June 9-12, in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
The Holston Annual Conference gathered June 9-12 in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, under the leadership of Bishop Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor and the theme, “Healing Hands.”
Representing 872 congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia, the 1,953 voting members made Holston Conference history by electing a young adult as delegation leader: Emily Ballard, age 24.
The Annual Conference took an offering of $129,733 to fight opioid addiction and $61,990 to support children’s ministry.
Congregations collected three truckloads of food, clothing, medical and school supplies for missions in Zimbabwe and Liberia, valued at $220,131.
By a vote of 573 to 301, members adopted a resolution entitled, “Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together.”
Holston Conference leaders celebrated the election of a significantly younger delegation. Two delegates under age 35 were elected to attend General Conference, including Ballard and a deacon, the Rev. Mary Thompson.
In all, eight out of 26 total delegates are 35 and under, including two youth members. A total 15 out of 26 delegates are 40 and under. The average delegate age is 44. (Ages for 35-and-under delegates are listed below.)
In the month prior to the election, more than 70 leaders of ministries related to youth and young adults signed a statement asking voting members to select “younger voices."
Additionally, efforts for inclusion resulted in the election of two African Americans: the Rev. Sharon Bowers and Donna Mosby.
GENERAL CONFERENCE DELEGATES - lay: Emily Ballard, age 24 (leader); Del Holley; Anne Travis; John Eldridge; Donna Mosby; Becky Hall; Amanda Onks (alternate); Charles McEntyre (alternate)
GENERAL CONFERENCE DELEGATES - clergy: Kim Goddard; Wil Cantrell; Paul Seay; Mary Thompson, age 32; Randy Frye; Sharon Bowers; Lauri Jo Cranford (alternate); Josh Kilbourne (alternate)
JURISDICTIONAL DELEGATES - lay: Amanda Onks; Charles McEntyre; Reagan Kelly, age 17; Jim Gass; Nate Roark, age 16; Leamon Burl Lawson; Sam England, age 23 (alternate); Dawson Kitts, age 19 (alternate)
JURISDICTIONAL DELEGATES - clergy: Lauri Jo Cranford; Josh Kilbourne; David Graybeal; Kristen Burkhart; Sarah Varnell; Mark Flynn; Amy Aycock Sumrall, age 30 (alternate); Caleb Frazier, age 34 (alternate)
The resolution, “Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together,” was originally submitted by Stephanie Strutner and signed by 150. The Strutner resolution called for the Holston Annual Conference to disagree with the Traditional Plan adopted by General Conference 2019 and to apologize “for the harm it has caused the body of Christ.”
The conference voted to consider a substitute resolution offered by the Rev. Andy Ferguson. The Ferguson resolution acknowledged the “body as a whole has suffered” since General Conference and called for Holston United Methodists to “join hands as one.” The Ferguson resolution was referred to the Committee on Petitions and Resolutions, which unanimously recommended it to the full body.
An amendment proposed by Carolyn Allen changed a word in the last sentence of the Ferguson resolution from “apologize” to “grieve.” The conference voted to approve the amendment and subsequently adopted the Ferguson resolution.
Adopted: Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together
WHEREAS, the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, convened in February 2019 adopted the Traditional Plan as its way forward,
WHEREAS, United Methodists of Holston Annual Conference remain divided in our response to the General Conference decision, and thus the Body of Christ as a whole has suffered;
WHEREAS, LGBTQAI+ persons have often been excluded from full inclusion and welcome in our churches and our ministries;
THEREFORE, we the members of Holston Conference commit ourselves to the world-wide United Methodist Church, all its peoples and all its ministries.
THEREFORE, we commit ourselves to welcome and affirm LGBTQAI+ persons in the churches of Holston, knowing them as persons of God’s sacred worth.
THEREFORE, Be it Resolved that as the Holston Annual Conference we commit ourselves to join hands as one, united through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness as we work together toward God’s hope for the people of Holston and grieve for the harm caused to the body of Christ and its witness in the world.
IN OTHER ACTIONS
Adopted the resolution, “Every Barrier Down: Toward Full Embrace of All Women in Church and Society,” based on Social Principle #163, amended and readopted by General Conference 2016.
Adopted the resolution, “Black Methodist for Church Renewal,” establishing procedures for “inclusion of at least one person of color” on all conference and leadership groups.
Learned about opioid addiction from experts Tim Hilton and Stephanie Strutner, in preparation for best use of the missions offering.
Welcomed guest speakers: Nancy Chinzvede, director of Ishe Anesu in Zimbabwe, and George Howard, executive director of global coaching and strategic initiatives, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Joined in reading and praying over an opening night “personal covenant” to work and worship together amidst disagreement, proposed by the Rev. Kim Goddard, leader of Holston’s 2019 delegation.
