Less than a week before the U.S. Census Bureau released a report showing that 14.3 percent of the population in 2009 lived in poverty, Holston Conference sponsored its second regional conference entitled "Abolishing Poverty in Rural Appalachia."
The conference was held Sept. 10-11 at First Broad Street UMC in Kingsport, with about half the attendance of last year's meeting. About 50 people -- including speakers -- participated this year, compared to 107 in 2009.
"Do not be discouraged that there aren't more here," said Bishop Ken Carder, keynote speaker. "Don't forget how much God does with a little. God fed a multitude through Jesus Christ with a little boy's lunch."
Participants benefited from speaker insight as well as workshops and panel discussions.
On Friday night, Carder referred to the United Methodist Church's "Four Areas of Ministry Focus," which includes engaging in ministry with the poor, and said addressing the four areas is key to making disciples for the transformation of the world.
"The most most glaring signs of the church's failure are not membership decline nor the shortfall in apportionment payments," he said. "It's the growing economic disparity among our people and the people of the world."
On Saturday, John Hill spoke of how he works through the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) to change policies that foster poverty.
"I don't think people should be able to run for office in this country unless they can answer that question, 'What are you doing to address poverty?'"
Hill recalled a childhood friend who is now a high-earning CEO. "I question an economy that supports a person who makes $780,000 an hour when others are struggling to make $7,000 a year, "said Hill, director of economic and environmental justice for the GBCS.
Like many of the speakers during the two-day conference, the Rev. Dan Griffiths said he was disturbed by how complacent people -- even Christians -- can be in accepting inequities.
"If we were really acting like Christians, there would be no homeless, no hungry people, no naked people, because we would be opening our homes or carrying a box of food to them," said Griffths, pastor at Lothair/Combs UMC in Hazard, Ky.