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Conference readies for Annual Conference

By Jessica Brodie

GREENVILLE—On the heels of a historic and groundbreaking General Conference, South Carolina United Methodists are gearing up now for this year’s Annual Conference.

Lay and clergy members of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church will head to the Greenville Center June 9-12 to pray, worship and conduct the business of the church.

“As we prepare to gather from all across the conference, I ask for your prayers that great and marvelous things will happen through the Holy Spirit, who guides and sustains us,” said South Carolina’s Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston. “Pray that our presence in Greenville and across South Carolina in the days that follow will be a living witness of the grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ to all whom we meet.”

Here is what to expect:

Sunday’s celebration

Annual Conference kicks off Sunday, June 9, at the Florence Center with packet pick-ups, clergy session (4:30 p.m.), lay member orientation and other matters before one of the more anticipated services of the multiday session—the Commissioning, Ordination and Retirement Recognition Service. Presided by Holston with guest preacher Bishop Frank J. Beard of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference, the evening expects to ordain six full elders, ordain one full deacon, commission six as provisional elders, commission one as an associate member and transfer in one under Para. 347.2 as a full member with orders recognized as an elder.

It also will recognize approximately 30 retiring clergy.

The Rev. Mel Arant, assistant conference secretary and coordinator of clergy services, said he’s excited that Beard will be able to join for the service. Arant said he’s attended Annual Conference since he was a child, and it continues to excite him as we get closer.

“This is our opportunity to come together as colleagues and siblings in Christ to worship and celebrate our connectional lives, even as we conduct the necessary business needed to equip local churches to make disciples,” Arant said.

“The ordination, commissioning and retirement service is a great example. In it we affirm the gifts and graces of those being commissioned or ordained, and celebrate the ministry and leadership given by those retiring. This service is a reminder to stay ‘On the Leading Edge of Ministry,’ that God continues to move and work in this ever-changing world.

“Just as God called forth leaders the church needed before, God continues to call leaders to meet the needs of today.”

Business starts Monday

The business of Annual Conference begins Monday, June 10. After voting orientation and testing and an opening worship service led by Holston, business will start around 10:15 a.m. with the official call to order, greetings and organizational motions.

The theme of this 53rd session of Annual Conference is “Seeking A More Excellent Way: On the Leading Edge of Ministry.” Holston said the theme calls us to live from a posture of faith rather than fear as we follow where Christ is leading.

“We will come together with hope, remembering who God has called us to be and seeking that which God wants for us,” Holston said.

Various committees will present reports, including the committees on standing rules, nominations, and resolutions and appeals. Beyond the resolutions anticipated from churches who voted to separate from the UMC (which will be addressed Tuesday), Annual Conference members will have the chance to hear about other resolutions at this year’s annual conference.

Also on Monday, the conference Council on Finance and Administration will introduce the first reading of its recommendation of a proposed $11.7 million budget for 2025. That amount is down 15.4 percent from the $15.6 million budget for 2023.  CF&A noted the significant reduction is to reflect the apportionments estimated to be lost because of the conference’s separating churches in 2024.

The recommended budget for 2025 is reduced by almost $2.3 million and is estimated to be 13.3 percent of average net funds.

However, churches will only be apportioned for a budget of $10.9 million, as $800,000 from 2023 separating churches will help offset what churches will need to contribute. The Annual Conference Trustees granted $2.4 million from the separating church fees to be used to reduce the apportionment burden to the remaining churches. This amount will be applied in installments until used up; the $800,000 is this year’s installment

“We praise God for our churches and the way they continue to positively respond to the various challenges we face,” CF&A said in their written report to annual conference.

Tuesday: Separations and more

Annual Conference is scheduled on Tuesday, June 11, to hear a report from the Trustees of the Annual Conference addressing the closure of a number of churches whose members have decided to separate from The United Methodist Church and are complying with the conference’s established separation process, in accordance with the 2016 Book of Discipline of the UMC.

Over the past year, these congregations took part in the conference’s Local Church Discernment Process, which provides a way for church members to pray, discern and then hold a churchwide vote about whether they want to leave The United Methodist Church. As part of the process, they must declare that their members believe the denomination has not upheld its doctrine on issues of human sexuality, as stated in the 2016 Book of Discipline.

Before delivering their report, trustees will provide to Annual Conference members the names of separating local churches upon whom they will be voting. Until that time, trustees will continue to treat information about local churches participating in the process as confidential.

To be eligible to have their church vote go before Annual Conference this June, churches had to be in full communication with their district superintendent; complete an intentional, 30-day discernment process; satisfy financial obligations, including all unpaid apportionment giving and unpaid salary and benefits due to clergy; and satisfy or transfer of debts and other legal liabilities of the local church. Then, a churchwide vote had to be taken before March 1 that indicated two-thirds of professing church members present agreed to formally declare the church can no longer continue to function as a UMC.

Beyond this, business is slated to begin Tuesday with a report from the Commission on Equitable Compensation, which is proposing a cost-of-living increase of 3.2 percent to clergy members’ minimum salary in 2025.

Other items scheduled for Tuesday are the Board of Pension & Health Benefits, Conference Connectional Ministries, a report from the General Conference Delegation and Committee on Nominations elections—including quadrennial officer elections.

Tuesday evening will feature a memorial service preached by the Rev. Sandra Stevens-Poirel, Charleston District superintendent. That service will celebrate the lives of clergy and spouses who died over the last year.

Wednesday’s finale

Wednesday is the last day of Annual Conference.

Business will include voting on the 2025 conference budget, adoption of the consent calendar, resolutions to church closing and charge line changes (beyond the ones addressed Tuesday), and the announcement of the date and location of the 2025 session of annual conference.

Holston will preach the sending-forth closing service before the fixing of the appointments. 

See a full list of special events, reports and details at https://www.umcsc.org/ac2024.

Also on that website are hotels with special rates, restaurants, information on how to change an elected lay member and more.  

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