Annual Conference to convene 50th session June 6-7
Lay and clergy members must register for AC2021 by June 1
By Jessica Brodie
Less than two weeks remain until the 2021 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference—all once again held virtually because of the pandemic.
On June 6-7, nearly 2,000 lay and clergy members of Annual Conference will gather online for two days of fellowship, worship, business and more.
With the theme “Seeking A More Excellent Way: Taking the Next Faithful Step,” this year’s conference will mark the 50th session since the South Carolina Annual Conference was organized. In 1972, the South Carolina Conference (1785) and the South Carolina Conference (1866) merged into what is today the South Carolina Annual Conference.
South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said the theme, and the gathering, is an opportunity to courageously go where God is leading us, entrusting God with each step that we take.
“Miraculous things can happen when we leave our place of comfort and allow God to stretch us in new and different ways,” Holston said. “We look forward to engaging with you virtually as we live into a broadened definition of what it means for God’s people to gather celebrate the mission and ministry of devoted South Carolina United Methodists who are answering God’s call and taking the next faithful step.”
Conference Secretary the Rev. Ken Nelson said the 2021 Annual Conference will serve as a celebration of the resilience of our clergy, laity and congregations. Not only have United Methodist people and churches struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic but also issues causing divisiveness and pain.
“In our gathering, we bear witness to the truth that our strength is our connection,” Nelson said. “While Annual Conference serves as a time of celebration, it also serves as a springboard to the next chapter of what God is doing in our midst. Together, we will take the next faithful step in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
“Forward in faith!”
Eighteen to be commissioned, ordained
AC2021 starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 6, with the clergy session, then at 7 p.m. is the Service for Ordination and Commissioning. North Alabama Resident Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett will preach the ordination service, with Holston presiding. Eighteen men and women are expected to be commissioned or ordained in the service, and retiring pastors will also be recognized, including the traditional “passing of the mantle” from the retiring class to the new class of clergy.
The virtual offering is for the South Carolina Conference Seminary Students Scholarship Fund, an endowment of the South Carolina United Methodist Foundation, which provides scholarship awards to candidates for ministry from South Carolina attending United Methodist seminaries and theological schools.
A difficult but inspiring year
After a training on voting at 9 a.m. Monday, June 7, business officially starts 10 a.m. with the presentation of video reports. Conference organization will begin at 11 a.m., including greetings from the Rev. Terry Fleming, Florence District superintendent, and Dr. Frederick Yebuah, pastor of the host church Cumberland UMC.
“Even though it will be virtual, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to this year’s Annual Conference, to hearing people’s stories and seeing the faces of friends and colleagues I love,” Fleming said.
Fleming said the past 15 months have felt like a lifetime in some ways.
“We’ve prayed and asked, ‘God, where are you in all this?’ We’ve endured COVID-related isolation and sickness, the deaths of family and friends, political divisiveness, racial unrest and lost jobs, not to mention a bit of denominational stress. This definitely doesn’t feel like the world God intended for us,” he said.
But what has been inspiring has been watching churches and pastors adapt as they leaned into hope and living out the Gospel.
“They have found new ways to be in ministry in their communities, with many adding an online presence for the first time,” Fleming said.
AC2021 will celebrate that and more.
Committee reports available online in full
The bulk of the day will feature reports from various committees and other bodies, including the Committee on Standing Rules, Committee on Nominations, Conference Connectional Ministries, Board of Ordained Ministry, Board of Pension & Health Benefits, Commission on Equitable Compensation, Cabinet, Conference Lay Leader, and more.
The Conference Council on Finance & Administration will present a $15.9 million budget for 2022 for vote (3.2 percent lower than last year’s approved 2021 budget), and the day will also conclude with elections led by nominations, resolutions for church closings and charge line changes, and the site and date for the 2022 Annual Conference.
Holston will conduct the Sending Forth and Fixing of the Appointments, and the day concludes at 7 p.m. with a Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, preached by the Rev. Joe Long.
Training and more
In addition to registering by June 1, all lay and clergy members are encouraged to participate in one of two virtual training sessions. One is scheduled for June 1 at 6 p.m. and the other is June 7 at 9 a.m.
Good News TV will host the virtual gathering and help coordinate participation via Zoom video conferencing and voting on a separate, secure platform.
AC2021 will be live-streamed so all can observe the proceedings online.
Full coverage in July Advocate
Detailed information about Annual Conference will appear in the July edition of the Advocate, which goes to press right after AC2021. All are encouraged to review the conference website in advance to understand the reports, agenda, voting platform, action items and more. These can be found at https://www.umcsc.org/ac2021.