By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor
The 2011 South Carolina Annual Conference marks the 40th session since our conference united in 1972. This is a significant milestone.
It is also important to recognize that the South Carolina Conference dates back to 1787 as Francis Asbury rode the countryside sharing the Gospel and inviting people to be a part of the church. As we approach this annual conference, it is with a great sense of respect for those who did the hard work of “reforming the nation and bringing scriptural holiness to our land.”
During our time together in Florence, our focus will be on developing principled Christian leaders, which has always been the Wesleyan way. We never outgrow our need to strengthen our witness in the name of Christ. In “Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit,” Lovett Weems states that “all are leaders and all are followers. The genius is to know when to be which. In the course of a day, all of us are constantly going back and forth between being one and being the other.”
John Wesley calls us to “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
I had the privilege to meet with our ordinands during their retreat recently at the Methodist Oaks in Orangeburg. This is an outstanding class of future leaders. They are gifted in many ways and eager to serve the church in the 21st century.
It is hard for me to comprehend that 35 years after I was ordained an elder in the Holston Conference by Bishop L. Scott Allen, I will have the privilege to ordain our daughter, Mandy, as an elder in the United Methodist Church.
At this Annual Conference, we will elect delegates to the General and Jurisdictional conferences. The General Conference is the body that speaks for our church as we articulate our mission to the world. Nine lay and nine clergy will represent us in Tampa, Fla., next April. They will have a tremendous responsibility in helping to shape the mission and ministry of the UMC.
Nine additional lay and clergy members will be elected to serve as members of the Jurisdictional Conference. The 36 people from our conference who will go to Lake Junaluska, N.C., next July will elect at least five bishops. These new bishops will help lead our church into an exciting and often uncertain future.
Just this morning we received the news of a tornado hitting Joplin, Mo. Many lives have been lost, but you can be certain the UMC will be one of the first responders to help those affected by this yet another natural disaster.
This will be the seventh Annual Conference over which I have had the privilege to preside. I continue to be inspired by the commitment and the creativity of our people and our churches. I see growth and vitality in so many of our congregations. I celebrate all the ways we serve God in South Carolina, across our country and in our world.
I want to extend an invitation to each of you to come to our Annual Conference at the Florence Civic Center June 8-12. The opening worship service begins at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8. We will conclude the Annual Conference with the ordination service on Sunday, June 12, at 10 a.m. You are welcome to be a guest at any of the sessions of Annual Conference.
Of course, only those elected to represent their local churches as lay and clergy members can decide the business of the conference. However, all are invited to come and be a part of these days of worship, learning and holy conferencing.
Would you join me in praying that this year the S.C. Conference will be all that God desires it to be, and that our time together will not only honor God, but will advance the ministries of Jesus Christ wherever we are called to be?