By Jessica Connor
FLORENCE — This June, when 2,000 South Carolina United Methodists gather in Florence for Annual Conference, they'll be doing far more than the business of the church in this state.
They'll be engaging in a true mission opportunity: helping to put a dent in hunger.
Set for June 9-12 at the Florence Civic Center, clergy and lay representatives from every church across South Carolina will pray, fellowship and ultimately vote on key church legislation for the coming year. This year s theme, A More Excellent Way: A Story of Serving, Giving and Living, will feature preaching from new S.C. Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston, in the first Annual Conference he has conducted for this body.
I am excited to share with you in this exciting time, Holston said. Our theme, ˜A More Excellent Way “ A Story of Serving, Giving and Living, is our way forward together. Come and join us for a special time of Christian conferencing!
Besides the four-day slate of business on the conference agenda, this year s gathering will also include a massive day of hunger relief ministry, the S.C. Hunger Project, on Tuesday, June 11.
June 11 will be a one-day meal packing/food drive event with three ways people can participate:
1) Pack meals for Stop Hunger Now that day at the civic center. A thousand non-delegate volunteers are needed for three packing shifts. Adults will pack the first or second shifts, and youth will pack during the third shift. (Click here for details.)
2) Bring canned goods and other non-perishables to the civic center that day for an Annual Conference Food Drive; items will be distributed to food pantries throughout S.C., not just in Florence.
3) For those who cannot participate in the Florence events, hold a local hunger ministry event that day “ anything from a food drive to a free meal and more.
From the preaching to the business to the hunger missioning, Annual Conference organizers say the gathering will be a true Kingdom moment.
It s all trying to tell the story of why do we do this? Why do we care? said Conference Secretary the Rev. Karen Radcliffe. It s more than just the business of the church but a true mission opportunity.
This year s event
Some highlights of this year s event:
¢ No teaching person this year;
¢ Sunday to Wednesday format remains;
¢ Different, more intimate civic center setup with most seating on the floor;
¢ Ordination will be held on Monday night;
¢ Meal packing/food drive event Tuesday will occur during business;
¢ Holston will preach all services except the Monday afternoon memorial service;
¢ Offerings will go to hunger ministries;
¢ Childcare will again be offered this year at Central UMC. Signup forms will be available in pre-conference materials; and
¢ The awards ceremony will be different this year, with a breakfast photo opportunity, then award winners featured in a video played on the conference floor.
Resolutions and key issues
While some surprises might come to the floor, the body is certain to vote on several key topics:
¢ The District Study Task Force, a conference-wide task force of clergy and laity, will present a report detailing what they believe the conference should do, through its districts, to make disciples for Christ.
¢ The conference Council on Finance & Administration is doing its final finesse of the 2014 budget as of the Advocate s press time, and they will present their proposed budget for adoption at Annual Conference. The draft will be in the pre-conference materials and is expected to represent a smaller budget than the $16.9 million passed for 2013.
¢ The conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits will present for vote its recommendation on whether the S.C. Annual Conference should provide pension for part-time pastors “ and if so, at what level. Currently, S.C. UMCs pay pension for full- and part-time pastors, without the pastor having to put in any money toward his or her pension account. But at General Conference 2012, the body decided annual conferences should have the right to decide whether they wish to cover part-time pastors at the same level they do full-time pastors, or even at all. Implementation is Jan. 1, 2014, so the S.C. Conference must decide in June whether it wishes to continue providing pension at the same level for part-time pastors, scale back a notch or offer no benefit.
Dialogue and/or a resolution is expected on what to do about the unpaid pension and insurance bills (known as direct billing ) due to the conference from some local churches.
¢ Constitutional amendments from General Conference 2012 will be addressed.
For more about Annual Conference, including any resolutions or petitions not yet received as of the Advocate s press time, click here .