2017 Annual Conference Session - Recap of Monday, June 5


From L to R: Eric Mayle (Provisional Elder), J. Grantham (Provisional Elder), Jack Varnell (Full Elder), Jonathan Fuller (Full Elder), Scott Stanfill (Provisional Elder), Jerry Akin (Provisional Elder)

Monday morning began with the Laity Session at 9:00 a.m. in the main plenary hall, and the Clergy Sessions at 9:00 a.m. in Ballroom G of the Convention Center.

Laity Session

Following gathering music by Frank Lowery, song leader, and Jane Kimbrel, organist, Gloria Morgan, Conference Lay Leader, called the meeting to order. J. Knapp, Southwest District lay leader, gave the opening prayer. Jeff Barker, Coastal District Lay Leader, then gave the greetings, welcoming lay members to Jekyll Island for the 2017 Annual Conference.

Jimmy Outlaw, South Central District Lay Leader, offered a devotional.

Allison Lindsey, Associate Director for Connectional Ministries, told laity about resources that Connectional Ministries offers to local churches, including webinars, trainings, consultations, conference website, and much more.

Laity then heard a report from the United Methodist Women by Mary Exley, UMW President, and a report from the United Methodist Men by UMM President Donald Rhodes.

John Ray, Northeast District Lay Leader, gave a brief orientation to Annual Conference. Afterwards, Gloria Morgan introduced each of the District Lay Leaders.

Robert Anderson, Northwest District Lay Leader, gave the closing prayer.

Clergy Session

Bishop R. Lawson Bryan convened his first clergy session as the episcopal leader of the South Georgia Annual Conference. Rev. Michael Culbreth, pastor of ConneXion Church in Savannah, led the clergy in singing “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Rev. Jerry Akin, pastor of Buena Vista UMC, opened with a word of prayer.

Bishop Bryan welcomed all clergy and lay members of the Board of Ordained Ministry and clarified who could attend, speak, and vote at the clergy session.

Bishop Bryan then asked the Historic Question regarding the character of all clergy. The Bishop reported on the character of the District Superintendents. The District Superintendents reported on the clergy under their supervision. The character of all clergy was approved.

Rev. Scott Tucker, chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, gave the Board of Ministry Report. Rev. Josh Bizzell, BOM Registrar, then gave the Report of the Registrars.

Rev. Deborah Wight-Knight, conference pastoral counselor, reviewed proposed changes to the Standing Rules regarding the conference policy on sexual misconduct.

Rev. Tony Crosby, pastor of Epworth UMC in Columbus, talked about the upcoming Georgia Pastors’ School, and Dr. Derek McAleer, Director of Administrative Services, talked about the importance of the Fund for Special Relief. 

Rev. Jonathan Fuller, pastor of the Blakely Charge, offered the closing prayer.

Business Session

The Business Session of the 2017 Annual Conference opened with the historic hymn, And Are We Yet Alive. Bishop Bryan called the 151st session of the South Georgia Annual Conference to order. This is Bishop Bryan’s first Annual Conference to preside over as the resident bishop of the South Georgia Area.

Dr. Wayne Moseley, Coastal District Superintendent, and Mr. Bill Allen, lay member of College Place UMC and chair of the local arrangements committee, welcomed South Georgia United Methodists to Jekyll Island. Mr. Jones Hook, Executive Director of the Jekyll Island Authority, extended a welcome from the Coastal Georgia community.

In the Business Session Monday, the conference: 

  • heard the Lay Leader's Address by Mrs. Gloria Morgan. Mrs. Morgan highlighted the ways laity are serving their neighbors in each district and spreading the love of Christ. “South Georgia United Methodists are alive together in Christ and are telling our story,” she said.

  • heard four “Vital Sign” moments – segments highlighting the various ways we are Alive Together in Christ throughout the South Georgia Conference.

    • In the first Vital Sign moment, Rev. Jonathan Smith, Campus Minister at the Georgia Southern Wesley Foundation, interviewed Jordan Mimbs, 2016-2017 Young Clergy Academy Intern at Gray UMC, about cultivating a culture of call in the life of our Annual Conference.

    • In the second Vital Sign, Rev. Michael McCord, Executive Director of the Georgia Commission on Higher Education and Campus Ministry, interviewed Caroline Peavy, a student at the Georgia Southern Wesley Foundation, and Drew Thompson, campus pastor at the Coastal Wesley Foundation, about the impact campus ministries are having on our college campuses.  

    • The third Vital Sign moment highlighted the work of Congregational Development. Rev. Jay Hanson, director, presented the 2017 Kingdom Builders Innovation in Ministry Trailblazer Award to Rev. Jim Cowart and Mrs. Jennifer Cowart of Harvest for the example they and the Harvest congregation have set in sustained church growth. Rev. Hanson also introduced Rev. Joe Buck of Shoreline Church, a new church start in Valdosta. He recognized Debbie Hudgins, a member of White Bluff UMC, with the 2017 Kingdom Builders Innovation in Ministry Gamechanger Award award for her work with the Gateway Pooler and White Bluff UMC congregations as they work together. They were joined by Sam Martin, Rev. Matt Hearn, and Damon Hubert from Gateway Pooler.

    • The final Vital Sign moment of the day featured the ministry foci of the Conference Advocacy Team: Hispanic Ministries, Servant Leadership/Persons with Disabilities, celebrating the gift of diversity, SBC21, ONE Campaign (initiative for issues of extreme poverty), prison ministry, Pan-Methodist campaign, and small church leadership and vitality. Leading this time were Rev. Denise Walton, Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries; Rev. Daniel Medina, Associate Director of Hispanic Ministries; Rev. Carrie Myers, pastor, Ashburn/Sycamore; Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Associate Director of Connectional Ministries; and Rev. Stacey Harwell-Dye, Advocacy Team Chair.

