Day Two Annual Conference Update: Church Has Broken Out



Talented photographers are capturing Annual Conference. See photos from each day.

The morning began early for members of the North Georgia Conference. The Annual Conference 5K run/walk was sponsored by the Conference Council on Youth Ministries. Proceeds raised will to to the Youth Service Fund. A fund raised by youth, administered by youth, to support youth ministries.

Two powerful worship services anchored the day. Members heard the Word Proclaimed in the Service of Remembrance and the Response in the Service of Licensing, Commissioning and Ordination-- two movements of the session-long worship experience. They heard from retirees about years of faithful service. They also heard reports from administrative committees, the Common Table, and ministry reports. 

Session Two

Conference Lay Leader Bill Martin introduced lay-lead ministries across the conference in a time to celebrate the Laity. 

  • Tryphenia Speed of United Methodist Women shared about the work of the UMW including a recent Spirtual Growth Social Action Event. Speaking about issues close to their hearts, low economic areas and the troubles that accompany them, she said. “these are monumental issues and they are all connected.”
  • United Methodist Men's goal is to help spiritual growth among men. The UMM serves to train men in the church to make disciples to send into the world. Train men in leadership and in communication
  • Jane Finley celebrated the work of Leadership UMC, a 4 part program with the “purpose of equipping local church laity for leadership" that has graduated hundreds of North Georgia United Methodists in its history. 
  • Cathy Bloodworth of Lay Revitalization Ministry challenged clergy to help laity use their talents and see their potential. Programs were designed to help music, evangelism, identifying ways to promote the church, finance, small group ministries, etc. 
  • Janet Sligar of Lay Service Ministries shared about the benefit of the gifts and presence of a Lay Speaker. There are new upcoming classes including conflict resolution, preaching classes for lay speakers who only occasionally preach, and leading small groups

Charles Darden, chair of the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, explained that The Board of Pensions works closely with Wespath Benefits and Investments to provide pensions, wellness plans, and health insurance. As part of the report, a motion that the North Georgia Conference offer the OneExchange Health Reimbursement Account to retiring conference lay staff under the same rates and rules as clergy benefits was voted on and passed. Conference Benefits Officer Karen Fullerton outlined recommendations presented in  the Conference Handbook which were approved. 

John Simmons, chair of the Conference Board of Trustees, celebrated the good news that this summer, Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries received $110,000 for scholarships through the Wesley Campership Fund. He shared that the 11 stained-glass Wesley Windows are available to a church or United Methodist institution that could appropriately accommodate them as a complete set. 
He also brought attention to a standing rule proposal on page 224 of Handbook that will be voted on Thursday. 

Kathy Lamon, chair of Equitable Compensation, reminded members that effective in 2017 all pastors are to be paid in advance (meaning at the beginning of the month) and that benefits/pensions must be paid before paying apportionments. A motion on an increase in the minimum salary was passed

Keith Cox, Conference Treasurer/Director Administrative Services shared the good news that North Georgia Conference churches paid the highest apportionment percentage in 15 years. 85 percent of churches paid 100% of their apportionments. The highest percentage given was in the Athens-Elberton District at 100% apportionments paid. 

While our numbers are impressive overall, there are decreases in important areas.
Membership has gone down 0.3%
Professions of faith have gone down by 214
Average worship attendance has gone down by 5,886
Sunday School Attendance has gone down by 2,921
Membership in small group ministries is down by 7,119

UM Commission on Higher Education and Collegiate Ministry held a round-table discussion about St. Andrew UMC that will be a part of a Vital Merger between the church and the now-closed Wesley Foundation of the University of West Georgia. The conversation was between Rev. Michael McCord, executive director of the UM Commission, Rev. Sam Dawkins, incoming pastor of a new ministry, and Robin Johnson, Administrative Council Chair of St. Andrew. Although it was scary that so much in the church will change, the members considered it more dangerous risk to not having a voice in the community at all, explained Johnson. Read more about that ministry.

Rev. Jasmine Smothers updated the Conference on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, of which she is a member.  The 32-member commission, made up of United Methodists from around the world, was established by the Council of Bishops in response to a request from the 2016 General Conference. The members are committed to the task before them: To do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. “We carefully listen to each other, we do not judge one another, we are not here to change one another’s conditions, we speak truth in love, we assume trust and not suspicion, we protect confidentiality of the conversation,” she explained about the work that's underway. Find more about the Commission at 

Following a Passing the Mantle Liturgy from retirees to new ordinands, Annual Conference retirees were recognized.

“It would be impossible to add up that number of people they have led to Christ, the number of youth they have baptized, the number of sermons they’ve preached, but if my math is correct these people all together have rendered 944 years of service," said Rev. Jane Brooks. 

“It's been 49 years and it feels like only yesterday," said Rev. Dr. Gil Watson, the longest serving of this year's retirees. “I love Jesus Christ, I have tried to preach Jesus Christ. And God willing I will love and preach Jesus Christ until my last day on this earth.”

Bishop Sue ended the session with a quote by E.B. White: “Every morning I rise with the desire to enjoy the world and to change the world. This makes it very hard to plan the day.”  

