Rev. Antonie Walker began the conference in a centering moment to prepare our hearts for worship.
The morning worship was led by Rev. Rebecca Duke-Barton, pastor of Jesup First United Methodist Church. Reading from the book of Nehemiah, Rev. Duke-Barton invited those in attendance to "pray like a Methodist".
“When we're praying like a Methodist, we pray knowing that the Holy Spirit is going to take us somewhere,” said Rev. Duke-Barton. “Because we believe in the God of steadfast love, because we have repented and turned to Him, God rebuilds.”
Rev. Duke-Barton reminded conference members that when we pray, God acts.
“I believe that what God did in Nehemiah's time, he wants to do for us right here in the South Georgia Annual Conference,” said Rev. Duke-Barton. “You know what we need to do? We need to get to praying like a Methodist and let the Holy Spirit take us where he will.”
Monday Morning Business Session
The Business Session of the 2023 Annual Conference opened with the historic hymn, “And Are We Yet Alive.” Bishop Graves called the 159th session of the South Georgia Annual Conference to order. This is Bishop Graves’ second regular Annual Conference to preside over as the resident bishop of the South Georgia Area.
In the Business Session Monday morning, the conference:
began the business session with a prayer moment led by Dr. Ted Goshorn, pastor of Mulberry St. UMC in Macon.
welcomed Bishop David and Mrs. Nancy Graves to their second South Georgia Annual Conference. The Board of Laity presented them with gifts representing areas of our conference.
recognized and showed appreciation for Jodi Atkinson, Sharon Wolfe, Jane Seaman, Gail Grantham, and Cindy Rollins. These 5 individuals have served as district administrative assistants and have been part of what makes this annual conference and our six districts run so smoothly. A special gift was presented to Gail Grantham for 42 years of service as the district administrative assistant.
approved the Consent Calendar (pages 63-127 in the Book of Recommendations).
were challenged by J. Knapp, conference lay leader, during his Laity Address: “South Georgia, it is time to put this ‘disaffiliation distraction’ behind us and focus on the mission and ministry to which we have been called. We have an opportunity to live into a new and reinvigorated vision of the South Georgia Conference. Our Conference is still here, still strong, and still making disciples for Jesus Christ!”
celebrated Fully Connectional and Evangelistically Fruitful Churches.
was led in a prayer moment by Rev. Teresa Edwards, associate pastor of Vineville UMC in Macon.
celebrated with those pastors who have served 50 years in the ministry: Wayne B. Anthony and David C. Seyle.
recognized clergy during a retirement recognition service: Kevin Baker, Sandi Conley, Hal Grimmett, John Haney, Brenda Johnson, Derek McAleer, Steve Meguiar, Steve Patton, Ivelisse Quinones, and Gerald Reppert, Jr.
Delegation Elections - Monday morning
Throughout the business session Monday, clergy and lay members voted to fill vacancies on the South Georgia Conference delegation. The current delegation was elected during the 2019 Annual Conference to serve during the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Because of the pandemic and then scheduling challenges, the 2020 General Conference was postponed and will now meet in April of 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lay and clergy who were elected in 2019 and who remain part of the South Georgia Conference continue to serve on the delegation. Due to the lapse in time between election and service, the Judicial Council has ruled that conferences may hold elections to fill vacancies in its delegation, and that is what the conference voted on.
Laity will elect three lay delegates for the General Conference delegation and an additional four for the Jurisdictional Conference as well as 2 alternates. Clergy will elect one clergy delegate for the General Conference delegation and an additional four delegates for the Jurisdictional Conference as well as two alternates.
Elected Monday morning was Allison Lindsey, member of St. Mark UMC in Douglas (laity) to General Conference.
Monday Afternoon Business Session
In the Business Session Monday afternoon, the conference:
heard a John Wesley prayer moment from Rev. Dave Hanson.
was led in a prayer moment by Rev. Precious Hawkins, pastor of Asbury UMC in Savannah, using a Five Finger Prayer.
heard the Board of Ordained Ministry report given by Rev. Dr. Nita Crump, acting chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry.
recognized those clergy who faithfully serve beyond the local church in an extension ministry appointment.
recognized two local pastors who have completed all 20 classes of the basic Course of Study: Jeff Alligood and Michael Jones.
affirmed clergy for reception into full conference membership. Bishop David Graves asked the clergy the historic questions asked of clergy since the days of John Wesley. The conference welcomed these clergy into their new relationship as Full Conference Member (Elders): Joseph Isaac Carter, Mark Jeffrey Miller, and Matthew Steven Stout.
