Rising COVID cases prompt delay of already rescheduled event
By Jessica Brodie
Escalating cases of COVID-19 in this state have prompted United Methodist leaders to call off a one-day session of the 2020 South Carolina Annual Conference.
No new date has yet been announced.
The news of the postponement came a week after Annual Conference organizers released the rescheduled date for this year’s Annual Conference, which was set for Saturday, Aug. 1. The original date had been June 7-10.
However, officials at the Florence Center—site of the event—notified the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church that the facility can no longer host the Annual Conference session there Aug. 1 because of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. The UMC announced the news July 10.
South Carolina has logged record numbers of COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, conference leaders noted.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 1,654 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Carolina and 39 additional deaths as of July 22. This brings the total number of people with confirmed cases since the outbreak began to 74,761 and deaths to 1,242.
There have been 3.9 million cases in the U.S. as of July 22, reports the Centers for Disease Control, with 63,028 new cases from the day prior.
A new date will be announced once state health officials advise it is safe to gather in large groups again, conference leaders said.
Two Annual Conference events are still scheduled, with some adaptations:
- Virtual Clergy Session Aug. 1 at 9 a.m.
- Service of Commissioning and Ordination Aug. 8 at 2 p.m. (The service will take place at St. John’s UMC, Aiken. Attendance is restricted to candidates for commissioning and ordination and a limited number of their guests. Candidates will be notified directly about details. Others can watch the livestream, which will be available at umcsc.org.)
Health and safety our ‘first concern’
“We know this is disappointing news,” South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said, “but we must continue to make the health and safety of our delegates, staff and volunteers our first concern.”
“We will continue to closely monitor the guidance of state health officials in hopes that soon we will be able to gather safely,” Holston added. “We recognize that conditions are changing, and we will err on the side of safety. In the meantime, we know the laity and clergy of the South Carolina Conference will continue in this time of pandemic to find creative and connectional ways to meet emerging needs and sustain exceptional ministry beyond the bounds of expectations.”
The Rev. Ken Nelson was recently appointed as superintendent of the Orangeburg District but continues to serve as conference secretary until a successor is elected at the currently postponed 2020 Annual Conference.
Nelson said the Book of Discipline mandates that South Carolina must hold an Annual Conference this year.
Nelson said the Annual Conference will be voting on matters related to the budget, conference leadership, resolutions, standing rules and clergy compensation matters.
If health issues because of the pandemic end up preventing a meeting in person, Nelson said, conference leaders will explore other options.
“With the health and safety of our lay and clergy delegates and other attendees and the broader community remaining of paramount concern, Bishop Holston and conference leaders continue to explore all options for the 2020 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference. This includes gathering in person, a virtual session, and possible hybrid versions of both,” Nelson said. “We are studying the experiences of other annual conferences that have met recently using virtual platforms. We also are conferring with our traditional Annual Conference media partners at Good News TV, who are helping us convene our virtual Clergy Session on Aug. 1. We expect to learn much from this experience.”
The Clergy Session convenes to consider the candidates for commissioning and ordination, which is required before the Service of Commissioning and Ordination Aug. 8 can take place. Clergy members also provide the formal answers to some of the business questions, which include confidential clergy status matters.
Annual Conference is the annual gathering of clergy and lay members representing 975 local United Methodist churches in South Carolina.
For more on the 2020 Annual Conference: umcsc.org/ac2020.