The theme "One in Ministry to All the World" marked the third year of focus on the prayer from our communion liturgy, that we may be "One with Christ, One with Each Other, and One in Ministry to All the World." The set used for the virtual conference featured a hand-painted banner and a podium frontal of overlapping circles. Seven of the circles aligned to reveal a dove. This imagery was a steady reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit and an appropriate metaphor for the work of alignment that was a thread throughout the business of the day.
Bishop Haupert-Johnson began the session with Scripture, reading John 21:1-14.
"The whole world has changed," she said, reflecting on the passage and on our current circumstances. "All of our normal ways to be together have changed, but I think the risen Lord comes among us and says, we have an opportunity to consider how we are fishing. Instead of moving toward what's familiar, I challenge you to sit in the unfamiliar, to go back into prayer, go back into reflection, speak into those who are hurting, and those who are pleading for justice and righteousness. Hear the cries of God's people."
In closing, Bishop Haupert-Johnson prayed: "Gracious God, we pray we will answer your call to follow you in new ways. Give us new insights, give us a clear word of how to serve you in new ways."
Redistricting for mission and stewardship
Members voted to support a new eight-district structure drawn in a mission-focused manner reflective of today’s North Georgia Conference and the communities we serve. The eight new districts follow county lines and each contains a similar number of churches. Every new district includes some high-growth counties. Population (as well as population growth) is balanced between the districts.
This change will save the conference upwards of $1 million annually. Learn more at https://www.ngumc.org/district-restructure.
Conference finance and administration
The annual conference passed a budget of $16,976,101.
"CFA took a conservative approach to the 2021 budget by reducing line items and drawing on reserve funds," said the Rev. Bill Burch, chair of Conference Finance and Administration. "This year CFA's proposed budget reduces the budget by 19.1 percent."
That is a reduction of more than $4 million compared to the 2020 budget.
Actions of the conference:
• Approved the Conference Trustees Report and adopted a process for pooling the proceeds from the sale of closed churches. The proceeds will be deposited into the Charles Barnes Fund for Church Development.
• Affirmed our 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegation.
• Heard from Conference Lay Leader, Bill Martin, who reflected on Acts 4:7-20. “We have left our church buildings and discovered in the process that the church is SO much more than a building,” said Martin. “We are a people that are moved to love and compassion because of all that we have seen and heard.”
• Approved new and recurring recommendations from the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits. There will be no large increases in participant insurance premiums in 2021.
• Approved recommendations from the Commission of Equitable Compensation.
• Voted to formally close 23 churches and spent time in prayer for those churches.
• Approved a motion to ask the Commission on General Conference to take the academic school-year into greater consideration in the future selection of dates for General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
• Opened and closed the morning and afternoon sessions with a prayer from a youth or young adult member of the annual conference. Ellie Dillsworth, Ariel Murphy, Brad Biggerstaff, and Elijah Shoaf led the conference in prayer from their dorm rooms, desks, and churches.
One in ministry
One of the most heartwarming components of the session was a series of gestures of appreciation for the ministry, creativity, patience, and faithfulness of the members of the 2020 North Georgia. Thanks to a gift from the UM Connectional Federal Credit Union and the Georgia United Methodist Foundation, donations of $500 were given in the name of five lay members and five clergy members to ten meaningful ministries in the bounds of our annual conference. The gifts were made to:
• Wellroot Family Services
• Action Ministries
• Aldersgate Homes/Collinswood
• Georgia UMCommisison on Higher Education and Collegiate Ministries
• North Georgia Camp and Retreat Ministries
• North Georgia Housing and Homeless Council
• Foundation of Wesley Woods
• Murphy-Harpst Children's Centers
• North Georgia Foundation for Retired Ministers
Music for the session was recorded at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta by Michael Dauterman, Will Buthod, Ashley Herring, and Audio Engineer Josh Cymbal.
Ahead of the Annual Conference session, the North Georgia Conference held a virtual Clergy Executive Session on July 16. The clergy elected:
• 12 Provisional Members
• 3 Deacons in Full Connection
• 5 Elders in Full Connection
Bishop Haupert-Johnson set the 2020-2021 clergy appointments via Facebook Live on August 6.
The conference will celebrate the 2019-2020 retirees and remember the saints who died in the 2019-2020 Conference year in the 2021 North Georgia Annual Conference.
Membership and statistics
The North Georgia Conference reports the following membership and statistics:
• Membership in 2019 was 346,840 which is a net loss of 6,270 members or a decrease of 1.8% as compared to 2018.
• Average worship attendance for 2019 was 102,213. This reduction of 2,840 reflects a 2.7% decrease compared to 2018.
• The total number of persons who worshiped online was 31,934 in 2019, reflecting an increase of 46.7% as compared to 2018.
• We had 3,508 Professions of Faith and 404 Restored by Affirmation of Faith for a total of 3,912.
• The total number of community ministries for outreach, justice, and mercy offered by the local church was 4,990 in 2018, which is an increase over 2017.
• The total given for General Advance Specials remitted to the Annual Conference was $507,923. This was an increase of $88,123 which reflects an increase of 21%.
The next North Georgia Annual Conference is set for June 3-5, 2021.
Find more on the 2020 North Georgia Annual Conference at www.ngumc.org/AC2020.