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2009 South Georgia Annual Conference

South Georgia Annual Conference
June 7-10, 2009, Columbus, Ga.

"Seek Ye First" was the theme for the 2009 South Georgia Annual Conference Session. Bishop James R. King, Jr., presiding over his first annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop of the South Georgia Area, set the tone for the conference during the opening worship service on June 8. In keeping with the theme, King challenged South Georgia United Methodist to seek God first and claim the slogan: "Growing a Christlike world."

"I want you to focus on five areas of your spiritual life in order to grow more like Christ: worship, Christian education, fellowship accountability, evangelism/witness and justice ministry," King said.

In an act of growing a Christlike world, members spread out across the Columbus community on June 9 to participate in various service project opportunities during the fourth annual Day of Service. "I saw these Christlike images throughout Columbus, and that was so exciting," King said. "It's amazing how manageable the Kingdom of God really is."

One of the highlights of conference was the announcement that a generous donor in Georgia has given $500,000 to further the kingdom efforts of the Central Conference Pension Initiative, with another donation possible if individuals and churches in South and North Georgia match the initial $500,000 gift. Offerings were taken both before and during annual conference with more than $32,000 raised already for pension initiative.

In other actions, members:

  • Participated in a worship experience inspired by the story of the wedding in Cana.
  • Approved a resolution called "Every Church Gives," which encourages that every church financially support the conference-related health and welfare agencies.
  • Heard powerful messages from Bishop King, Bishop Marion Edwards in the ordination service, Hugh Davis in the memorial service and Evelyn Laycock in two Bible studies.
  • Reversed a decision made by the 2008 annual conference session, which outlined a transition plan for clergy families to provide their own furnishings for the parsonage.
  • Approved the building of a new Conference Center in Macon.
  • Were introduced to Kara Witherow, editor for the new South Georgia Advocate, which is now a publication of the conference communications office.
  • Celebrated that Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga. is preparing to give a full scholarship to a qualified student from the HUMBLE United Methodist School in Uganda to attend Wesleyan College once they have completed their secondary education.
  • Approved a $12.4 million budget for mission and ministry for the next year

Conference members voted on 32 proposed constitutional amendments, only five of which received affirmative support from South Georgia representatives: II, VIII, IX, XIX, XXII.

Eleven people were commissioned, one person was recognized as an associate member and fourteen were ordained as full elders. The average age of those ordained is 46. Fifteen pastors retired, and seven were recognized for achieving their 50th anniversary in ministry. Twenty-eight clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during a service of commemoration.

Membership stands at 134,924, down 956 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 52,642, down 123. Church school attendance stands at 27,204, down 231.

-Kelly Roberson and Kara Witherow