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Bishop Mike Watson, episcopal leader of the United Methodism’s largest U.S. Conference, is interviewed in the premiere issue (PDF) of the North Georgia Advocate, now the official newspaper of the North Georgia Conference. (The North Georgia Advocate is the successor to the recently discontinued Wesleyan Christian Advocate.)

Bishop Watson was assigned to North Georgia last summer after serving eight years as the leader of the South Georgia Conference.

Interview excerpts:

Advocate: What is the biggest challenge facing [the North Georgia] Conference?

north-ga-advocate-june5-09-imageBishop Watson: There are several major challenges. Among them is the constant need to reach new people with the Good News of Jesus Christ across all racial, ethnic, cultural, economic, and generational lines….

While we rejoice that the United Methodist Church is growing in North Georgia [quadrennial report, May 2008—PDF], we are not keeping up with the population growth.

We especially need to reach the younger and more diverse culture around us.

Another challenge is one of financial stewardship. Even during difficult economic times, can we even imagine what resources for ministry would be available if United Methodist people tithed?

Fundamentally, we do not have a financial problem, we have a financial stewardship problem. Until we faithfully commit our pocketbooks, we will not be able to do all that God has for us to do in North Georgia….

Advocate: Excluding your time as Bishop, what do you consider your most blessed time in ministry?

Bishop Mike Watson

Bishop Mike Watson

Bishop Watson: God has blessed my life in too many ways to count throughout my 37 years in ministry; however, serving as the founding pastor of a new congregation for 11 years certainly was a rich blessing.

We began with no conference money, no building, no land, and no members. [My wife] Margaret was the first one to join!

Being part of an experience in new church development that has resulted in Covenant United Methodist Church (Dothan, Ala.) becoming one of the strongest congregations in the Alabama-West Florida Conference was pure joy.

Advocate: Other than the Bible, what book has most affected your thinking?

Bishop Watson: The Bible definitely is the book that has affected my thinking the most. I have a daily Bible reading plan that enables me to read the Bible through each year.

I have also been greatly influenced by John Wesley’s sermons and Journal, by Henri Nouwen’s The Living Reminder and The Wounded Healer, and by Eugene H. Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity.

I love to read and I read so much that it is difficult to say what one book other than the Bible has affected me the most.

Advocate: How do you make time in your schedule for prayer and Bible study?

Bishop Watson: I have made a personal commitment to an hour of quiet time each day, usually in the morning, for prayer, Bible and devotional reading. I also try to do an hour of physical exercise each day. The North Georgia Committee on Episcopacy holds me accountable for these two commitments to spiritual and physical care.

The North Georgia Advocate will feature more conversations with Bishop Mike Watson in future issues, using questions submitted by readers.

Next week, Bishop Watson will preside for the first time at a session of the North Georgia Annual Conference.

During a “Bishop’s Forum” at the Georgia Pastors’ School in 2004, Bishop Watson briefly discussed his approach to presiding at annual conference sessions, especially during times when delegates are called on to vote on various issues. (Next week, North Georgia delegates will vote on 32 proposed amendments to the United Methodist Constitution).

Use the audio player below to listen to his remarks (1 min.).


Related posts
Bishop Mike Watson’s 2008 Installation sermon
MethodistThinker Podcast: Bishop Mike Watson — ‘We Wish to See Jesus’
Bishop Mike Watson: Spiritual disciplines for the New Year
An Advent sermon from Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Mike Watson on ‘prevenient grace’
Bishop Mike Watson on ‘justifying grace’
Bishop Mike Watson: ‘The Methodist Christian Way’

Related information
Biography of Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Michael Watson ready for next step after eight years leading South Georgia | Allison Kennedy, The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer (June 14, 2008)

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thinker-twitterIn the right column of this page, just below the list of Today’s Most-Viewed Posts, you will now see a box labeled ThinkerTwitter.

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Leaders from two Annual Conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction — the North Georgia Conference and the Holston Conference (covering parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia) — are urging defeat of proposed constitutional amendments that would restructure the denomination.

North Ga. Flier

Flier produced by North Ga. group

In North Georgia, a self-described “ad hoc group of very concerned United Methodist[s]” — which includes nearly 80 percent of North Georgia’s 2008 General Conference delegation — is distributing a flier (PDF) that expresses concern that five amendments related to the “worldwide nature of the church” (amendments IV, X, XIII, XXIII, and XXVI) would “fundamentally harm our classic connectional polity.”

