ALCOA, Tenn. (June 20, 2017) -- The Holston Annual Conference gathered June 11-14 with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding at Lake Junaluska, N.C. 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. (See totals by district.)
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. (See Finance and Administration, page 95, Book of Reports.)
> 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. (See Equitable Compensation, page 66, Book of Reports.)
> Approved elimination of a Medicare stipend for retirees with fewer than 10 years of service, effective January 2018. (See Pensions and Health Benefits, page 180, Book of Reports.)
> Approved partial funding of the retiree health insurance supplement through the direct invoice for health insurance. The 2018 rates for the local church will be set at $9,120. (See Pensions and Health Benefits, page 180, Book of Reports.)
> Approved a resolution establishing a minimum of four weeks of vacation for all clergy annually, with at least two weeks including a Sunday. (See page 209, Book of Reports.)
> Approved a resolution committing Holston Conference to work to eliminate racism and violence directed toward “newly arriving migrants from all parts of the world.” (See page 210, Book of Reports.)
> Approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on online communion. (See page 211, Book of Reports.)
> Approved a plan to address the bullying and harassment of clergy by lay members, a response to an action from Annual Conference 2015. (See page 173, Book of Reports.)
> Approved an amendment to the proposed agenda, leading Bishop Taylor to set a Tuesday afternoon time slot for “new business.”
> 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.” (See complete text.)
> Adopted a motion requiring agenda items with votes for action to be scheduled at the beginning of annual conference sessions – and not at the end of sessions before break time – with the purpose of allowing more time for discussion. (See complete text.)
> Received a motion that would stop the leasing or possible purchase of The Connexion in Sevierville, Tenn. The motion was ruled out of order by Bishop Taylor.
> Celebrated new ministries of the Rev. Joseph DowlingSoka and the Rev. 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 Dearing 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.
> Recognized the ministry of Ishe Anesu's Maria and Bill Humbane, who could not attend the Missions Celebration as scheduled.
> Presented the Denman Evangelism Award to:
Erin Elizabeth Bowman (youth), Mt. Olivet UMC, Galax, Va.;
Pasty Dalton (lay), Kodak UMC, Kodak, Tenn.;
and the Rev. Stephen DeFur (clergy), Cokesbury UMC, Knoxille, Tenn.
> Presented the Francis Asbury Award for leaders in higher education to the late Bennett and Evelyn Horton, members of Church Street UMC, Knoxville, Tenn.
> Approved resolutions for closing Boyd’s Chapel UMC, Bandy, Va.; and Fairview UMC, Thorn Hill, Tenn.
> Approved a resolution for abandonment of Bungalow UMC, Maryville, Tenn.
> Approved three mergers:
(1) between Slaughter’s Chapel UMC and Randolph Avenue UMC, Wytheville District, to become Randolph Avenue UMC;
(2) between Faith UMC and Inskip UMC, Knoxville District, to become Cedar Lane UMC;
(3) between Keen Mountain UMC and Garden UMC, Tazewell District, to become Garden UMC. (See page 35, Book of Reports.)
Updated number of congregations is 874.
> Rejoiced in a concert presented by the Music Ministry of Central UMC 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, Tenn.
> Celebrated worship music by:
El Ministerio del Espiritu Santo UMC Praise Band of Sevierville, Tenn.;
the Lin Sisters (Blue Harbor) of Concord UMC, Knoxville, Tenn.;
Fountain City UMC Choir of Knoxville, Tenn.;
Lake Junaluska Singers;
and a 62-member Annual Conference Choir.
> Worshipped with sermons by Bishop Taylor and the Rev. Randall Martin, outgoing senior pastor at Broad Street UMC, Cleveland, Tenn., and incoming Chattanooga District superintendent.
> Worshipped with teaching by the Rev. Sam Roberts, retired Tennessee Wesleyan University professor of religion and philosophy.
> Received a Lay Leader’s Report from Del Holley.
OUTSIDE STUART AUDITORIUM
> Organized a lunchtime Rise Against Hunger meal-packing event at Kern Youth Center.
> Organized a benefit for Ishe Anesu with a one-mile walk and 5K run, won by the Rev. Robert Kariuki Nyaga and Lindsay Travis Bedford. (See race results.)
> 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. Joshua Swanson;
Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, a Holston native;
and Bishop Richard Looney, retired bishop and Holston native.
> Welcomed Bishop Kenneth Carder, retired bishop and Holston native, who greeted the Annual Conference following the Memorial Service.
> Voted on five constitutional amendments approved by General Conference 2016.
> Commissioned 8 provisional elders and 1 provisional deacon.
> Recognized 4 associate members.
> Licensed 19 local pastors.
> Recognized 19 clergy retirees.
> Memorialized 80 deceased clergy and clergy spouses.
> Ordained 0 persons. (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.
> Total 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.
Annual Conference 2018 will be held June 10-13 at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
For additional Annual Conference coverage, visit ACNews.Holston.org.
See also: AC videos.