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2016 South Georgia Annual Conference


The 2016 South Georgia Annual Conference session was held June 8-11 at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton, Georgia. Meeting under the theme “Testify and Multiply” from Acts 2:40-41, the South Georgia Conference emphasized the timeless value of witnessing as it marked its 150th session.

During Wednesday evening’s opening worship service, Bishop James R. King Jr., presiding over his eighth session of the South Georgia Annual Conference and his last before his upcoming retirement, introduced the conference theme and emphasized the importance of sharing faith stories and love with others.

“So I say to you, Beautiful People, all of us have a story to share. And that story is our witness platform that God has given us to testify. Do you have a story? Tell the story and grow the kingdom of God and glorify God! Tell the story and testify and multiply!”

The theme was woven throughout the annual conference session. The Rev. Winston Worrell, director of World Methodist Evangelism Institute; the Rev. Laceye Warner, associate professor of the practice of evangelism and Methodist studies at Duke Divinity School; and the Rev. Michael McQueen, senior pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, gave several examples of traditional testifying methodologies and patterns for faith sharing.

After having passed a motion to increase average weekly worship attendance by 10 percent by January 2018, clergy and lay attendees were given 10 action steps for 10 percent growth during a Fruitfulness in Evangelism panel discussion moderated by the Rev. Jay Hanson, director of Congregational Development.

Several other motions were passed during the four-day conference. One motion requested that Bishop King convey to the Council of Bishops a request that a previous quadrennial study on human sexuality ordered by a previous General Conference be read, studied, and evaluated by the members of the Council of Bishops before any new study is ordered, a committee appointed as ordered by the 2016 General Conference, or a called General Conference is undertaken.

Another motion asked that the resident bishop of the South Georgia Conference not receive, for appointment or transfer, clergy who have publicly stated their intent to disregard the current language of the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.

In other action, members:

  • heard the lay leader’s address given by Gloria Morgan in which she reminded laity that they are “equipped, empowered and inspired to enthusiastically make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
  • heard an inspiring sermon by Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, episcopal leader of the Birmingham (Alabama) area, during the ordination service. Bishop Wallace-Padgett reminded us to “Journey to the One who is our savior and redeemer. And as you journey frequently to Jesus, you will have many reasons to testify.”
  • heard a moving message from the Rev. Don Adams in the memorial service as we remembered those who have gone before us. “Each of these people responded to God’s ‘tap on the shoulder’… And we say thank you to them for responding in faithful obedience.”
  • collected nearly $18,000 for Global Ministries as a welcoming offering as they move to Georgia.
  • presented the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards to Kristian Jowers, youth, Whigham United Methodist Church; Warren Jones, laity, New Covenant United Methodist Church; and the Rev. Jay Hanson, clergy, The Chapel.
  • heard about the work of Global Ministries from Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries top executive, and celebrated how we are in mission from “everywhere to everywhere.” He also talked about Global Ministries’ new global health initiative — “Abundant Health: Our Promise To Children” — and Global Ministries’ strategic move to Atlanta.
  • celebrated the last eight years of ministry of Bishop James and Rose King as he served as episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference. 
  • were continuously reminded that there is no limit to what God can do when the United Methodists of South Georgia get united behind a worthy project through South Georgia Conference history moments given by the Rev. Dave Hanson.
  • recognized Harvest Church in Byron as the church with the largest net gain in membership and Gateway Community in Pooler with the largest number of professions of faith and the best ratio of professions of faith in the conference.
  • recognized Isle of Hope United Methodist Church as giving the highest total amount to missions and Alston United Methodist Church as the highest per capita given to missions.
  • honored 41 5-Star Pastors and 138 4-Star Pastors.
  • supported the conference’s local mission agencies, donating toiletries, school supplies, etc. to Magnolia Manor, the Methodist Children’s Home, Open Door Community Center, Vashti, Wesley Community Centers and Wesley Glen.
  • approved a $10,493,427 million budget for mission and ministry for 2017.

Five people were commissioned as provisional elders. Two people were ordained into the Order of Elder and one person ordained into the Order of Deacon. The average age of those being ordained and/or commissioned is 38.

Twenty-four 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 the memorial service.

Annual Conference 2016 ended with a service of sending forth as Bishop King encouraged each person to grow a Christ-like world. “You can’t grow a Christ-like world by being a settler. We are not settlers,” he said. “We must do all that we can for as long as we can to grow a Christ-like world.”

Membership stands at 116,733, down 2,111 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 49,424, down 854. Church school attendance stands at 33,398, down 1 from 2015.

The 2017 Annual Conference session will be held June 4-7 on Jekyll Island.

Source: Kara Witherow and Kelly Roberson of the South Georgia Conference.