South Georgians Vote to Become a Confessing Conference
Jesus Wins in South Georgia
Special Report by James Gibson, Marshallville UMC
By a wide
margin, delegates to the South Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
voted to become a "Confessing Annual Conference" during their meeting in
Savannah June 9.
Delegates approved a resolution affirming "A Confessional Statement,"
the foundation document of the Confessing
Movement within The United Methodist Church. Dr. John Horton, superintendent of the
Macon District, presented the case for the resolution, along with Helen Rhea Stumbo, a lay
member of Fort Valley United Methodist Church, and the Rev. John Warrener, pastor of
Brookfield/Enigma United Methodist Church.
While the presentation in favor of the resolution was well received by conference
delegates, a spirited debate ensued following a parliamentary maneuver intended to block
consideration of the measure. A group of influential clergy and lay leaders, led by the
Rev. Creede Hinshaw of Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon, introduced a
substitute resolution which criticized the Confessing Movement.
However, Hinshaw and other supporters of the substitute failed to articulate a
convincing argument for their motion. Despite backing by four district superintendents,
the present and immediate past chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry, the
conference secretary, the present and former conference lay leader, the chairperson of the
board of higher education, the director of the Conference Council on Ministries, the dean
of the Comprehensive School, and the pastors of several large membership churches, the
substitute resolution was resoundingly defeated. A thunderous ovation rang out through the
auditorium after Bishop Richard Looney announced the results of the vote.
After defeating the substitute, the delegates voted to approve the original resolution
without further debate. Another ovation followed.
It was a victory for Jesus Christ and the Gospel; a triumph of clarity over
indecisiveness. It was also a clear indication that a significant number of persons
currently entrusted with some of the most important leadership responsibilities in the
Annual Conference are tragically out of touch with their conference constituency.
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: The preceding is by no means an objective news account. I have been
intimately involved in the effort to make South Georgia a Confessing Annual Conference.
These are my personal reflections.]
For those with spiritual discernment, one could not help but be moved to joyful tears,
as our Bishop Looney was, to see the love of Jesus Christ expressed by some members of
both sides of this emotional issue. It could be discerned in the way the Bishop
presided over the Annual Conference, the sight of leaders of both petitions in friendly
conversation before and after the vote, and the sight of even a few of the opposing
signers embracing in Christian love on the floor of Annual Conference during the debate.
Please, let us continue to be in continuous prayer for those who feel victory in
themselves, personal defeat, or exclusion.
Many lay people and clergy were heard saying, "This year, we can go back to our
congregations with our heads up, because something good has happened at Annual
Conference...we took a stand for Christ."
I heard one argument that stated, "God was greater than the Bible, our Welseyan
Christian tradition, and the Book of Discipline," and I agree; but, He has never
revealed Himself to those who supported the motion to become a Confessing Annual
Conference as anyone less. That is why we took a stand for Jesus Christ as Son of
God, Savior, and Lord at the 1998 South Georgia Annual Conference.
God bless you all in Christ, John Warrener, pastor,
South Georgia Coordinator, The
Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church