Covid-19 Update from the Bishop & Cabinet: Watching carefully the rise in COVID infection rates


South Georgia UM churches help families, students, schools

published 9/14/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Rev. Chrissy Ruehl has never felt more like a deacon. Rev. Ruehl, Isle of Hope United Methodist Church’s Minister of Children and Families, is helping connect the church and the world in ways she never before imagined. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country have scrambled to minimize the impact and spread of the disease while still providing instruction. Some began later than usual, others started virtually, and other districts offered hybrid ...

CLM training is invaluable preparation for ministry

published 8/31/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Joy Ware wears a lot of hats. A member of Pinkney Chapel United Methodist Church in Folkston, she preaches regularly, is active in her Sunday school class, and can often be found helping in the church’s kitchen. Wanting to further her leadership skills and learn how to better plan, prepare, and deliver a sermon, Ware enrolled in the Conference’s most recent Certified Lay Minister training session. An intense, five-day immersion course, the CLM training offers a ...

Liminal space

published 8/31/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN Thanks for the inspiring way that you, laity and clergy, participated in our historic virtual annual conference session. Your cards, letters, texts, and emails of affirmation are deeply appreciated. I have also heard from others beyond our conference. One told me, “My wife and I watched your annual conference, and we want you to know it was a spiritual experience for us. South Georgia did it right.” To God be the glory! So, now what? Now it is time to look for ...

Resiliency: The by-product of 2020?

published 8/31/2020
GROWING IN GRACE BEN GOSDEN The other day I retrieved my journal where I recorded my New Year’s goals and resolutions and a weird thing struck me. In those pages were the hopes and dreams of a year that, at the time, was a blank slate. And, looking back, it felt like I was reading something I wrote years ago. So much has happened since that feeling of excitement over a new year: a global pandemic, upheaval over racial injustice, and political divisions that have reached new heights of vitriol ...

Rev. Magoni elected as Conference’s first female, deacon BOM chairperson

published 8/31/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Healthy. Fruitful. Effective. The fruit borne out in Rev. Fran Magoni’s ministry and life made her a clear choice to succeed Rev. Scott Tucker as chairperson of the South Georgia Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry.  Rev. Magoni, pastor of discipleship and administration at Martha Bowman United Methodist Church in Macon, is the first deacon and first female to serve in this role. The historic nature of the role isn’t the first thing that came to her mind when she ...

Responding to Hurricane Laura

published 8/28/2020
Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, La., about 35 miles east of the Texas border, early Thursday as a Category 4 storm, one of the most powerful to strike the Gulf Coast in decades.  When a part of our connection is impacted, we are impacted. Our connectional system is at its best when we come together to help those in need. Please continue to be in prayer for all those in the path of Hurricane Laura. We will continue to keep you informed as we are made aware of needs. Below are four ...

Bishop Bryan: Praying for those in Hurricane Laura’s Path

published 8/26/2020
As Hurricane Laura bears down on Louisiana and Texas, I have assured the bishops of those areas that their brothers and sisters in South Georgia are praying for them, their churches, and especially for their disaster response ministries. Remembering how many conferences have responded to our needs during the past four years, we will be alert to ways we can help wherever Hurricane Laura may strike.   In moments like this, we are reminded of the importance of our disaster response ministry. ...

2020 Annual Conference meets for historic virtual session

published 8/17/2020
Donning an episcopal purple face mask with the cross and flame emblem, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan welcomed nearly 750 delegates and guests to the 2020 Annual Conference session.  An historic session, this year’s gathering was virtual, and clergy and laity participated from their living rooms, home offices, and churches. Many traded their sport coats, ties, and dresses for more casual, comfortable attire.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a concern for the health and safety of conference members, ...

Alive Together in Witness through mission, ministry & evangelism

published 8/17/2020
Churches throughout the conference continue to demonstrate the ways they are Alive Together in Witness through mission, ministry, and evangelism.  Evangelistically Fruitful Congregations The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. A significant dimension of the disciple-making process is that of leading people to make a commitment to God through baptism and profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Reaching new persons with the gospel is at the very heart of every church’s ...

Apart but still together: conference worships virtually

published 8/17/2020
Apart but still together.  That was the unofficial theme of South Georgia’s 2020 Annual Conference session worship services as the conference celebrated virtually over the course of several days before culminating in the day-long Aug. 15 business session.  Virtual Commissioning Service The Conference gathered Saturday, Aug. 8 for the virtual Commissioning Service. Along with their families, those being commissioned gathered at Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon. Masks were worn and ...

