By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
The 2019 South Carolina Annual Conference Session is quickly approaching, and it will be a blessed time to gather for praise, worship, service and holy conferencing. The Greenville community is excited about our presence, and we are grateful for the efforts of the Greenville District Host Committee, as well as the Greenville Convention Center who have diligently prepared to be our gracious hosts. We are grateful for their efforts and hospitality.
This year’s theme, “Seeking A More Excellent Way: A Future With Hope,” encourages us to trust God with each step that we take. It is a continuation of our faith journey as we seek a more excellent way to make disciples of Jesus Christ while transforming our world. Miraculous things can happen when we leave our place of comfort and take a step beyond caution into God’s preferred future. We will come together with hope, remembering who God has called us to be and what God wants for us.
Because it is an election year, we will meet one day longer than the past couple of years. We trust God’s Spirit to guide us as lay and clergy delegates are selected to represent South Carolina at the upcoming General and Jurisdictional conferences in 2020.
I am delighted to welcome to our Annual Conference experience Bishop James Swanson from the Mississippi Conference and the Rev. Sara White, South Carolina Conference director of congregational development, to share with us in praise and worship, as well as Dean Greg Jones of Duke Divinity School and the Rev. Susan Pendleton Jones, North Carolina Conference Church Transformation Ministries Associate, to lead us in Bible study.
As always, becoming disciples God can use has allowed us to share in some awesome ministry events. This year is no different. We are excited to partner with South Carolina Conference Native American Ministries to provide elder baskets for the elderly Native Americans in need around our state. Also, we join with Harvest Hope Food Bank to feed the hungry in our communities by bringing nonperishable items for donation. These are two tremendous opportunities for mission and ministry that United Methodists in South Carolina can put their hands to doing. Information for ways to participate can be found at www.umcsc.org/ac2019.
As we prepare to gather in celebration of ministry and mission at the 2019 Annual Conference, we also recognize that there is tremendous pain throughout The United Methodist Church because of the decisions of the 2019 General Conference. Some among us are deeply disappointed, hurt, frustrated and angry, while others are struggling with being labeled as judgmental and hateful.
In these weeks leading to and during our gathering in Greenville, I humbly ask all South Carolina United Methodists—whatever our differences—to stay in conversation with one another, to focus on those things that unite us and to remain steadfast in our mission as we walk together toward a future with hope.
I fully expect the 2019 Annual Conference to be a glorious time of celebration where the graciousness of God and the generosity of God’s people called United Methodist will be experienced in excellent ways. So let us unite our hearts in prayer that we will be open to the presence of God’s Spirit and respond faithfully with our time, talent, gifts, service and witness.