The Holston Annual Conference lived into its “Christ for the World” theme, raising $100,192 to build a South Sudan orphanage for 50 children and establish two scholarships at Africa University. They took an offering of $55,403 to support children’s ministries in Holston and Africa and collected 28 tons of food, school, and health supplies -- valued at $187,100 -- for missions in Zimbabwe and Liberia.
The annual meeting was held June 12-15 at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Representing 899 churches in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia, the 1,695 members also gave $8,725 for disaster response in their own communities. They recognized volunteers still cleaning up wreckage from April tornadoes that killed five Holston church members. On a hot afternoon alongside scenic Lake Junaluska, youth members led an assembly-line effort to pack 300 buckets with cleaning supplies. The “cleaning buckets” were needed to replace the supply Holston sent to Memphis Conference in response to Mississippi River flooding in May.
Besides elections, the denomination’s “Call to Action” dominated the four-day agenda. Presiding Bishop James Swanson and Lay Leader Mary Ruth Richards asked members to support the denomination’s revitalization plan in their “State of the Church” report. Neil Alexander, president of United Methodist Publishing House and co-chair of the Call to Action steering team, led a plenary session.
Keeping its 2008 covenant agreement with the East Africa Conference, Holston Conference commissioned the newly retired Rev. Fred Dearing to serve as district superintendent in South Sudan. Dearing and his wife, Libby, are relocating to Yei, Sudan, where Holston missionaries Steve and Diantha Hodges have served since July 2010. The Dearings replace the Rev. Buford “Boo” Hankins and the Rev. Phyllis Hankins, who completed their two-year Sudan appointments and returned to Holston.
Holston also recognized the Rev. Michelle McKinnon-Young, newly appointed to begin the first English-speaking United Methodist Church in the Czech Republic. She and her husband, Gary Young, will live in Prague as part of an ongoing ministry partnership developed through Holston’s Johnson City District.
The first-ever Living Stone Award for small congregations was presented to Piney Grove United Methodist Church and the Rev. Larry Anderson of Knoxville, Tenn. The Rev. Archer Coppedge, Big Stone Gap District superintendent, was recognized for small-church congregational development.
Denman Evangelism Awards were presented to the Rev. Bob Hayes, Maryville District; Wilma Foreman, Woodlawn UMC, Wytheville District; and youth member Ben Horton, First Independence UMC, Wytheville District. The Francis Asbury Award was presented to the Rev. Al Bowles, Chattanooga, Tenn.
A service of ordination and commissioning included 14 elders and one deacon in full connection, and 11 provisional elders and one provisional deacon. The ordination service preacher was Bishop Warren Brown, Mid-Atlantic II Episcopal Area, AME Zion Church.
Sixteen local pastors were licensed. Thirty-one retirees were recognized. A memorial service honored 23 deceased clergy and 18 deceased clergy spouses.
A $10.6 million budget for 2012 was approved after members questioned a 2 percent raise for district superintendents (with current salary at $92,150) and voted to override the finance council’s recommendation to cut per diem and travel expenses for at-large members. Later, the 12 superintendents waived their raises to help cover the $41,000 in projected costs for at-large members.
Three resolutions were passed: (1) Supporting the Virginia Conference in advocating for continued state prohibition of uranium mining, (2) Calling for adjustment in the way annual conferences are represented at General Conference, and (3) Calling for unity and racial sensitivity during the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War period (2010-2015).
A resolution requiring correction of churches with barriers to disabled persons was deferred to the finance council for study and recommendation. A resolution calling for “free and open dialogue” – freeing clergy and laity to advocate for Book of Discipline changes – was rejected.
The Cabinet celebrated the Out of the Box Worship Center of Hillsville, Va., which doubled attendance from 118 to 240 within two months after its January launch. They lamented the closing of five churches. The Board of Ordained Ministry announced a first-time conference-wide offering on Sept. 25, 2011, to offset shortfalls in financial assistance for seminary students.
Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Del Holley (head), Knoxville, Tenn.; John Tate, Maryville, Tenn.; Bob Lockaby, Harrison, Tenn.; Anne Travis, Knoxville, Tenn.; Jay Garrison, Knoxville, Tenn.; Becky Hall, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Megan Watson, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Clergy delegates elected to General Conference: Carol Wilson, Alcoa, Tenn.; Randy Frye, Johnson City, Tenn.; Stella Roberts, Oak Ridge, Tenn.; David Graves, Kingsport, Tenn.; Eddie Fox, Hermitage, Tenn.; Wil Cantrell, Lebanon, Va. ; Sandra Johnson, Abingdon, Va.
Lay delegates elected to Jurisdictional Conference: Paul Brown, Johnson City, Tenn.; Patty Muse, Johnson City, Tenn.; Joyce Moore, Bluff City, Tenn.; Georgia Lister, Greeneville, Tenn.; Danny Howe, Kingsport, Tenn.; Jackie Watson, Rossville, Ga.; Brenda Haymore, Knoxville, Tenn.; Teddy Stevens, Piney Flats, Tenn. (alternate); John Powers, Mount Carmel, Tenn. (alternate)
Clergy delegates elected to Jurisdictional Conference: Dennie Humphreys, Athens, Tenn.; Mark Flynn, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Jerry Russell, Maryville, Tenn.; Don Hanshew, Weber City, Va.; Nathan Malone, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Beth Tipton, Duffield, Va.; Amy Probst, Maryville, Tenn.; Aaron Pierce, Etowah, Tenn. (alternate); Kim Goddard, Kingsport, Tenn. (alternate)
* Daily Annual Conference editions of The Call (PDFs)
* List of 2011-12 Ministerial Appoinments (PDF)
*For ongoing discussion of Annual Conference topics and photos, visit Facebook.holston.org.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.