Annual Conference finally finishes after disconcerting summer

Annual Conference finally finishes after disconcerting summer

The Rev. Beth Tipton, serving as an usher, takes the temperature of an incoming participant at the Aug. 28 business session of Holston Annual Conference.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -- Doled out in segments, with participants joining both online and in person, an almost unrecognizable 2021 Holston Annual Conference finally crossed the finish line at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 28.
The four-hour business session was the abbreviated conclusion to a series of gatherings that began in June amid the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases. The Aug. 28 session was attended by 525 online and 283 in-person members who voted to install new officers, approve the 2022 budget, and consider a handful of resolutions.
Bishop Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor presided over her final Annual Conference as Holston’s resident bishop a few days before beginning retirement on Sept. 1. The Annual Conference theme was “In the Midst … God is With Us,” based on Romans 8:37. “In the midst of a pandemic and so much unrest in our world, we know that God is with us,” Taylor said, explaining the theme earlier this year.
Left to right: John Eldridge, Becky Hall, Bishop Taylor, Rev. Terry Goodman

After passing through stations to check their identification for voting accuracy and body temperatures to prevent virus spread, Annual Conference members wore facial masks and sat in chairs arranged for social distancing. Following worship and Holy Communion, members choosing to attend in person began the business session by voting in favor of changing standing rules to allow other members to vote online.
The Annual Conference also approved a slate of nominations for ministry teams and leadership groups – a vote more than one year delayed after the pandemic prevented the Annual Conference from meeting and voting under the standing rules in 2020.
The proposed 2022 budget of $8.7 million was approved by a majority vote of 94 percent. The budget was approved after Taylor called a member out of order when he protested for not being allowed to ask more than one question about financial records. The Annual Conference then approved (88% percent in favor) a salary increase for district superintendents from $106,484 to $107,486 for 2022.
The Annual Conference approved the Board of Pensions and Health report, which includes a 16.5% rate increase for both the church portion and a 16.5% rate increase for participants in Holston’s health insurance plan. In response to a member expressing concern that such an increase rate “is not sustainable,” the Rev. David Tabor, board chair, assured him steps are being taken to reduce increases in the future.
In other business, the Aug. 28 Annual Conference:
VOTED (68 percent in favor) to refer a resolution to the Council for Finance and Administration. The resolution called for informational meetings in all of Holston churches to explain the “protocol for separation” for the denomination, with representation from the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
APPROVED a report to set minimum salaries for clergy at levels between $36,000 (in process of completing studies) to $45,000 (M.Div.) in 2022.
RECOGNIZED the closing of five churches: Brown’s Chapel, North Tazewell, Va.; Lone Mountain, Tazewell, Tenn.; Arthur, Arthur, Tenn.; Bethel, Loudon, Tenn.; and Shouns, Mountain City, Tenn.
REFERRED a resolution calling for Holston Conference’s attention to Social Principles addressing creation care to the Outreach/ Advocacy Ministry Team.

REJECTED a resolution (85% against) calling for establishment of an online database of local-church member contact information for the purpose of laity networking.
VOTED in favor of holding Annual Conference 2022 in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, the traditional site in past decades prior to COVID-19, usually held over four days in June.
Other activities of the 2021 Holston Annual Conference:
> A Memorial Service on Aug. 27 at First Broad Street United Methodist Church celebrated the lives of members who died in 2020 and 2021, including 25 clergy, 10 clergy spouses, and 15 surviving clergy spouses.
> The Rev. Charles Maynard served as preacher at the Aug. 27 Memorial Service, speaking from Romans 10:15 on the “beautiful feet” of those who bring good news. “The person that you hold dear, that we are remembering today, had beautiful feet,” he told family members.
The Rev. Charles Maynard preaches at the Memorial Service.
> Ten persons were ordained as elders during the Aug. 27 service at First Broad Street United Methodist Church: Christopher Black, Eric Bronkala, Lisa Bryant, Pamer Cantler, Isaac Collins, Leslie Daniels, David Fugatt, Justin Keating, Edward Smith, and Nancy Twigg. Two persons were ordained as deacons: Nathan Irwin and Audrey Madigan.

> Thirteen persons were commissioned as provisional members preparing for ordained ministry as elders during the Aug. 27 service at First Broad Street United Methodist Church: Austin Byerly, Rachel Collins, Chase Crickenberger, Jacqueline Davis-Gines, Kimberly Dunn, John Gargis, Kevin Gray, Brooke Hartman, Jennifer McIntyre, Timothy Robinson, Donald Shelor, Thomas Stubbs, and Michael Vaughn.
> Two persons were recognized as associate members during the Aug. 27 service at First Broad Street United Methodist Church: James Patterson and Linda Whitehead-Rozar.
The Rev. Lisa Bryan is ordained on Aug. 27.

> Bishop Taylor preached at the Aug. 27 ordination and commissioning service. “God is still calling people to serve God’s church,” she said. “And as I look out at each one of you who comes out for ordination, commissioning, and recognition, I want you to know that I am filled with hope.”
> Announced at a preliminary June 12 virtual Annual Conference session, the 2021 "Holston Helping Holston" mission offering is designated to help churches in East Knoxville combat gun violence, food insecurity, inadequate health care and housing. As of Aug. 31, the offering total is $37,615, according to Kathy Ratchford, finance staff. Holston United Methodist churches in East Knoxville will be invited to apply for grants from the offering, said the Rev. Mike Sluder, connectional ministries director.
> The Change for Children offering currently totals $33,076 in funds to support children’s ministries, according to Ratchford.
> At the June 12 online gathering, Sluder announced that 5,083 food, health, and school kits valued at $123,823 – collected by Holston churches – had been loaded and shipped to missions in Liberia and Zimbabwe.    
> A celebration of Bishop Taylor’s ministry and retirement was held at the Alcoa Conference Center on Aug. 30, after rising concern about COVID-19 resurgence caused planners to eliminate the time of recognition from the Aug. 28 Annual Conference schedule. An $8,000 gift from individuals throughout Holston Conference was contributed to a scholarship endowment fund benefiting Candler School of Theology students in the name of Taylor and her husband, the Rev. Rusty Taylor.

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Annette Spence

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

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