The five amendments would allow for the creation of a series of regional conferences across the denomination, likely resulting in a greater degree of structural segregation between United Methodists in the U.S. and United Methodists in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The North Georgia flier is being distributed at district-sponsored pre-conference briefings held in advance of the June 16-18 annual conference session, although not as part of the official Conference literature.

In the Holston Conference, that area’s entire 2008 General Conference delegation has issued a three-page position paper (PDF) recommending “that [Holston] Annual Conference delegates vote ‘no’ on all [23] amendments related to the worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church.” These include the five amendments mentioned above, as well as 18 other amendments that would rename overseas conferences, changing their designation from “central conferences” to “regional conferences.”

The restructuring and renaming amendments, proposed by the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church (Task Force report—PDF), were approved by last year’s General Conference.

Holston’s General Conference delegation is urging that the current restructuring proposals, as well as other restructuring suggestions that are being studied, be vetted and debated more thoroughly “[b]efore we vote to change the constitution of the church.”

In addition to urging defeat of the 23 restructuring/renaming amendments, the position paper from the Holston delegation offers guidance on the other nine amendments to be voted on at Holston’s annual conference session, which will be held June 14-17.

Joe Whittemore

Joe Whittemore

Members of North Georgia’s General Conference delegation have been granted time to speak about the 32 proposed amendments (PDF) during the series of 12 pre-conference briefings (schedule) leading up to North Georgia’s annual conference session.

Use the audio player below to listen to a clear and concise explanation of all 32 amendments by former North Georgia Conference Lay Leader Joe Whittemore, recorded earlier this week at a pre-conference briefing held in Athens, Georgia (sponsored by the Athens-Elberton District).

His presentation is 22 minutes. The green-colored sample ballot Mr. Whittemore mentions is here (PDF).

(If you prefer, download an mp3 of Mr. Whittemore’s presentation — 5.2 MB.)

In addition to explaining the various amendments, representatives of North Georgia’s 2008 General Conference delegation are using their pre-conference briefing presentations to announce the results of a delegation straw poll in which North Georgia’s GC delegates voted informally on the various amendments.

Among the results of that poll: the North Georgia delegation was unanimous in its opposition to Amendments IV, X, XII, XXIII, XXVI — the five amendments that would allow for the creation of regional conferences; 95% of the delegates opposed the name changes from “central conferences” to “regional conferences”; and 65% opposed Amendment I, which would change language related to inclusiveness in membership.

The North Georgia Conference, with approximately 345,000 members, is the largest UM Annual Conference in the United States.

All 135 UM Conferences (62 Annual Conferences in the U.S. and 73 Conferences in Africa, Asia, and Europe) are voting on the 32 proposed constitutional amendments, including the nearly two dozen relating to the structure of the denomination.

More than 30 conferences have already completed their voting. The rest will be voting over the next several months (schedule of annual conference sessions—PDF).

amendments-clipAlthough some conferences are announcing their voting results immediately (see here and here), the final tally will not be released until late this year or possibly early next year.

To be enacted, an amendment to the UM Constitution must be ratified by two-thirds of the aggregate “voting members” from all the Conferences. (Provisional deacons and elders, “local pastors,” and associate and affiliate clergy members are not eligible to vote — ¶602.1 of the Book of Discipline).

Members may debate a proposed amendment, but cannot alter it.


Related posts
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
African UM leader on amendments: ‘We should have been consulted’
Proposed amendments would separate UMC into ‘national entities’
John Ed Mathison: Seven concerns about the UMC
Bill Bouknight: The bad news from General Conference ‘08

Related articles and information
Full text of all 32 amendments (PDF)
Voter guide from Concerned Methodists (PDF)
Worldwide decision: United Methodists to vote on amending constitution | Bill Fentum, UM Reporter (April 10, 2009)
Which way to a Worldwide Church? (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 31, 2009)
Amending away our global church? | Riley Case, Good News (March/April 2009)
Constitutional Amendments | John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries blog (May 21, 2009)
A rationale to oppose proposed constitutional changes | Tim McClendon, Columbia District Superintendent, South Carolina Conference
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
Conferences to consider church structure | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 10, 2009)
Constitutional Amendments 2009 | William J. Abraham, Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University)
Transcript of the brief General Conference debate on Amendment I (PDF—see pages 2705-2707)
Amendment I (without the baggage) (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 18, 2009)
Inclusiveness and membership decline (on the possible implications of Amendment I) | Riley Case (March 23, 2009)
Coming soon to your Annual Conference (article on Amendment I) (PDF) | The Kindred Connection (Winter 2009) (This is a publication of an arm of the Reconciling Ministries Network — “We envision a United Methodist Church which…accords all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, full participation in the life of the church.”)

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