Annual Conference wrap-up: Shared love for Africa triumphs over divisions

Annual Conference wrap-up: Shared love for Africa triumphs over divisions

ALCOA, Tenn. (June 18, 2018)

The Holston Annual Conference gathered June 10-13 with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Under the theme, “Jesus is Good,” 1,948 members represented Holston’s 877 congregations in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia.

The theme was lifted from a photo snapped on a recent mission trip to Uganda, where Holston Conference continues its long-term relationship with 36 orphans, pastors and mission staff originally from South Sudan. In the photo, “Jesus is Good” is handwritten on a mud-cracked church building in Uganda, where many South Sudanese refugees have fled from violence, conflict, and food shortages in their homeland.  

During this 2018 session, the Annual Conference gave a missions offering of $110,191 to continue providing shelter and education for “Our South Sudanese Brothers and Sisters in Exile.” An additional offering of $61,335 was received for Change for Children, a fund distributed annually to aid children’s ministries in Africa and Holston communities.

The annual Hands-on Mission Project concluded as Bishop Taylor blessed four trucks packed with 8,586 “kits” valued at $215,681 and bound for Africa. Collected by local churches, the food, health, home and school supplies will support children at Ishe Anesu in Zimbabwe and United Methodist schools in Liberia.

A “Service of Unity” included an educational presentation by Alice Williams, member of the Commission on a Way Forward, and prayers for delegates to the special General Conference in February 2019. While a 60-member volunteer choir sang, “Christ has Broken Down the Walls,” a wall was dismantled, piece by piece, and rebuilt by the delegation into a table of Holy Communion. The wall-to-table visual was created by the Rev. Sarah Slack.


In other actions, the annual conference:

> VOTED not to purchase the $5.3 million Connexion property in Sevierville, Tennessee (771 “no” votes, 348 yes, 2 abstentions).


> INTRODUCED Holston’s 16-member delegation to General Conference 2019 -- the same delegation elected for General Conference 2016, with the Rev. Kim Goddard as leader.


> APPROVED a substitute motion to the resolution “Equality Through Love,” instead calling for the Holston delegation to study the upcoming Council of Bishops report and legislation and to set up listening stations prior to General Conference 2019.


> TABLED a resolution, “Towards an Inclusive Reading of the Bible,” calling for full and unrestricted inclusion of gay and lesbian persons.


> TABLED a motion to affirm the current Book of Discipline paragraphs related to human sexuality. 


> REFERRED a motion to change current restrictions and guidelines for the “New Business” session to the Committee on Rules and Order and to the Annual Conference Planning Committee.


> REFERRED a motion to provide funding for nationwide searches to hire Wesley Foundation directors to the Council on Finance and Administration.


> APPROVED a $9.25 million budget for 2019, which includes paying 100 percent of Holston’s apportionment to the general church.


> APPROVED the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits report, setting 2019 rates for the local-church direct invoice for health insurance at $844 per month.


> APPROVED the Commission on Equitable Compensation report, setting a 2 percent increase for minimum salary levels for clergy in 2019.


> CELEBRATED winners of the 5K race to benefit the missions offering for “our South Sudanese brothers and sisters living in exile”: the Rev. Robert Kariuki and the Rev. Nancy Twigg.


> APPROVED resolutions to close St. Andrews UMC in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Bascom UMC in Lebanon, Virginia.


> WELCOMED Ken Howle, new executive director of Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, who responded to a request by the 2017 Annual Conference by reading a statement of apology for past racism and segregation at Lake Junaluska.


> WELCOMED incoming conference staff members: 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. 


> PRESENTED Denman Evangelism Awards to: Christina Trent, First Rich Creek UMC (New River District) for her work with children in an at-risk trailer park; and to the Rev. Jason McIntosh, pastor at 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.


> PRESENTED the Francis Asbury Award for higher education to Leanna Robertson Johnson, a member of Cokesbury UMC in Johnson City, Tenn.


> LEARNED of a new partnership with Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, a United Methodist initiative expected to help five African-American churches in Holston become more effective in mission and ministry.


> LEARNED that progress has been made on the Comprehensive Strategic Plan – most notably the downsizing of Holston Conference from 12 to nine districts – following the plan’s adoption by the Annual Conference in 2017.


> RECEIVED recognition for placing in the top 10 of annual conferences in giving to UMCOR.


> WORSHIPPED with preaching by Bishop Taylor and the Rev. Jeff Wright, Appalachian District superintendent.


> WORSHIPPED with Bible teachings by the Rev. Kim Goddard, New River District superintendent.


> RECEIVED a report from Del Holley, conference lay leader, and a call to prayer “that we will not lose a single person” following decisions of General Conference 2019.


> VOTED on a Constitutional Amendment dealing with women’s equality, joining with other annual conferences in a denominational re-vote due to a clerical error discovered earlier this year.


> COMMISSIONED the Rev. Mark Hicks and Heather Hicks to serve as missionaries at the English-Speaking United Methodist Church of Prague, Czech Republic, beginning December 2018.


> COMMISSIONED Minta “Blueberry” Ray as Holston’s sixth Appalachian Trail chaplain and first female chaplain.


> COMMISSIONED Corrina Sisk-Casson as Deaconess, following her consecration in May during the United Methodist Women’s Assembly in Ohio.


> ORDAINED 12 elders; commissioned 7 provisional elders and 2 provisional deacons; recognized 1 associate member; licensed 15 local pastors; recognized 24 retiring clergy; and memorialized 39 deceased clergy and clergy spouses.


  • Membership stands at 160,563, down 1,725 from the previous year.

  • Worship attendance stands at 59,357, down 2,482.

  • Church school attendance stands at 26,822, down 303.

  • Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2017: 1,605, down 109 from 2016.

  • Adults and young adults in small groups for 2017: 35,162, down 5,415 from 2016.


Annual Conference 2019 is scheduled June 9-12 at Lake Junaluska, N.C.


Contact Annette Spence, editor of The Call, at


See also:

More news from Holston Annual Conference 2018

Reports from other UMC annual conferences




Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.

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