During the 2011 Annual Conference session, South Georgia United Methodists elected delegates to represent them at the 2012 General and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conferences.
In all, five clergy and five laity were elected to attend General Conference, the highest legislative body of the denomination, which will meet in Tampa, Fla., next year.
In addition, the conference elected another five clergy and five laity to attend the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, along with the General Conference delegates. Jurisdictional Conference will be held in July 2012 when bishops will be elected.
The first two members of the jurisdictional delegation are also considered alternates to General Conference and will prepare to attend that conference as well. Two additional alternate delegates were also chosen to attend Jurisdictional Conference.
Leading the General Conference clergy delegation is Rev. Robert Beckum, senior pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus. Rev. Beckum served on the 2008, 2004 and 1996 General Conference delegations.
Larry Price, president of Albany Winnelson Company and a member of Albany’s Christ United Methodist Church, will lead the General Conference laity delegation. This will be Price’s first General Conference session.
General Conference Delegates
In addition to Rev. Beckum, the 2012 General Conference clergy delegation includes: Dr. Bob Moon, senior pastor of Valdosta First United Methodist Church; Dr. Ben Martin, Statesboro District Superintendent; Rev. Jim Cowart, pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church in Byron; and Rev. Denise Walton, Dublin District Superintendent.
The laity delegation includes Price; Carl Childs, Jr., a retired member of Fort Gaines United Methodist Church; William S. “Bill” Hatcher, a businessman and member of Statesboro First United Methodist Church; Kelly Roberson, South Georgia Conference director of communications and member of The Chapel United Methodist Church in Brunswick; and Allison Eastin, member and director of programming and children's ministries at Douglas First United Methodist Church.
The clergy Jurisdictional Conference delegation includes: Rev. Buddy Cooper, pastor of Columbus’ St. Paul United Methodist Church; Rev. Don Adams, pastor of Albany First United Methodist Church; Dr. Hal Brady, retired clergy; Rev. Marcia Cochran, pastor of St. Simons United Methodist Church; and Dr. Brad Brady, assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries.
Rev. Shane Green, Columbus District Superintendent, and Rev. Jimmy Cason, pastor of Statesboro First United Methodist Church, were elected alternate Jurisdictional Conference clergy delegates.
The Jurisdictional Conference laity delegation includes: J. Taylor Phillips, senior judge and member of Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon; Miriam Hagan, South Georgia Conference director of administrative services and member of Mulberry Street UMC; Sunshine Bird, teacher and member of Rincon United Methodist Church; Richard Shinhoster, businessman and member of Speedwell United Methodist Church in Savannah; and Marianne Wright, a seminary student and member of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Valdosta.
Gloria Morgan, a retired teacher and member of Pine Forest United Methodist Church, and Charlene Black, a retired educator and member of Statesboro First United Methodist Church, were elected alternate Jurisdictional Conference lay delegates.
As in past General Conference sessions, cultural issues, primarily those involving homosexuality, will dominate conversation. But they won’t be the most important issues delegates will tackle, said Rev. Beckum.
“I think the most important issue is that we will once again hear about the worldwide nature of the church from Bishop Jones and the call to action from the Council of Bishops,” he said. “We really do have some pivotal issues that will fundamentally change the denomination as we know it to embrace a new world and a global Methodism. But in the course of that, I think it is very important how we address those issues to make sure that the changes made are positive ones that enhance the mission of the church.”
Price says that, while there will be challenges, the delegates are looking forward to serving and representing the Annual Conference.
“It’ll be some trying times,” he said, “but I want to be bold, confident and courageous. I think that the delegates who have been elected this year will do that. We are all looking forward to the challenges that are ahead, not to cower down and not to be afraid to speak our convictions and follow the leading of Christ.”
The five clergy and five laity delegates elected during this year’s Annual Conference session are a decrease from the six clergy and six laity delegates who, during the 2007 Annual Conference session, were elected to attend the 2008 General Conference.
“This is a reduction of one lay and one clergy delegate to both the General and Jurisdictional Conferences,” said Rev. Craig Hutto, conference secretary. The General Conference Secretary calculates the allocation of delegates based on lay and clergy membership as it relates to other Annual Conferences.
--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate Editor