Commit, Renew, Speak

published 8/17/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN  Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, a 60-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a Georgia State Patrol officer on Aug. 7. The officer has been fired by the department, arrested, and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. The Georgia Department of Public Safety and the GBI have said that “the investigation supports the charges.” With the firing of the officer and his subsequent arrest, the legal system will now pursue this case.  As United Methodist ...

Conference approves funding for North Katanga Conference

published 8/17/2020
The South Georgia Conference, during its 2020 Annual Conference session, approved a recommendation for the reallocation of designated reserve funds to support several ministries in the North Katanga Annual Conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The $60,000 in mission funds reallocated for use in the North Katanga Annual Conference was originally raised for the East Africa Annual Conference: Open Hands Partnership and Humble Place School. The East Africa partnership ceased in...

Crossing Over

published 8/17/2020
PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE B.J. FUNK If you are struggling with what is happening in our churches right now, it may be that you are allowing tradition to make your choices. While the security of tradition can move our days forward with a sameness that brings comfort, the trap of tradition can close our minds to the beauty of what else God might have in mind. We can be sure that He does have something in mind, and what He has in mind is good. He has not turned away. His love places a shield of love...

Knapp succeeds Morgan as Conference lay leader

published 8/17/2020
After serving seven years as the South Georgia Conference's lay leader, on Saturday, Aug. 15, during the 2020 virtual Annual Conference session, Gloria Morgan passed the torch to J. Knapp. “It’s been an honor to serve these past seven years,” said Morgan, a member of Pine Forest United Methodist Church in Dublin. “The people of South Georgia are really near and dear to my heart. This Conference is wonderful and my prayer is that everyone will continue to support our church.” South Georgia ...

Motion focused on racial justice approved

published 8/17/2020
During its 2020 Annual Conference session, South Georgia United Methodists took a stand against racism. Before the Conference broke for lunch, Rev. Lynn Meadows-White, associate pastor at Pierce Chapel United Methodist Church in Midland, made a motion for South Georgia United Methodist clergy and laity to commit to stand against racism, renew their commitment to live out their baptismal vows, and speak with a united voice against systemic racism in every United Methodist congregation. After ...

Plowden celebrated as longest tenured chancellor; passes gavel to Thompson

published 8/17/2020
After 30 years of serving as South Georgia’s Chancellor – the legal advisor to the Bishop and the Annual Conference – Warren Plowden is passing the gavel, so to speak. Cater C. Thompson, who has served since 2015 as Associate Chancellor, officially began serving as Chancellor at the conclusion of the 2020 Annual Conference session. Plowden is now serving as Chancellor Emeritus. “Warren is so effective and so highly respected in The United Methodist Church because he is both an outstanding ...

Seven South Georgia congregations disaffiliate from UMC

published 8/17/2020
Seven South Georgia congregations have disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church. In a 528-37 vote, Recommendation 6 passed, which allows the churches to disaffiliate from The UMC “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of The Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual ...

Watch the 2020 Virtual Annual Conference Session

published 8/14/2020
WATCH THE LIVE STREAM (beginning at 8:30 am) The 2020 Annual Conference session will be held online on Saturday, August 15 beginning at 8:30 am and concluding no later than 4:00 pm. The technologically-assisted Annual Conference session began Sunday, Aug. 2 with a clergy session. Special worship services spanned over the course of this past week.  Essential business of the Annual Conference will be conducted via Zoom webinar, and streamed online for non-voting members. Clergy and lay members to...

Annual Conference Worship Services

published 8/7/2020
Bishop Lawson Bryan wants the virtual Annual conference session to be a celebration of the ways South Georgia congregations have been Alive Together in Witness during this unprecedented time. Special services spanned over the course of several days with the business session scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 15. Here are links to watch the services: Saturday, Aug. 8: Virtual Commissioning Service begins at 2 pm with Bishop R. Lawson Bryan preaching (Watch now) Sunday, Aug. 9: Virtual Ordination ...

Camp Connect adapts, hosts sold-out day camps

published 8/3/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Even during a typical summer, Camp Connect leaders have to be prepared to deal with challenges, from homesickness to hurricanes to health issues. But this summer proved to be one of the most challenging in Camp Connect history. Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, in early May – after the summer staff had been hired, a theme had been set, and camp registration was in full swing – director Suzanne Akins made the difficult decision to cancel overnight camps. ...

