By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—Calling it “a gathering of people of faith,” South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston kicked off the 2018 session of Annual Conference with a powerful service of opening worship June 3.
“It doesn’t matter what part of South Carolina you are from, whether you are from Wallace or Buckhead,” Holston preached in his message on “Built for God’s Purpose.” “When we allow God’s Holy Spirit to find its way into our lives, what a time, what a time, what a time!”
“My friends, even though we may not think alike, we love alike,” Holston continued. “All we are is messengers, errand-runners of Jesus. And it started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness.’”
By the time Annual Conference ended June 6, United Methodists had done just that, tackling a host of business including passage of a $17 million budget, voting on resolutions, packing 10,000 health kits for disaster victims, collecting more than $33,000 for other ministries and even attempting to break a Guinness World Record.
Here is the rundown:
- South Carolina United Methodists approved a $17 million budget for 2019 that was $18,000 higher than the one in the Registration Packet. The final budget includes additional monies for the Board of Ordained Ministry’s operating budget to cover costs associated with an unanticipated increase in the fee to do a psychological evaluation of clergy candidates. The final budget is a 0.4 percent increase over the $16.95 million 2018 budget.
- AC2018 passed three of its four resolutions and referred a fourth to the General Conference Delegation for 2019: amended and passed the Resolution in Support of Just and Inclusive Policy for Lay Volunteers and Lay Staff in Local Church Ministry; amended and passed the Resolution to Ensure Every Child in State Care Receives Best Possible Care; passed without amendment the Resolution Designating Old Bethel United Methodist Church, Charleston, a United Methodist Historic Site; and referred to the delegation the Resolution Affirming Current Language in Book of Discipline Regarding Human Sexuality (see full story here).
- The body re-voted on Constitutional Amendment I, on gender justice, which was approved by the 2016 General Conference but has to be ratified by two-thirds of all UMC annual conferences before inclusion in the Book of Discipline. The re-vote was required because the version the denomination voted upon last year contained an error in the text by including a sentence that should have been omitted. Results will be released in 2019 after all have had the chance to re-vote (see full story here).
- Twenty-nine clergy were commissioned or ordained during a service preached by Bishop Mildred Hines, resident bishop of the South Atlantic Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the first and only female bishop in the AMEZ, and 29 were licensed as local pastors (see full story here).
- A memorial service preached by Dr. B. McIver Alexander Jr. remembered the lives of 52 clergy, spouses and others who have died in the past year (see full story here).
- AC2018 celebrated the ministry of 37 men and women who retired this year. Two of the retirees are district superintendents—the Revs. Paul Harmon and John Hipp. The Rev. David Anderson, conference benefits officer, also retired (see full story here).
- Also celebrated was the 50th anniversary of the formation of The United Methodist Church. The UMC was created April 23, 1968, when The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church, one predominantly African American and the other Caucasian—united. Representatives from the AME Zion, AME and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches as well as The United Methodist Church were present in what Conference Secretary Ken Nelson called “a time of historical significance.”
- The body approved five new changes to the conference’s standing rules, including a change on voting for resolutions from the last day to the second full day and a change to help simplify voting and ensure there will be no situations where a “no” petition vote means “yes” and vice versa (see full story here).
- The conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits released a health plan for 2019 that, thanks to strong investment earnings, reflects no increase in premiums for clergy and laity, even though premium costs will rise (see full story here).
- AC2018 celebrated the many ways South Carolina United Methodists engage in missions and global health, packing 10,000 health kits, attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the number of people to pass through a hula hoop without breaking the human chain, and lifting up global health and other critical missions the South Carolina Conference engages in, including Salkehatchie Summer Service and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (see full story here).
- The body collected more than $33,000 in conference offerings: $12,240.79 for Sunday’s offering for Strength for Service, providing devotionals to military and first responders; $13,127.25 for Monday’s offering for the South Carolina Conference Seminary Students Scholarship Fund; and $7,863.09 for Tuesday’s offering for the Global Health Advance.
- The conference honored the important and historical work of churches, which were formally closed during AC2018 (see full story here).
- Dr. Herbert Marbury, associate professor of Hebrew Bible, Vanderbilt University, led a Bible study each morning of the gathering (see full story here).
- The bishop fixed the appointments of the approximately 700 clergy serving churches across South Carolina (see appointments, here).
- AC2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the African-American Clergy Women in a luncheon featuring Spelman College’s Dr. Rosetta Ross (see full story here).
- The body got to hear reports from a host of Annual Conference boards, groups and agencies, including Connectional Ministries, the Office of Congregational Development, Africa University, United Methodist colleges and seminaries, Epworth Children’s Home, Camps and Retreat Ministries, the Cabinet and many more.
In addition to these, Annual Conference also featured a number of off-stage gatherings and events.
Six different mission projects from churches across South Carolina exhibited their program during a Hands-On Mission Expo presented by conference laity Monday and Tuesday at Annual Conference. The projects include a beds ministry, plarn ministry, hygiene kits, dresses for girls, wheelchair ramp ministry and disaster response.
The Lay Servant Ministries’ Laity-Clergy Partnership Luncheon lifted up outstanding lay servants across the state ranging in age from 14 to 102, plus featured a message from the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson on pouring out our precious gifts for our master like the sinful woman did with her perfume in Luke 7.
A Kids Konference was offered for 45 toddlers to rising sixth graders.
Clergy and laity got the chance to donate blood to the American Red Cross plus get a health screening if covered by conference insurance.
AC2018 honored dozens of clergy and laity across the state during the conference’s annual awards breakfast emceed by Dominic Brown, chief meteorologist for WIS-TV in Columbia. Winners received an award certificate and were photographed with the bishop (see full story here).
The day before Annual Conference began, attendees headed to The Preserve at Verdae Golf Club in Greenville to play golf and raise some funds for the Asbury Hills camper scholarship program. The annual tournament featured a shotgun start and hole-in-one prizes, as well as other prizes, perks and gifts for participants.
Various unofficial UMC caucuses gathered during Annual Conference, including Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the Wesleyan Covenant Association and Reconciling Ministries of South Carolina.
Alumni from United Methodist colleges and seminaries also gathered for fellowship and meals.
Next year, Annual Conference will again be held in Greenville at the TD Center. It will be a five-day conference because of the need to elect delegates to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional conferences. Annual Conference 2019 will be June 2-6, 2019.
Wayne Jackson, chair of the conference’s Future Sites Committee, told the body his committee is recommending the event return to Florence for three years beginning in 2020. “There are no bad choices in our state,” Jackson said, noting the committee will consider other options after Florence.