Conference votes to reduce districts to six


By a margin of 34 votes, on Tuesday afternoon, June 4, the 2013 South Georgia Annual Conference session did not support a motion to retain the current nine district structure.

In a second vote, the body decided that, beginning in June 2014, the South Georgia Conference will consist of six districts, down from the current nine. Those in favor of a six-district model numbered 445; 300 voted to reduce to a seven-district model.

Critical to the Conference’s decision was the detailed report compiled by the 21-person District Study Task Force. Following through on a motion approved during the 2012 Annual Conference session, the Task Force provided the Annual Conference, without recommendation, a comprehensive report detailing the configurations of a six-district model and seven-district model, as compared to the Conference’s current nine districts.

“I’m grateful that we were able to provide the resources that the Conference used in making its decision,” said Rev. Lowery Brantley, Task Force chairman. “Regardless of the number of districts, we have the responsibility to work to make the very best out of the situation and to make it work, because we are servants of the Conference and the Conference has spoken.”

During the afternoon’s discussion and voting, several speeches were made for and against the reduction.

Rev. Hale Bishop, senior pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Valdosta, made the motion to retain the current nine districts.

Speaking for the motion, Rev. Jason Dickerson, senior pastor of Antioch United Methodist Church in Adel, said of a possible reduction in districts, “There will be unintended consequences and a fraying of the connection.”

Rev. John Stephens, senior pastor of Wesley at Frederica United Methodist Church on St. Simons Island, was against the motion.

“This is about vision and where we’re going to go,” he said. “We will never change if we stay the same.”

Rev. Bishop’s motion to retain the current nine districts was defeated, 363 to 397.

Prior to any voting, Rev. Gene Cochran made a motion on Monday that, if a district reduction vote were taken, the Conference would vote by paper ballot. His motion passed.

With the reduction of districts, the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) presented a modified 2014 budget that projects a savings of $202,420 over the original 2014 budget. That amount represents six months worth of savings by having three fewer District Superintendents for the last half of the year. 

“This is unknown territory; it has not been charted yet, so we’ll have to discover what we have to do,” Rev. Brantley said.