By Kelly Roberson, Director of Conference Ministries/Communications
Overseeing the finances of an entire United Methodist Annual Conference is a high calling.
The Rev. Dr. Derek McAleer has faithfully lived out this calling as the Director of Administrative Services/Treasurer for the South Georgia Conference, where the amount of information and responsibility is constantly growing and the load of financial, legal, and administrative decision making is a large task.
This week, after 8 years of service as the Director, Dr. McAleer announces his retirement effective December 31, 2022.
“It has been an honor and joy to serve the South Georgia Conference,” said Dr. McAleer. “I look forward to finishing out our work together.”
Dr. McAleer made his intentions to retire at the end of the year known to Bishop David Graves, episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference, back in January 2022. He and his wife, Charlene McAleer, have big plans ahead.
“Charlene and I came to this decision during 2021 after some medical setbacks,” said Dr. McAleer. “We have dreams for our retirement years and do not want to miss out on them. We look forward to traveling and spending time with our children and grandchild.”
Dr. McAleer began his ministry in 1977 as the Director of Youth at Grace UMC in Savannah, his home church and the place where he received his call into ministry. Ordained as an elder in 1984, Dr. McAleer served the congregations of Davisboro, Dudley Charge (Allentown, Danville, Dudley, & Montrose), Ebenezer (Macon), Rincon, St. Marys, and Forest Hills (Macon) prior to becoming the Vice President for Church Relations at The Methodist Home for Children and Youth in Macon. Dr. McAleer served at The Methodist Home for 8 years before being appointed to the Administrative Services Office in 2014.
Over his 42 years of ministry in South Georgia, Dr. McAleer has served the Annual Conference as editor of the Conference Journal, member of CFA where he chaired the apportionments sub-committee, and served on numerous district and conference committees including the Commission on Town & Country Ministries, the Commission on Equitable Salaries, the Conference Futuring Committee and chaired the Savannah District Council on Ministries. He has served on the Board of Trustees of Magnolia Manor, The Methodist Home, and the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries (UMA). He chaired the Public Relations, Development, and Marketing (PRDM) section of the UMA. In 2014, he was honored as PRDM Professional of the Year. Dr. McAleer also served on the Board of the National Association of Annual Conference Treasurers.
Under Dr. McAleer’s leadership as the Director of Administrative Services – which also includes serving as the Conference Treasurer, Pension and Benefits Officer, and Statistician - the Conference established a retiree health trust, finished the 30+year journey to pay off its pre-82 pension liabilities, raised the Pre-82 Past Service Rate by 21% (from $660 to $799 per service year), oversaw a conference office move, helped implement a unified conference database, established and funded a financial reserves goal of 3 month’s operating expenses, continued the path of intentionally lowering the conference budget to lower apportionments, expanded online guidance for local churches and clergy, assisted local church offering collections during the pandemic, guided local churches in qualifying for PPP loans, used a comprehensive compensation study from GCFA to guide salaries and benefits for conference staff, shifted to auto-enrollment for clergy in the pension program (increasing clergy contributions to their own pension), implemented the Voluntary Transition Program for clergy exiting the ministry, updated the Conference Personnel and Board of Pensions policy manuals and Standing Rules, established a Human Resources position, and developed the Disaffiliation Policy and an equitable plan for allocating Pension Liability to local churches.
Most importantly, though, Dr. McAleer has proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ in every setting he served, receiving 876 members in 26 years of ministry, 253 on Profession of Faith.
“Since coming to South Georgia 13 months ago, I have appreciated Derek and his good work and leadership to the South Georgia Conference,” said Bishop David Graves. “Derek is well respected by the Southeastern Jurisdiction treasurers and also across the denomination. He has been a great leader in The United Methodist Church. It is not just a loss for the conference but also the general church.”
The Rev. Dr. Shane Green, senior pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus and chair of the South Georgia Conference Council of Finance & Administration (CFA), echoes Bishop Graves’ sentiments and praises Dr. McAleer’s commitment to CFA, his work, and service to the Conference.
“We are indebted to Derek and his work on the Council on Finance and Administration and his work throughout our Annual Conference,” said Dr. Green. “It is a loss for our Annual Conference, but CFA is committed to finding the right person to continue Derek’s great work and steadfast leadership.”
CFA, under the guidance of Dr. Green, now begins the process of seeking the next person to fill the role of Director of Administrative Services/Treasurer. The Book of Discipline gives CFA the authority to hire this position. CFA will be utilizing the services of the General Conference on Finance and Administration in the hiring process. Dr. Green will also be in consultation with the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits (BOP) as this position also supports their work.
The job will be open to lay and clergy persons. More information and a complete job description will be posted on the conference website, www.sgaumc.org, in the weeks to come.
A Personal Note from Dr. Derek McAleer
In 2021, my wife Charlene twisted her knee and had to spend a good bit of the year rehabbing it. Since our vacation involved hiking the Colorado mountains, we were concerned about her recovery (old knees don’t rehab as quickly as young knees do!). Thankfully, she was able to enjoy the hiking, though we did choose less strenuous trails. But it got the two of us thinking. She is five years older than I and already retired after 35 years of teaching. Like most of you, we hope to enjoy active retirement years. Knowing of the age difference, we have long considered that I might retire before my full retirement age and have planned accordingly. The knee injury brought this idea to the forefront again.
In January, I told Bishop Graves of my plan to retire at the end of 2022. You may recall that in January of 2022, we still thought General Conference would meet in 2022, the church would make decisions, and the annual conference would move forward. Retiring at the end of 2022 would put us beyond all that. Retiring at the end of our fiscal year is good for a person in my position.
With all that was going on, however, we determined to delay announcing my retirement until after annual conference met so that the conference could focus on the work before us without distraction.
I share this lengthy narrative to say I have been thinking about and moving towards retirement for some time now. This is not a reaction to this season of United Methodism but rather a choice for this season of my family life. I have worked for the church since 1977, and am in my 43rd year under appointment. I have been blessed far beyond any reasonable expectation by this annual conference. I move towards retirement with a heart full of gratitude. Serving our Lord through this Annual Conference has been and is a great privilege. God truly is good!
Derek W. McAleer