Florence Center officials notified the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church this week that the facility cannot host the 2020 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference as planned on August 1, due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

That has prompted Bishop L. Jonathan Holston to postpone the one-day meeting, which originally had been scheduled in June. A new date for the annual gathering of clergy and lay members representing 975 local United Methodist churches will be announced once state health officials advise it is safe to gather in large groups again.

“We know this is disappointing news,” Bishop Holston said, “but we must continue to make the health and safety of our delegates, staff and volunteers our first concern.”

South Carolina has logged record numbers of COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, with a daily average over the past 10 days of more than 1,500 newly reported cases and a daily average of more than 18 reported deaths.

“We will continue to closely monitor the guidance of state health officials in hopes that soon we will be able to gather safely,” Bishop Holston said. “We recognize that conditions are changing, and we will err on the side of safety.

“In the meantime, we know the laity and clergy of the South Carolina Conference will continue in this time of pandemic to find creative and connectional ways to meet emerging needs and sustain exceptional ministry beyond the bounds of expectations.”

Two Annual Conference events are still scheduled, with some adaptations:

  • Virtual Clergy Session (August 1 | 9 a.m.) – To ensure that all are prepared technologically, clergy are encouraged to participate in one of two virtual training sessions – scheduled for July 23 (10 a.m.) and July 24 (2 p.m.). Eligible clergy will be notified directly about details.
  • Service of Commissioning and Ordination (August 8 | 2 p.m.) – The service will take place at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Aiken. Attendance will be restricted to candidates for commissioning and ordination and a limited number of their guests. Candidates will be notified directly about details. Others can watch the live-stream, which will be available via a link at umcsc.org.

As of July 9, more than 50,500 COVID-19 cases and nearly 900 deaths had been reported in the state. By comparison, 475 people have died this year in South Carolina traffic accidents.

Delegates are encouraged to continue to prepare for the day when the 2020 Annual Conference will convene by going to umcsc.org/ac2020.