By Jessica Connor
Like a breath of fresh air blowing swiftly across the world, change is coming to the United Methodist Church.
Every four years, representatives from each organized conference of the UMC “ from South Carolina to the Philippines “ gather for nearly two weeks of grueling work and, ultimately, holy conferencing in what is termed General Conference. There, the global church determines what UMC law will be for the next four years: everything from whether it will allow gay clergy to preach from the pulpit, to the church s budget for the next four years.
This year, as with every General Conference since the beginning, a host of issues will be brought before the people. And after fervent prayer and debate and discussion and more prayer, they will cast their ballots and move us into the next quadrennium.
Then in June, South Carolina will hold its annual gathering, Annual Conference, set for June 10-13 in Florence. Members from every corner of the state will gather to do the business of the church in South Carolina. While the theme and other important information will not be announced until next month s Advocate, we feel certain this year will be as filled with change and transition as years past.
Then in July comes Jurisdictional Conference, when our region s bishops are elected and moved. South Carolina stands to see two key changes this year: the possible move of our resident bishop, who has served South Carolina for eight years, and the possible episcopal election of Dr. Tim McClendon, Columbia District superintendent and conference parliamentarian. If these possibilities occur, they would have significant impact on this state.
And that s just the changes from an organizational standpoint. The nation and the world as a whole is changing constantly. In the United States, religion just isn t as important to people as it has been in the past, surveys indicate. Denominations, including ours, scramble to regain membership numbers and reach the unchurched for the sake of their souls. And as we do this, our churches are changing. Our music and our ministries and our places of worship are changing.
We have the potential to impact all of this change by using every opportunity to become more aware of the workings of the church. Since the fall, we have run a monthly column by the Rev. Kathy James designed to educate people about key issues slated for General and Jurisdictional conferences, plus a monthly delegates meeting update. Over the next few months, we are planning strong and in-depth coverage of General, Jurisdictional and Annual conferences so our readers can be as informed as possible about what is happening in the UMC.
We believe that knowledge empowers, and empowered Christian leaders are better Christian leaders “ and help create a stronger church.
So stay abreast of the issues. And please “ share your copy of the Advocate with someone who should know what is happening in the church this year.
We all need a little light.