LAKE JUNALUKA, N.C. (June 12, 2018) -- The wall stood on the stage last night throughout Alice William’s presentation.
Williams, a member of the Commission on a Way Forward from Florida, explained the three options before General Conference as the United Methodist Church advances toward a high-stakes decision about its future in February 2019.
The wall stood on the stage as scripture was read and prayers were lifted for the Holston delegation and the church. Then, as worshippers sang songs of unity, the wall was broken down into pieces, which were used to create a table of communion for all.
The Holston Annual Conference concluded a long day of business and worship on Monday night with education and perspective, offered by Williams, followed by an emotional Service of Unity.
Williams said that decisions facing the United Methodist Church are “not about us” but about generations that will follow. She said there is “no perfect solution. … There are people who are going to be elated and thrilled, and there are going to be people who are hurt.”
Then the Rev. Willie Kitchens sang “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield:
People, get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no ticket
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord
Other Monday news:
> In her “State of the Church” report, Bishop Dindy Taylor praised Holston’s camp ministry (“one of the most dynamic camp ministries in the country”). She reported that 308 churches in Holston received new members on profession of faith in 2017, yet she was “deeply troubled” that 567 churches had received no professions of faith.
Taylor challenged congregations with few children to offer confirmation classes and to use the conference’s MissionInsite tool to learn more about their communities. “I’d like to suggest that there are children in the neighborhoods and doorways of our churches, we just don’t have them inside.”
> In his Lay Leader report, Del Holley said he is often asked what will happen to the United Methodist Church after the special General Conference in 2019. Holley said he was impressed recently when a colleague asked, “What if we quit talking about how many we are likely to lose and prayed that God would let us keep them all?”
Holley challenged members to pray “boldly, fervently, unceasingly that God will show us a way forward that we will not lose a single person.”
> The Rev. Kim Goddard began her morning Bible study with an old Jewish prayer – “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi” – before teaching from Luke 18. “It’s kind of hard to follow from the front,” she said. “We’re called to follow Jesus, and that means we let him go first.” Goddard said it “takes a lot of dust-covered people” to do ministry and encouraged worshippers to get “dusty, really dusty” for Jesus.
> The Rev. Jeff Lambert presented a Council on Finance and Administration report including a 2 percent salary increase for conference staff in 2019 and a new formula to set district superintendents’ annual salaries at $104,527.The $9.25 million proposed budget for 2019 is scheduled for the Annual Conference’s vote on Tuesday.
> During the Memorial Service, the Rev. Jeff Wright thanked family members for the 39 servants (clergy and clergy spouses) who died within the past year. “I know at times it wasn’t easy,” he said. “I’m guessing there were things in life that you missed because you shared [your loved ones] with us.” Wright acknowledged that Holston members struggled with differences among members, “but I hope we can agree that we owe a debt of gratitude to those we remember today.”
> Ken Howle, executive director of Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, thanked the Annual Conference for adopting (in 2017) the Rev. Leah Burns’ call for an apology for past racism and segregation. “Writing a letter of apology would have been easy. We wanted to do more than that,” said Howle, before reading Lake Junaluska’s responsive plan (printed on page 26 in the “Book of Reports”). “Lake Junaluska is better because of you and because of your leadership,” Howle said.
> The Personnel Resources Team introduced incoming conference staff members, including the Rev. Sharon Bowers, UTK Wesley Foundation director; the Rev. Tim Jones, director of communications; the Rev. Susan Groseclose, associate director of connectional ministry for discipleship; and the Rev. Kathy Heustess, executive director of Holston Center for Wellbeing.
> The Denman Evangelism Award for laity was presented to Christina Trent, First Rich Creek UMC (New River District) for her work with children and youth in an at-risk trailer park. The Denman Award for clergy was presented to the Rev. Jason McIntosh, pastor of Shady Grove UMC (Mountain View District), for leading 100 new members to the church in the last two years, including 43 by profession of faith.
> The Francis Asbury Award was presented to Leanna Robertson Johnson, long-time member of Holston’s Committee on Higher Education and Ministry; former ETSU Wesley Foundation member; and former ETSU Wesley Foundation board member. Johnson is a member of Cokesbury UMC in Johnson City, Tenn.
> The Congregational Development Ministry Team presented a video and speeches with information about The Connexion facility in Sevierville. The Rev. Jason Roe, the Rev. Susana Lopez, and Becky Hall spoke.
> The Hands-on Mission Project for Liberia and Zimbabwe was valued at $215,681, according to the Rev. Tom Hancock, Missions Ministry Team chair. Hancock also announced the total number of kits received by district. (See totals by districts..)
> Through the leadership of the African American Ministry Team, Holston has partnered with Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, a United Methodist initiative that helps African-American churches become more effective in mission and ministry. The Rev. Liz Hamilton, Discipleship Team chair, said that a design team will be created and five African-American churches will be identified to benefit from tools, coaching, training, and strategic planning.
Hamilton also announced that an Evangelism Conference is scheduled Nov. 3 at Keith Memorial UMC and Nov. 4 at State Street UMC, led by church consultant and coach Kay Kotan.
> The Strategy Team reported that progress has been made on all seven parts of its “Comprehensive Strategic Plan,” approved by Annual Conference in 2017. A “missional hubs” initiative (#passionintoaction) will be launched in fall 2018. (See pages 60-66 in “Book of Reports.”)
> Two of three resolutions were addressed during Monday’s session. The “Resolution to Distribute Conference Managed Congregational Development Fund” was withdrawn by its author. (See page 230 in “Book of Reports.")
A majority of the Annual Conference voted to table the resolution, “Towards an Inclusive Reading of the Bible.” (See page 231 in “Book of Reports.”)
A third resolution – “Equality Through Love” – was delayed and is expected to be presented on Tuesday by the Committee on Petitions and Resolutions. (See page 233 in “Book of Reports.”)
> The Annual Conference voted on a constitutional amendment dealing with women’s equality last night. Lay Leader Del Holley explained that the results will not be released until all annual conferences have voted and the denomination releases the final outcome.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.