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2011 South Carolina Annual Conference

The Wesleyan Way: S.C. Annual Conference 2011

"Can you feel it? Can you sense it?" Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor asked members of the South Carolina Annual Conference. "Are you ready, South Carolina, for what God will do with us together?"

More than 1,600 United Methodist clergy and laity descended on the Florence Civic Center June 8-12, for the denomination's primary gathering in South Carolina. With a theme of "In the Wesleyan Way Principles, Passion and Practice," it was a time of worship, of praise, of fellowship and of legislation.

Leadership development Wesley-style was at the crux of this year's session, with three separate teaching times led by the Revs. Bob Howell, Susan Leonard-Ray and Jerry Temple on the principles, passions and practices of strong lay and clergy leaders.

The following resulted from the gathering:

1. Eighteen people (nine clergy, nine laity) were elected to represent South Carolina at General Conference. Eighteen additional delegates were also elected to represent the S.C. conference at Jurisdictional Conference. This year's clergy delegation to GC has more women than it did a quadrennium ago four women of the nine delegates this year compared to two women of the 10 delegates for the 2008 GC.

2. The body passed the conference's $17,175,808 budget in barely more than half an hour, including time to debate and defeat a petition. The Council on Finance and Administration called the new budget "considerably more conservative" than in the past and reflects a stated CF&A goal to move the budget to 15 percent of total conference average net funds by 2015. The budget is 17.23 percent of average net funds and reflects an overall percent change of -1.3 percent from 2011 to 2012.

3. The body also approved a new structure for Connectional Ministries designed to be better organized, better managed and ultimately more connectional. The new structure completely changes the old model, which featured a large Conference Council of Connectional Ministries responsible for connecting local churches with the conference. The new model creates a smaller, 100-member entity renamed the Conference Connectional Ministries, comprising representatives from each of the 12 new District Connectional Ministries bodies, organized into four separate areas of ministry (discipleship, advocacy, outreach and lay leadership).

4. The body approved the report of the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, with a plan that enables no increase in insurance premiums for hundreds of clergy and conference employees across the state who receive benefits. But the plan changes the pharmacy benefit from a fixed co-pay to a percentage co-pay on any drug beyond a generic Tier 1. People will pay a 25 percent co-pay on preferred Tier 2 brand-name drugs, and a 30 percent co-pay on non-preferred Tier 3 drugs. For generic Tier 1 drugs, people will pay a fixed-rate co-pay: $12 at a retail pharmacy and $20 for Medco by Mail (a three-month supply). Also, the board will offer an optional high deductible plan (Health Reimbursement Arrangement) in 2012 where the conference will fund $1,000/year, and participants can roll that money over to the next year with no limit.

5. Resolutions up for vote all of which passed centered on the creation of a task force to evaluate the current number of districts in S.C.; on the collection of a special offering at 2012 annual conference to support the UM Global AIDS Fund; and on immigration reform, asking the conference to "call upon all United Methodist congregations to study the biblical basis of hospitality to all &ellipsis; and to advocate for the comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system"; to welcome newly arrived persons in their communities; and to deliver a copy of the resolution to the S.C. Legislature. The body also approved a resolution to recognize United Methodist Volunteers in Mission as the official agency for sending volunteer mission teams from the conference, as well as resolutions authorizing annual conference trustees to use certain funds in their custody and authorizing the discontinuation of three churches in the state.

Rounding out the rest of annual conference were hearty worship services led by the Revs. Jeff Kersey, Telley Gadson and Michael Turner; 2011 conference awards; an ordination service for provisional or full deacons and elders; a memorial service; and a service for clergy retirees.

Annual Conference 2012 will be held June 10-13 at the Florence Civic Center. Dates will return to the Sunday to Wednesday format. More information: www.umcsc.org.