Affected by Disaffiliation? Find out how you can move forward in mission in South Georgia

Updates for the New Year

1/9/2023

Dear Friends of the South Georgia Conference, 

Happy New Year! As we begin a new year, I pray God will reveal to you a sense of peace and clarity in 2023. 

In early November, the Commission on the General Conference announced that the 2024 United Methodist General Conference will be held April 23 - May 3, 2024, at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. This much-anticipated gathering will be an important time for the future of The United Methodist Church. I would ask that you begin to pray for this important event in the life of Methodism. 

As I have shared on many occasions, I am asking churches in the South Georgia Conference to consider postponing any vote regarding separation from The United Methodist Church until after the 2024 General Conference. In these times of misinformation, assumptions, and fear mongering, we will have factual information following the 2024 General Conference to make prayerful and strategic decisions. 

Knowing that the disaffiliation procedure outlined in paragraph 2553 of The Book of Discipline sunsets on December 31, 2023, the leadership of our annual conference worked diligently to provide an exit option that extends beyond this deadline. 

As a reminder, I share the following information with you as we move forward together in a new year of mission and ministry:  

  • At the 2022 Annual Conference Session, members approved a report from the Conference Trustees in which a process was affirmed that extends the terms of South Georgia’s current disaffiliation policy through December 31, 2024. {Read more}
  • The Conference Trustees' resolution and action is based on ¶2549. ¶2549 is the paragraph the Conference Trustees used before the disaffiliation process in paragraph 2553 was enacted by General Conference. The term we will use after December 31, 2023, is “departure.” 
  • The timeline related to matters of disaffiliations/departures set forth by myself, the Cabinet, the Board of Trustees, and the Conference Chancellor can be found here: www.sgaumc.org/disaffiliation-timeline
  • Regardless of what decisions other Annual Conferences make, the policy written for and approved by South Georgia stands firm.
Also, I want you to know that conference leadership is exploring further prudent additions to our timeline:
  • The Cabinet and I are currently looking at a date in August 2024 for a special Called Annual Conference to consider any possible decision that could be afforded or required of us following the 2024 General Conference. 
  • This date is in addition to the special Called Annual Conference we have already announced for November 2024 to ratify final local church departures under the trustees provision.
  • An updated timeline will be posted in the weeks ahead. 
We have found that people are affected by disaffiliation in many different ways. Some need a period of time to grieve the loss of community and their “spiritual home.” Others may be excited by this opportunity to do something new and may feel God calling them to take on the leadership to be part of something new. Still others might want to transition into an existing UMC church in their area.  If you find yourself in any of these spaces you can go to the conference website to learn more: www.sgaumc.org/moving-forward-in-mission.

We are also working on some exciting developments in the area of congregational development. We are looking at ideas such as: planting new United Methodist Churches or Fresh Expressions in areas where there are no longer UMC churches, strengthening churches nearest to those areas, and inviting all churches to experience revival and renewal in Jesus Christ. 

While all of this information may sound deeply detailed, I hope the spirit of our work is clear: we are seeking to do all we can to allow churches to remain a part of The United Methodist Church until after the work of the 2024 General Conference is complete. I would ask that you join me in prayer that decisions made at the 2024 General Conference will provide us opportunities that will unify our work and give options for all of us to make conference decisions that glorify and magnify God’s work in this corner of the world called the South Georgia Conference. Again, I believe that congregations can only make their best decisions when all the information is on the table. We are seeking to do all we can to give everyone this opportunity.

I am grateful to each of you for the many ways you live into our mission of making disciples. Our Kingdom work can be difficult, at times, but through our United Methodist connection we can rely on one another to bring light in the darkness.

During these days, I would ask you to join me in praying what the early church prayed in Acts 4: 29-31: “And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power, may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

I am encouraged by verse 31: “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.”

When was the last time you prayed for boldness in the name of Jesus? For it is possible following the 2024 General Conference that the South Georgia Conference will be unified in ways that we have not seen in our lifetime. I see a vision of The United Methodist Church flourishing in ways that will make some churches that previously disaffiliated want to rejoin us. We will gladly welcome them back. 

Please join me as we live into a season of intentional prayer. May God bless you and your ministry in 2023. 

In Christ,

Bishop David Graves

This is the first of four articles that Bishop Graves will be sharing over the next few weeks.
 

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