Conference prepping for virtual Annual Conference session

published 8/3/2020
The 2020 Annual Conference session will be held online in just 11 days. In his Book of Recommendations and Reports welcome letter, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan noted that the words of Ephesians 2:5 have been fulfilled in the South Georgia Conference even during a global pandemic. And now he wants the virtual Annual conference session to be a celebration of the ways South Georgia congregations have been Alive Together in Witness during this unprecedented time. The technologically-assisted Annual ...

Lindsey uniquely gifted to serve as Director of Connectional Ministries

published 8/3/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Click here to watch a brief video interview with Allison Lindsey and Kara Witherow, editor of the South Georgia Advocate Allison Lindsey loves the local church. Serving, resourcing, and meeting others’ needs is her passion, which is one reason why she’s uniquely gifted to serve as Director of Connectional Ministries. The first lay person to serve as director, she steps into the role having served on the Connectional Ministries staff for eight years. Prior to that she...

Our Connection Matters: Back to School 2020

published 8/3/2020
Churches are pivoting and finding incredible, creative ways to be the church during such a unique time in our world. We are truly seeing that "Church Can Happen Anywhere," and I will take that one step further to say "Church Is Happening Everywhere." With returning to school right around the corner anxiety is running high for children and parents, as well as for teachers and administrators in our communities. How can the church offer love, hope, and peace and be a calming presence in our ...

Conscious Culture Building

published 8/2/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN Have you heard the saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every day?” Culture refers to the habits and behaviors that characterize how we actually live each day. Strategy refers to the plans we make for our churches – like plans for church growth, youth ministry, and so on. As good and as needed as those plans may be, if the local church culture is not conducive to them, they will not succeed.  Strategy is what we say we want to do; culture is how we ...

Counting the Joy

published 8/2/2020
LEADERSHIP REALLY MATTERS ANNE BOSARGE REV. JAY HANSON What do you do when you don’t know what to do? How do you make decisions when you’re not sure where you want to end up? How do you lead with confidence when you’re just as uncertain as the people you’re leading? How do you stand firm when the traditions and methods you’ve used for years seem to be eroding? James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith ...


published 7/21/2020
OUR CONNECTION MATTERS ALLISON LINDSEY  “Pivot: A change in strategy without a change in vision” – Eric Reis One of the most difficult decisions heading into the summer in Connectional Ministries involved Camp Connect, our summer camping program. For nearly 70 years, summer camps for children and youth have been a ministry of the South Georgia Conference at Epworth By The Sea. That legacy was in jeopardy due to COVID-19, and no one wanted to make the final call to cancel.  Back in early ...

Amid COVID pandemic, colleges prepare to welcome students back to campus

published 7/20/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor This August, students across the state and around the country will converge on college campuses, ready to start a new school year. While much will look different – masks are required on all University System of Georgia campuses, social distancing will be enforced, and hand sanitizer will be used more than ever – a good deal will stay the same, say leaders at two South Georgia United Methodist-affiliated colleges. Keeping their 750 students safe and healthy is the top ...

Conference Pastoral Counselor and chaplains comfort, share messages of hope during pandemic

published 7/20/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor We are not alone. That’s the message of South Georgia’s chaplains and its Conference Pastoral Counselor. Whether that message is communicated by a handmade pocket prayer shawl, a daily prayer heard over a hospital intercom, or in a personal conversation, it’s one that’s echoed across the Conference as chaplains and pastors care for those in their flock. As Rev. Columbus Burns makes his daily rounds at Savannah’s Candler Hospital, he notices the staff, sees the stress...

Faith, prayer help college freshmen prepare for new, uncertain school year

published 7/20/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor On Lily Packard’s list of college essentials are the usual items: sheets, towels, pillows, hangers, a laundry hamper, storage bins. And there’s one more item she has to add this year: face masks. The start of classes this fall is full of uncertainty for students and university administrators, faculty, and staff. The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way classes are taught, how students can congregate, and even the way campus ministries meet. “I am a little nervous...

