By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE— Wednesday morning business began with adoption of the consent calendar and then went straight to the resolutions, which took up the rest of the morning.
By the time the body broke for lunch, Annual Conference passed six of its seven resolutions for 2017, many rooted in solidarity or in healing.
On the final morning of the four-day gathering, clergy and lay members of Annual Conference spent hours debating and amending the resolutions. Every resolution brought heated debate and some had amendments, but every resolution ultimately passed with the exception of the Resolution Against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Solidarity with Standing Rock.
Annual Conference resolved this year to oppose human trafficking and help end suicide and homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth; to heal from the legacy of lynching; to stand against a Muslim ban; to support, recognize and honor the services of law enforcement officers; to commend a formal apology from Trinity UMC to Centenary UMC over past racism; and to welcome the migrant.
One resolution, Resolution for the Realignment of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church and Its Disaffiliation from the Structures of The United Methodist Church, was not brought before the body for a vote because Bishop Jonathan Holston said it was asking him to do something he believes is not in unity with the Book of Discipline; therefore it was out of order and not properly before the body. Holston said only General Conference, not annual conferences, can allow such an action, and for him to be asked to appoint such a task force violates the vows he took to uphold the church and the Discipline.
(See full story on the detailed debates and more in the full Advocate, which goes to press this Friday and will be available online Monday and in mailboxes mid-week. Click here to subscribe if you do not already.)
Budget and more
Next, The Rev. Mitch Houston gave the report of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration. CF&A began by recognizing the district with the highest paid apportionment percentage for last year: the Walterboro District.
Next, Houston said CF&A recommended its budget report with the additional request for approval of Epworth Children’s Home’s seven- to 10-year capital campaign. The body approved Epworth’s request.
Then the full CF&A budget was presented for a vote. After two motions to amend the budget were ultimately not passed—one from the Rev. Carleathea Benson requesting that the Ethnic Local Church Concerns line item be funded at 100 percent and one from the Rev. Fran Elrod requesting 100 percent funding for the line item for Ordained Ministry Career Planning Programs—the body passed the budget.
“We financially cannot grant every request at 100 percent,” Houston said. “Hours and hours are put into this budget.”
The budget passed for 2018 is $16.95 million (1 percent more than the 2017 budget) and also authorizes the capital campaign for Epworth.
Next, the body heard resolutions to close churches (see full story in the next Advocate) and the report of charge line changes.
Then the Rev. Keith Sweat took to the microphone. Sweat had proposed the disaffiliation resolution, which Holston said Monday was out of order and would not be considered.
Sweat made “a request for a decision of law on matters germane to actions of the annual conference.” Holston said he has received that request. He will rule on the request after review.
Future Annual Conferences
Next, the body set the dates for next year’s Annual Conference, which will be June 3-6, 2018, again at the TD Convention Center in Greenville.
Wayne Jackson next shared plans for future sites. They made site visits to Columbia, Florence, Greenville and Myrtle Beach (Charleston was not available). There were no “bad venues,” Jackson said; all had measurable advantage and disadvantages. All were enthusiastic and genuinely wanted to host this annual conference. The committee had many things to consider: availability of venue; cost, convenience and accessibility for delegates; mission opportunity for community; ability of venue to meet our needs (e.g. parking, breakout space, meals, hotel availability).
The committee decided it would be best for this conference to get on a master rotation schedule. The plan is to, beginning with Annual Conference 2019, go to Myrtle Beach for three years, then rotate to Florence for three years, then elsewhere.
Jackson said this will give us better opportunity for ministry by rotating to different areas of the state. Also, from a business standpoint, he said having more than one venue “keeps everyone honest about negotiations.”
The body approved this recommendation.
Fixing appointments and sending forth
Next, Holston fixed appointments (these were handed out to Annual Conference members and will appear in the next Advocate) and led the sending forth service.
“All during this week we have tried to walk by faith and not by sight,” Holston preached in closing. “A church is more than just a place where you get religious services.
The church is a place where we glorify God, where you walk in and when you walk out, you come out better than you were.”
He asked all to consider the commissions God gave his disciples: to go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit.
“God calls you to do what you have to do in the places you find yourself,” Holston said to rousing applause. “You bloom where you’re planted. And when you do, the world will be a better place because of what you do.”
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