Rev. Tony Crosby, pastor of Vienna UMC & Shiloh UMC, began the conference in a centering moment to prepare our hearts for worship.
The morning worship was led by Rev. Michael Culbreth, pastor at ConneXion UMC in Savannah. He preached from Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s song of praise.
“We see why God showed favor to Mary by allowing her to become the mother of our Savior,” said Rev. Culbreth. “God knew we needed a Savior. We needed somebody to show us love and compassion. We needed somebody to forgive our sins. We needed somebody to give us hope, peace, joy, and love. That's why God favored Mary.”
We have also received God’s unmerited favor, Rev. Culbreth says.
“We haven't earned it; we don't deserve it; but all we can do is accept it,” said Rev. Culbreth. “And through Jesus, God favored us and gave us forgiveness, love, and peace. We are recipients of God's favor. We are recipients of God's grace.”
Business Session - Tuesday morning
In the Business Session Tuesday morning, the conference:
began the business session with a prayer moment led by Dr. Ted Goshorn, pastor of Mulberry St. UMC in Macon.
approved the 2023 Report from the Committee on Nominations and elected Rev. Ramon Hernandez, Mrs. Flo Sapp-Martin, Mrs. Lisa Salveter, and Mrs. Dana Goshorn as at-large members of the Nominating Committee.
approved one resolution: The South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church Evangelism and Church Initiative (pg. 21, Book of Recommendations and Reports)
approved standing rules changes to the following: conference committee on standing rules, providing for a virtual conference, committee on memoirs, committee on courtesies and introductions, quadrennial boards/committees/commissions/etc., fund for special relief, commission on equitable compensation, council on finance and administration, archives, policy on church professional sexual misconduct (pgs. 58-62, Book of Recommendations and Reports)
heard a report about the future of the South Georgia Conference, a future that is Christ-centered, connectional, collaborative, compassionate, and kind. Bishop Graves has put together a conversation group to help foster the conversation of how we're going to “keep dancing”, and how we're going to keep going forward together as the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. Conference members were invited to be part of the conversation with a survey.
was led in a prayer moment by Rev. Teresa Edwards, associate pastor of Vineville UMC in Macon.
Delegation Elections - Tuesday morning
Elected to Jurisdictional Conference Tuesday morning: Stephen Grantham (clergy), pastor of Isle of Hope UMC in Savannah, and Scott Cleaveland (laity), member of Wesley Monumental UMC in Savannah.
Elected as alternates: Ben Gosden (clergy), pastor of Trinity UMC in Savannah, Precious Hawkins (clergy), pastor of Asbury UMC in Savannah, Scott Lewis (laity), member of Bemiss UMC in Valdosta, and Mark Allen (laity), member of Isle of Hope UMC in Savannah.
A Memorial Service for those faithful servants who have served in our Conference was held Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. at the UGA Tifton Conference Center. The Rev. Dr. Derek McAleer, South Georgia retired minister, asked those gathered to think about that great Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, which he says is one of the most challenging and beautiful passages anywhere in scripture for him.
“We know their stories. And we know they have moments of great glory, but they’ve also got scars,” said Dr. McAleer in speaking of those mentioned in Hebrews 11. “Occasionally they stretch to the heights of grace and then they fall to the depths of sin. The Bible is unflinching about the character of God's people. It holds no secrets and minces no words. But knowing that they are far from examples of untarnished glory, God nevertheless sets them before us as examples of what it means to walk in faith with Him.”
Those we honor today, says Dr. McAleer, are neither more perfect nor less perfect than Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
“God sees them with all their flaws,” said Dr. McAleer. “They have provided for us examples of what it means to walk in faith. Sometimes that example is what it means to stand up for God. Sometimes that example is what it means to stand before God and bow your head and say, ‘will you take me back?’ They recounted their vision, they regained their obedience, and they walked that path a little bit further to that city whose maker and builder is God.”
Dr. McAleer then reminded those gathered that this world is not our home, and despite all of our work in ministry will never be our home.
“Our home is with God, and He has prepared a place for us, and He has built the city for us,” said Dr. McAleer. “He who prepared that place for us is preparing us for that place. Just like he prepared those who we have honored today.
“And we are grateful to know that any of that preparation work that is not finished when we die is completed then. We believe in sanctification. And that process completes when we are taken up into glory.”
Those being remembered include:
Marshall Simpson Howell
May 14, 1943 – April 8, 2022
Sylvia L. Ross
June 9, 1930 – May 5, 2022
Robert Wesley Clark
August 28, 1926 – June 1, 2022
James William “Bill” Dupree
October 8, 1932 – June 4, 2022
Vergil Lacy “V.L.” Daughtery, Jr.
January 11, 1934 – June 8, 2022
James Martin Ford
January 27, 1943 – June 9, 2022
Charles Gilbert “Gill” Tripp
October 25, 1933 – July 16, 2022
Roy Lee Dial III
June 30, 1944 – August 28, 2022
Charles Douglas “Buddy” Coss
November 27, 1941 – August 31, 2022
Robert Franklin “Bob” Williams, Jr.
June 8, 1942 – September 11, 2022
John Monroe Clements
June 9, 1936 – September 17, 2022
Jimmy Lee Gilbert
May 2, 1948 – September 19, 2022
Robert Lamar “Bob” Herrington, Sr.
