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2009 South Carolina Annual Conference

South Carolina Annual Conference
May 31-June 3, 2009, Florence, S.C.

A conference that was expected to be one of dissension was one of relative accord, "one of the best," is how the Rev. Willie Teague described the session of the South Carolina Annual Conference as he gave the Rev. Timothy Rogers, conference secretary, much of the credit.

The massive 32 constitutional amendments votes, in general, went as expected, given the uncertainty of what the worldwide amendments might mean until they are defined by a task force, and the conservative disposition of South Carolinians. Delegates voted in favor of Amendments 8, 9, 17, 19 and 22. Even the budget, already cut by Conference Finance and Administration, had a positive response.

"If we open ourselves to the life-changing power of the Savior, a change is gonna come," is the message Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor sent home with clergy and lay delegates to the session of the South Carolina Annual Conference.

The cabinet's report, given by The Rev. Quay Adams asked, do we "continue the Wesleyan movement or become a museum?

"The cabinet believes we have the opportunity to discover new ways to integrate our faith 'to serve the present age' in the midst of secularism, economic depression and stagnation." Adams quoted the Rev. Leonard Sweet: "Every church understands it has a mandate to make disciples, but not every church has a plan to make it happen."

The Rev. George Ashford alluded to words he and other newly planted church pastors hear as he preached at the Great Day of Service Celebration. "The same people you are looking for are looking for you," he said.

Twenty elders were ordained, seven are age 35 or under, and another is under 40, a cause for rejoicing as the conference is seeing its clergy growing older.

Laity met for orientation and to examine the issues to come before the conference. Carolyn Briscoe reviewed the 32 amendments that were to come before annual conference delegates. She gave varying views on amendments concerning the worldwide church, but said it is "wise to wait for the study task force to do its work."

Joseph Heyward, newly elected president of Southeastern Jurisdictional Lay Leaders, told the conference delegates that if they were going to make a difference, "we must leave the pews, go out into our neighborhoods, and move the words from the pages and into our hearts."

His big news was that the "Hope for the Children of Africa," a lively 22- member children's choir made up of orphans of HIV/AIDS parents, will tour the conference July 1 -12, ending with a concert at the Laity Convocation July 10-12.

The Rev. Ken Nelson, chairperson of the board of ordained ministry, thanked Bishop Virginia Taylor for her leadership in selecting the youngest and most diverse board to exam candidates who want to become deacons, local pastors or elders. He noted that the minimum provisional period has changed from three to two years and 60 to 80 candidates are possible provisional clergy membership for next year. The board helped 31 people with their education in 2008, he said.

The Rev. Ed McDowell, chairperson of the conference council on finance and administration, said the conference's intake of apportionments for the year is 2.3 percent behind and special gifts are down 50 percent. While meeting the required apportionments for support of the General Church's four foci, the CF&A budget, passed June 1, cut conference expenses 5.1 percent.

Later, the Rev. Mike Rouse asked for an amendment that would provide more help for United Methodist-homes residents. There were no objections.

Discussion of pensions and health benefits included talk of having to receive medicine by mail as opposed to a pharmacy. Anita Bozard said receiving insulin by mail in the South Carolina heat was a problem. David Anderson, pensions officer, assured delegates they would "work diligently with the General Board and any providers to give you the best service possible."

A proposal to raise money for a retiree health liability reserve fund adopted by the 2008 General Conference, caught most people off guard. With health premiums already going up, clergy (and churches) would face added costs, brought about by a reduction in their supplements of as much as 50 percent. Delegates were unprepared to address the issue because of potential changes in health insurance nationally and the need for real numbers, as opposed to percentages of costs. "If we raise our premiums, the issue has the possibility of pricing us out of the market and reducing the numbers participating," thus killing the conference plan, said Conference Treasurer Jim Knowles-Tuell suggested.

The Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits announced that they have approved support to the Central Conference Pension Initiative for 2009 by contributing the amount of money equal to the amount South Carolina received from the United Methodist Publishing House for conference claimants in 2008. The conference is sending $15,814.94 to the Central Conference Pension Initiative.

In other actions:

  • More than 800 participated in the Great Day of Service at scattered sites around Florence.
  • Youth ministries specialist Judson King announced a "Revolution," coming Jan. 22-24, in Columbia for youth across the state.
  • District Superintendent and Epworth Children's Home Trustee, Sara White, presented Epworth's task force report, which said it determined that it was in the best interest of the home not to become an apportionment article. Instead, Epworth has set a goal of an average of $6 per member through special offerings and advancing Epworth's cause through advocacy.
  • David Malloy, Annual conference liaison for the Advance, encouraged giving to Advance Specials and promoted a new youth-oriented campaign, Be One.
  • The Rev Walter McKelvey, president of Gammon Theological Seminary, reported that the predominately African-American seminary has produced 17 bishops.

Conference chancellor Jeff Barham urged all churches to not only incorporate but establish corporate records and said good insurance is critical for all churches. Barham brought three resolutions, the first to establish a perpetual care fund for the cemetery of the discontinued Asbury Clark United Methodist Church on Lake Hartwell from funds created by the sale of some of the property. The fund will be under the direction of the S.C. United Methodist Foundation. Barham asked that conference trustees be allowed to deal with property at Cane Point United Methodist Church, Charleston District, where there is an old Methodist meeting house, but records of its days of ministry have not been found.

Another resolution was to give the trustees authority to act on property, including a cemetery, at Center Methodist Episcopal Church South in Oconee County which hasn't been active since 1934. Two Baptist sisters across the street, now in their 90s, have been giving permission for people to continue to be buried there, taking up the responsibility of their Methodist father when he died. Trustees were given permission to act on both.

The Rev. C. E. "Smoke" Kanipe Jr., vice chairperson of Camps and Retreat Ministries, said Asbury Hills is almost 50 years old and "in mint condition," meaning nothing had changed except a bit of duct tape until recently. In late 2007, a $3.5 million conservation easement grant made it possible to move the "antique facilities" into the 21st century. A celebration of the renovations and new construction was held June 7. Smoke asked individuals to complete a survey on the future use of Sewee Adult Retreat Center near Awendaw.

The 2009 Annual Conference closed with the traditional fixing of appointments with an added twist: pastors, by standing in their district's spot, created a map in the shape of South Carolina. The 2010 Annual Conference again will be at the Florence Civic Center, June 10-13.

-Emily Cooper