North GA Conference of the UMC Celebrates its 150th Year
The 2016 North Georgia Annual Conference was held at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia June 7-9. The largest United Methodist conference in the United States celebrated its Sesquicentennial with the theme, “Bound for Greater Things.” Other special aspects of this conference were the recognition of the 60thanniversary of clergy rights for women and the 20th anniversary of the Order of Deacons.
Bishop Michael Watson, presiding over his final session before retiring, led the conference that was filled with inspiring worship and music. Keynote speakers for the conference included Nashville area Bishop Bill McAlilly and Rev. Wiley Stephens. Song leader Ralph Freeman led the delegates in spirited singing and also graced us with gorgeous solos. Throughout the week Bishop Watson was assisted by our own Rev. Laura Rappold who served as “the Bishop’s Deacon.”
Highlights of the session included the Tuesday evening service of Licensing, Commissioning and Ordination where Bishop Watson commissioned 17 provisional elders and 4 provisional deacons, ordained 5 full connection deacons and 12 full connection elders, and recognized a few transfers of orders. Congratulations to our own youth minister, Brittany Sanders, who was commissioned as a provisional deacon, and our new associate minister, Patrick Faulhaber, who was commissioned as a provisional elder. Lori Clayton Osborn, a former Decatur First youth, was ordained as an elder in full connection.
Another highlight of the conference was the service of remembrance where 47 deceased clergy, spouses and laity were honored by the roll call of names and the ringing of bells. Mildred “Tuck” Jones and Rev. James Styles were of special interest to DFUMC.
Retiring Bishop Mike and Mrs. Watson were honored for their years of service to the NGA Conference with a worship service of celebration and a reception. Forty clergy members were also honored in the annual retirement ceremony. Those retirees connected to DFUMC who spoke were Tommy Green, Larry Minnix, Scott Dunbar, and Ken (Shirley) Wright.
Many reports from the various administrative agencies, conference ministries and laity occurred. North GA Conference Lay Leader, Matthew Pinson, who was also the lead delegate from our conference at the General Conference in Portland, Oregon, reported that at least one member of our conference served on every committee there. His motion that we nominate the Rev. Sharma Lewis as our episcopal nominee was unanimously approved. Keith Cox, Conference Treasurer, reported that the conference is now operating with a balanced budget and that 80% of all our churches paid their apportionments in full. North GA UMW President, Sue Raymond, reported that 5877 health kits were assembled and collected by United Methodist Women to be sent to UMCOR. Action Ministries raised $129,000 at the conference to “Raise the Roof” about poverty, hunger, and homelessness in Georgia.
A few resolutions and/or guidelines were put to a vote by the delegates. A resolution to advocate for the end of the death penalty in Georgia by 2020 was approved. A recommendation about the appropriate use of social media by churches was referred to committee for rewriting. Another resolution about human trafficking and suicide prevention for LGBTQ young people was rewritten to include all “at risk” persons and was ultimately approved as amended by a close vote.
All in all, the 2016 North Georgia Annual Conference proved that “We are Bound for Greater Things.” Once again, we affirmed our mission to ”proclaim the name of Christ, to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land,” and “to continue the work of healing, teaching, baptizing, and making disciples” for “the transformation of the world.”
Pat Post and Cheryl Gutterres
DFUMC Lay Delegates to Annual Conference