September 21, 1928 – September 20, 2022
Frank Henry Harris, Jr.
January 25, 1931 – September 26, 2022
William Alfred Smith
December 31, 1930 – October 12, 2022
Sylvia Ann Brantley Kersey
July 29, 1940 – November 13, 2022
Wayne Allen MacDonald
July 22, 1950 – December 2, 2022
Grady Estes Vance
January 12, 1949 – January 24, 2023
John Milton Bagwell
February 4, 1928 – March 28, 2023
Pauline O’Dell Aycock
Surviving Spouse of James David Aycock, Sr.
June 2, 1929 – April 22, 2022
Margaret Rosetta “Rose” King
Spouse of Bishop James King
July 6, 1944 – April 27, 2022
Rosalie Gaye Rentz
Spouse of John Cornell Rentz
October 3, 1950 – April 29, 2022
Janelle Ann O’Neil
Surviving Spouse of Edwin Bryan O’Neil
December 8, 1932 – June 3, 2022
Jacqueline Johnson Varnell
Spouse of Richard F. Varnell
July 29, 1948 – August 10, 2022
Mary Elizabeth Grantham Robertson
Surviving Spouse of Rudolph Edward Grantham
December 30, 1935 – September 12, 2022
Naomi Lorene Reed Ferris
Surviving Spouse of Orville Leroy Ferris
July 17, 1928 – October 20, 2022
Hazel Eugenia Wigglesworth Beverly
Surviving Spouse of Forest J. Beverly, Jr.
March 17, 1928 – October 22, 2022
Brenda J. Lavender Porter
Surviving Spouse of James Freeman Porter, Sr.
January 27, 1944 – October 23, 2022
Cora Anthony Herndon
Surviving Spouse of George W. Herndon
January 10, 1930 – December 15, 2022
O. Doris Vanstone
Surviving Spouse of John F. Vanstone
March 17, 1935 – January 2, 2023
Carolyn May Banker
Surviving Spouse of Kenneth Reinhold Banker
May 28, 1945 – January 27, 2023
Emily Day Wilson Watson
Surviving Spouse of W. Hampton Watson, Jr.
July 5, 1929 – January 28, 2023
Brenda Fay Aldrich France
Spouse of Jesse Wayne France
March 19, 1953 – February 3, 2023
Nona Mae Hodges Foster
Surviving Spouse of S. La Vaughn Foster
October 18, 1927 – February 18, 2023
Spouse of Bernie Khaw
March 3, 1949 – February 21, 2023
Margaret Elizabeth Smith Carruth
Surviving Spouse of Edward H. Carruth
November 4, 1921 – March 7, 2023
Business Session - Tuesday afternoon
In the Business Session Tuesday afternoon, the conference:
was led in a prayer moment by Rev. Precious Hawkins.
heard another John Wesley prayer moment from Rev. Dave Hanson.
approved the recommendations from the Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits presented by Dr. Ben Martin, chair of the board and pastor of Wesley Monumental UMC in Savannah, and Mrs. Suzanne Jones, director of administrative services and conference treasurer. The increase in health insurance rate billed to churches for their appointed clergy for 2024 is 6.7%, a slightly lower increase than in 2023. Dr. Scott Hagan, incoming district superintendent, announced that for the second year we will provide a rebate for 2024 for family healthcare coverage. Rev. Tom Carruth, pastor of Perry UMC, talked about the clergy mental health initiatives happening in the annual conference. It is the hope that as clergy in the South Georgia Conference foster their own mental health, they will lead congregations toward increased spiritual growth and mental health as well (pgs. 33-41 Book of Recommendations and Reports).
approved the report of the Equitable Compensation Report, presented by Rev. Stephen Grantham, acting chair of the committee.There will be no salary increase in minimum salary in 2024, though churches are encouraged to consider giving a raise or a bonus in 2024 (pgs. 26-32, Book of Recommendations and Reports).
heard a report from the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) given by Dr. Shane Green, chair of CFA and pastor of St. Paul UMC in Columbus. CFA continues to be thankful for the generosity of local churches in their mission giving to support the ministries of the annual conference and beyond. Dr. Green reminded the Annual Conference that CFA continues to work to reduce the conference budget. Since 2010, the Conference Budget has been reduced by close to $7 million dollars—a decrease of 56%. Conference members approved a budget of $5,472,651 for 2024. This is a reduced budget of 29% compared to last year’s budget so that more funds will be used for local church ministries (pgs. 41-53, Book of Recommendations and Reports.
accepted an invitation to hold the 2024 Annual Conference session in Tifton with a start date of June 2, 2024.
showed appreciation for the hard work and gracious hospitality of the Tifton First UMC Local Arrangements Committee and the South Central District as well as the Conference Worship Committee, Conference Secretary, and all of those who work to put on Annual Conference.
expressed appreciation for the clergy and lay staff who serve so faithfully and diligently in the Annual Conference.
closed the session with a prayer moment led by Ted Goshorn, Teresa Edwards and Precious Hawkins.
Reading of the Appointments
Annual Conference 2023 ended with the reading of the appointments.
The District Superintendents read the 2023-2024 Clergy Appointments. Each district lay leader stood with the DS as the clergy names and churches were read.
The 2024 Annual Conference Session will be held in Tifton, GA beginning June 2.