Q & A with Rev. Craig Hutto, North Central District Superintendent

published 7/20/2020
Click here to watch a brief video interview with Rev. Hutto and Kara Witherow, editor of the South Georgia Advocate ADVOCATE: Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in South Georgia? REV. HUTTO: I grew up in Lithonia, a small suburb of Atlanta. I have always thought it was the best place to grow up: I enjoyed the simplicity of small-town life, but was 20 minutes away from the excitement of the big city! My father was a school teacher and my mother worked ...

Remembering John Lewis

published 7/20/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN    John Lewis, who died Friday, July 17, had connections to both Alabama and Georgia. He was born in Troy, Ala., and represented Georgia’s 5th district in the U. S. House of Representatives for more than 30 years. In the coming days, many will share much about this icon of the civil rights movement. I hope it will be remembered that he was a Christian who sought to be faithful to Christ by living out a commitment to non-violence in human relationships.  This is ...

Fraud Alert: Spoofing emails being sent from fake address

published 7/15/2020
The conference office has been notified of a spoofing email making the rounds to various South Georgia United Methodists appearing as a message from Bishop Bryan. This most recent email is from "," a fake, spoofed email account that has NO ties to Bishop Bryan. Please know that the Bishop will never ask for a donation, gift cards, or any kind of transfer of money via email. We recommend that you don't open attachments or give your personal information to anyone ...

Thank you from Africa University

published 7/13/2020
Africa University says “Thank You” for the strong, ongoing support of the churches of the South Georgia Conference. Local churches throughout South Georgia have been consistently generous in helping Africa University equip and deploy leaders with the appropriate skills and outlook to transform communities.   AU formally closed its 2019/2020 academic year today (June 30th), with the University Senate meeting to receive and approve students’ academic results. The June graduation ceremony was ...

A Word from Bishop Bryan: COVID-19 update - Making decisions out of an abundance of caution

published 7/10/2020
To the South Georgia Conference: As you know, Governor Kemp’s most recent executive order extends the public health state of emergency into the month of August. The coronavirus infection rate is rising in some areas of our state and nation. I want to commend the clergy and the laity of our conference for the ways you are acting responsibly and with concern for the health of others during this pandemic. You are monitoring the rate of infection in your surrounding area in order to continue making...

Pastors use podcasts to share the gospel

published 7/6/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Whether with papyrus or the printing press, PowerPoint or iPhones, from the beginning, pastors have had to stay up-to-date with the latest forms of communication technology to spread the gospel. Reaching nearly 75 percent of households, podcasts are a powerful and growing medium, and several South Georgia United Methodist pastors have embraced the platform to spread their messages of hope, healing, and love. Basics of the faith Revs. Brett Maddocks, Allen Cason, and ...

Where do you see the Holy Spirit at work?

published 7/6/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN    I don’t know about you, but one of the ongoing challenges for me is to pay attention to where the Spirit is at work and then move in that direction. Jesus certainly got it right when he said in John 3:8: The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.    I may not know where it comes from or where it goes, but every now and then I do get ...

Join Bishop Bryan in a prayer for our land

published 7/2/2020
To the South Georgia Conference: Independence Day, a.k.a. the Fourth of July, is of great significance because it connects us to the founding of this nation. While the pandemic is causing alterations in how this day is observed, it cannot prevent us from looking back with gratitude for this country that was founded 244 years ago. I want us to unite in a specific prayer for our nation. But first, let me also remind us of Governor Kemp’s latest executive order. Issued last Monday, the order ...

South Georgia Annual Conference to Meet Virtually in August

published 6/30/2020
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 ...

No joyful noise: Many South Georgia congregations will return to in-person worship without singing

published 6/15/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor When Thomasville First United Methodist Church returns to in-person worship this Sunday morning, things will look – and sound – a lot different than they did when the congregation last met in person March 15. Instead of a full choir of hymn-singing choristers belting out well-known songs like “I’ll Fly Away,” “Amazing Grace,” or “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” soloists or duets will likely sing more obscure, lesser-known hymns. It’s one way to help prevent congregational...

South Georgia United Methodists have presence at protests

published 6/15/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Several South Georgia United Methodists are living out their faith by taking to the streets, protesting for justice and change. Each weekend beginning June 7, Derian Wilson, a 20-year-old member of Martha Bowman United Methodist Church in Macon, has organized peaceful rallies at the roundabout outside Macon’s Tattnall Square Park. Wilson says he planned the rallies to protest racism and injustice. “I’m biracial, so I became aware of racism at a very early age.” he ...

