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Conference votes on church disaffiliations, adjusted 2023 budget


By Kelly Roberson, Director of Conference Ministries/Communications

During a special called South Georgia Annual Conference session on August 20, 2022, clergy and lay members voted on matters related to disaffiliation, including ratifying the disaffiliation of 62 congregations and approving an adjusted budget for the 2023 calendar year. 

Bishop David Graves, episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference, opened the 157th session of the South Georgia Annual Conference with a centering moment from Colossians 3. 

Reading from Colossians 3:12-15, Bishop Graves encouraged members to keep this as their prayer as each church and person moves forward in the direction God is leading and calling them. 

“May we clothe ourselves with a sense of humility and thankfulness and remember that we are united in one body in the love of Christ; we are Easter people,” Bishop Graves said. “As we move through this time there is a lot of emotion and wonderment, but let us rest assured that God is on the throne. The Holy Spirit is powerful and moving amongst us.”

Prior to moving into the business of the day, clergy and laity recited together the Apostles Creed. 

In the first item of business, the South Georgia Conference voted to ratify the decision of 62 local churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. 

Provisions passed at the called 2019 Special Session of the General Conference outlined in paragraph 2553 in The Book of Discipline and two policies passed during the 2019 South Georgia Annual Conference session – a Disaffiliation Policy and a Pension Liabilities Proposal – laid the groundwork for the following churches to disaffiliate. 

From the Coastal District: Bethesda, Folkston, Gateway Community, Kingsland, Mt. Olivet, Odum, Screven, The Chapel.

From the North Central District: Andrew, Bonaire, Dexter, Dudley, Forest Hills, Haddock, Harvest, Sunshine.

From the Northeast District: Adrian, Alston, Charlotte, Ellis Chapel, Glennville, Grace, Harmony, Hopewell, Kea’s, Nevils, Oak Grove, Poplar Springs, Sardis, Shiloh, Smyrna, Springhill, Union, Uvalda, Vidalia First.

From the Northwest District: Bethel, Dixon, Roberta, Shellman, Trinity, Union.

From the South Central District: Adel, Alapaha, Beulah, Brookfield, Enigma, Lone Hill, Pearson, Sparks, St. John’s, Willacoochee.

From the Southwest District: Calvary, Centennial, Christ, Doerun, Ebenezer, Hatley, Metcalfe, Mt Zion (Campground), Peavy, Weeks Chapel, Whigham.

After the conference approved the disaffiliation of these churches, Bishop Graves offered a prayer of thanksgiving for each church and its ministry.

It read, in part, “We have shared with each other good times and bad, we have shared each other’s joys and sorrows, we have lightened each other’s heavy loads. Together we have laughed and cried, together we have worshiped and praised God, together we have lived.”  

Per the policies adopted, once each congregation pays their pension liabilities, two years of apportionments, and any legal fees involved, they will be released from the trust clause and will own their property.

In the second item of business, conference members approved three adjustments to the 2023 budget that was approved in June: a reduction to the Congregational Development budgeted line item, a reduction to the Comprehensive Protection Plan budgeted line item, and a reduction to the contingency line item. These proposed reductions total $223,847, which will ensure that remaining churches do not have increased apportionments resulting from local church disaffiliations. The new 2023 budget is $7,713,021. 

During his report, Rev. Robert Beckum, budget committee chair for the conference’s Council on Finance and Administration (CFA), thanked churches for their support and also acknowledged additional challenges in setting the 2024 budget at next year’s Annual Conference session. 

“We thank our Bishop for his leadership as we gather a larger conversation about our mission and priorities before we set a new budget for 2024,” Rev. Beckum said. “Together we believe we can meet the challenge and serve our Lord fruitfully in the years to come.”

In his closing remarks, Bishop Graves invited people to join him in district meetings in September. 

“I want to answer questions but also share hopes and dreams for the future,” Bishop Graves said. “In the midst of all of this, I hope you will join me in being excited about ministry and winning people to Christ and changing our corner of the world. You are doing it every day in spite of all the obstacles. 

“I have great hope for the future. Let’s focus and continue to work together,” he said.

Minutes of the special called session will be included in the 2022 South Georgia Annual Conference Journal, which will be available later this fall. 

An updated 2022-2023 Appointment Book can be found here.

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