Bishop Lawson Bryan, in collaboration with the officers of the Annual Conference and the Cabinet, has announced that the 2020 South Georgia Annual Conference session will be held virtually.
The clergy session is set for Sunday, August 2, 2020 from 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm, and the one-day annual conference session is set for Saturday, August 15, 2020 from 8:30 am - 4:00 pm.
In addition to the business sessions, two special online services are being planned. A Retiree Recognition Service will be held Tuesday, August 11 at 7:00 pm to honor and recognize retiring clergy. A Memorial Service to remember clergy and clergy spouses who have passed away this past year is set for August 13 at 7:00 pm.
Those approved for provisional membership or full connection at the clergy session will be commissioned or ordained in a local church setting with only family and close friends present. The Commissioning Service is set for Saturday, August 8 at 2:00 pm. The Service of Ordination is set for Sunday, August 9 at 4:00 pm. These services will be live-streamed.
The move to a virtual session was informed by a strong response to a survey sent out in May as well as a paper ballot vote in June to amend the Conference’s standing rules to provide for a virtual conference session under certain conditions, which was approved 650 to 43.
“The overwhelming response to the survey and the ballot confirmed our need to plan a virtual session of Annual Conference rather than risking the uncertainties involved in an in-person gathering of hundreds of people,” Bishop Bryan said. “A lot of thought and care is going into what a virtual Annual Conference looks like.”
Bishop Bryan has been in communication with conference leadership as well as various stakeholders - those being commissioned and ordained, retirees, Board of Ministry, Board of Laity, and Memoirs Committee - to make sure all are being heard and cared for.
We are making every effort to continue and strengthen our shared ministry while protecting the health and well-being of all based on information that is rapidly changing,” he said.
The August 2 clergy session and the August 15 business session will utilize an online meeting and voting platform that will allow members to securely participate using an internet-connected device. Several training dates have been set prior to the sessions for individuals to practice voting and become comfortable with the technology (see FAQs below for dates). A non-voting live stream option will be available on the conference website for any guests who wish to view the sessions. The Retiree Recognition and Memorial Services will also be streamed on the conference website.
A condensed agenda is being developed and will be published in July, along with the Book of Recommendations and Reports. The agenda will include only items that are essential at this time so that the session can be conducted in one day.
Instructions for members, details of the session, an outline of the credentialing and voting process, and more information will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead. Find updates as they are available at www.sgaumc.org/annualconference.
“Thank you for your support and flexibility as we navigate planning for the 2020 Annual Conference session,” Bishop Bryan said. “Although this year’s session will be different than any we’ve ever experienced, I look forward to being Alive Together with each of you in new and exciting ways.”
The 2020 South Georgia Annual Conference was originally scheduled for June and postponed until August 14-15, before the decision to hold a virtual gathering.
What should I do if I made a hotel reservation in Tifton?
If you made a hotel reservation in Tifton, you will need to call and cancel your reservation.
What technology do I need to participate in a virtual Annual Conference
Members and guests will need an internet-connected device such as a desktop or laptop computer, tablet, or smartphone. You will access the session using a web browser (i.e. the platform you use to get on the Internet, such as Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.). A webcam is not necessary. Only videos of conference leaders and presenters will be shown during the session. Members of the Annual Conference may speak, ask questions or raise points of order via a chat feature if microphone capabilities are not available.
A non-voting live stream option will be available on the conference website for any guests and families who wish to view the sessions. The Retiree Recognition and Memorial Services will also be made available on the conference website.
Will you provide detailed instructions on the Rules of Order for the conference session and voting process?
Yes. Detailed instructions about how we will conduct our conference and how the voting process works will be provided. As a reminder, our conference uses the Modern Rules of Order to conduct our business sessions. In addition, there will be training sessions prior to the virtual session to help familiarize yourself with the process:
July 29 at 2 pm | July 30 at 8 am | August 10 at 6 pm | August 11 at 10 am
What if I do not have access to reliable internet service or am not comfortable using technology?
If you do not have access to reliable internet access, please contact your district office and they will help partner you with a nearby church. Several training dates have been set prior to these sessions for individuals to practice voting and become comfortable with the technology. Training dates:
July 29 at 2 pm | July 30 at 8 am | August 10 at 6 pm | August 11 at 10 am
What will be included in the agenda for the virtual Annual Conference
While a condensed agenda is still being finalized, it will include the recommended 2021 Conference Budget, Nominations, Board of Pensions Report, and other essential business, as well as opening and closing worship.
What about agenda items we aren’t able to include this year?
We will take up postponed agenda items and celebrations at the 2021 Annual Conference.
