The 2020 Annual Conference session, scheduled for June 7-9 at The Columbus Georgia Convention & Trade Center, has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Annual Conference is now set for August 14-15 at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton, Ga.
"While we look forward to the day we can all be together, the reality is that the coronavirus has changed how we are all doing ministry and meetings at this time," Bishop Lawson Bryan said. "We have made the decision to not only postpone our Annual Conference session, but to shorten its length and move it to a more central location within our conference."
The action to postpone the Annual Conference session has been taken by Bishop Bryan and the Cabinet pursuant to paragraph 603.2-3 in The Book of Discipline, 2016, which provides provisions for the adjustment of the date and location. The health of those attending as well as a desire to lessen the financial impact for churches helped lead to the decision of a shortened session later this summer.
"I am thankful we have leaders who can help us think through all aspects of how we conduct our business on the conference level," Bishop Bryan said. "To the clergy and laity in South Georgia, thank you for your patience and grace as we navigate our work together. I continue to be inspired by the ways in which you are being alive together in witness as we love and serve each other.”
Those who made hotel reservations in Columbus through Valley Hospitality will not need to call to cancel their individual reservations within these blocks. Valley Hospitality will cancel reservations as a courtesy to guests, and no cancelation fees will be charged. Individuals who made a reservation outside the South Georgia hotel block will need to contact the hotel directly to cancel their reservation.
A hotel block is now open for the August Annual Conference Session in Tifton. You can find the list of hotels here.
An agenda for the two-day session is now being finalized. Careful planning is needed in order to be sensitive to the work schedule of laity elected to represent their local church and to the specific services and business matters that are an important part of the Annual Conference Session. To accomplish this, the conference will be structured so that registration will open at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 14. The Retirement Recognition and Golden Anniversary Celebration will follow at 11 a.m. The Memorial Service will begin at 2 p.m. All who are able to attend these events are invited to do so.
“I feel certain that all clergy, and as many laity as possible, will want to be present,” Bishop Bryan said. “These are high and holy moments for our annual conference.”
Following the Memorial Service, there will be time for attendees to check into hotels and to accommodate the arrival of those who will be traveling after work to arrive for annual conference.
Friday evening includes the Clergy and Laity Sessions, the opening worship service, and the opening business session.
In addition to the regular business session Saturday morning, the Service of Ordination and Commissioning will be held at 11 a.m. The final business session will be held Saturday afternoon and will conclude in time for clergy and laity to be in their home churches Sunday morning.
No clergy photo directory will be taken this year. Additional details about the 2020 Annual Conference session will be provided in the weeks ahead.
Friday, Aug 14
10:00 a.m. Registration Opens
11:00 a.m. Retirement Service
2:00 p.m. Memorial Service
6:00 p.m. Clergy and Laity Sessions
7:00 p.m. Opening Worship
7:30 p.m. Opening Business Session
Saturday, Aug 15
8:00 a.m. Business Session resumes
11:00 a.m. Ordination
2:00 p.m. Business Session resumes
Please note: The business session will conclude before dinner time on Saturday with hopes to finish earlier.
Moving Day was originally scheduled for June 17. In recognition of the uncertainty about when churches can resume worship and acknowledging the need for pastors who are moving to have the time they need to conclude their work in their current appointments, Bishop Bryan and the Cabinet have adjusted the time frame. Moving Day will now be Wednesday, June 24, with the first Sunday of the new appointment being Sunday, June 28.
This will allow time for pastors to finish well and for churches to celebrate the ministry they have accomplished together with their pastor. If the current social distancing and stay-at-home recommendations issued by our state continue through the month of June, Bishop Bryan and the Cabinet will reconsider this date.
The usual procedures for payment of salaries for the month of June, for arrangements for the logistics and expenses of moving, and for July 1 being the date for changes of pension and benefits bills will remain the same.
The Annual Conference planning team will continue to monitor all announcements by state and local officials, realizing things remain in a fluid state, and will provide updates as necessary.
“We acknowledge the uncertainty we are dealing with regarding a large group gathering,” said Dr. Nita Crump, Conference Secretary. “We remain flexible and will continue to monitor to make sure the spread of the virus has been halted and a group such as ours will be able to meet safely.”
Both General Conference, which was scheduled for May, and Jurisdictional Conference, which was scheduled for July, have also been postponed. New dates for these conferences will be announced soon.
Up-to-date information may be found at www.sgaumc.org/annualconference.