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2008 Holston Annual Conference

June 8-11, 2008, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

The 906 churches of the Holston Annual Conference raised $172,340 for its partnership mission in southern Sudan and $60,011 for children's ministry, for a total $232,351 in record-breaking offerings during the 2008 annual conference session.

The Sudan offering exceeded a $125,000 goal to build a school and clinic, while the "Change for the Children" offering was the conference's highest ever, topping the 2007 Change for Children offering by $10,000. In addition, the United Methodist churches of east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia sent 7,200 supply kits to Liberia and Zimbabwe, surpassing the 2007 total of 6,300.

The conference theme was "Offer Them Christ," and members were urged to return to their Wesleyan roots and preach the gospel to break a long cycle of declining membership. Each of the 1,107 clergy and 892 lay members received the book, Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, by United Methodist Bishop Rueben P. Job. Three worship services centered on the three rules, with sermons titled "Do No Harm" and "Do Good" presented by guest Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., resident bishop and presiding bishop, delivered the sending forth message, "Stay in Love With God."

Four resolutions were considered. Members quickly approved environment-related resolutions supporting local food self-sufficiency and energy audits for parsonages, new buildings and renovation projects. The body referred to the board of pension a resolution that would provide treatment for the obese through the conference health insurance plan. However, members rejected a resolution to study and talk about homosexuality through United Methodist materials developed for that purpose. After an emotional debate, the vote was 339 to 314.

The Dialogue Task Force gave its first report after a yearlong study, recommending a conference-wide event for church members to learn how to have dialogue about disagreements. Later, a report by the Rev. Randy Frye urged members to "work together in the United Methodist way" by practicing holy conferencing, learning to disagree in love, committing to true open itinerancy and staying focused on the mission.

In other actions, the conference:

  • Endorsed the Rev. Jerald Russell, senior pastor at Fairview United Methodist Church of Maryville, Tenn., as a candidate for bishop.
  • Approved a $15.9 million budget for 2009, reflecting a .77 percent increase over 2008.
  • Welcomed two Holston natives back to the Lake Junaluska stage: Bishop Richard Looney, preacher for the Retirement and Commissioning Service, and Evelyn Laycock, leader of the "Offer Them Christ" Bible studies.
  • Rejoiced in the music and dance of the Hope for Africa Children's Choir during the Sending Forth service.
  • Welcomed Bishop Daniel Wandabula, resident bishop of the East Africa Conference, who thanked Holston for its work in southern Sudan through a covenant agreement signed in February.
  • Presented Denman Evangelism Awards to the Rev. Steve Sallee, senior pastor, Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn.; Steve Diggs, executive director, Emerald Youth Foundation, Knoxville, Tenn.; and Hannah Williams, age 12, member of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Dandridge, Tenn.
  • Ordained 11 as elders in full connection and two deacons in associate membership; commissioned 16 as probationary elders and four as probationary deacons; and licensed two as associate members and 16 as local pastors.
  • Recognized 15 retirees.
  • Prayed for Jay Garrison, elected as first alternate to the denomination's Judicial Council during the 2008 General Conference.
  • Celebrated that Holston Conference youth rank first in the denomination for Youth Service Fund giving.
  • Celebrated that Maryville District, one of 12 districts in Holston, paid 100 percent of its 2007 Fair Share apportionment.
  • Learned that Cokesbury United Methodist Church will start a new church in west Knoxville this fall, on 22 acres purchased by Holston Conference and the Oak Ridge District for $1.55 million.
  • Gave a total $35,000 in Change for Children grants to 19 groups representing 10 districts, with an equal amount presented to children's ministries in Africa.
  • Recognized outgoing Conference Lay Leader Bob Lockaby, following eight years of service, and incoming Lay Leader Mary Ruth Richards.

Membership stands at 166,987, up 172 from the previous year. Average worship attendance stands at 71,886, down 1,226 from the previous year.

Annette Spence