The South Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church begins today in Tifton, Georgia. In large part it will be “out of sight, out of mind” for the average United Methodist. Lay and clergy representatives from all the churches in the South Georgia Conference will gather to share in the work of the church. It is a time of worship, study, business, and fellowship. We will ordain new pastors, make appointments of pastors either back to their current congregation or to a new place of service, celebrate the ministry of long time pastors in a retirement ceremony, and remember those pastors and spouses who have died in the last year. We will hear reports about the ministries of the church, approve a new conference budget, nominate people for conference committees, recognize the generosity and success of local churches, and remember the ministries of churches that have been closed.
This year, we will also be saying goodbye to Bishop James King. Bishop King has been our Episcopal leader for the last eight years. In July, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference will be held at Lake Junaluska where new Bishops will be elected and assigned. We will receive a new Bishop this August. An interesting note for us at Wesley is that our former associate pastor, Alex Tracy, will be appointed to Trinity Chapel UMC at Tybee Island. Keep Alex and his family in your prayers as they move.
This event represents two of the most basic characteristics of United Methodism. One is connectionalism. As a connectional church we are partners in ministry will all United Methodist churches. We share in ministry and mission through our apportionment giving, our appointment of pastors, and our common structure. As a connectional church we are reminded that our work in not in competition with other churches but in partnership. Our connectionalism calls us to look for ways to work together and support each other. Conferencing in the other practice displayed here. Conferencing is the way talk with each other about important issues, make collective decisions that represent the views and voice of the whole church both lay and clergy.
Most people will never attend an annual conference much less a General or Jurisdictional conference, but it is good to be reminded of our connection to churches down the street like Asbury, Asbury Memorial, and Trinity UMC, and to churches across the world in Africa and Asia. Jesus final prayer was the church would be one, working in unity with each other. This is one way we are seeking to live out His vision. Pray this week for the Annual Conference, the collective wisdom of the delegates, and presence of the Holy Spirit at work there.