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Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

The Rev. Larry Hollon speaks during the 2012 gathering of the United Methodist Association of Communicators held in Arlington, Va.

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Church’s top communications exec to retire next year

United Methodist News Service
Aug. 25, 2014 | NASHVILLE, Tenn.

The Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications for more than 14 years, announced Aug. 25 that he plans to retire in about 10 months.

He is departing in keeping with the requirements of the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book. In Paragraph 715.3, the book requires elected staff of general agencies to retire by age 70. Hollon told his staff Aug. 25 that he would soon reach that milestone.

“Leading The United Methodist Church into the digital age has been a meaningful and rewarding experience,” Hollon said in a statement. “For me, communications is ministry. It provides a variety of methods for us to deliver messages of healing and hope and invite people into relationship with a faith community. I’m very proud of the many ways in which the work we do at United Methodist Communications is making a difference in people’s lives."

United Methodist Communications is the agency charged with sharing the denomination’s message around the globe. During his tenure, Hollon has led the agency in raising awareness and funds for the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria initiative and in entering the new field of information and communications technology for development, which aims to use technology for social good.

He also helped launch the denomination-wide Igniting Ministry public media and welcoming campaign, which popularized the United Methodist brand as one of “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” The campaign was succeeded by Rethink Church, which embraces advertising and media messaging, training and supporting local congregations in becoming engaged in their communities.

He has been instrumental in building support for the denomination’s priorities, such as the Four Areas of Focus, and leading the church into digital communications on a wide range of fronts, from storytelling to online giving.

He is also the publisher of United Methodist News Service.

“The United Methodist Church has experienced tremendous transformation in the area of communications under Rev. Hollon’s leadership,” said Bishop Sally Dyck, president of the General Commission on Communication, which oversees the agency. “We’ve made significant advancements in connecting the denomination around the world. We’ve raised awareness of the church through advertising campaigns inviting and welcoming seekers into our churches and we’ve taken that message out into communities. We’ve created a voice for the church in the world.”

At his retirement announcement, Hollon praised his staff for helping the church see United Methodist Communications not as a U.S. agency but as a global agency. He told the staff members that they have moved United Methodist Communications from being seen as a technical-support agency to contributing to how the church communicates in the world.

At the commission’s September meeting, the body will form a search committee to lead the search process for a successor, led by Dyck and the Rev. Greg Cox, chair of the personnel committee and director of connectional ministries in the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference. A search firm will also be sought, Dyck said.

“The Rev. Hollon will remain in his current position until a new chief executive is appointed and oriented next summer,” Cox said. “We expect that he will continue to be a powerful advocate for the value of communications to the denomination.”

Hollon came to the agency with a deep experience in both the church and the field of communications.

After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma and United Methodist-related Saint Paul School of Theology, Hollon became an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church and an award-winning producer focused on telling the stories of people affected by poverty. He has traveled to more than 50 countries to collaborate on hundreds of projects. A former television news and commercial radio talk show host, he has written for numerous publications and is the author of “We Must Speak:  Rethinking How We Communicate Faith in the 21st Century.”

He had served on the agency’s governing commission prior to becoming general secretary on June 1, 2000.

Hollon was chosen by the Nashville Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America as the winner of the 2008 Apollo Award, and was named the 2011 Communicator of the Year by the United Methodist Association of Communicators.

He told staff he has no plans to slow down during the transition. He plans to propose pilot projects that will support values formation and education for children and young families in the United States, the Philippines and Africa.

 “I will retire, but I won’t stop working,” he said.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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