Received messages from Bishop Taylor, acknowledging disagreement and calling for unity. “We gather more aware of the differences than ever before,” she said. “God does not love us ‘if.’ God loves us, period, and God invites us to embrace that same love for all his children.”
Worshipped with Bishop Richard Looney, retired United Methodist bishop and Holston native, who preached during the ordination service. “You’re called to pastor some real traditionalists. You’re called to pastor some real progressives,” he said. “You are not sent there to stroke your caucus. You are sent there to love them all.”
Received the Lay Leader’s Report from Del Holley, who said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.”
Memorialized 55 clergy and spouses who died with the past year in worship led by the Rev. Catherine Nance, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, Maryville, Tennessee.
Presented the Francis Asbury Award for higher education to the Rev. John Ousley, retiring director of the Wesley Foundation at East Tennessee State University.
Presented the Denman Evangelism Award to the Rev. Robin Kyek (clergy) of Andersonville/ Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, Tennessee Valley District; Dennis Ashley (lay) of Trinity-Big Stone Gap United Methodist Church, Appalachian District; and Nate Roark (youth), Hunt Memorial United Methodist Church, Clinch Mountain District.
Celebrated the life of Hiwassee College with a tribute from the Rev. Betty Furches, former chaplain. Hiwassee closed on May 10 after 170 years.
Observed a moment of silence for Hiwassee with the presidents of Emory & Henry College and Tennessee Wesleyan University. “We are losing Methodist colleges much too often,” said E&H’s Jake Schrum, joined by TWU’s Harley Knowles. “We’re losing them because they’re closing, and we’re losing them because they don’t agree with The United Methodist Church.”
Approved resolutions for closing eight churches: Boone’s Creek, Johnson City, Tenn.; Browder, Sweetwater, Tenn.; Hendron’s Chapel, Knoxville, Tenn.; Mayberry Community, Telford, Tenn.; McCarty, Telford, Tenn.; Meadowview, Rogersville, Tenn.; Mt. Olivet, Glade Springs, Va.; and Union, Saltville, Va.
Received a report from the sexual ethics and boundaries task force. Mandatory workshops were organized for all clergy this past spring. The conference policies on sexual ethics and boundaries, last revised in 1998, were updated.
Approved a $9.1 million budget for 2020, including an annual salary of $106,280 for district superintendents.
Approved a 2 percent increase in minimum salaries for clergy for 2020 – ranging from $32,095 for those “beginning studies” to $43,496 for “full member (M.Div.) or equivalent degree.”
Received a report from camping and retreat ministries. In 2018, Holston’s five camps hosted 3,280 campers. Of those, 660 made first-time faith commitments and 800 rededicated their lives to Christ.
Received a report from the strategy team. Missional hubs training was successful in February 2019 and a new Holston website is in development.
Recognized Bishop Dindy Taylor’s leadership as Holston's first female bishop. The Commission on the Status and Role of Women also recognized the Rev. Brenda Carroll and the Rev. Sandra Johnson, retiring July 1 after years of leadership on the cabinet and in local churches.
Greeted missionaries from Willow, Alaska. The Rev. Joe-d DowlingSoka and the Rev. Christina DowlingSoka, members of Holston, said Willow United Methodist Church serves 15 percent of the population (2,000 people within 600 square miles), many who are impoverished.
Recognized 33 retiring clergy. The Rev. Brenda Carroll ceremoniously “passed the mantle” to the Rev. Clayton Farmer, ordinand.
Ordained five persons as elders: Susan Nicole Arnold, Rachel Witt Carosiello, Clayton Ray Farmer, Gary Richard Ihfe, and James Christopher Ray.
Commissioned eight persons as provisional elders: Bradley Steven Brown, Timothy Duane Hale, April Beth Hall, Stephen Harris Hopkins, Andrew Curtis Lay, David William Payne, Samuel Adam Reese, and Alexander Phillip Thompson.
Recognized one person as associate member: Rochelle Dobbins Maxwell.
Licensed eight persons as local pastors: Rachel Lee Collins, Brenda Bell McAdams, Thomas Mott, Valerie Ohle, Walter Lambuth Pierce Jr., Adam M. Reuss, Jennifer Marjorie Spieth, and Jarrod Daniel Suits.
Membership stands at 158,861, down 1,702 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 56,617, down 2,740. Church school attendance stands at 29,190, up 2,368. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018: 1,456, down from 2017 by 149. Adults and young adults in small groups for 2018: 35,247, up from 2017 by 85. Worshippers engaged in mission for 2018: 34,253, up from 2017 by 2,427.
The 2020 session of Holston Annual Conference will be held June 7-10 in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
-- Annette Spence, editor, The Call