When Bishop David Graves arrived in South Georgia he established three priorities for the South Georgia Conference: disrupting and dismantling racism, clergy mental health, and resourcing the local church for ministry.
This year he is adding an additional priority: church planting and revitalization.
“God has opened up some new windows of opportunity to plant and revitalize churches,” said Bishop Graves. “With a renewed sense of commitment, I believe God is calling the South Georgia Conference to new and abundant life.”
Bishop Graves has asked Mrs. Anne Bosarge, who serves in the Office of Connectional Ministries as Director of Leadership Strategies and Local Church Resources, to oversee this initiative as a part of her current role.
In addition, he is asking the already established Congregational Development Committee, chaired by the Rev. Dr. Ben Gosden, to provide oversight.
The committee will look at three objectives: planting new United Methodist Churches in areas where there are not UMC churches, strengthening churches nearest to those areas, and inviting all the churches of the South Georgia Conference to experience revival and renewal in Jesus Christ. The committee will be studying the conference’s statistics and the growth of communities as they contemplate how best to make more disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The committee has begun to meet and has already formed one Task Force group that will focus on fresh expressions and home churches.
“The time is here for churches in South Georgia to do new things to reach new people in new ways,” said Bosarge. “We want to move from maintaining what is to thriving in our mission to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
“I have already met so many people, both clergy and laity, who are ready to start and be part of the new things God is doing. We already have some of these new things in the works, and I can’t wait to be a part of more of what God is already doing here in South Georgia.”
Bosarge and the committee will also work closely with Bishop Graves and the Cabinet to identify areas of opportunity.
Recognizing that this is a challenging season of change as some local churches choose to disaffiliate from the denomination, Bishop Graves looks toward the hope and joy that is experienced through faithfulness.
“We have found that people are affected by disaffiliation in many different ways,” said Bishop Graves. “Some need a period of time to grieve the loss of community and their ‘spiritual home.’ Others may be excited to do something new and may feel God calling them to take on the leadership to be part of something new. Still others might want to transition into an existing UM church in their area.”
A page has been established on the conference website that helps guide church members affected by disaffiliation in whatever direction God is calling them: www.sgaumc.org/moving-forward-in-mission.
“If you find yourself lost and displaced by the disaffiliation of your church, we want to work with you and provide resources that will help you stay on track as we all continue to move and press into the UMC’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ,” said Bosarge.
Bishop Graves is committed to these areas of priority and is excited to see where God leads.
“As we move forward, I want you to know my commitment is focusing on the people and churches of the great South Georgia Conference and moving forward in this next season of ministry together,” said Bishop Graves. “God is at work in great ways, and I look forward to how we, together as the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, can change our corner of the world.”
As the committee continues to meet and make plans, more information will be shared with the conference.