FROM THE BISHOP
When I first began my time here with you in South Georgia, I said that I wanted to help people get to where they wanted to go. That is exactly what your conference leadership has done — and has done so in an exceedingly gracious process. We have released a list of the churches who feel they need to now move in a direction other than The United Methodist Church.
My heart breaks over this decision. I know that you may share similar feelings realizing that churches that have been a part of your life are now choosing to separate from our connection.
While there may be grief and sadness in reading the names of these churches, we acknowledge all of the ways they have shared the good news of a risen savior as part of our United Methodist Church family.
There is so much strength in our connection and in our relationships. For those who remain a part of this great Annual Conference it is this connection and these relationships that we will lean into in the days ahead.
I have great hope for the future of the South Georgia Conference. While we may be smaller, numbers do not tell the full story or define our ability to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. I believe we will be stronger as we focus on reaching new people with the gospel message.
Friends, it is now time to turn the page and lean into the ways that God is moving so powerfully among us. People ask exactly what that means and what that looks like.
Here’s what I know.
We have 275 vibrant, Wesleyan, orthodox churches rooted in scripture. We have committed laity whose desire is to know God and make God known. This next conference year we will be appointing 213 ministers to local churches and an additional 50 clergy to serve in extension ministries, and we have over 300 retired clergy who remain aligned with the United Methodist Church. We have a wonderful staff devoted to walking alongside and resourcing the local church.
Our churches are welcoming new people each and every week. We are celebrating baptisms and life-altering decisions to follow Jesus.
We’re working to do our part to disrupt and dismantle racism. We’re putting intentional efforts and focus on our Hispanic/Latino ministries. We are making clergy mental health a priority.
We have fresh expressions and new faith communities popping up all over the conference. We already have new faith communities in Thomasville, Albany, Brunswick, Valdosta, St. Marys, and we are looking at more places throughout our Annual Conference. We have clergy who are coming out of retirement to provide pastoral leadership, and laity who are playing key roles in the formation of these new expressions. It’s an exciting time to be a part of what God is doing!
I have formed a ministry strategy team that you will hear more about in the coming weeks. This team will help cultivate new expressions of ministry and will help our established churches vision and seek new ways of sharing Christ with new people.
I have been so encouraged by the clergy and laity who have stepped up to provide leadership in this season. This conference needs leaders who are guided by the Holy Spirit, who will serve with integrity, and who are committed to seeking God’s future for the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. I call on all who are serving to be people of prayer, making decisions for our future here so that together we can build up the Kingdom of God.
Friends, there will always be denominational issues that may distract or disappoint us. The same will be true with any new denomination or church because people are always involved, and people aren’t perfect. When we are focused on mission and ministry, it moves us to experience the power of God’s Holy Spirit changing lives, being a voice for the voiceless, and transforming our families and communities.
It is time to put the word disaffiliation behind us and begin to write the next chapter in the story of this great conference. We need to prayerfully consider what God is calling us to - not in creating Church 2.0 - but as Easter people seeking a new beginning of reaching new people for Christ.
Yes, we are Easter people! I’m so thankful to be your bishop and to serve alongside you, and I’m looking forward to turning the page with you.