Columbus woman welcomed into UMC as a deaconess

published 6/14/2020
Micah 6:8 resonates deeply with Linda Laye. “Do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” It’s a fitting verse for Laye, who was welcomed as a deaconess into The United Methodist Church in a virtual ceremony Monday, May 11.  “When you are consecrated as a deaconess you commit to a lifetime of service,” said Laye, who serves as chaplain of the Fellowship at Rose Hill in Columbus. Laye was to have been consecrated as a deaconess during the 2020 General Conference in ...

Have I got a story for you!

published 6/14/2020
PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE B.J. FUNK It is 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, 2020, and I have been, as many of you, glued to the television over an outbreak of violence in many of our cities. The initial reason is the murder of an African American, George Floyd. However, that has now been overshadowed by the collective reason of perceived mistreatment toward black men and women by white police officers for years. And it’s even more than that. It’s anger that has been stuffed down in the souls of any ...

Bishop Bryan sets 2020-2021 pastoral appointments

published 6/12/2020
On Monday, June 8, while meeting with the Cabinet at Epworth By The Sea, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan fixed the 2020-2021 pastoral appointments for the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. 2020-2021 Appointments Click here to download and view the list of appointments by district. The Reading of the Appointments

Worship service with Bishop Bryan

published 6/7/2020
From March 22 - June 14, Bishop Bryan offered a live stream worship moment each Sunday at 10:00 am. Thank you to all the individuals and churches from all across the South Georgia Annual Conference who participated in different ways in the past three months as we have worshiped together weekly! It has truly been a connectional experience, and we are grateful for the gifts and talents given freely across South Georgia to reach people for Christ. WATCH THE SERVICE FROM SUNDAY, JUNE 14 WATCH THE ...

A Pastoral Letter to United Methodists of the Southeastern Jurisdiction

published 6/5/2020
June 5, 2020 Brothers and Sisters: As president of the Southeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops my heart rejoices over the bold, courageous, and compassionate offering of confession, lament, and call to action by our white brothers and sisters of the SEJ College and the gracious acceptance of this act of truth telling as we journey toward the Beloved Community. It is our belief that such actions enhance our work and witness to a hurting community seeking moral leadership in this time of ...

Our Connection Matters: Racial Justice Resources

published 6/5/2020
What Does The Lord Require Of Us?  "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 ... And what does the Lord require of you (me, us)? Micah 6:8 gives us a very straight forward answer. When we look at all that is happening in our nation and world right now, how can we "be the change we want to see in the world" (Mahatma Gandhi)?  A change agent is a person who acts as a catalyst for...

Bringing down walls of hostility

published 6/1/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN    On May 8, I released a statement concerning the death of a young African American, Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick. And now, just weeks later, we find our entire nation engulfed in a sense of shock, frustration, and anger over the death of another African American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis. Tragically, you and I know that these deaths are only the latest in a long litany of such deaths that have occurred for generations among people of color. In response,...

Churches extend helping hands to homeless

published 6/1/2020
By Kathy L. Gilbert, UM News From helping people file for the government’s coronavirus aid checks to turning a church parking lot into a tent camp, United Methodist churches are finding new and different ways to help those who are homeless or living in poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Centenary Community Ministries in Macon, Georgia, has been holding twice-weekly sessions since April 15 to help people apply for the $1,200 aid package offered by the U.S. government. “It is a shame that ...


published 6/1/2020
LEADERSHIP REALLY MATTERS ANNE BOSARGE REV. JAY HANSON Have people been asking you questions like these: “How bad will this get?” “How long will it last?” “When is the church going reopen?” “How many people will come back?” "Can we sing in church?” “Should we sing?” What if we changed the narrative by starting to ask a different question? When you ask a new question, you unlock different answers. Our questions direct our minds. They can keep our attention locked in the past or they can open us...

Retired pastor donates hundreds of flowers to Albany nurses

published 6/1/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Even though Rev. Larry Roberts lives nearly 350 miles from Albany, the south Georgia town is never far from his heart. Rev. Roberts retired and moved to Lake Junaluska, N.C. in 1999, but served throughout the South Georgia Conference for 40 years, including stints in Preston, Americus, Blakely, and Moultrie. His son, Ben, lives and works in Albany as director of public relations and communications for Phoebe Putney Health System. So when Rev. Roberts heard that Albany...

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