By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—Days remain until this year’s Annual Conference, June 3-6 at the TD Convention Center, when United Methodist laity and clergy gather from across the state for four days of business, voting, mission and fellowship—including a special commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the formation of The United Methodist Church.
“I think celebrating the 50th anniversary is important because we’re living in chaotic times, and when the UMC formed in 1968, we were in the midst of chaos,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, conference secretary. “So if there’s anything learned, it’s how we the church can be the non-anxious presence in a world of chaos, and how we can continue to hold firmly to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Part of this year’s gathering will include a celebration of the UMC anniversary, as well as renewing a commitment to being the UMC, Nelson said.
Nelson feels a particular kinship to the golden anniversary of the denomination, as he is the second clergy member in this conference born after the formation of the UMC. The UMC was created April 23, 1968, when The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church united to form a new denomination (Methodism itself dates to the early 18th century, when John and Charles Wesley came to America to spread the Methodist movement.) Nelson was born May 6, 1968; his colleague and friend, the Rev. Jeffrey Salley, was born April 24, 1968.
Nelson said this year’s Annual Conference theme, “A More Excellent Way: In Mission from Anywhere to Everywhere,” is not an accident but rather a direct nod to the global nature of the mission-oriented church, which has more than 12.5 million members worldwide.
Tuesday of Annual Conference will feature a hands-on mission opportunity as clergy and laity will help pack health kits, which the United Methodist Committee on Relief uses to help survivors after hurricanes and other disasters.
Before Annual Conference, UMCs across South Carolina were asked to donate money to raise a total of $122,400 ($10,200 per district). The funds have purchased supplies for 10,200 health kits. During Annual Conference, United Methodists will gather in a room to assemble and package the 10,200 UMCOR health kits. The project is a partnership between the conference and UMCOR and the Abundant Health Initiative of Global Ministries of the UMC.
“Health kits are a sign of how we are in mission from anywhere to everywhere,” Nelson said. “They are put together by the hands and hearts of people in South Carolina, but they will impact people around the world.”
Another interesting feature of this year’s Annual Conference will be a chance to break a world record. As part of the bishop’s Hulapalooza health initiative, Nelson said, the conference will attempt to break a world record of the number of people who can pass through a hula hoop without breaking the human chain. Nelson said this is tentatively slated for Tuesday afternoon during Annual Conference.
Here are other highlights of this year’s event:
- Voting on the Annual Conference budget for 2019 and a host of other reports and plans presented by various ministries and agencies;
- Voting on five issue-based resolutions: Resolution Affirming Current Language in Book of Discipline Regarding Human Sexuality; A Resolution Designating Old Bethel United Methodist Church, Charleston, a United Methodist Historic Site; Resolution in Support of Just and Inclusive Policy for Lay Volunteers and Lay Staff in Local Church Ministry; Resolution to Ensure that Every Child in State Care Receives the Best Possible Care; and Resolution to Support Equal Rights for Israelis and Palestinians Living in What We Call the Holy Land—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Voting members of Annual Conference will have the chance to amend, pass, refer or reject the resolutions by majority vote;
- Voting on five additional resolutions, from Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and his Cabinet on church closings and charge-line changes;
- A re-vote on the UMC’s gender justice constitutional amendment, as an error was made in the version this conference voted on last year; it mistakenly included a sentence that had been removed by the legislative body. Full clergy and lay members of Annual Conference will have the opportunity to vote on the corrected version;
- Opening worship preached by Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference;
- Ordination preacher Bishop Mildred Hines, resident bishop of the South Atlantic Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (and, Nelson said, the first and only female bishop in that denomination);
- Daily Bible study by Dr. Herbert Marbury, associate professor of Hebrew Bible, Vanderbilt University;
- Memorial service preacher Dr. Mike Alexander, senior pastor, Belin Memorial UMC, Murrells Inlet;
- Kids Konference childcare for preschool to rising sixth graders;
- Offerings at each worship service to help various ministry efforts: Strength for Service Inc., the conference Seminary Students Scholarship Fund, and the Global Health Advance #3021770, to reach 1 million children with health interventions around the world. Checks should be payable to Treasurer, South Carolina Annual Conference, with recipient designated in the memo line; and
- The Advocate and the conference will again partner to offer the free Daily Advocate as an educational tool at the event to help people understand the various business, events and other happenings each day they are there.
For more about Annual Conference 2018: ac2018.umcsc.org.