The second day of the North Georgia Annual Conference, while honoring its retirees and memorializing its recently deceased clergy, celebrated its commitment to global missions.
“The world is my parish,” John Wesley wrote in 1739. The United Methodists of North Georgia are affirming that vision in 2012. They have gathered at the Classic Center under the banner of, “Seeing the World Through the Waters of Baptism.”
B. Michael Watson, the resident bishop of North Georgia, was recently selected by the World Methodist Council to chair its standing committee on evangelism. He has been a strong advocate of global missions and building bridges to the world.
“Bishop Watson is one of those people that when he speaks, people listen,” Dr. Eddie Fox, Director of World Methodist Evangelism, said at the Wednesday afternoon session.
On Wednesday, Conference Mission Offering collected $118,340.38 toward World Methodist Evangelism.
Will and Blair Zant, who became engaged while on a mission trip in Uganda, gave an update on North Georgia’s bridge-building efforts around the world, which includes missionary efforts in the Bahamas, Russia, Western Europe, Uganda, El Salvador, Southeast Asia and Israel.
“But we also have plenty of people to serve close to home,” Blair Zant said. “So, we will also continue to support the efforts of Action Ministries.”
The Zants emphasized that it is not necessary to go overseas to be involved in foreign missions. North Georgia also needs volunteers who can help organize trips, create contacts, and provide financial support and prayer.
“I want to thank North Georgia for its leadership,” Eddie Fox said. “God is not through with this movement yet. We have world-wide ministry of our own denomination.”
Other highlights of Day 2:
Annual Conference Task Force
The task force has reviewed and made recommendations on organizational issues regarding the annual conference:
aligning benefits, insurance and pension offices with finance and administrative function
communications should be aligned with Connectional Ministries
New Church Development should be aligned with other development ministries
Changes in function and alignment have been or will be implemented in the near term.
Bishop casts vision for North Georgia Conference
Bishop Watson shared his vision for the mission of the North Georgia Conference, emphasizing strengthening ministry to children and youth, camping and campus ministries and strengthening lay and clergy partnership.
Bishop Watson also further explained the staffing changes at the United Methodist Center, including:
eliminating the position of bishop's executive assistant
Jamie Jenkins will assist in redesigning New Church Development
directors of Ministerial Service and Connectional Ministries, the conference treasurer and Bishop Watson will each assume additional supervisory responsibilities
these changes represent immediate and significant financial savings
Conference treasurer Keith Cox shared:
membership of the North Georgia Conference is at 358,800, up 1,070 from last year
there were 5,821 professions of faith in 2011
total apportionment funds received were $25,068,897
674 churches gave 100 percent (this is 75 percent up from last year).
Atlanta-Roswell District, under Superintendent Ed Tomlinson, gave 99.5 percent.
for the third time in six years we've increased our apportionment percentage paid with 90 percent paid in 2011.
Board of Pensions and Health Benefits
Bill Burch and Karen Fullerton brought the report of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits. BPHB continues its emphasis on wellness, asking HealthFlex participants to participate in Virgin HealthMiles, have a Blueprint for Wellness health screening and take the online HealthQuotient.
conference now offers a consumer-driven health plan option to participants
a commercial or open model for retiree healthcare through ExtendHealth is being considered
if AC approves move to ExtendHealth, it will reduce unfunded liablity to $25,596,000 (current unfunded liability is $34,180,000)
United Methodist Children's Home
Richard Puckett, public relations director for the Children’s Home, shared that UMCH offers programs that care for children from birth through early adulthood and showed a video featuring a couple who has adopted 5 children through the Children’s Home. Download the video at www.umchildrenshome.org. “With your help we can mean the same and more to hundreds and thousands of children's and families in the future,” said Puckett.
The multi-part Connectional Ministries report included:
A video featuring the idea of a “Big Sunday” as a way to bring in new people. Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta had a Big Sunday on September 11, 2011 inviting the community and honoring firefighters and police officers.
Susan Taylor and Beth Sanders invited clergy, musicians, worship designers to Kindling the Fire: Lectionary Reading Week Feb 25-28, 2013 at Glisson Retreat Center. The event will be a time to develop a nine-month worship plan through hearing the word, taking time for reflection, sharing ideas and hearing from presenters.
Stewardship Journey, a step-by-step guidebook to enliven your stewardship campaign, is available as a free gift in the Foundry Building. For more information, visit www.stewardshipjourney.org.
A video highlighting Dillard UMC’s job ministry
Disaster Response would like to help your church be prepared to help your community and others in times of disaster. Email email@example.com to schedule a visit. “We want to help you be able to help in times of need,” said Thom Shores. “Prior to Katrina, almost anyone could show up to help at any time. Today, one thing is needed in almost all disaster situations - certification of training. We offer training and want to make it available to each and every church.
Thanked Disaster Response chair Mike Yoder as he steps down as chair of this group. “North Georgia has been the benefactor of one person's talent and commitment. One person made our conference a leader in disaster response in the denomination,” said Shores, “Mike Yoder.”
New Church Development
A video from the office of New Church Development highlighted testimonies from members of new churches:
"I get choked up about it. I couldn't remember anything about having a relationship with God before The Well.”
“This experience is totally different - it makes me feel like I have a special home for me.”
“I was in a place a little skeptical of the church. We came in to Oakhurst Church and knew this was home for us.”
"I didn't want to come to church because I felt so guilty. Someone said: you need to go because God can forgive you. Thank you, God. Right now I feel like he forgives me and that he's really there.”
Other reports and information
Dianne Traynham, associate conference lay leader, brought the morning devotional with music from Crossover Quartet of Toccoa First UMC.
Lyn Powell and Keith Cox reported from the Simpsonwood Board.
Hank Huckabee presented CF&A recommendations for 2013 which were approved.
Janet Sligar, director of lay speaking ministries, introduced some of the unique ministries lay speakers are involved in and district directors of lay speaking honored a lay speaker in each district. The mission of Lay Speakers is to lead, to care, and to communicate.
Aldersgate Homes board president Marion Wilder gave Warm Heart award in recognition of exceptional generosity.
Nominations Report accepted with corrections
Candler School of Theology Dean Jan Love brought greetings on behalf of 13 seminaries of the United Methodist Church.
The North Georgia Conference recognized 37 persons who are retiring from active ministries. They are:
John Olin Alexander
Joy Rickard Brown
Gary M. Cole
Daisie Barcelona Coloma
Terry De Land
Harold Yen-Pyo Hong
Rebecca Duke Jones
Sam A. Storey
John S. Wilkinson
Joe Lester Williams
Lawrence (Larry) Wilson
Rev. Jay Hodges brought God's word to us in the memorial service for clergy, clergy spouses and lay leadership who passed away between May 2011 and May 2012.
"From seeds we plant in the ground, God grows things more beautiful than we ever could produce," said Hodges."The seed that was planted here lives still."