This letter was emailed to all SFUMC members with an email address in the church database on July 10, 2024. Additionally, this letter was mailed on July 10, 2024 to all SFUMC members with a mailing address in the church database.

201 North Main Street P.O. Box 258  Sylvania, Georgia 30467  (912) 564-2747

July 10, 2024

Dear Sylvania First UMC Member:

We are sending you important information you need to know about the called Church Conference vote on departure:

Called Church Conference and Vote

Monday, July 22, 2024

6:30 pm in the SFUMC Sanctuary


You must be in the sanctuary by 6:30 to vote.

Please plan to arrive at least twenty minutes early to complete the check-in process.

Please bring a form of identification such as a driver’s license or student ID.

Childcare will be provided.

Only professing members are allowed to vote.

Please read through the following letter so you will be prepared when you come to vote on Sylvania First United Methodist Church’s departure on July 22.


What will the ballot look like?

The ballot was prepared by the South Georgia UMC Conference, not Sylvania First United Methodist Church. The ballot reads as follows:

Shall Sylvania First United Methodist Church (1) depart from The United Methodist Church for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of The Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals or the actions or inactions of the Annual Conference related to these issues; (2) close the church and transfer title to all its real and personal, tangible and intangible property to the Annual Conference Board of Trustees (the “Trustees”) in accordance with paragraph 2549.3(a) of The Discipline; and (3) enter into an agreement with the Trustees for the purchase and sale of the real and personal property of Sylvania First United Methodist Church to a new church to be formed by the members of Sylvania First United Methodist Church at the price and on the terms set out in the Trustees’ Policy adopted on February 22, 2022.

_____ Yes                     _____ No


This ballot does not address the actions or inactions of the Annual Conference related to these theological issues or other concerns with The United Methodist Church voiced by our congregation and discussed at our informal meeting with District Superintendent Scott Hagan; however, by voting “yes” on this ballot, you are also voting to depart on the larger theological issues.

Because of the lengthy text of the ballot, we want to clarify the two positions you can take by voting on Monday, July 22.


  • A vote YES is a vote to depart from the United Methodist Church.

  • A vote NO is a vote to remain in the United Methodist Church.

Please be prepared to vote YES or NO.


Is it important that I show up to vote?

YES! If you are a professing member of Sylvania First United Methodist church, it is very important that you show up to vote! This is a historic moment in the life of our church. Please arrive early and be prepared to vote YES or NO.



Who is a professing member?

A professing member is someone who has taken the membership vows by the pastor of this church to be loyal to this church by your presence, prayers, gifts, service, and witness. This is preferably done at a worship service. You must also have been baptized in this church or another denomination. Young persons who have completed the confirmation process including baptism are also considered professing members. If you have questions regarding your status as a professing member of this church, please contact Pastor Dorsia Atkinson or Ashley Durrence.


Do I have to be present to vote?

A professing member must be present to vote. There is no absentee, early, or proxy voting. If a member is unable to get into the sanctuary due to mobility limitations or other health concerns, the Elder overseeing the vote and a church appointee will carry a ballot to the individual’s car so that they may cast their vote while everyone else is voting inside. We will have reserved parking for these members in the side parking lot between the church and the funeral home. In order to have sufficient reserved parking, please contact Pastor Dorsia Atkinson or Ashley Durrence if you would like the church to make this accommodation for you.


How much will it cost the church to leave?

The current estimate that we have from our Annual Conference is approximately $85,000 to depart. This amount represents annual apportionments due through 2025, pension liability, and various legal fees. This amount does not include potential pastor payment costs if the pastor remains a United Methodist pastor and the church chooses to depart. The final amount will be confirmed prior to the special-called Annual Conference on August 17, 2024.


If the vote is to depart, when will the departure be official?

If the vote is to depart, the departure will be official no later than September 30, 2024, depending on when Sylvania First United Methodist Church satisfies the financial obligations under the departure agreement.


If you have any questions, please contact Pastor Dorsia Atkinson, Ashley Durrence, a member of the Departure Steering Committee, or Chuck Weiss.

Dorsia Atkinson, Pastor
[email protected] or (912) 690-0451

Ashley Durrence, Director of Communications and Administrative Ministries
[email protected]

Chuck Weiss, Church Council Chairperson
[email protected] or (912) 481-8975


Departure Steering Committee


Cleve Freeman, Lay Leader
[email protected] or (912) 687-4970

Sam Thompson, Treasurer
[email protected] or (912) 536-6389

Robert Thompson, Trustees Chairperson
[email protected] or (912) 978-0137

Calvin Scott, Trustees Member
[email protected] or (912) 682-2097

Pat Lane, SPPR Chairperson
[email protected] or (912) 425-9310

Jessica Waters, Finance Committee Member
[email protected] or (478) 494-4238


Please be in prayer for God’s wisdom and discernment as you consider the information provided to you as well as your decision as a member of Sylvania First United Methodist Church.



Chuck Weiss
Church Council Chairperson