By Kara Witherow, Editor
During a Winter Conference panel discussion, Bishop Bryan and several members of South Georgia’s 2020 General Conference delegation shared their thoughts about the recently released Protocol of Grace & Reconciliation Through Separation, the possible future of the South Georgia Conference, and General Conference 2020.
Held Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Nalls Auditorium at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island, much of the dialogue focused on the Protocol.
“The Protocol is a framework for conversation,” Bishop Bryan said as he began the discussion.
Legislation to implement the Protocol statement has now been released and is expected to come before the United Methodist General Conference for a vote at their legislative meeting in Minneapolis, Minn. in May 2020.
“Every annual conference is the basic body of the Church,” he said. “We get to decide what it means to be South Georgia. We are going to write our own story in South Georgia.”
In the waiting, he said, there are things than can be done now. He urged laity and clergy to lead with clarity, confidence, and conviction.
“The majority of South Georgia wants to maintain unity, to stay together as South Georgia,” he said. “Lead with clarity and conviction. Keep focus on the greatness of God and the centrality of Christ.”
Rev. Doreen Smalls, superintendent of the Southwest District, echoed Bishop Bryan’s sentiments. She hopes that, in the midst of the denominational strife, South Georgia United Methodists keep doing what they’re called to do.
“I hope that we continue to make disciples of Christ and reflect the character of Christ,” she said.
Several other panel members voiced their agreement.
“I think there will be some sort of separation,” said delegate Rev. Jay Hanson, who also serves as pastor of The Chapel Ministries and executive director of Congregational Development. “But I hope that we will reflect Christ in our actions.”
Bishop Bryan and the delegation fielded questions from Winter Conference attendees from the North Georgia, Florida, and South Georgia Conferences. Gathering together and having meaningful dialogue is important, Bishop Bryan said.
“Because of where we are as a denomination, with so much on our plates and important decisions coming, a gathering like this is exactly what we need,” he said. “We need to be with each other in the same room, hearing each other’s questions. This is part of our work as an annual conference. We’re planning for our future by coming together, considering what’s before us, and understanding it the best way we can.”
While there was talk of separation, Bishop Bryan urged everyone to be calm, listen to one another, and focus on Christ.
“South Georgia is greatly blessed by having a devotion to being together as an annual conference, an appreciation for our heritage, and a desire for our future to be one that’s united,” he said. “We are all asking, ‘How will anything that happens affect me? How can we remain united?’ The very act of coming together is beginning to help us think collectively about our future and that’s what we’re doing.”
Watch a video of the panel discussion (please note: this video was shot prior to the release of the Protocol legislation)