  • heard the Board of Ordained Ministry report given by Rev. Scott Tucker, chair.

    • recognized those clergy who faithfully serve beyond the local church in an extension ministry appointment.

    • recognized the following persons:

      • New Certified Candidates: Joseph I. Carter, Damon Hubert, Haynes Martin, Royce Johnson, Pamela Johnston, James Owens, Rachel Paul, Larry Rader, Betty Lee Scott, Larry Stricklin, Jeremy Wilson

      • 2017 Licensing School Students: Claire Bookhoop, Eloise Green, Damon Hubert, Royce Johnson, Ben Lee, Jared Middleton, Larry Rader, Betty Lee Scott, Larry Stricklin, Doug Tolson, Jeremy Wilson

      • New Licensed Local Pastors: William Rushton Black, Claire Bookhoop, Joseph Carter, Damon Hubert, Royce Johnson, Benjamin Lee, Jared Middleton, Larry Rader, Jeremy Wilson

      • Course of Study Graduates: Gary Griffin, Freddie Smith, Jean Watson (July)

      • Professional Certification in Christian Education and Children’s Ministry: Elisa Reece

  • received those clergy who have been elected into provisional membership and the clergy for reception into full conference membership. Bishop R. Lawson Bryan asked the clergy the historic questions asked of clergy since the days of John Wesley. The conference welcomed these clergy into their new relationship:

    • Provisional Members: Elders - Gerald Ray Akin, Jr., John Pierce Grantham, Eric Kyle Mayle, Scott Dozier Stanfill

    • Full Conference Member: Elders - Jonathan Fitts Fuller, James Clayton Varnell

  • voted to retain the current General Conference delegation for the 2019 called General Conference Session.
  • ​approved the conference trustees report presented by Mr. Sam Warren.
  • heard a South Georgia Conference history moment from Rev. Dave Hanson. Rev. Hanson said that John Wesley would have loved Bishop Swanson’s sermon and would have called him a “Son of Thunder.” “We need more like that,” Rev. Hanson said.  

  • took action on the church closings of the following churches, while also celebrating the impact these churches have had on many people in the South Georgia Conference: Blythe Island UMC, Chauncey UMC, Fargo UMC, Friendship UMC, Milan UMC, Morningside UMC, Pine Hill UMC, Warthen UMC, and Whitefield UMC.

  • was led in a teaching moment by Dr. Lovett Weems, Professor at Wesley Theological Seminary. Dr. Weems gave the conference practical steps to increase worship attendance. He first challenged congregations to ask themselves, “Are we ready for guests?” and to assess worship services and pay attention to what is happening in the church and service. “Are you ready for guests?” Dr. Weems asked. “Make sure the ground is ready for crops.”   

  • was introduced to Appreciative Inquiry, which uses the Four-D process - discover, dream, design, deliver - in Bishop Bryan’s Episcopal Address. Appreciative Inquiry focuses on strengths, alignment, and being alive together in Christ. “We are alive together in Christ,” Bishop Bryan said. “The more we know about that the more we can have it with others.”

  • reviewed and discussed five Standing Rules proposed changes and five Constitutional Amendment proposed changes. Conference members will vote on these on Tuesday.

  • were greeted by Rev. Miguel Cancu Drullard, executive secretary of the Evangelical Church of the Dominican Republic, and Rev. Pedro Kery Johnson, president of the Evangelical Church. The Evangelical Church of the Dominican Republic is a member denomination of The World Methodist Council.

  • heard the report of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits presented by Mr. Marc Reid, chair, and Rev. Scott Hagan. During the report a motion was made by Rev. Josh Gale asking the Board to further research a more cost efficient option of health insurance for clergy families. The motion was tabled until Tuesday.

The Service for the Ordination of Deacons and Elders with Commissioning

The Conference gathered for the service for the Ordination of Deacons and Elders with Commissioning. Bishop R. Lawson Bryan, episcopal leader for the South Georgia area, was the preacher for this service. Bishop Bryan’s sermon, “When the wine runs out,” was from John 2:1-11, which recounts Jesus’ first miracle and the wedding at Cana.

“My wine really had run out,” he said, recounting a time when he was at a loss for inspiration and ideas. “In ministry, it will always appear that the wine has run out.” But, he told those being ordained and commissioned, “YOU are the miracle of Cana. Your ordination, your commissioning, they’re celebrations of the miracle. Emptiness is a time to pour the water. Pour the water in your own life.” 

“I know Who turns water into wine!”

Bishop Bryan presided over the ordinal rites and was assisted by Rev. Lovett Weems and Mrs. Gloria Morgan, Conference Lay Leader, representing the laity, and Rev. Scott Tucker, Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, observed the ordinal rites.  

The following individuals were commissioned as Probationary Clergy Members: 

Probationary Members Commissioned for Ordination as Elders

Gerald Ray Akin, Jr.

John Pierce Grantham

Eric Kyle Mayle

Scott Dozier Stanfill 

The following individuals were ordained as Full Conference Members:

Full Conference Member/Elders

Jonathan Fitts Fuller

James Clayton Varnell

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. Jonathan Smith and Rev. Meg Procopio represented the Orders of Elders and Deacon.

Photos from Monday, June 5