approved the church closings of Goloid United Methodist Church, Harmony United Methodist Church, Norman Park United Methodist Church, Putney United Methodist Church, Sharon United Methodist Church on the Georgetown Circuit, Vincent United Methodist Church, and The Waterfront United Methodist Church.
approved a report from the Conference Trustees given by Dr. Jimmy Asbell, chair of the board of trustees and pastor of Vineville UMC in Macon. Dr. Asbell announced that the Trustees have approved one of the parsonages on St. Simons Island to be used for summer housing for the Camp Connect camp director and to be used for the remainder of the year as a short-term rental at a reduced rate to clergy as part of the conference’s mental health initiative. Bishop Graves expressed great appreciation for Dr. Asbell, Mrs. Cater Thompson - conference chancellor, and the board of trustees for their hard work and dedication over the past year and a half as they have worked on the conference’s behalf to navigate disaffiliations.
heard an exciting update on the Bishop’s Priorities with Mrs. Anne Bosarge, Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed, Dr. Ben Martin, and Dr. Ben Gosden. This update included disrupting and dismantling racism, clergy mental health, resourcing the local church for ministry, and church planting & revitalization.
celebrated with three individuals who received denominational awards:
Francis Asbury Award from Higher Education and Ministry: Rev. CJ Harp, Valdosta State University Wesley Foundation director
One Matters Award from Discipleship Ministries: Rev. Jerry Hudson, Bemiss UMC
Harry Denman Evangelism Award from the Foundation on Evangelism: Mr. Johnny Updike, Georgia Southwestern University Wesley Foundation director
closed the session with a prayer moment led by Ted Goshorn, Teresa Edwards and Precious Hawkins.
The Methodist Home for Children and Youth hosted the conference at their annual BBQ dinner at the conference center.
Delegation Elections - Monday afternoon
Elected Monday afternoon to the General Conference delegation: Jimmy Asbell (clergy), pastor of Vineville UMC in Macon, Patsy Thomas (laity) member of ML Harris UMC in Columbus, and Karen Forrester (laity), member of Bainbridge First UMC.
Elected to Jurisdictional Conference Monday afternoon: Ben Martin (clergy), pastor of Wesley Monumental UMC in Savannah, Michael Culbreth (clergy), pastor of ConneXion UMC in Savannah, Tony Crosby (clergy), pastor of Vienna UMC & Shiloh UMC, John Ray (laity), member of Statesboro First UMC, Denise Rooks (laity), member of Harper’s Chapel UMC in Baxley, and Dana Goshorn (laity), member of Mulberry St. UMC in Macon.
The Service of Ordination
The Conference gathered Monday evening in the sanctuary of Tifton First United Methodist Church for the Service of Ordination. Bishop Sharma Lewis, episcopal leader for the Mississippi Annual Conference, was the preacher for this service.
In her sermon focused on Acts 13, Bishop Lewis challenged the ordinands to be set apart for ministry as servants of God and to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit.
“Ordinands, you should desire to be set apart for the work of ministry,” said Bishop Lewis. “You shouldn't desire to blend in with this world, but to recognize that God has gifted and called you. For such a time as this you are to make a difference in The United Methodist Church. My prayer for you is that you recognize that there is no limit to what God can and will do through you in this unusual season.”
Then reading from Ephesians 4:11, Bishop Lewis reminded those being ordained of all they are being commissioned for as believers of the faith called to go out and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
“You are commissioned to the task of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. You are commissioned to help the downtrodden by improving their lives in their communities. You are commissioned to utilize your spiritual gifts and talents within the body of Christ. You are commissioned to stand up and fight the injustices of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. You are commissioned to be an ambassador for Christ and not only to read and study the word but to embody the word of Jesus Christ. You are commissioned to bring sight to the blind and to set the captives free. You are commissioned to go to the highways and to the hedges and prepare folks to come into the house of the Lord so the Lord's house will be filled,” Bishop Lewis said as she spoke to the three ordinands. “You are commissioned tonight by the Holy Spirit, and will be confirmed by the church through praying, fasting, and laying on of hands to be an instrument to carry the name of Jesus Christ. You are commissioned to go out and make disciples for the transformation of the world.”
Bishop Graves presided over the ordinal rites and was assisted by Mr. J. Knapp, Conference Lay Leader, representing the laity, and Dr. Nita Crump, acting chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, observed the ordinal rites.
The following individuals were ordained as elders in full connection:
Joseph Isaac Carter
Mark Jeffrey Miller
Matthew Steven Stout
The Board of Ordained Ministry processed with the ordinands as a sign of the covenant community into which these newly ordained persons are entering. Rev. Stephanie Smith represented the Orders of Elder. Rev. Grace Guyton represented the Order of Deacon.