Thursday, June 10, 2010

Annual Conference - Day One

This morning, June 10, I picked up Phillip Stone, one of our lay delegates to Annual Conference at 7:15am. Phillip is not only one of our lay delegates from Bethel, he is also the Wofford College Archivist and the S.C. Conference United Methodist Archivist. As such he knows a lot about Methodism is SC. If you’re looking for someone to do an interesting program for your Sunday school class or group, Phillip is glad to share what he knows about Methodism.

We left Spartanburg about 7:30am and had a nice drive down to Florence Civic Center. We got to Florence about 10am in time to register for the Annual Conference. Every delegate, lay and clergy, signs in and gets a name tag which allows them to be on the floor of the conference to vote.

After registering, I went to the Clergy session and Phillip went to the lay orientation session. The lay folk talk about procedure and process which is helpful mostly if you’ve never been to Annual Conference before. And, every year there are some who are at Conference for the first time.

The Clergy session is about voting on persons who will be ordained deacon and elder during Annual Conference. After months of writing papers, and answering questions about their theology and beliefs, and years of study, candidates now stand before their clergy brothers and sisters for the final examination. They must answer questions from the bishop, questions that have been asked of every Methodist pastor since John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Clergy take vows of membership in the Annual Conference and Ordination. Clergy promise to go where the bishop sends them; they promise to uphold the doctrine and teachings of the church. They promise to let nothing come between them and their service to Jesus Christ and his church. Today we approved 42 people to serve as pastors in the church. 39 clergy were approved for retirement. We stood in honor of the ones who died since last Annual Conference.

By this time, it was lunch time. The afternoon session started at 2pm with a worship service. The bishop preached. Business started at 3pm after a short break. During this session we organized for the week, and had a first reading of the budget. At this reading, only questions can be asked. Some expressed concerns and asked questions about raising the budget when local churches are struggling still in this economy. We were welcomed to Florence by the Mayor of Florence and by church leaders. We hear the first reading of nominations for leadership in the Annual Conference.

Time ran short; so, we extended the meeting time until about 6pm. I went to dinner with my friend Paul Harmon to his Lutheran Seminary Alumni meeting. It was a delightful time with others who had gone to Lutheran. Tomorrow night, Paul will go with me to my Duke Divinity School dinner.

The evening session was a worship service.

Dave Nichols

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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