Hi All!

I am a bit tardy, but here is the 2019 Annual Conference summary. I was happy to attend as a Lay Delegate and as your Lay Leader. Christina Cassidy also attended as a Lay Delegate, and I thank her for contributing some of the text below.

You may have already heard, but both our pastors were selected by their peers, from more than 1,300 clergy members, to represent the North Georgia Conference. Dalton Rushing was selected as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference next year, and Joya Abrams will be representing us at Jurisdictional Conference. In addition, Nate Abrams will also be headed to Jurisdictional Conference as one of 11 lay delegates elected this year. Decatur First will be well represented! General Conference is where church law is made, and Jurisdictional Conference is where bishops are elected.

Bishop Sue gave a stirring, powerful and timely sermon. You can watch it here (the sermon begins at about the 15th minute).

A few other items of business that came out of the Conference:

The Council on Equitable Compensation did not propose an increase in minimum compensation for full-time clergy, but they are recommending churches consider a salary increase of at least 2.9 percent for clergy in 2020.

The Conference standardized the procedure for pastoral transition and set a rule that churches receiving new pastors shall pay the moving expenses of the clergy, not to exceed $6,000, and the amount shall be reported in accordance with IRS code.

We passed Resolution 701 “Helping to End Suicide in the Church Amongst At-Risk Individuals” which was proposed by Elijah Shoaf, Lay Member At Large Atlanta Emory District. This passed by a vote of 673 – 180 or by 78.9%. Here is the text:

WHEREAS, The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state that “We believe 36 that suicide is not the way a human life should end,” and “The church has an obligation to see that all persons have access to needed pastoral and medical care and therapy in those circumstances that lead to loss of self-worth, suicidal despair, and/or the desire to seek physician-assisted suicide,” as well as “...seeking always to remove the oppressive stigma around suicide” (¶161.O. of The Book of Discipline, 2016); and

WHEREAS, suicide consistently ranks highly amongst the top causes of death in the United States and is the second leading cause of death amongst the age groups 10-14, 15-24, and 25-44 (CDC’s 2017 Ten Leading Causes of Death in the United States Report); and

WHEREAS, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth,” and “LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population” (National 4 Alliance on Mental Illness);

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Center for Congregational Excellence in partnership with the Conference Council on Youth Ministries shall strive to develop guidance for Ministers and Youth Leaders that recognizes suicide as a legitimate problem, advocates for active intervention, and understands how lecturing creates nothing but guilt and wastes valuable time and trust. This guidance should be available for use whenever the threat of suicide is made apparent in the Church or community. Recognizing causes of suicide among youth, including the above cited statistics that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than youth who identify as straight, the guidance should be centered around defusing the situation by focusing on the fact that the risk of suicide and that individual’s safety trumps any sort of judgement on behavior. And after immediate danger has passed, the process of recovery should be focused on accountability in love. This resolution was approved and endorsed by the Conference Council on Youth Ministries on January 28, 2019.

Lastly, in the numbers:

The Conference has 353,110 members, which is a net loss of 3,905 from last year and a decrease of about 1%.

The average worship attendance for 2018 was 105,053, a reduction of 2,150 and a decrease of 2%.

The total number of people worshiping online increased 38%.

There were 4,359 professions of faith and restored by affirmation of faith, a reduction of 621 from the previous year and a 13% decrease.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out (denise@vanlanduylaw.com). Also, more information and the recorded live stream of the entire conference can be found on the conference website.

Peace and Love,
Denise D. VanLanduyt, Lay Leader