News from your South Georgia delegation - Sept. 2

9/2/2011

By Rev. Robert Beckum*

Your South Georgia Conference delegation will meet on Friday, October 21, for an overview of General and Jurisdictional Conference issues. We have invited representatives from the General Board of Pensions to brief delegates on the significant changes proposed for our current clergy pension plan. 

The first thing that strikes me about the upcoming General Conference is the profile and makeup of delegations, comprising the voting members for 2012. Of the 988 voting delegates, 606 will be from the United States, about 60 percent.  Of these U.S. delegates, 112 will be from the North Central Jurisdiction, 114 from the Northeast, 128 from the South Central, 220 from our Southeastern Jurisdiction, and 32 from the Western Jurisdiction. South Georgia, with 10 delegates, will be the fourth smallest delegation from the Southeastern Jurisdiction (Tennessee has 8, Memphis has 4, and Red Bird Missionary conference has 2). Delegations from North Georgia and Virginia will be the largest (the largest of all U. S. delegations, in fact) with 26 delegates each.

However, the largest delegation at General Conference will be twice as large as the largest U. S. delegation. The North Katanga Conference (Congo) will have 52 delegates. The second largest is also from Africa, Cote D’Ivorie, with 40 delegates.  In all, 246 delegates will come from Africa, 42 from Europe, and 48 from the Philippines. The United Methodist Church truly is a global church and that global context will inform and impact every decision before us.

General Conference will consider a multitude of issues centered on structure and finance. The Connectional Table proposes a dramatic restructuring of our 13 general boards, commissions and agencies into five “offices” of the denomination including: Congregational Vitality, Shared Services, Leadership Excellence, Missional Engagement and Justice & Reconciliation. The intent of the change is more efficient and effective support of ministry and mission. The implications of the change are far reaching. Embedded in the restructuring proposals is the controversial issue of eliminating “guaranteed appointments” for fully connected clergy.

The General Council on Finance and Administration is proposing a $603 million budget for 2013-2016, a reduction of 6.04 percent from the previous four years. Of course, any budget adopted by General Conference has a direct impact on every local church’s apportionments.

Next year’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference holds the prospect that almost 40 percent of active bishops in the Jurisdiction will retire, and the election of five or more bishops has enormous implications for annual conferences across the Jurisdiction as well as the general church.

The South Georgia Delegation has much before us. Please continue to pray for the members of your delegation in our preparation to represent South Georgia faithfully. We also want to hear from you. Please share your thoughts, hopes, concerns and ideas about the issues we all will face. I will make sure everyone in the delegation receives any input I receive. We need to hear the thoughts of individuals (clergy and laity), churches and agencies. You can contact me at rbeckum@stlukeum.com, 706-327-4343 or P.O. Box 867; Columbus, GA 31902.

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Rev. Robert Beckum serves as senior pastor at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus. He can be reached at rbeckum@stlukeum.com.