Will there be bathroom and lunch breaks included on the agenda?
Yes. We will include scheduled breaks on the agenda.
What about Commissioning and Ordination?
The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has offered this guidance: “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the timing for annual conference and clergy sessions across our connection, including the Ordering of Ministry services. … Judicial Council Decision 1181 (http://ee.umc.org/decisions/42107) states that clergy attain provisional or full membership immediately upon clergy session approval. Membership is not dependent upon their participation in the commissioning or ordination service. Therefore, those elected by the 2020 clergy session immediately enter their new membership status. … The Discipline does not speak to a time limitation between the date of election and date of ordination or commissioning, so conferences have the authority to consider their best options for holding the Order of Ministry service. They may choose to hold the service later in 2020 or in 2021.”
In consultation with the Board of Ministry and those being commissioned and ordained, two service(s) will be held in a local church setting with only family and close friends present. The Commissioning Service is set for Saturday, August 8 at 2:00 pm. The Service of Ordination is set for Sunday, August 9 at 4:00 pm. These services will be live-streamed.
When will we celebrate Retirements and the Service of Remembrance?
Celebrating retirements as a Conference and remembering the saints who have gone before us are treasured times for our Conference. 2020 Retirees will be celebrated on Tuesday, August 11 at 7 pm via a virtual service. We will remember clergy and clergy spouses who passed away this year on August 13 at 7 pm via a virtual service. Afterward, these services will be posted on the conference website to be viewed anytime.
Will there be registration or a registration fee for the Virtual Annual Conference Session?
Registration: Pre-registration is not required for Annual Conference. However, lay and clergy member attendance is recorded in the Conference Journal. Churches must make sure that the elected lay member(s) to Annual Conference is entered into the Church Dashboard by July 30, 2020. Contact your district office for help using the Church Dashboard.
Registration Fee: The registration fee has been waived for this year’s Annual Conference.
I'm a clergy or lay member of the South Georgia Annual Conference. How do I get voting credentials for the virtual 2020 Clergy Session and/or 2020 Annual Conference Session?
To participate in this year’s Annual Conference as a voting member, both clergy and laity will be required to have an individual voter identification (voter id) number. In order to receive the voter id, a unique, personal email address must be on record in the conference database no later than July 13 for clergy and July 30 for laity. Churches are responsible for updating elected lay member's email addresses through the Church Dashboard. Clergy can update their email address by emailing their district office or Meredyth Earnest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note that for security purposes, only the email address in the database can be used to issue voting credentials. Voting credentials, along with the link to participate in the session(s), will be emailed the week of the meeting.
Who is eligible to vote as a clergy member of the Annual Conference?
Clergy Session (August 2): The Book of Discipline stipulates that only Full Clergy Members (active or retired Elders and Deacons) and Lay Members of the Board of Ordained Ministry may vote on the conference relations of clergy, which is the normal business of the clergy session. All clergy members may attend the session, but only those stated above will have a vote. Local pastors and Associate Members will be able to vote on the election of the Chair of the Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members.
Annual Conference Session (August 15): Clergy members who are eligible to vote on the business matters of the annual conference are defined as: Full Elders, Full Deacons, Associate Members, Provisional Elders, Provisional Deacons, Retired Elders, Retired Deacons, Retired Associate Members, Retired Provisional Members (who retired before 2013), and Full-time, Part-time, and Retired Local Pastors who are under appointment at the time of the 2020 Annual Conference session. These will include those who will have been recently received on August 2nd into any of the new clergy relationships listed above.
What if the lay member to Annual Conference for my charge has changed
If you have a change in the lay member to Annual Conference, please contact Meredyth Earnest, Conference Registrar, at email@example.com.
Will there be a Book of Recommendations and Reports this year?
Yes. Just as in years past, a Book of Recommendations and Reports will be available to download on the conference website or available to order through lulu.com. The projected date for release is July 15. In addition, reports that did not make the Book of Recommendations and Reports deadline will be posted on the conference website.
I have more questions about the Virtual Annual Conference. How do I stay informed?
Regularly check www.sgaumc.org/annualconference where we will post information as it is available. For additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Each year—traditionally in June for the South Georgia Conference—all clergy members and an equal number of lay members selected from the local churches attend their conference’s Annual Conference session and meet together to worship, fellowship, and conduct the business of the conference, which may last 3-5 days. During these sessions, members of the conference hear reports of past and ongoing work; adopt future goals, programs and budgets; ordain clergy members as deacons and elders; and elect delegates to Jurisdictional and General Conferences (every 4 years). The bishop presides over these meetings.