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Annual Conference 2011

New theme, new streamlined structure for yearly gathering of United Methodists

By Jessica Connor

With a theme of “In the Wesleyan Way—Principles, Passion and Practice,” the S.C. Annual Conference is returning to its roots in 2011, embracing the groundwork John Wesley laid almost three centuries ago.

Leadership development Wesley-style is at the crux of this year’s session, set for June 8-12. Organizers hope to unite the denomination around the passions that ignite strong lay and clergy leaders, the principles of those leaders, and how they put that leadership into practice.

“It’s an emphasis on who we are as United Methodist people,” Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor said at a Feb. 11 meeting of the Committee on the Annual Conference.

After all, everything we do in the denomination—the social outreach, the work to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ for the poor and the oppressed–is tied directly to our Wesleyan tradition of merging passions and principles into practices that help others in the name of the Lord.

“It’s part and parcel of our DNA,” Columbia District Superintendent Tim McClendon said.

The leadership development theme reflects one of the four areas of ministry the General Church is focusing on this quadrennium; the others are combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally, engaging in ministry with the poor and creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.

The name is based loosely on the book “Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit,” by Dr. Lovett Weems, who will serve as speaker at the conference clergy meeting later this month.

Now, Annual Conference committee members are busy crafting a five-day session for lay and clergy delegates that intentionally tries to balance the business of the conference with the teaching aspect of the theme.

A few key changes are planned to help improve this balance and make for a stronger, smoother Annual Conference than before:

•    Moving the ordination service to the last day of conference (Sunday, June 12) and having the final business session occur on Saturday for as long as necessary (including possibly the evening);

•    Morphing the Great Day of Service from a full Annual Conference event in Florence during the event to separate district days of service, which will be showcased at Annual Conference;

•    Offering a youth service opportunity in Florence on Friday afternoon, followed by a vibrant youth worship service Friday night;

•    Creating shorter morning worship services that combine prayer and Holy Communion

•    Having an earlier start time for the business sessions (9 or 9:15 a.m. instead of 9:45 a.m.);

•    Engaging in three teaching blocks (of up to an hour each) on aspects of strong leadership in the Wesleyan tradition;

•    Offering a more streamlined awards and recognition segment that features video and printed information on recipients rather than lengthier information read aloud; and

•    Providing childcare services.

Annual Conference is the yearly event held in June to bring together lay and clergy delegates across South Carolina to handle the business of the conference: legislation, budgeting and, this year, electing delegates to Jurisdictional and General Conferences in 2012.

Key this year will be a vote on the new structure of Connectional Ministries (see story, page x).

Pre-conference materials are distributed in April, and resolutions go online in March.

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