The morning worship was led by Rev. Teresa Edwards, associate pastor at Forest Hills UMC in Macon. She preached from Luke 9:18-20 in which Jesus asks the questions, “Who do the crowds say I am?” and then “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
“Jesus always knows how to ask the right questions,” Rev. Edwards said. “The question for us at hand today is about identity. Jesus’ identity and our identity.”
All are witnesses, here and now, she said, and the question all must answer, before all others, is the same one Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”
“Hear the good news - today we can remind each other through our witness, of faith and faithfulness, of kindness and respect, of hugs, of prayers, of thoughtful discourse, and yes, even loving disagreement - here’s the photo we’re all looking for; it’s the one with Jesus in the center. There, see, we’re all gathered around, in the name of Jesus for this moment, witnesses, together! Jesus, the sure foundation by which we are saved and on which we stand, we, the South Georgia Conference, are here to be your witnesses. Make it so.”
In the Business Session Monday morning, the conference:
approved the 2022 Report from the Committee on Nominations and elected Carolyn Fletcher as an at-large member of the Nominating Committee.
heard the Lay Leader Address in which J. Knapp celebrated the faithfulness of the laity of the South Georgia Conference. He shared stories of how congregations all across South Georgia are sharing the love of Christ in life-changing and life-giving ministries, from Hazlehurst First UMC and Albany First UMC to Sylvania UMC, St. Luke UMC, Thomasville’s Lawson Neel MedBank, and more. “Service in ministry is a special function. It’s not the role of the pastor or staff. It is ours,” he said. “It is up to us, the laity, to be more engaged. The clergy can do nothing without the laity!”
heard a minority report from several members of the delegation who shared differing opinions from the previous day’s delegation report on disaffiliation and the postponement of General Conference to 2024.
voted on resolutions:
Resolution #1 “Say ‘No’ to Single-Use Plastic,”: Approved
Resolution #2: “Resolution on Wage Equality,”: Approved
Resolution #3: “Resolution of the delegation of the South Georgia Annual Conference”: Withdrawn by the makers of the motion
Resolution #4: “A resolution for a called session of the Annual Conference in response to a meeting of the General Conference”: asked for a rule of law
Resolution #5: “A resolution for a called session of the Annual Conference in response to a decision of the judicial council”: Withdrawn by the makers of the motion
Resolution #6: “Resolution to amend the disaffiliation policy of the South Georgia Conference”: discussion moved to afternoon
Resolution #7: “South Georgia resolution in response to the Judicial Council declaratory decision stating an AC may withdraw from the UMC”: Withdrawn by the makers of the motion
celebrated with those pastors who have served 50 years in the ministry: Donald L. Adams, John E. Brodress, Edwin Chase, Tom B. Nichols, G. Lynwood Roberts, Eric L. Sizemore, and Stephen L. Webb
celebrated with those pastors retiring at this Annual Conference: Bill Bagwell, Carl Barnhardt, Mike Brown, Patricia Burns, Ellis Carpenter, Derek Hobbs, Ron Johnson, Mike Lyons, Rick Mitchell, Mike Ricker, Uley Robbins, Lynn Roberts, Rickey Rushing, Randy Spicer, Tim Steffen, Jackie Thomas, Julie Tisinger, Jimmy Towson, Howard White, Karen Zeigler.
A Memorial Service for those faithful servants who have served in our Conference was held Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. at St. Luke UMC. Rev. Bill Bagwell, South Georgia minister, reminded those gathered that hope is an important work.
“Hope is in our job description,” he said.
“I dearly need hope. Do you? It is the essence of how we, the community of Christ, maneuver life and death.”
Just an ounce of hope can transform everything, he said, before asking the congregation if they have been in a place of hope during the past year and whether they have sensed God is present.
“Proclaim Jesus crucified and risen. He is our judge and our hope,” he said. “God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.”
Those being remembered include:
Archie Bob Dixon
February 22, 1958 - April 10, 2021
Ray Lee Garren
January 23, 1937 - May 12, 2021
Herbert Stephen Peavy
September 17, 1957 - July 4, 2021
James Truman "Jim" Trice, Jr.
September 20, 1939 - July 22, 2021
Henry Lee "H. L." Pharr, Jr.
July 22, 1933 - August 11, 2021
October 20, 1942 - August 13, 2021
Byron Johnson Scott, Jr.
August 9, 1945 - August 14, 2021
Jairo E. Franco
October 14, 1946 - September 21, 2021
Edwin Leon Willis
October 1, 1952 - October 29, 2021
Rodger Randall Ray, Sr.
June 19, 1940 - November 5, 2021
Shirley Carter Berkeley, Jr.
November 25, 1932 - November 12, 2021
Lee Creig Smith
December 17, 1956 - November 15, 2021
Eul Lark Kim
July 14, 1935 - December 4, 2021
Cecil Earl Hazen
September 6, 1932 - December 10, 2021
Thomas Jackson "Jack" McCollough, Jr.
May 15, 1927 - December 31, 2021
Kirk G. Loyless
November 10, 1950 - January 25, 2022
Elvin Edward East, Jr
July 25, 1948 - February 2, 2022
Fred Mosley Foster
September 3, 1934 - February 4, 2022
Remer Logan "Brad" Brady, III
November 16, 1953 - February 4, 2022
Fred Lemore Maddox
April 22, 1933 - February 8, 2022
James Pickett Walker
August 24, 1939 - February 25, 2022
Gordon Grover Bell
March 9, 1928 - March 3, 2022
William Donald Clark
May 14, 1952 - March 11, 2022
Beaufort Garfield “B. G."Roberts, Sr.
