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2010 Holston Annual Conference

Holston Annual Conference
June 13-16, 2010, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

The Holston Annual Conference followed up on bold decisions and giving of recent years by approving a tithe-based apportionment and collecting $154,625 in an offering for south Sudan. They also raised $61,933 for children's ministry in Holston and in Africa and sent food, health, and school supplies to Liberia and Zimbabwe valued at $232,221.

Led by Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., leaders of 902 churches in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia met for the third year under the "Offer Them Christ" theme. Also for the third consecutive year, Holston rallied for its covenant partnership with the East Africa Conference, announcing commitments of two new missionaries and construction of wells, classrooms, and a guest house in Yei, Sudan. Several Sudan projects were not funded by the $627,000 collected in past offerings, but by individuals, churches, golf tournaments, auctions, and other fundraisers, Holston leaders noted.

"God is calling our church to do miracles," Swanson told members. "South Sudan is nothing but a series of miracles going on."

After two years of receiving a historically low 85 percent in apportionment payments, Holston voted with a strong majority to discard the existing apportionment formula, instead giving 10 percent of all undesignated local church income to support the conference budget. The tithe-based apportionment will become effective in 2011, at the same time "direct invoicing" will be implemented. In 2009, Holston voted to remove pensions and health insurance from the apportionment formula, instead allowing local churches to pay directly for those staffing costs.

The Annual Conference schedule was structured around the denomination's Four Areas of Ministry Focus, with speakers addressing "Developing Principled Christian Leaders," "Creating New Places for New People and Revitalizing Existing Congregations," "Engaging in Ministry with the Poor," and "Improving Health Globally."

Speakers included: the Rev. Charles Kyker, senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Hickory, N.C.; the Rev. Charles Edgar, senior pastor at the United Methodist Church for All People in Columbus, Ohio; Cal Turner, retired chief executive of Dollar General Corp.; the Rev. Candace Lewis, new church strategist for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship; and Kelly Piepenbrink, health and wellness program manager for the United Methodist Board of Pensions and Health Benefits.

Holston rejoiced in the return of the Rev. Boo Hankins and the Rev. Phyllis Hankins after their first year serving as mission leaders in south Sudan. The clergy couple will return to Africa for a second year in late June. Steve and Diantha Hodges announced their August departure for south Sudan. After 21 years of founding and leading the multi-mission Jubilee Project in rural Sneedville, Tenn., the couple will begin new ministries in economic sustainability and rural health in Sudan. Jubilee Project will go on with new leaders, Steve Hodges said.

A 2011 budget of $10.8 million was approved, with a resolve to pay 100 percent of general church and jurisdictional apportionments and implementation of a special offering to support ministerial education.

Holston celebrated the start of two new churches, with three more in progress, as part of an overall goal to begin 15 congregations between 2009 and 2013. The Congregational Development Team announced a campaign to get 1,000 people to donate $100 each to finance the effort. More than 1,150 baptisms were celebrated in response to the 50 Golden Days of Evangelism campaign, which concluded on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

Twenty-five clergy and 28 clergy spouses were memorialized in a special worship service. Twenty retirees were recognized. A service of ordination and commissioning included 19 ordinands: 15 elders and four deacons. Sixteen provisional elders were commissioned.

The Francis Asbury Award for higher education was presented to the Rev. Jerry Everley, retiring director of the Wesley Foundation at East Tennessee State University. Everley led several students to full-time ministry, including five now under appointment, two camp directors, three youth directors, and two United Methodist Board of Global Ministries staff members.

Membership stands at 166,625, down 180 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 70,200, down 1,477. Church school attendance stands at 36,988, down 1,046.

-Annette Spence