By Jessica Brodie
FLORENCE—It was a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Florence Center Sunday night, June 6, 2021, as Annual Conference gathered for a combined service that celebrated a new class of incoming ordained clergy, commissioned a number of new provisional elders and deacons and recognized the long and faithful service of those retiring.
In a service conducted by South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston with leaders from the Board of Ordained Ministry, the Order of Elders and the Order of Deacons, seven were ordained as full elders, 10 commissioned as provisional elders and one commissioned as provisional deacon. The service also honored a huge class of retirees: 45 who retired in 2020 and 36 who retire in 2021.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, resident bishop of the North Alabama Conference, served as guest preacher, bringing a word on “Taking the Next Faithful Steps: Disciples Building Disciples.”
Peppered with singing and much prayer, the evening ended with the ceremonial “passing of the mantle,” in which a representative of the retiring class passes a stole, or mantle, from their shoulders to those of new class of ordinands. The Rev. Patricia Parrish represented the retiring class, and the Rev. Isaac Dusenberry represented the newly ordained class.
‘Disciples Building Disciples’
After the presentation of those to be commissioned and ordained, the general examination, and the reading of the Gospel passage, sermon Scripture and Apostles’ Creed, Wallace-Padgett began with a word on change.
“Life is full of change,” she said, recalling the gas-guzzling vehicle she drove in high school compared to the energy-efficient car she drives today.
Today, the accelerated pace of change has been “absolutely dizzying,” she said, noting the advance of driverless cars, the boom in computer and information technology and the mass availability of personal electronic devices, expected to soar to 25 billion worldwide.
“But there are some constants—the sun rises each morning and sets each evening. The earth rotates on its axis. Clemson and USC remain archrivals in all things.”
Another constant is how we make disciples, she said. Since Jesus walked the earth, and since the advent of the very first church, the best way to take that next faithful step is by disciples building disciples.
Wallace-Padgett drew from the Gospel verses of the evening, Matthew 28:16-20 when Jesus commissioned the disciples, reminding the body that Jesus called these first to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (19-20).
As she preached, today this is still what we do—we go and we encourage others to fulfill that significant call that Jesus puts upon us.
“Building disciples is what lay and clergy spiritual leaders do,” she said. “All of us are called to this.”
And mentoring is a key part of this, she said—both through the mentors who help strengthen and encourage us, and the way we “pay it forward” by mentoring others.
Wallace-Padgett lifted up Barnabas from Acts 11 and elsewhere in the Bible, who she called a monumental encourager responsible for building up Saul, John Mark and countless other people. Barnabas took a risk in mentoring Saul, who’d once been a despised and feared persecutor of the faith. He took a risk in insisting John Mark be given a second chance.
“Consider tonight: Who has been a Barnabas in your life? Who have been the persons encouraging you in your walk with Christ?” she asked.
And further, she asked all to consider the reverse: Who would call you a mentor in their faith journey? Who are you encouraging?
“We have to continue to embody this,” Wallace-Padgett said. “Disciples build disciples.”
Eighteen commissioned or ordained
The service continued with the commissioning of provisional members, including the prayer of commissioning and laying on of hands.
Next, the candidates to be ordained stood and faced Bishop Holston, who examined the elder candidates for ordination as elder.
“An elder is called to share in the ministry of Christ and of the whole church: to preach and teach the Word of God and faithfully administer the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion; to lead the people of God in worship and prayer; to lead persons to faith in Jesus Christ; to exercise pastoral supervision, to order the life of the congregation and the connection, to counsel the troubled, and declare the forgiveness of sin; to lead the people of God in obedience to Christ’s mission in the world; to seek justice, peace, and freedom for all people; and to take a responsible place in the government of the Church and in service in and to the community,” Holston said to those gathered.
“This is the rule of life and work of an elder. Do you believe that God has called you to the life and work of an elder?
Each ordinand answered in the affirmative.
Then came the prayer for elders and laying on of hands.
Each new elder also received his or her stole.
The seven men and women ordained as full elders: Wanda Diane Altman-Shirah, Shannon Renee Bullion, William Isaac Dusenbury, Tammy Nicole Grey, Susan Marie Pennock, Nicholas Daniel Perez and Justin Lee Ritter.
The 10 commissioned as provisional elders: Peter Kent Berntson, Carsten Aubrey Bryant, Mason Heyward Cantey, John Clarence Elmore Jr., Alisha Christine Hansen, Joseph Daniel Kovas, Amanda Geddings Richardson, James Brunson Rogers, James William Smith and Thessa Goodwin Smith.
And commissioned as provisional deacon: Margaret Rosa Cantey.
AC recognizes 81 retirees between 2020 and 2021
Also as part of this year’s service, Annual Conference recognized both the 45 clergy who retired in 2020, as well as the 36 retiring in 2021. Those who retired in 2020 had not been recognized because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rev. Christopher Lollis, conference benefits officer, read the names of the retirees as their photos displayed onscreen for all to see.
Holston offered a word of encouragement for the 81 retirees.
“By God’s grace you did many things that seemed to be above your power,” Holston said, praising their service. ‘Never think lightly of the great good that God has wrought through you. Continue to be true to your calling. May God’s love and power be with you always.”
The retirement class of 2020 is as follows: Minnie Pearl Anderson, Richard Charles Andrews, Dan Lindsay Batson, Douglas Odell Benton, Ollie Mae Boyd, William Michael Bruce, Karl David Caughman Jr., Robert Clayton Childers, Elizabeth Jane Collier, Rebecca Ruth Collier, Carl Edward Collier, John Bunyan Crouch Jr., James. M. Dawsey, Willie Furman Dicks Jr., George Hovaness Donigian, Robert Edward Dunn, Linda Bodie Dunn, Janice Lajuanah Frederick-Watts, Ben Michael Gafford, Dora Rogers Gafford, Steven Douglas Gaither, Stephen Andy Garner, Joshua Gaskins, Jack Williamson Gibson, Alfred Valentine Griffin Jr., Benjamin Wade Herlong, Robert Joseph Howell Jr., Franklin Delano James Sr., Alfonza Jones Sr., Robert Paul Keely, Kenneth Ryan Kennerly, David Emory Lupo, Janice Lee Mabey, Mack C. McClam, Linda Elkin McDaniel, Thomas Jefferson Pearson Jr., Timothy Scott Reeves, James Albert Ross, Clyde E. Scott, Faye Jones Stephens, Gayle Summey Beaudrot, William Lewis Thompson, Judy Hames Turner, Lawrence Allan Watson and Thurmond Williams.
The retirement class of 2021 is as follows: Ebbie Sims Abraham, James Steven Arant, David Derrick Bauknight, Thomas Jesse Bowman Sr., Timothy Jacob Bowman, Richard Alan Broomall, Major Brown III, David Wiscomb Canine, Carol Rexroad Cannon, Robert Tomlinson Cannon, Michael Edward Catoe, Nellie Gray Cloninger, Robert Belin Collingwood, David Wayne Day, Timothy Espar, Robert Irving Goulart, John Preston Grimsley, Oliver Julius Hadden Jr., Michael Bernard Henderson, William Faison Heustess Jr., Joseph Robert Huggins, Richard Carl Jayroe, Thomas Harmon Norrell, Kenneth Dwayne Owens, Patricia Jean Parrish, Gary Alan Peterson, Gary Duane Phillips, Fredericka Whaley Phipps, Alan Nathan Quarles, Bruce Arthur Sayre, Jerry Wayne Shaw, Steven Lynn Shugart, Theron Walker Smith Jr., Thurmond Kemzy Thomas, Mark Ernest Thompson and Neil Malone Yongue.