2017 Holston Annual Conference
The Holston Annual Conference gathered June 11-14 with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Under the theme “Behold,” 1,946 members represented Holston’s 880 congregations in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia.
During its session, the body adopted a “Comprehensive Strategic Plan” that will resize Holston Conference from 12 to nine districts. The plan also mandates clergy support groups, establishes missional hubs, deploys conference staff, evaluates teams and committees, and updates communications.
An offering of $105,588 was received for Ishe Anesu Project in Zimbabwe, honoring the retirement of Maria and Bill Humbane, the mission’s founders. An offering of $57,558 was received for Change for Children, a fund that is split and distributed annually to aid children’s ministries in Africa and Holston communities.
The annual “Hands-on Mission Project” concluded as Bishop Taylor blessed three truckloads of supplies, valued at $211,112 and bound for Africa. Food, health, home and school supplies were collected by local churches to support children at Ishe Anesu in Zimbabwe and United Methodist schools in Liberia.
In other actions, the annual conference:
- Approved a 2018 budget of $9.07 million, reflecting a reduction from the approved 2017 budget of $9.7 million.
- Approved a resolution establishing a minimum of four weeks’ vacation for all clergy annually, with at least two weeks including a Sunday.
- Approved a resolution committing Holston Conference to work to eliminate racism and violence directed toward “newly arriving migrants from all parts of the world.”
- Approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on online communion.
- Adopted a motion requesting a written apology from Lake Junaluska leaders for “segregation and racist policies of the past to all who have suffered racial discrimination while attending events at Lake Junaluska.”
- Approved a plan to address the bullying and harassment of clergy by lay members.
- Approved a 2 percent increase to minimum salaries for clergy in full-time service. Minimum 2018 salaries range from $30,849 for full-time local pastors beginning studies to $41,808 for full members with an M.Div.
- Approved elimination of a Medicare stipend for retirees with fewer than 10 years of service, effective January 2018.
- Celebrated new ministries of the Revs. Joseph and Christina DowlingSoka, who will follow Deaconess Fran Lynch in the Alaska Conference after her retirement from the Willow Anvik Grayling Church and Community Ministry.
- Celebrated the ministry of Pastor John Redmond at the English-Speaking United Methodist Church of Prague in the Czech Republic.
- Celebrated the South Sudanese and Ugandan ministries of the Rev. Fred and Libby Dearing.
- Joined in thanksgiving for a partnership with Appalachian Service Project to build 25 new homes for survivors of the Sevier County wildfires.
- Presented the Denman Evangelism Award to Erin Elizabeth Bowman (youth), Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, Galax, Virginia; Pasty Dalton (lay), Kodak United Methodist Church, Kodak, Tennessee; and the Rev. Stephen DeFur (clergy), Cokesbury United Methodist Church, Knoxille, Tennessee.
- Presented the Francis Asbury Award for leaders in higher education to the late Bennett and Evelyn Horton, members of Church Street United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Approved resolutions for closing Boyd’s Chapel United Methodist Church, Bandy, Virginia; and Fairview United Methodist Church, Thorn Hill, Tennessee.
- Approved a resolution for abandonment of Bungalow United Methodist Church, Maryville, Tennessee.
- Approved three mergers: (1) between Slaughter’s Chapel and Randolph Avenue United Methodist churches, Wytheville District, to become Randolph Avenue United Methodist Church; (2) between Faith and Inskip, Knoxville District, to become Cedar Lane United Methodist Church; (3) between Keen Mountain and Garden United Methodist churches, Tazewell District, to become Garden United Methodist Church.
- Rejoiced in a concert presented by the music ministry of Central United Methodist Church of Atlanta, with selections from “Africana Live: Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice,” produced by Discipleship Ministries as part of The Africana Hymnal Project.
- Celebrated praise music from Lauren Talley, gospel singer and recording artist from Morristown, Tennessee.
- Worshipped with sermons by Bishop Taylor and the Rev. Randall Martin, outgoing senior pastor at Broad Street United Methodist Church, Cleveland, Tennessee, and incoming Chattanooga District superintendent.
- Worshipped with teaching by the Rev. Sam Roberts, retired Tennessee Wesleyan University professor of religion and philosophy.
- Welcomed participation of three bishops, in addition to Taylor, in the Service of Commissioning and Recognition: Bishop James Swanson of the Mississippi Conference, former resident bishop of Holston and father of provisional elder, the Rev. Josh Swanson; Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, a Holston native; and Bishop Richard Looney, retired bishop and Holston native.
- Voted on five constitutional amendments approved by General Conference 2016 (but did not disclose results).
Commissioned eight provisional elders and one provisional deacon; recognized four associate members; recognized 19 clergy retirees; and memorialized 80 deceased clergy and clergy spouses. (Due to the Board of Ordained Ministry’s 2015 change in the provisional period from two to three years, there were no ordinations this year.)
Membership stands at 162,288, down 1,063 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 61,839, down 2,412. Church school attendance stands at 27,125, down 1,369. Professions or reaffirmations of faith stand at 1,714, down 351. The total number of adults and young adults in small groups stands at 40,573, down 1,382. Total worshippers engaged in mission stands at 47,700, up 4,265.
— Annette Spence, Editor of “The Call”
What did your annual conference do to reinforce the Four Areas of Focus, and what commitments has the conference made for the coming year?
The Four Areas of Focus are a key organizational piece of the newly approved “Comprehensive Strategic Plan.” The goal of reorganization is to have congregations who are stronger in their ministries so the conference in turn can be stronger in their participation in the Four Areas of Focus. We have participated in the following ways:
Creating new and renewed congregations: Holston Conference has encouraged development of ministries such as Shades of Grace United Methodist Church (Kingsport, Tennessee.) and Out of the Box United Methodist Church (Hillsville, Virginia), which address ministry in non-traditional settings with un-churched and de-churched people.
Developing principled Christian leaders: Holston Conference has ongoing educational opportunities such as Leadership Holston, Sermon Academy, Convocation, Resurrection, and Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries, which help us raise up younger leaders. The Hispanic Ministry Team provides leadership development through the National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministry.
Engaging in ministry with the poor: Holston Conference has had two full years of encouraging development of ministry with children in poverty in our local communities, especially through school partnerships. In addition, development of ministries has occurred through Church and Community Workers such as Elk Garden School Community Ministry (Rosedale, Virginia); Project Crossroads (Marion, Virginia), and Jubilee Project (Sneedville, Tennessee.)
Improving global health: Holston Conference has an ongoing partnership with the church in South Sudan and refugees in Uganda, in addition to pursuing wells in refugee camps and ongoing collection of health, food, and school kits for Liberia and Zimbabwe.
— The Rev. Carol Wilson, Director of Communications