UMW president: Even if your church leaves, you can stay with us

UMW president: Even if your church leaves, you can stay with us

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (Sept. 19, 2019) -- At her first annual meeting as president of the Holston Conference United Methodist Women, Carolyn Haerr addressed a concern she knew was shared by many in her audience.

“Even though some of our churches may withdraw from The United Methodist Church,” she said, “you can continue to be a member of the United Methodist Women, and I hope you will.”

Haerr made those comments to 156 members attending the Holston UMW’s 146th annual meeting, held Sept. 14-15 at MeadowView Conference and Retreat Center. The gathering also included an officers’ training and a “spiritual enrichment experience.” The latter was previously a separate event.

Haerr's comments referred to the denomination's deep divisions over human sexuality and related General Conference actions, leading a few congregations to consider exiting from the church.

Attendance at the Holston UMW annual meeting has declined in recent years, Haerr said. Total United Methodist Women membership in Holston Conference’s 864 churches is about 7,900, according to officer Lori Sluder.

Since a General Conference action in May 2012, United Methodist Women has been organized as an independent agency of The United Methodist Church. United Methodist Women as a group are self-funded through an ongoing “Legacy Fund Endowment Campaign.”

As the United Methodist Women celebrate 150 years in mission, “I’m hoping the UMW will continue another 150 years through the legacy fund,” Haerr said.

Participants in the Sept. 14-15 meeting gathered for the first time as nine districts instead of 12, following Holston Conference’s resizing and reorganization in early 2018.

The Rev. Sandra Johnson, former Clinch Mountain District superintendent, served as spiritual enrichment speaker during the two-day meeting.

“She talked about how we are our ‘issues,’ and sometimes we identify by our issues,” said Marci Villanueva from the Tennessee Valley District. “We are to keep in the faith and move beyond the issues. Her message of faith was strong.”

A budget of $416,700 was approved for 2020, Haerr said. About two-thirds of the budget is designated for mission giving through the international agency.

Members gave an offering of $1,681 which will support mission giving in the budget, said Haerr, a member of the Hiwassee District.

On Oct. 5, Holston’s Hispanic United Methodist Women will meet for their annual event, Mujeres en Accion (Women in Action), at Pleasant View United Church in Abingdon, Virginia. The theme is “Victorious Women.” For more information, contact Kacye Castenir at


Annette Spence

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

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