Eight people will represent the South Georgia Conference at a special called session of General Conference, which will be held Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis.
The South Georgia delegation, elected during the 2015 Annual Conference session, will join other elected delegates to act on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward. The 32-member Commission was appointed to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline
concerning human sexuality and explore options to strengthen the unity of the church.
The South Georgia delegation attending the called Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis is the same delegation that went to Portland, Oregon, for General Conference 2016.
South Georgia’s delegation includes four clergy members and four lay members. They are: Rev. Don Adams, Rev. Jay Hanson, Dr. Bob Moon, Rev. Jim Cowart, Bill Hatcher, Allison Lindsey, Larry Price, and Carl Childs. Alternates are Rev. Denise Walton, Dr. Scott Hagan, Marianne Wright, and Richard Shinhoster.
“This General Conference is unlike any other,” Hatcher said. “While the focus is on one subject, there is much more than the issues dealing with human sexuality. I believe the essence of our beliefs and the foundations of our faith are at stake now.”
The issues the Church is facing are difficult and sensitive, Hatcher says, and he has spent considerable time reading about, studying, and discussing them.
“I believe God, our Heavenly Father, our Source and Provider, will show us the way – His Way,” Hatcher said. “And that is my daily prayer: ‘Lord, may Your will be done and help me to know and to be a part of that will and the way you have for us.’ I have a peace about where He is leading and how we’ll get there, even though I don’t know the specifics. We are a part of His kingdom and He will prevail.”
Rev. Adams, like all delegates, has received information from a variety of sources and has sought to read ideas and concerns from differing positions. He said the delegation’s listening post sessions provided meaningful ways of hearing from people throughout South Georgia, and he appreciated those who took the time and traveled significant distances to personally communicate their stories and convictions.
“I have spent hours reflecting on such input,” Rev. Adams said. “Of course, for months I have sought to wait upon the Lord, reading scripture and praying as earnestly as I know how for God’s will to emerge through both the General Conference and the responses that individuals, churches, and annual conferences make to what takes place at General Conference. My prayer is that God’s grace will lead us through what will likely be a difficult pathway to new opportunities to be renewed in purpose and faith. The cross of Jesus reminds me that God can see us at our worst and love us the most. Easter morning assures me that walking in faith and obedience will allow God to have the last word and it will be good. I seek to be prepared to walk in faith along with others.”
South Georgia’s delegation will meet again Jan. 10 and will hear from a Wespath representative who will help them more fully understand the issues and possible financial impacts surrounding clergy pensions and benefits in the proposals before General Conference.
The total number of delegates participating in the special called General Conference Session is 864, about 58 percent from the United States and 30 percent from Africa.
General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, typically meeting every four years. At the request of General Conference 2016, the Council of Bishops set a plan for addressing the overwhelming number of proposals related to same-sex marriage, the ordination of gay clergy, and related topics. The bishops’ plan involved creating the Commission on a Way Forward and setting a Special Session of General Conference in 2019.
The “regular” General Conference 2020 will follow and will be held in Minneapolis, Minn., May 5 - May 15, 2020.
South Georgia United Methodists are encouraged to join the delegation in prayer for the church’s mission and way forward. Resources can be found online at www.sgaumc.org/prayingourwayforward