Three years later, Conference reduces to six districts


June 11, 2014, is an historic day in the life of the South Georgia Conference.

After three years of debate, discussion, prayer and preparation, South Georgia will become a six-district Conference.

The Conference will be organized into the Coastal, North Central, Northeast, Northwest, South Central, and Southwest districts. Click here to view the six-district Conference map and list of churches by district.

It was a motion made at the 2011 Annual Conference session in Tifton by Helen Rhea Stumbo, a lay delegate from Fort Valley United Methodist Church, that set the wheels of transition turning.

In her motion, Stumbo urged the Conference to consider studying the feasibility and cost-saving implications of reducing the number of districts by at least one. The motion was seconded and passed, and that fall, Bishop King named a study group to investigate the financial feasibility of reducing districts.
The study group, chaired by Rev. Cindy Autry, researched some of the logistical issues related to reducing districts, established several financial models, and recommended to the Appointive Cabinet the reduction of districts by two or three.

The Appointive Cabinet received the study group’s report and recommendation and continued further deliberation. At the 2012 Annual Conference session, the Cabinet presented a District Feasibility Study report to the conference with a recommendation that the nine districts be retained. After hearing the reports, the Conference overwhelmingly voted in favor of continuing a district reduction study for another year.

The District Study Task Force, comprised of Bishop James King, four District Superintendents, six lay persons and four clergy, tasked by the Annual Conference to develop detailed models for a reduction to seven or six districts, presented their findings to the Conference during the 2013 Annual Conference session.

By a margin of 34 votes, 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. Those in favor of a six-district model numbered 445; 300 voted to reduce to a seven-district model.

The reduction is, for some, a cost-saving measure. For others, it’s an opportunity for growth and change.

No matter the number of districts, the Church’s mission is the same, says Conference lay leader and District Study Task Force member Gloria Morgan, a member of Pine Forest United Methodist Church in Dublin.

“Our mission has not changed. The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” she said. “This transition is one way we can fulfill our mission to make disciples. Now that Annual Conference is over and we have returned to our local churches and districts, we will all begin to live into the new opportunities of the transition. We will share the success, challenges and opportunities to make adjustments. It is up to us to become more involved and keep our promises if our Church is to grow into the mighty church it can be.”

During his 2014 Annual Conference session episcopal address, Bishop King urged the Conference to be patient and loving during this time of transition.

“Change happens quickly, but transition takes time. I need you to be patient and persistent. I need you to be kind and loving towards each other.”

The only goal of a Christian, he said, is to satisfy God while growing a Christlike world.

“Everything else is adjustable, so we will keep adjusting.”

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