2019 South Georgia Annual Conference

June 2-5, in  Columbus, Georgia

As the Chattahoochee River flowed outside, the Holy Spirit flowed inside as nearly 1,000 South Georgia United Methodists gathered in Columbus, Georgia, for the 2019 South Georgia Annual Conference session.

Held June 2 through June 5 at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center, clergy and lay members from across South Georgia gathered to conference in the Wesleyan tradition and elect delegates to the 2020 General and jurisdictional conferences.

Presiding over his third annual conference session in South Georgia, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan in his episcopal address spoke about the vitality and fruitfulness he sees in South Georgia. “God is faithful and God continues to send the Holy Spirit upon us,” he said. “But the other part of that is: We are open to God. We hold out our hands willing to receive all that Christ our Lord wants to give us. We stretch out our hands to reach into God’s future. God is faithful. Our people are willing. The result is vitality.”

He then asked attendees to:

  1. Renew their commitment to seeking God’s future for The United Methodist Church and for South Georgia.
  2. Reclaim their passion for the salvation of the world.
  3. Refocus their energies on redemptive relationships in the world.

Voting for lay and clergy delegates to General and jurisdictional conferences commenced Tuesday, June 4.

After a full day of voting, four clergy and four laity were elected to attend General Conference, the highest legislative body of the denomination, which will meet May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis. In addition, the conference elected another four clergy and four laity to attend the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, along with the General Conference delegates. Jurisdictional conference will be held July 15-18, 2020, when bishops will be elected.

The following persons will serve on the South Georgia delegation:


General Conference

  • Bill Hatcher
  • Jennifer Cowart
  • Allison Lindsey
  • Larry Price

Jurisdictional Conference

  • Richard Shinhoster (alternate to General Conference)
  • Brenda Adams (alternate to General Conference)
  • Chuck Cowart
  • Steve Rumford


  • Debbie Turner
  • Jeff Barker


General Conference

  • The Revs. Jim Cowart
  • Robert Beckum
  • Doreen Smalls
  • Jay Hanson

Jurisdictional Conference

  • Robert Greene (alternate to General Conference)
  • Scott Hagan (alternate to General Conference)
  • Jimmy Towson
  • David Thompson


  • Scott Tucker
  • Alaina Harrison

In other action, members:

  • Heard a message from Bishop Richard Looney, episcopal leader in South Georgia from 1988 to 2000, in the opening worship service: “I hope we can reclaim the joy of sharing the Good News,” Looney said. “Share the Good News, do it in a winsome way. It doesn’t have to be complicated. God will use even you to bring salvation to someone who’s lost. And may you find joy, joy, joy in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
  • Collected a special offering for the Moscow United Methodist Theological Seminary totaling $19,095. With the money, South Georgia United Methodists have the opportunity to partner with United Methodists in Russia to help provide the means for students to attend the seminary and will help the seminary continue to be instrumental in helping revive Methodism in Russia.
  • Heard five “Alive Together in the World” moments — segments highlighting the various ways we are reaching out throughout the South Georgia Conference and beyond.
  • Heard the lay leader's address given by Gloria Morgan as she highlighted the ways laity are serving their neighbors in each district and spreading the love of Christ.
  • Heard a message from the Rev. Cleo Gilchrist, retired South Georgia minister, in the memorial service as we remembered those who have gone before us. She reminded us that although we may grieve, God is able.
  • Were challenged by Bishop Bryan in his episcopal address to: renew our commitment to seeking God’s future for The United Methodist Church and for South Georgia; reclaim our passion for the salvation of the world; and refocus our energies on redemptive relationships in the world.
  • Were led in four teaching times by the Gil Rendle about what it means to be fruitful, effective leaders for Christ in a changing world.
  • Approved a disaffiliation policy. The policy sets out a framework to be followed when a significant number of members of a congregation express a desire to leave the South Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
  • Approved a pension liability policy that would only apply to churches that choose to disaffiliate under the provisions passed by the General Conference and our South Georgia Conference.
  • Approved a proposal to use the funds originally collected for the East Africa Annual Conference partnership to now explore a new mission partnership with the North Katanga Annual Conference.
  • Approved a budget of $9,326,184 budget for mission and ministry for 2020, which is a 7.3% percent decrease from the 2019 budget.
  • Supported the conference’s local mission agencies, donating toiletries, school supplies, etc. to Magnolia Manor, the Methodist Children’s Home, Open Door, Vashti, Wesley Community Centers and Wesley Glen.

Five people were ordained into the order of elder, and six people were commissioned as provisional elders.

Twenty pastors retired, and six were recognized for achieving their 50th anniversary in ministry. Twenty-seven clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during the memorial service.

Annual Conference 2019 ended with a service of sending forth.

“Let us all draw on each other as resources,” said Bishop Bryan as he highlighted various groups in our conference and their effective, fruitful ministry. “We all have something to contribute.”

Membership stands at 107,624, down 3,302 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 41,900, down 3,962. Church school attendance stands at 20,246, up 407 from 2017.

The 2020 Annual Conference session will be held in Columbus, Ga. beginning June 7.

— Kara Witherow, conference editor, and Kelly Roberson, director of communications.

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