Class of 2017 Retiring Servants
Jennifer Bates
David Bowen
Doug Bower
Kirk Bozeman
Brian Butler
Warren Causey
Marcus Dixon
Deborah Fox
George Freeman
Angela Gilreath-Rivers
Stuart Greene
Christy Greenwald
Deborah Griffith
James Hanna
Stephen Horne
Richard Huycke
David Jones
Rick Marson
Diane McCann
Thomas Moon
James Mooneyhan
Michael Nickolich
Jerry Peele
Melissa Reynolds
Mike Roper
Dennis Short
C Wayne Smith
Cynthia Vaughan
Haydee Vidot Ortiz
Gil Watson
Joe Watson
Gary Whetstone
John Williams

Go Rest High on That Mountain: Service of Remembrance 

Wednesday afternoon's Service of Remembrance began with a processional of clergy and laity carrying stones painted with the names of the clergy, clergy spouses, and laity whose lives would be celebrated. The name of each of person was read aloud and the stones were placed in the Ebenezer at the foot of the stage. 

The congregation joined Oak Grove UMC's 9:35 Band in singing of "Go Rest High on that Mountain." 

Remembering clergy and lay leadership who have passed away in the last year, Rev. Jimmy Moor preached on hope and memory.

“We remember these people today, not because of what they did, but because of who they were, and who they were for us,” he said. “We remember how they showed us what it means to be Christian, and what it means to be a human being.”

He asked the congregation to take a moment and remember those we have lost.

“They had weaknesses, they made mistakes, sometimes they struggled, sometimes they stumbled, but they carried God's baptismal font, and God was with them in their stumbles and their mistakes. God carried them through, and God transformed them,” he said.

Moor lifted up the powerful message in the chorus of the song “Go Rest High On The Mountain” and invites the audience to sing it one more time with him. 

“I have a vision of these, our departed loved ones, and they are singing on their way to heaven,” he said.

Show Your Work: Service of Remembrance 
Cindy McDonald, Atticus Hicks and Jimmy Moor pulled stools to the table to share how they planned the Service of Remembrance. They made the decion early in the process to celebrate the lives of people remembered, recognizing grief, pain and sadness, but moving on to remembering a life well lived. 

Their hope that we all took a journey today that was helpful and healing. 

Moor and Hicks collaborated on the music choice of "Go Rest High on That Mountain." Moor considered singing the chorus in the sermon ant Hicks suggested singing the full song earlier in the service. 

McDonald wrote the beautiful prayer, keeping in mind the scripture and service. She also spoke about the banners used as backdrops on the stage. An artist from Mount Carmel UMC, Tara Campbell created the banners specifically for the event.

The team emphasized the importance of being flexible and allowing ourselves to let go of some ideas. 

"We don’t tell God how God is going to move in our spaces,” said Hicks. 

Session Three

Herzen Andone, director of Connectional Ministries, spoke about the Common Table and the denomination-wide effort to align behind the Four Areas of Focus: improving world health, growing vital churches, ministering with the poor, developing with principled Christian leaders. 

Connectional Ministries is using the Four Areas of Focus as a guide along with the SEJ's six missional initiatives. 

In an opening video, the camera showed several Connectional Ministries staff members in on their way into the Conference to serve. “When you need someone in the passenger seat, we are here to take a journey with you,” said Andone. 

Sam Halverson and Debby Fox, associate director of Connectional Ministries for youth ministries and children's ministries spoke about the importance of children and youth being a part of the entire congregational experience. Children becoming youth, and youth become young adult leaders. Churches are encouraged to participate in resources available to them. Each district has established a Children's Ministry Network for support and collaboration. Hundreds of youth and children take part each year in conference-wide retreats. 

Tonya Lawrence, Associate Director of Connectional Ministries, shared that vitality and discipleship is all about relationship. In order to count the people, we must care for the people, in order to care for the people, we must connect with those we have made a covenant with, so that they may grow in their faith.
She highlighted available Connectional Ministries grants at She encouraged young adults aged 18-26 to consider the Exploration event in November. 

The One Matters Award, given to a congregation that has grown in numbers and recovered from a struggle. One Matters reward includes a $5,000 gift to the congregation. This year's recipient was Suwannee Worship Center UMC – Rev. Ted Rollins, pastor. 
Sybil Davidson of the Conference Communications Office invited members to subscribe to Conference e-newsletters at She also shared tips for modeling principled Christian Leadership (and avoiding common problems) on social media. 

3 Tips for Churches 

  • have a social media presence 
  • only create a social media account with the approval of church leadership
  • Golden rule: always have 3 administrators able to access social media platform

3 Tips for Clergy and Church Leaders

  • Consider every post public
  • Use discretion and protect confidentiality
  • Make all posts worthy of your role as pastor or leader in your church

Connectional Ministries closed by asking, "What are we missing?" A video shows the staff daydreaming about ... a Worship Dance Moves TrainingWatch the Worship Moves Video

Chris Karabinos of the Conference Committee on Scouting shared that he Scout program is alive and well in North Georgia with 746 packs, troops and crews meeting at 294 churches.  

