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2013 South Carolina Annual Conference

Florence Civic Center, Florence, South Carolina
June 9-12

Officiating bishop: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

Youth service speakers:

  • The Gamecocks' Dylan Thompson, junior quarterback from the University of South Carolina
  • Rachel Woodlee, recent Wofford College graduate and Rhodes Scholar
  • Davis Crews, 13-year-old freshman who helped mobilize thousands to pack meals for Stop Hunger Now

Daily Bible studies:
Dr. Vivia Fowler, dean and vice president of academic affairs, Wesleyan College

Memorial Service preacher:
The Rev. Lillian Washington, who just spent eight years as Hartsville District superintendent in the S.C. Conference

Memorable points or quotes by speakers:

Thompson:
"Jesus calls us in this life to be big-time performers. Not just hang out a bit and cruise and cruise and cruise. &ellipsis; I think He's calling us to step up, whether we're age 6 or age 66. Everyone in here has a role to play for Jesus. Step up and get into these God-sized visions."

"It's not about what Dylan Thompson has done; it's about what Jesus Christ is doing through a person," Thompson said to roaring applause. "God can do huge things through each and every one of us. I pray tonight that you ask God, 'What are you calling me to do tomorrow so I can further impact your kingdom?' Not the next day or next week, but tomorrow."

"It is awesome to see so many serving not just for people, but for Him," Thompson said. "It's all about how can we show Jesus through what we do."

Woodlee:
"If you start looking for whispers instead of earthquakes, it will change the world. &ellipsis; If you start looking at the world through a different lens, that still small voice in your heart, that's when you will start seeing God in your life. That will make all the difference."

Crews:
"One billion people in our world are hungry. Every day, 25,000 die from hunger. Every 6 seconds, a child dies of malnutrition."

Washington:
"Death is not the end of all things; It is the door that leads from this world into a world more vast and beautiful. We look forward to the future with our Christian assurance of eternal life on the other side of death."

Main actions enacted by the conference:

  • The four-day event featured a new bishop, inspiration from a Gamecocks quarterback, a full day of hunger relief ministry and a contemporary Christian concert. That was in addition to the heavy slate of church business, including approving the statewide United Methodist Church budget and decisions on numerous weighty issues, such as pensions for part-time pastors and half a dozen major resolutions:

  • With no discussion or debate, the body passed a $16,602,092 budget for 2014 that represents a 16.17 percent average net funds factor. The budget is $256,000 less than the 2013 budget and reflects a 1.5 percent reduction. The conference is working toward 15 percent of average net funds by 2015, and Conference Council on Finance and Administration Chair, the Rev. David Surrett, said that while 16.17 percent is not quite at the goal, CF&A anticipates "being very near there by next year."

  • After two years of major study and data collection, the conference's District Study Task Force recommended to the body that there be no changes to the current arrangement in district number or lines. Two years ago, conference established the task force because some felt the current number of districts (12) was too many and that South Carolina would benefit from a close look at our district structure. But in their research, which involved querying and studying numbers of other conferences across the jurisdiction and beyond, Task Force Chair Dr. Paul Harmon said their group found a large "divergence of opinions." The task force recommended that the conference should instead find ways to be more effective in the existing structure, particularly in enabling district offices to be more helpful to local churches.

  • In January, part-time pastors in the S.C. United Methodist Church will have a new pension plan. Currently, part- and full-time United Methodist pastors get health insurance and pension paid by their local church; the pastor does not have to put any money toward his or her pension account. But as was approved at annual conference, part-time pastors will contribute at least 3 percent toward their pension beginning in 2014; the church would match this by 9 percent.

  • "I think we've done the right thing for the churches and the pastor; we've decided to put them in a 403b plan, which is what most of laity who work for the church have," said Herman Lightsey, chair of the S.C. Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits. "It's a fair thing - we can continue to take care of them but just a little different."

  • Retired S.C. pastors, and the conference itself, will pay a lot less for health insurance next year under a new vendor, AmWINS, a major national provider of retiree health benefits, instead of the plan offered through the general board. Other conferences are moving to this company; in S.C., SCANA uses AmWINS for their retiree health plan. The change will provide the same benefits for less money, plus allow the conference to take advantage of Medicare Part D.

South Carolina United Methodists said "yes" to five resolutions dealing with poverty, Medicaid expansion, education and more, but "no" to a resolution prohibiting guns at church-sponsored events (see below).

Resolutions adopted by the conference:

  • Resolution on Minimally Adequate Education -The body passed with no debate this resolution authorizing the Annual Conference to call for passage of an amendment to the state constitution that would mandate South Carolina to offer a "high quality education" to all children to replace the current standard of "minimally adequate education," and further urge the General Assemblyto fully fund existing education formulas regarding financial support for all public schools.

  • Resolution to Support Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion The body passed this resolution to encourage legislators to declare that participation in Medicaid expansion is necessary to the state's economic growth and welfare and to the health, wellbeing and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians. Under the resolution, S.C. United Methodist churches will accept responsibility for becoming actively involved at all levels in the development of support systems for health care in the community; educate and motivate members to follow a healthy lifestyle reflecting our affirmation of life as God's gift; become health advocates; and continue support and provision of direct-health services where needed. The Rev. Amiri Hooker, convener for the Advocacy Ministry Area, which sponsored the resolution, said his group believes the resolution sends a statement that our annual conference believes in the least of these: "the very poor, the very unfortunate, those person listed by Medicaid expansion in S.C."

  • Resolution to Support Global Maternal and Child Health through the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet Project -The body passed this resolution endorsing the "Healthy Families, Healthy Planets" initiative, a project of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society to educate and mobilize United Methodists on maternal health and the importance of international family planning. It also calls for the conference United Methodist Women and other relevant boards to work together in awareness, education and advocacy.

  • Resolution Eradicating Poverty in South Carolina -With no discussion, the body passed this resolution to help release the million-plus South Carolinians locked in generational poverty. Per the resolution, the conference will work on seven major goals to achieve improvements and healing for the poor in this state: increase by 2 percent service to the poor in the conference through the Advance Ministry mission institutions; train an advocate for the poor in the conference; work with international partners to reduce by 66 percent malaria-related deaths of children under the age of 5; develop opportunities for more in the annual conferences to become involved with advocacy for health issues such as access to health care, disease and infant mortality; find people on the edge of society not currently being addressed in United Methodist churches; provide short-term mission experiences for young people to explore and reflect on professional Christian service; and build a network of prophetic pastors and lay members around the conference and provide them with opportunities to work for advocacy and social justice.

  • Resolution Responding to the Proposed Changes to High School Equivalency Testing: A Rallying Cry for Action in South Carolina - The body supported referring to Connectional Ministries this resolution from Greenville District Connectional Ministries, which calls for the conference to advocate through Conference Connectional Ministries and its 12 DCMs for a more affordable and non-computer-based high school equivalency test, and create a conference-wide task force that will develop a plan for local churches to become high school equivalency test centers, plus offer testing preparation programs. Several spoke for and against the resolution, which easily passed after debate.

Actions taken on proposed constitutional amendments from 2012 General Conference:

The S.C. Conference voted on the amendments at annual conference, but results were sent directly to the general church and not released to the body.

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership and average age: 31 people.

Number of people retired: 39

Membership: Stands at 235,504 up 15 from the previous year.

Worship attendance: Stands at 90,790, down from 92,506.

Church school attendance: Stands at 38,560, down from 39,687.

- Matt Brodie, director of communications for the South Carolina Annual (regional) Conference