Changes in district supervision

A new leadership model is rolling out in two districts of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church this summer.

Called “a prayerful response to our evolving reality” by Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, the conference will realign supervision of its 12 districts beginning June 26.

Four of the current district superintendents are transitioning out of their current appointments at the conclusion of this conference year. But instead of bringing on four more people to replace them, the conference is bringing on two, meaning the conference will have 10 superintendents instead of 12.

Two of the districts—Greenville and Hartsville—will each pilot a shared coverage model, with superintendents from the surrounding geographic regions offering collaborative leadership. The others will have a traditional district superintendent.

The district offices in the Greenville and Hartsville districts will remain in operation, and the staff in those offices and members of district boards and committees will continue to serve.

In a public statement, Holston said this is “a prayerful response to our evolving reality” and cited the “ongoing reset that is taking place within our denomination, our conference and our local churches.”

“Two things are certain as this resetting continues to unfold in the coming months: God is leading us where God wants us to go, and we will follow,” Holston said.

What are the assignments?

The two new district superintendents will be the Rev. Jeffrey Salley, who has served as senior pastor of the Canaan-Sand Hill Charge in Ridgeville since 2016, and the Rev. Chris Lollis, who has served as the conference benefits officer since 2018.

The four superintendents transitioning out of their appointments are as follows:

  • Dr. Sandra Stevens Poirel (Charleston), who will receive a new appointment at Annual Conference;

  • Dr. Stephen Love (Greenwood), who will receive a new appointment at Annual Conference;

  • The Rev. Jim Dennis (Greenville), who is retiring; and

  • The Rev. Joey McDonald (Walterboro), who has requested not to be considered for appointment at Annual Conference.

The traditional assignments slated to begin June 26 are as follows:

  • The Anderson District will remain under the supervision of the Rev. Steve Patterson.

  • The Charleston District will be supervised by the Rev. Jeffrey Salley.

  • The Columbia District will remain under the Rev. Fran Elrod.

  • The Florence District will remain under the Rev. Terry Fleming.

  • The Greenwood District will be supervised by the Rev. Chris Lollis.

  • The Marion District will remain under the Rev. Steve Brown.

  • The Orangeburg District will remain under the Rev. Ken Nelson.

  • The Rock Hill District will remain under the Rev. Anthony Hodge.

  • The Spartanburg District will remain under the Rev. Cathy Mitchell.

  • The Walterboro District will shift to the supervision of the Rev. Telley Gadson, current superintendent of the Hartsville District.

For the collaborative models:

  • The Greenville District will be supervised by Patterson (Anderson), Lollis (Greenwood) and Mitchell (Spartanburg).

  • The Hartsville District will be supervised by Elrod (Columbia), Fleming (Florence) and Hodge (Rock Hill).

“I am grateful for the creativity and collaboration of those working toward smooth transitions into this new leadership model—the clergy and laity serving in district leadership, current superintendents, and those newly assigned superintendents,” Holston said. “Conversations with lay and clergy leaders within the districts where these changes will take place have revealed enthusiasm and hopefulness for the future possibilities that will spring forth in response to our faithful stewardship.”

New reality for the UMCSC

The number of churches within the South Carolina Conference has decreased.

Last year’s Annual Conference approved the separation of 113 churches across South Carolina from The United Methodist Church over sexuality and other concerns. That number comprises almost 12 percent of the 958 total churches that were in the South Carolina Conference and represent every one of the 12 districts in the conference. Four of the nine largest-membership churches in the conference (those with more than 2,000 members) left: Mount Horeb, Lexington; Chapin, Chapin; Buncombe Street, Greenville; and Covenant, Greer.

This year, additional churches are expected to go before Annual Conference to separate from the UMC.

But the conference is not releasing that information in advance. Instead, as with last year’s separating churches, the names of the churches seeking to leave the UMC will be presented for a vote at Annual Conference, set for June 9-12.

“As they did in 2023, to protect the integrity of the Local Church Discernment Process, the trustees of the Annual Conference will continue to treat information about local churches that participate in that process as confidential until it is complete,” said Dan O’Mara, conference communications director. “When the 2024 Annual Conference convenes in June 9-12, lay and clergy members are scheduled to vote on resolutions formally closing churches under the terms of the Separation Agreement and the resolution before Annual Conference.”

Similar to what is going on in SEJ

The collaborative model is similar to but not quite the same as what the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC has done with many of its annual conferences.

Currently, 11 resident bishops are assigned within the SEJ to handle its annual conferences; Bishop David Graves supervises the Alabama-West Florida and South Georgia conferences, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett supervises the North Alabama and Holston conferences.

At this year’s SEJ Conference, July 10-12, delegates will vote on a further change that would reduce the number of episcopal areas within the jurisdiction to 10 from the current 13, which will involve combining three formerly separate episcopal areas—Alabama-West Florida, North Alabama and South Georgia—into one big episcopal area, as well as combining the Holston Conference into the same episcopal area as the Central Appalachian Missionary and Kentucky Conference. 

The recommendation not to have episcopal elections in 2024 “is a prayerful response to the impact of disaffiliations in our areas,” the committee said in a letter to SEJ delegates dated Jan. 8. (Read the full letter at

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