More than 18,000 Scout youth are affiliated with our conference. 

The United Methodist Committee on Scouting provides experienced scout leaders who view Scouting as a ministry as a resource for your church. If you want help starting a scout program, starting a PRAY education program, or building Duty-to-God into your scout program, please contact the Committee on Scouting. FInd more information at 

God is Already There: Service of Licensing Commissioning and Ordination

Wednesday night, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, the first female bishop to serve in our Conference, licensed 26 local pastors, commissioned 13 provisional members, ordained four full-connection deacons, and ordained 11 full connection elders. 

In a show of support, more than 300 robed clergy processed into the service to be seated behind their new colleagues. Retired bishops, Bishop Woodie White and Bishop Alfred Norris, each participated in the service. 

The powerful and talented choir of Central UMC with leader Gerald Ricks, Robert McMichael, and Jarvis Wilson brought the congregation to its feet. 

Bishop Sue offered the sermon, sharing guidance from the scripture and comfort to new clergy. 

"The pressure is off," she said. "We just have to show up. God is already there. We're sending you in the name of Jesus to meet him."

She said she turned to this knowledge when she faced new appointments. "God is sending me to where he already is," said Bishop Sue. "There is nothing I meet there that I can't handle with his help."

She offered these words of advice from scripture:

  • We need you to lead the people of the church out of church to draw in people who do not know Christ. 
  • Travel light. 
  • Live simply. 
  • Eat what's before you, in other words, adapt to the culture; don't be picky. 
  • Don't go from house to house (or move from church to church in your mind). 
  • When you go to a house, offer peace. If they share your peace, your peace rests on them. If they don't accept your peace it will come back to you.  "Only years in ministry did I realize how often I let my peace go," said Bishop Sue. "The only thing that will help you keep your peace is daily time with scripture, daily time in prayer."
  • Offer healing. 
  • Pray for more workers. 

"You'll look back at appointment after appointment, years down the road, and in every appointment you will have learned something," she said. 

You will see the power of God. There is no better calling. No better job. No better thing to do in this world. We are sending you out to the wolves, but you will see miracles in the midst of them. May you have rich ministry and may you see miracles like we have all seen."

Provisional members
Graham Arp
Andrew Chappell
William E. Dickens
Natalee Dukes
April Elizabeth Ellis
Steven Chad Hill
Emily Lauren Kirby
Jonathan L. Lawson
Ryan Miller
Melissa Ellen Mobley
William Thomas Ross
Kimberlyn S. Sinkfield
Kyle Ryan Tau

Full connection deacons
Michael Ray Cromwell
Allison Lee Griner
Kathleen Stalker Stasko
Leslie Lyons Watkins

Full connection elders
Jonathan Carter Andersen
Emily Day Bagwell
Kelly Falany Brumbeloe
Dana Eileen Ezell
Zachrey M. Fitzpatrick
Deborah Subrina Holloway
Mark T. Jones
Hee Chul Park
Cassandra Lynne Noland Rapko
Joel Rodriguez
Walter I. Sonny Sellers

Licensed Local Pastors
Michael Lynn Brinson
Montey Charles Cantrell
Sharon M. Cooper
Jack Hudson Couch, Jr
Dondra Davis
Joseph A Dobrowolski
Nelson Magalhães Furtado, Jr
Debbie Giles
Kathleen E. Gillian
Pamela Christine Gutermuth
Sean Hachem
Kevvin Joel Hankins
Kathy Denise Hardy
Jacqueline Marie Harmon
Terrence Xavior Hull, Sr.
Cynthia Jackson
Laurie Klingenberg
Thomas Pope Moseley, Jr
Susan S. Moss
Robin Parr
Brenda P. Rhodes
Anthony Singleton
Stephen Earl Taylor
Mary Eleanor Tilk
Matthew Blake Treherne

Show your Work - Service of Ordination, Commissioning, and Licensure
Gerald Ricks, Jane Brooks, Robert McMichael, and Terri Lemons shared about the service of ordination prior to the service. In a change from year's past, Bishop Sue invited all the clergy to participate by wearing robes and processing in to sit behind their new colleagues. The service is about Response, and is a traditional and formal service with a focus on those being licensed, commissioned, and ordained.

"You need a lot of helpers to plan something like this," said Brooks. 

McMichael shared about some of the music to expect. Many songs were from one of the newest resources of the UMC which is the Africana Hymnal. 

Allowing a way for those who feel called to ministry to respond in this service seemed important. At end of Ordination service, the bishop gave an invitation if anyone is interested in this calling into ministry to come and speak with a clergy person. Many responded, moving to an area where they could talk and pray with members of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

Your gifts

Today's Offering
Service of Remembrance: 79,784.21
Ordination: $9,073.05
Total: $8,8857.26

UMCOR Kits Collected
$160 worth of Birthing Kits (20)
$10,068 worth of Health Kits (839)
$390 worth of School Kits (36)
$53,685 worth of Layette Kits (1,198)
$28 worth of Sewing Kits (1)
$130 worth of Cleaning Buckets (2)
Total $64,467 worth of UMCOR Kits