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2011 North Georgia Annual Conference

North Georgia Annual Conference
June 14-17, 2011, Athens, Ga.

The 2011 North Georgia Annual Conference, emphasizing a hands-on approach to discipleship, united under the theme: "Engaging in Ministry with the Poor."

Nearly 3,000 United Methodists from across North Georgia gathered for four days of prayer, praise, Holy Communion, gifted oration, joyful celebration, exhortation, consecration, ordination, deliberation and to elect delegations.

Bishop B. Michael Watson presided over the 145th session of the conference, which featured sermons from leaders of some of the nation's top divinity schools.

The opening worship service was led by Dr. Richard Hays, dean of Duke Divinity School. On Tuesday evening, Bishop Alfred L. Norris, past president of Gammon Theological Seminary, preached at the ordination and commissioning ceremony. And on Thursday, Dr. Jan Love, Dean and Professor of Christianity and World Politics at Candler School of Theology, spoke at the Service of Remembrance, honoring 14 deceased clergy members, 19 deceased clergy spouses and 6 deceased lay persons.

The conference commissioned 21 provisional members, ordained six deacons in full connection and ordained 18 elders in full connection. North Georgia also honored 25 retiring clergy members.

At the ordination and commission ceremony, Bishop Norris delivered an impassioned message.

"I sense the stirrings of a new vitality," Norris said, rejecting the idea that the church is in danger of long-term decline. "We need to have a passion and zeal for mission and evangelism."

Balloting to select delegates for the 2012 General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference came down to the final moments of the gathering. Sharma Denise Lewis, the district superintendent of the Atlanta Decatur Oxford District, became the first African-American woman selected to lead the North Georgia delegation.

Clergy elected to the 2012 General Conference Session: Sharma Denise Lewis, Jonathan Holston, James Cantrell, Phil Schroeder, Jane Brooks, P. Alice Rogers, Kyle Edward Tomlinson, John Anderson Simmons, Nora Martinez, Jamie Jenkins, Chuck Savage, Steve Wood and David Bevel Jones

Laity elected to the 2012 General Conference Session: Jane Finley, Lyn Powell, Mathew Pinson, Joe M. Whittemore, Jeff Jernigan, Bill Stikes, Tonya Murphy, Leon Jourolman, Dianne Spencer, Joe Kilpatrick, Richard Williamson, Bill Martin and Marjorie Kimbrough

Clergy elected to the 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference: Wiley Stephens, Elizabeth Larocca-Pitts, David Allen Grady, Richard Winn, James Ellison, Dianne Parish, Joy Melton, Karen Kagiyama, Leon Matthews, Renita Thomas, Richard Hunter, Bridgette Young and Mike Cash

Laity elected to the 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference: Keith Cox, Gary Fuller, Jasper Russell Sr., Hank Huckaby, Dianne Traynham, Debby Stikes, Micah Arrington, Janet Sligar, Elizabeth Corrie, Al Stocks, Sue Raymond, Robert Fincher and Jack Camarda

Clergy Reserve Members: Jimmy Moor, Susan Allen Grady, David Walters, Glenn Ethridge and Davis Chappell

Lay Reserve Members: Charles Miller, Tom Cook, Ida Florine Tarver Jones, Lowell Kirkman and Christian Higgins

Over the past 20 years, the North Georgia conference has planted 77 new churches and fresh starts and 43 missions. In 2010, new churches received 1,305 professions of faith, and 16,716 people worshiped in a new church.

Five new starts constituted in 2010: Arbor Point UMC (Joe McKechnie, pastor), UMC of The Well (Andy Postell, pastor), Church of The Way (Carter McInnis, pastor), Sacred Tapestry (Teresa Angle-Young, pastor) and The Vine (David Walters, pastor).

The Black Church Development Task Force has put together a design team of eight lay and eight clergy, led by Dr. Fred Allen, to support the General Church Initiative SBC21. SBC21 is designed to assist black churches in search of new ideas and revitalization by providing resources, facilitating intentional exploration and regaining enthusiasm.

Last year the conference launched an ongoing mission program, Bridges, with the first initiative to build a Bridge to Uganda. The program has flourished in its short history. During Annual Conference, Scouts from Humble School in Uganda, invited as guests of St. James UMC in Atlanta, blessed the gathering with a special song for Bishop Watson. It was reported that a team visited El Salvador last spring to explore ways to build a bridge to that country.

OTHER ITEMS:

  • The conference collected more than $112,000 in the special offering for Imagine No Malaria.

  • Since last year, more than 3,000 people have taken part in a Connectional Cafe workshop, a new initiative from Connectional Ministries.

  • Resolution 702 "Resolution for Call for Action by General Conference" was passed.

  • Resolution 707 "Resolution to Revise Portions of the United Methodist Book of Discipline Which Define the Role of Retired Bishop" was passed.

  • Resolution 709 was approved, defining which local pastors could vote for delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference.

  • The Annual Conference Task Force recommended, and the conference approved, that Bishop Watson be given authority to evaluate and make changes to conference administrative staff.

  • There were 6,369 professions of faith, down 253.

  • Total giving was $25,608,092 in 2010, including conference advances, general advance specials, special offerings and apportionments.

  • More than 70 percent of churches paid 100 percent of their apportionments.

  • The conference approved a budget presented by CF&A of $24,042,913 for 2012. This reflects a five percent decrease from 2011. The total decrease is $1,252,154. This is the third year in a row that the budget has been reduced.

  • The 2012 (June 12-14) and 2013 (June 11-13) conferences will be held at The Classic Center in Athens, and members voted to return to the center for 2014 and 2015 as well.

  • Membership is 357,741, up 1,467 from the previous year. Average worship attendance was 126,215, down 1,271.

- Glenn Hannigan