For the twelfth time in 13 years, members of the North Georgia Annual Conference converged at the Classic Center in downtown Athens to pray, worship and go about the work of the United Methodist Church.
The first day of the 2011 Annual Conference, with nearly 3,000 people in attendance, got off to a smooth start and an inspiring finish.
Tuesday’s events, which included the first round of balloting to select delegates to the 2012 general and jurisdictional conferences, concluded with the commissioning of 21 provisional members and the ordination of six deacons in full connection and 18 elders in full connection.
Bishop Alfred L. Norris, past president of Gammon Theological Seminary, delivered a rousing, impassioned message in a packed Theatre.
“I sense the stirrings of a new vitality,” Norris said, rejecting the idea that the church is in danger of long-term decline. “We need to have a passion and zeal for mission and evangelism.”
Norris frequently returned to the theme that “the church is bursting out all over” and made a call for those being commissioned or ordained to practice servant leadership. He emphasized the need for the pursuit of spiritual discipline and loving God’s people, all God’s people, because “people are precious.”
“The best way for us to reach people in the 21st Century is to act like the First Century believers,” he said. “The world needs a savior. We have one.”
Lay orientation opened with prayer from Conference Youth president Christian Higgins. Much of the session focused on voting procedures and speeches from lay candidates for election to 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. The Board of Laity also encouraged laity to take part in the leadership and training programs Leadership UMC, Lay Revitalization Ministries, and Lay Speaking Ministries. The lay session concluded with the singing of "I'm Gonna Live so God Can Use Me."
Opening Communion and Worship
Worship was led by Richard Hays, Dean of Duke Divinity School. A special joint choir from Athens First, Ben Hill, Central, Duluth First, East Point Mallalieu, Fort Street, and Tuckston United Methodist churches provided music.
Opening of Conference
Bishop B. Michael Watson called to order the 145th session of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, a session in which we will celebrate how our churches and agencies are actively engaging in ministry with the poor. Prayer was offered by youth member Courtney Mixon from City on a Hill UMC. Then Conference officially began with the traditional Charles Wesley hymn, “And Are We Yet Alive.”
Welcome by Host Committee
The North Georgia Conference was welcomed to Athens by Gary Whetstone, District Superintendent of the Athens-Elberton District, as well as Tom Jackson, Vice President for Public Affairs at the University of Georgia, and Athens-Clarke County Manager Alan Reddish.
Cabinet Resolution: Voting Privileges for Local Pastors
Resolution 709 was approved, extending the right to vote for delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference to Provisional Members and Local Pastors who have completed course of study or an M.Div. degree and have served a minimum of two consecutive years under appointment immediately preceding the election.
The first clergy and lay ballots were handed out at 4:19 p.m. It took 21 minutes for the final ballot to be filled out and returned. Results are expected be reported at the morning business session.
Board of Ministry
Quincy Brown, Chair of the Board of Ministry, introduced individuals to be ordained and commissioned at the evening service of ordination. Each person named had been affirmed by the morning clergy executive session.
Connectional Ministries Introduction
Bob Winstead, chair of the Board of Connectional Ministries, introduced the many reports over the week that will fall under the umbrella of the Office of Connectional Ministries. From conference youth to disaster response, seven staff, dozens of committees and more than 100 volunteers work to connect ministries to churches, connect programs to needs, connect training to leaders and connect answers to questions.
UM Publishing House
Damien Turpin, manager of the Atlanta Cokesbury store, brought greetings from the United Methodist Publishing House. Cokesbury is dedicated to helping churches find tools for ministry. Highlights included the announcement of enhancements to www.cokesbury.com and the introduction of new resources including the New Testament Outreach kit which uses the Common English Bible and a stewardship program titled "Extravagant Generosity."
Debbie Fox, vice-chair of the Board of Connectional Ministries, thanked the conference for the huge response to Connectional Cafe, Connectional Ministries' menu of 150 workshops taught by more than 100 faculty members. Since last year, more than 3,000 people have taken part in a Connectional cafe workshop. To schedule a workshop from the menu, go to www.ngumc.org/cafe and contact the faculty member of the class you'd like to offer.
Small Membership Church
Shari Rates, chair of the Conference Parish Life Team, announced the launch of G.E.M. (Growing Effective Ministers). Connectional Ministries is looking to establish a long-term partnership, offering support that specifically addresses the needs of clergy and lay leaders of small-membership churches. Hyo Kim, associate director of new church development, closed with prayer.
Service of Ordination/Commissioning
Bishop Alfred L. Norris, preacher, Past President and Dean of Gammon Theological Seminary.
Music was provided by Candler Singers (churches represented: Decatur First UMC, Duluth First UMC, Haygood UMC, Washington St. UMC in Columbia, SC, and Big Bethel AME), director David Daniel, and organist Jamie Shiell.
The North Georgia Conference commissioned 21 provisional members, ordained six deacons in full connection and ordained 18 elders in full connection.
Kevin Bryan Barnes
Michael Kent Burel
Theresa P. Coleman
Thomas David Compton
Carol Snype Crawford
Michael Leonard Devine
Ashley Susan Fitzpatrick
Lynn Ford Gibson
Adam Seth Hilderbrandt
Valerie J. Loner
Whitney Roark Martin
Joseph Daniel McBrayer
Janet Gwendolyn McCoy
Luis Antonio Ortiz
Jay Ryan Suender
Fleming Thompson, Jr.
Brian Armon Tillman
Matthew Alfton Tuggle
John McRae Turlington
James Michael Wadley
Michael Orville Whittaker
Deacons in Full Connection:
Amihan (Amy) Valdez Barker
Carrie E. Finegan
Kristin Lynne Heiden
Elizabeth Bond Hamer Nall
Andrew Cantrell Peabody
Susan Moore Pinson
Elders in Full Connection:
Julie Ann Boone
Kate Hurst Floyd
Joyce E. Banks Gross
Hugh Edward Hendrickson
Donald Ray Landen, Jr.
Christopher Deklan Laskey
Terrilyn Davis Lemons
Kenneth Mark McLendon
Thomas Michael Moss
Matthew Neal Nelson
Joseph P. Peabody, Jr.
Richard Allen Pletsch
Laura Paige Pritchard
Melvin David Sisler, Jr.
Jasmine Rose Smothers
Tonight's offering goes to cover the expenses of Annual Conference