August 7, 1932 - March 19, 2022
Wallace Grable Page, Jr.
June 25, 1938 - March 22, 2022
Robert Wayne Poston
February 11, 1946 - March 28, 2022
Grady Watson Mills, II
June 17, 1943 - March 28, 2022
Deceased Clergy Spouses
July 4, 1949 - April 5, 2021
Lila Elizabeth Lee Pratt-Hutcherson
September 27, 1925 - April 8, 2021
Sharon McMahen Atkinson
September 28, 1945 - April 10, 2021
Eleanor Howard Walton
July 30, 1938 - April 13, 2021
Marilyn Sue Johnson Dupree
May 31, 1935 - May 2, 2021
Jackie Henderson Miller Pryor
July 23, 1942 - May 18, 2021
Betty Claire Pierce Smith
September 24, 1932 - May 24, 2021
Sandra Arwood Homer
December 6, 1942 - June 20, 2021
Juliann Glaspy Rogers
August 3, 1953 - August 8, 2021
Martha "Marty" Wycliffe Hendry Durham
February 14, 1939 - August 18, 2021
Clara Mae Harris Dunbar
August 18, 1931 - August 22, 2021
John Christopher "Jack" Payne
December 7, 1943 - September 2, 2021
Jane Ellen Bryan Bass
February 28, 1941 - September 4, 2021
Merrie Louellen Freeman Posey
October 8, 1949 - September 6, 2021
Evelyn Meadows Steele
February 1, 1924 - October 23, 2021
Dorma Gemiah Smith Perry
October 1, 1925 - November 18, 2021
Carole Moore Mitchell
December 1, 1939 - December 13, 2021
Carol Whitley Sizemore
August 7, 1951 - December 20, 2021
Sally Lou Powell Strickland
June 9, 1930 - December 27, 2021
In the Business Session Tuesday afternoon, the conference:
heard a Ministry Moment Snapshot with Anne Bosarge, Rev. David Thompson, Rev. Jorge Moreno, and Rev. Isaac Salgado as they shared about our Hispanic Ministries in South Georgia. “I believe we have a lot of things in common,” said Rev. Moreno, in Spanish, translated into English via Rev. Salgado. “I think we also have a great depth, a cultural richness, and I think we can share more of that (with one another). I believe that if the local churches would allow us to be more involved in your ministries and our churches allow you to be more involved in our ministries our work together would be efficient. I believe that with a covenant of prayer we can go out from our churches to the marketplaces to reach the lost. It needs to be in prayer. I believe that we need to show the world the unity of the people called Methodist because our unity in Christ is what makes a difference.
approved Resolution #6 - “Resolution to amend the disaffiliation policy of the South Georgia Conference” - with the following addition: If a church or charge votes to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church at a time other than at the June session of the South Georgia Annual Conference and the pastor appointed to serve that church or charge does not desire to leave the United Methodist Church and an appointment is not available, the disaffiliating church will pay the salary, housing and benefits of the pastor (all appointed clergy regardless of status - to include local pastors, provisional and full deacons appointed to the local church, and provisional and full elders) for the remainder of the Conference year to the Annual Conference along with the other funds required by the Discipline in paragraph 2553 and the Annual Conference disaffiliation policy.
approved changes to the conference’s Standing Rules: Book of Recommendation and Reports; resolutions and petitions; registration and per diem; committee on resolutions; clergy expenses to Annual Conference; Director of Connectional Ministries; connectional services; quadrennial boards/committees/commissions, etc.; fund for special relief; audit; workers’ compensation; appendix F. (pages 71 - 75 in the Book of Recommendations)
approved a recommendation that every local church revisit and update as necessary their Safe Sanctuaries policy by Dec. 31, 2023.
approved changes to the conference Safe Sanctuaries Policy (pages 76-84 in the Book of Recommendations).
heard another John Wesley moment from Rev. Dave Hanson. One of the main reasons Wesley came to Georgia was to save his soul. He thought if he could get away from all distractions and temptations he could focus on his spirit. Boy, was he wrong. He met Sophy Hopkey and fell in love. But it didn’t go well and he ended up skipping out on a trial and sneaking out of town. John Wesley came to Georgia knowing everything about everything. He left a broken man. He was one the Holy Spirit could use, and we are grateful for it.
approved the establishment of a Retiree Health Care Trust. This trust helps to secure our retiree healthcare funding as we move into an uncertain future (read more about this trust here).
approved the recommendations from the Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits presented by Dr. Ben Martin, chair of the board and senior pastor of Wesley Monumental UMC in Savannah. The increase in health insurance rate billed to churches for their appointed clergy for 2023 is 9.7%. Dr. Scott Hagan announced that for the first time we will provide a rebate for 2023 for family healthcare coverage (pages 41-53 in the Book of Recommendations).
approved the report of the Equitable Compensation Report, presented by Mr. Philip Lord, chair of the committee and lay member of Buckhorn UMC, and approved a 3% increase in minimum salary (pages 34-41 in the Book of Recommendations).