Recently Read: North Georgia Conference to Close Simpsonwood

simpsonwood1The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church in its Annual Conference meeting on Wednesday voted to close their Simpsonwood Retreat Center. The decision was ultimately made due to increasing financial losses.

With a net operating loss of $156,784 in 2012, $141,254 in 2013 and $145,701 through April 30 of this year were too much to keep the property open, said Keith Cox, treasurer for the organization, before a gathering of 2,000 members at the Classic Center in Athens. In May, the property lost $33,000, and Cox added that, “Our cash situation has gotten much tighter in the last two weeks,” as operating costs are forecasted to be much more difficult in the next two months.

“It’s a very very delicate subject for all of us because of the love we have for this property,” Bishop Michael Watson said at the organization’s annual conference.

Last year, a judge ruled that the North Georgia Conference could market and sell the property 40 years after it was deeded as a gift by Ludie Simpson. Neighbors tried to step in, but in April, Magistrate Judge Mark Lewis ruled that neighbors had no standing in the private property case.

The conference’s attorney, Matt Reeves, has said the conference is in discussions to sell the property to Gwinnett County as a park.

Read More at Gwinnett Daily Post

The land used for Simpsonwood Retreat Center, located next to the Chatahoochee River, is named after “Miss Ludie” Simpson’s family farm was located whom gave the land to the United Methodist Church in the 1970’s. The retreat center opened its doors on June, 1985. The land is 227 acres of woodlands with facilities that can house groups of all sizes, up to approximately 700. Hiking trails, a labyrinth, swimming pool, athletic courts and field, ropes course, and a chapel are elements included in the Simpsonwood Retreat Center property.

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Jim LewisJack ShitamaBill SalokarKeith CoxKevin Witt Recent comment authors
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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis

It would be nice to see the Church sell the property for $1 to another organization that was willing to keep the wishes of Miss Ludie as the United Methodist Church had agreed to. A judge has ruled that is it legal for the Church to no longer abide by the their original agreement. Obviously there are some moral issues here that the church seems to be ignoring.

Bill Salokar

While I’m sure many have tried to make the Center successful, it’s quite surprising how little awareness there has been for the Center and how it’s been under-used. As a neighbor for over 20 years, it seems that the Center sits vacant most weekends, yet church groups routinely have retreats and ours, in nearby Alpharetta, had mostly no knowledge of it as a possible location for our annual women’s retreat.

I now hope that the UMC helps guide the property into a use that’s beneficial to the community and honors the wishes of Mrs. Simpson.

Kevin Witt
Kevin Witt

I want to celebrate the ministry of Simpsonwood and all the faithful leaders who have given their time, their resources and their leadership to change lives and make a difference through their involvement there. It is always difficult to make these decisions related to ministries cherished by many who have had significant Christian faith milestones and tremendous growth as disciples and spiritual leaders in these sacred settings. The decision to close a center is never made lightly. Usually there are multiple factors at play contributing to the situation and answers are not as simple and easy as they may appear.… Read more »

Ben Cathey

What a wonderful development that will hopefully give the conference more money to do ministry. The costs of keeping it have been very high. It simply has not worked as a retreat center for businesses or churches. Bad stewardship to keep it even though I admire the efforts of the management team that had tried to make the best out of an un-winnable situation.

Jason Sansbury (@jasonsansbury)

I could tell you this was coming a decade ago when I booked a middle school retreat there and the reservation was canceled when they figured out it was a youth group activity. If our facilities can’t be used by everyone, they are doomed to fail.

bill krill
bill krill

How incredibly sad, and how incredibly unwise. So many church camps are not administered properly, and those accountable either have no clue or are too stubborn to hand over the management to trained professionals skilled in running such a facility instead of keeping it in the hands of clergy. In my neck of the woods, the UMC church camp is not even wise enough to utilize their camp year round, advertise, make attraction improvements, or pay competent summer camp counselors that could fill their camp to the brim. Instead, the camp remains overpriced, stingy, snooty, and….empty. It will be sad… Read more »

Keith Cox
Keith Cox

To clarify, Simpsonwood is not a camp. It is a hotel-like conference and retreat center. Many fine, dedicated and intelligent people have worked extremely hard over many years to attempt to achieve financial stability for Simpsonwood. In 2007, the Conference contracted with a successful hospitality management company to operate Simsponwood. While that company has done an excellent job, financial stability has not been achieved and the Conference has voted to attempt to sell Simpsonwood so that funds currently used to subsidize its operation can be used for direct mission and ministry initiatives. I hope this will clear up any misconceptions… Read more »

Jack Shitama

bill krill: I don’t think anyone will argue that some of our United Methodist camp/retreats have not responded to the changing needs of our society. However, the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries Association (UMCRM) exists to ensure that our sites are doing everything possible to resource disciple-making churches, while achieving financial viability. Our mission statement is: Committed to the mission of The United Methodist Church, UMCRM resources, advocates, inspires, and networks to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of camp and retreat ministries. We do this by focusing on theological strength, utilization of best practices and sound financial management. We… Read more »

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