May brings preconference trainings, materials as organizers gear up for five-day event
By Jessica Brodie
Six weeks from now, thousands of United Methodists will head to Florence for the denomination’s Annual Conference, and organizers are doing all they can to help delegates be ready, aware and fully educated.
Set for June 7-11 at the Florence Civic Center, Annual Conference 2015 will explore the theme “Becoming Disciples God Can Use” as the body considers a nearly $16.8 million 2016 conference budget for the year, votes on new resolutions, ordains new clergy, elects delegates to General and Jurisdictional conferences—and packs more than 285,000 Stop Hunger Now meals for hungry families around the world.
May brings a host of preparations for the five-day event, including the mailing of preconference materials to delegates (scheduled to arrive the week of April 27) and preconference trainings, where districts across the state will help people understand the key things that will be part of this year’s Annual Conference.
“It will help them be prepared for Annual Conference and give them a preview of the larger-scale issues to be discussed at Annual Conference,” said Conference Secretary the Rev. Ken Nelson.
Preconference trainings and materials
Preconference training will be held in each of the 12 districts throughout May (see below). All lay and clergy members of Annual Conference who will be at the event are asked to attend the trainings so they can learn and connect with fellow attendees.
“It’s a chance for then to hear about what’s going to be going on at Annual Conference and to ask questions about reports if they have any ahead of time,” said Matt Brodie, conference communications director.
It’s also a chance for people to be trained on the new electronic balloting that will be used both to elect delegates for General and Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences and for other Annual Conference business matters, including resolutions. The body will use a handheld device with a keypad (very similar to a cell phone) to vote on these delegates; it is the first time this conference has used electronic balloting. A company called Vistacom out of Pennsylvania will facilitate.
The trainings are designed to ramp up learning and awareness so time is not spent asking questions on the floor that could have been answered ahead of time. A video will be shown at the trainings to highlight key aspects of AC2015; the video will be available on the conference website (www.umcsc.org) in late May for those who were not able to attend the May trainings.
Preconference materials have been mailed and are also available here.
Elections of General, Jurisdictional delegates
Organizers say electronic balloting will streamline election of delegates for General and Jurisdictional conferences. This year, Annual Conference will elect 16 delegates (eight clergy and eight laity) plus alternates to General Conference, and 16 additional delegates (eight clergy and eight laity) plus alternates, who will go to Jurisdictional Conference with the General Conference delegates. A list of lay nominees appears on this page. The list of clergy nominees is available here will be presented in the conference registration packets.
General Conference is the global UMC’s quadrennial legislative gathering set for May 10-20, 2016, in Portland, Oregon, where United Methodist representatives from all over the world examine, discuss, pray, debate and eventually determine a host of key legislative issues that will become church law for the next four years. Jurisdictional Conference, which begins July 13, 2016, at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, is held every four years primarily to elect bishops, but also has various other tasks, such as making rules and regulations for the administration of the church’s work within the jurisdiction (including budgeting); establishing and electing people to jurisdictional boards; determining annual conference boundaries; appointing a committee on appeals; and promoting interests of the church. The Southeastern Jurisdiction comprises 15 annual conferences in the southeast.
“These are persons who will be representing you when we think about the future of the church on the general and jurisdictional level,” Nelson said, urging people to take the time to review the list of nominees. “General Conference is the time we come together to revisit the Book of Discipline and rewriting church policy; at General Conference, you are rewriting the Book of Discipline in two weeks.”
Major resolutions up for vote
As of the Advocate’s press time, the body is slated to vote on several major resolutions during Annual Conference:
- Anti-bullying resolution (to oppose bullying in all its forms and create a safe space for children of God without regard to religion, race, ethnicity, culture, citizenship, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation and physical or mental ability)
- Resolution to withdraw The United Methodist Church from the Religious Coalition For Reproductive Choice
- Book of Discipline language change resolution (to remove the sentence found in Para. 161F of the 2012 Book of Discipline that states, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching”)
- Resolution to declare as abandoned Jerusalem UMC, Harleyville
Read the full text of these resolutions at www.umcsc.org.
Hunger ministry, speakers, mission fair, more
Much more is also on the lineup for Annual Conference. AC2015 is returning to hunger ministry as its service project this year, again partnering with the international hunger relief organization Stop Hunger Now to host a daylong meal-packaging event to help hungry people in desperate need of lifesaving meal packets (see article here).
Africa University Choir will perform, and Bishop Marcus Matthews, of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, will be the speaker at Monday night’s ordination service. Matthews is a native of South Carolina and got his start as a church and community worker at Cumberland UMC, Florence. Dr. Tim McClendon, former Columbia District superintendent and pastor of St. John’s UMC, Aiken, will preach the memorial service. Dr. Paul Harmon, Spartanburg District superintendent, will lead the Bible study.
Tuesday will feature a youth- and young adult-oriented service preached by the Rev. Jonathan Tomkins, of Travelers Rest UMC, Travelers Rest, after a full day of Stop Hunger Now meal packing. The retirement service will be Tuesday morning.
The Local Church Mission Fair will return this year, highlighting the various ministries that local churches have been involved with throughout the past year.
Also at AC2015, the body will vote on a possible new site for Annual Conference 2016: stay in Florence or switch to Greenville, Fort Mill or Columbia.
For more on AC2015, visit www.umcsc.org/home/resources/2015-annual-conference.
Preconference Trainings for AC2015
- Anderson District, 3 p.m., Trinity UMC
- Charleston District, 4 p.m., Charleston Korean UMC, North Charleston)
- Columbia District, 3 p.m., Ashland UMC
- Florence District, 5 p.m., First UMC, Hemingway
- Greenwood District, 3 p.m., Main Street UMC
- Rock Hill District, 4 p.m., Friendship UMC
- Greenville District, 3 p.m., Aldersgate UMC
- Marion District, 3 p.m., Bethel UMC, Marion
- Spartanburg District, 3:30 p.m., St. Paul UMC
- Walterboro District, 4 p.m., New Life UMC
- Hartsville District, 3 p.m. at Wesley UMC
- Orangeburg District, 5 p.m. at St. Andrews UMC