Conferences, CLUs and compassion – oh my!
The South Georgia Conference had much to celebrate as 2012 came to a close. There were many highs and lows throughout the year, and through it all, South Georgia United Methodists continued to reach out to the hurting, hungry, hopeless and helpless with the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Much of the year was spent preparing for or engaging in holy conferencing, as quadrennial General and Jurisdictional Conferences were held in addition to the yearly Annual Conference session.
At the General Conference session, held in Tampa April 24 – May 4, 2012, United Methodists from five continents addressed a wide range of challenging issues, including church structure and human sexuality, during their 10-day legislative gathering.
Most of the 10 South Georgia delegates left Tampa disappointed but hopeful, saying that the real work of ministry happens within and through local churches.
“I’ve always felt that General Conference is important, but I don’t want South Georgia to put too much emphasis on it,” said first-time delegate Rev. Jim Cowart, senior pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church in Byron, in a June 1 South Georgia Advocate story. “We can’t wait for General Conference to legislate something. We have to take the initiative and be self starters. If the church is going to live into the future it’s going to happen at the local church level. We don’t have to wait on General Conference to get busy with doing good things in South Georgia.”
Many delegates now feel their hard work was nullified when the Judicial Council ruled as unconstitutional two key decisions they voted for. On May 4, as General Conference was coming to a close, the Judicial Council unanimously declared the Plan UMC legislation to restructure the general agencies unconstitutional. And at its Oct. 24-27 meeting, the Judicial Council upheld church rules that ensure security of appointment for elders and associate clergy members in good standing. The decision struck down legislation to eliminate guaranteed security of appointments.
At the Southeast Jurisdiction’s quadrennial meeting, held in Lake Junaluska, N.C. July 18-21, delegates elected five new bishops: one woman and four men, including the first Korean-American bishop in the SEJ. Bishop James R. King, Jr. was reassigned to the South Georgia Annual Conference for a second four-year term.
In addition to electing bishops, the SEJ passed a $4.4 million budget for 2013-2016 that is exactly half of the $8.8 million budget for the last quadrennium. The drastically reduced budget eliminates operational funds for agencies, plus reflects a significant savings because a Lake Junaluska debt will soon be paid off. Also, apportionment payments for every conference also have been halved.
In South Georgia, fellowship, worship, Bible study and celebration marked the 2012 South Georgia Annual Conference session, held June 3-5 at the Macon Centreplex in Macon, Ga.
Nearly 1,200 South Georgia United Methodist clergy and laity gathered together to conference in the Wesleyan tradition. Bishop James R. King, Jr., episcopal leader of the South Georgia area, presided over his fourth Annual Conference session in South Georgia.
Meeting under the theme of “Let the Redeemed Say So” from Psalm 107:2, the 2012 Annual Conference session focused on and emphasized the timeless values of witnessing and evangelizing.
During the session, the Conference approved a reduced 2012 budget of $10,550,552, which was a 10.13 percent decrease in the 2012 budget approved at the 2011 Annual Conference session, and approved a 2013 budget of $10,552,948. Delegates also overwhelmingly voted in favor of continuing a district reduction study for another year. The District Study Task Force was charged with bringing detailed plans for a six-district, a seven-district, and a nine-district configuration to the 2013 Annual Conference session.
At the close of the session during the Service of Sending Forth, more than 600 pastors were appointed to local churches and extension ministries, and Bishop King issued a challenge to be passionate followers of Christ who continue to grow a Christlike world.
“Have a passion for Jesus. Be on fire for Jesus. Be burning up for Jesus. If you have a passion for Jesus you’ll have a passion to grow a world that looks like Him.”
CLUs and growing a Christlike world
The second annual Disciple Covenant Conference was held in February with more than 600 clergy and laity from across the South Georgia Conference gathering together to develop and improve their plans for disciple formation.
Bishop King opened the conference with an overview of the importance of forming a disciple plan and the importance of the 10 timeless values of the Christian faith: baptism, scripture, fellowship, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, Sabbath, fasting, stewardship, witness, and justice ministries.
Attendees also heard teaching from Rev. Jay Hanson, Rev. Jim and Jennifer Cowart and Rev. Tim Stevens. Each spoke about one of the 10 timeless values.
In the fall of 2012, Bishop King visited each district for the 2012 Bishop’s Hours, which were an opportunity for all clergy, staff, and laity to join the Bishop in each district for an emphasis on making disciples.
During the Bishop’s Hours, Bishop King unveiled his Christlike Love Unit (CLU) initiative. He has set a goal of having 900 CLUs in the Conference by Dec. 1, 2013. That’s a minimum of 100 CLUs per district, but there will likely be many more, he said.
Christlike Love Units are a type of small group fellowship, but not just any small group. CLUs are small, very specific groups devoted to being a loving, welcoming experience for each person.
“The emphasis on the CLU is to have a loving experience,” Bishop King said. “The CLU is kind of a guaranteed, love-based experience. It’s a smaller unit where you can invite someone where the mission of the CLU is centered in Christlike love.”
Compassion and comfort
South Georgia United Methodists continued in 2012 their long tradition of reaching out to those in need with the love, grace and hope of Christ.
Numerous local churches continued or started backpack ministries, which provide food for children who might not otherwise have enough to eat during the weekends when they are out of school.
In environments where they were be able to experience God’s presence in real and tangible ways through worship, Bible studies, and small-group devotional time, thousands of children and youth become more rooted and established in God’s love through the Conference’s events and camping ministries.
Women – and a few men – all across South Georgia knitted, sewed, and crocheted blankets, baby booties, stocking, scarves and more as they shared the fruits of their talents with those who are less fortunate.
Hundreds of South Georgia UMs gave of their time, talents and money to help those whose lives and homes were destroyed by tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Many volunteered with South Georgia Early Response Teams (ERT) and gave to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Countless college students were impacted through the various South Georgia Wesley Foundation ministries and UM-related schools.
And still others got on their knees and prayed for each other, their churches, their communities and their country.
Through thick and thin and the ups and downs of the year, South Georgia United Methodists continued to live out John Wesley’s call to “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”