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2012 South Georgia Annual Conference

South Georgia Annual Conference
June 3-5, 2012, Macon , Ga.

By Kara Witherow, Kelly Roberson

Fellowship, worship, Bible study and celebration marked the 2012 South Georgia Annual Conference session, held June 3-5 at the Macon Centreplex in Macon, Ga.

Nearly 1,200 South Georgia United Methodist clergy and laity gathered together to conference in the Wesleyan tradition. Bishop James R. King Jr., episcopal leader of the South Georgia area, presided over his fourth annual conference session in South Georgia and greeted attendees with his trademark, "Greetings, beautiful people!"

While the 2012 session was shorter than usual - just two full days instead of the usual three - the time spent together was meaningful and impactful, attendees say.

Meeting under the theme of "Let the Redeemed Say So" from Psalm 107:2, this year's annual conference session focused on and emphasized the timeless values of witnessing and evangelizing.

Bishop King wants the conference to focus on evangelism in the coming year, and in doing so, said that Christians should have an attitude of gratitude.

"As people of faith, we need to be bubbling over making a happy noise," he said. "If you're happy and you know it - show it! Witness to God's goodness in your life everywhere you go."

The Rev. Marcus Tripp, who preached the conference's opening worship service on Sunday evening, challenged clergy and laity to "go home and tell your neighbor" what God has done.

"Your call is to go to tell the people you know best what God has done for you," he said. "There's something out there greater...there's the amazing grace of God available."

In one of the main business actions of the conference, clergy and lay members overwhelmingly voted in favor of continuing a district reduction study for another year. In the motion approved on Tuesday morning, the bishop and the cabinet, along with five lay people, are charged to bring detailed plans for a six district, a seven district, and a nine-district configuration to the 2013 annual conference session.
In other actions, members:

  • gave nearly $36,000 during Sunday evening's special offering, which was designated for three of the conference's mission agencies - Vashti, Open Door Community Center and Wesley Community Centers.

  • heard the Lay Leader's Address given by Mr. Roy Blackwood.

  • heard an inspiring sermon by Bishop B. Michael Watson, episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference, as he reminded those being ordained and commissioned that "We are called to be different in our responses. We are called to respond in faith, hope and love. That's how we are holy."

  • heard a message by the Rev. Marshall Howell in the Memorial Service.

  • were led by the Rev. Brent Strawn, associate professor of Old Testament at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, in two teaching moments titled, "Preach Always: Use Words if Necessary."

  • were reminded of our Wesleyan roots through three "John Wesley Moments" given by the Rev. Dave Hanson.

  • Endorsed the Rev. Robert Beckum as the conference candidate for the episcopacy.

  • approved an $11.75 million budget for mission and ministry for the next year and also approved and also approved a 10.13 percent reduction in the remaining 2012 budget.

Eight people were commissioned as provisional elders and one person was commissioned as provisional deacon. Thirteen people were ordained into the Order of Elder, and one person ordained into the Order of Deacon. The average age of those ordained is 42. Seventeen pastors retired, and six were recognized for achieving their 50th anniversary in ministry. Thirty-six clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during the memorial service.

Membership stands at 128,121 down 2,586 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 51,019 down 758.