2,520 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 45,862, down 2,165. Church school attendance stands at 19,839, up 877 from 2017.
The 2019 Annual Conference session will be held June 2-5 in Columbus.