LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. – Delegates representing Holston Conference wrapped up a week of meetings, balloting, and worship by celebrating the reassignment of Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett as their episcopal leader.
Wallace-Padgett’s return to Holston was announced on the final day of Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference held Nov. 2-4 at Lake Junulaska. She will also continue to lead the North Alabama Conference as resident bishop.
Holston sent 23 delegates to the gathering, joining 352 total delegates representing 14 annual conferences in nine states. They elected three new bishops to replace five who retired, bringing the current total of bishops leading United Methodist churches in the Southeastern United States to 11.
Elected this week were the Rev. Tom Berlin, Virginia Conference; the Rev. Connie Shelton, Mississippi Conference; and the Rev. Robin Dease, South Carolina Conference. Bishops were assigned to the following conferences effective Jan. 1, 2023:
- Alabama / West Florida: Bishop David Graves
- Florida: Bishop Tom Berlin
- Holston: Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
- Kentucky / Central Appalachian Missionary: Bishop Leonard Fairley
- Mississippi: Bishop Sharma Lewis
- North Alabama: Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
- North Carolina: Bishop Connie Shelton
- North Georgia: Bishop Robin Dease
- South Carolina: Bishop Jonathan Holston
- South Georgia: Bishop David Graves
- Tennessee-Western Kentucky: Bishop Bill McAlilly
- Virginia: Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson
- Western North Carolina: Bishop Ken Carter
The Rev. Sharon Bowers, nominated by the Holston Conference Black Methodists for Church Renewal, withdrew from the election following the 15th ballot. The election included 25 total ballots.
The Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference traditionally meets every four years but was postponed since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In other actions, the Conference:
Established a task force to study the impact of racial bias in the episcopal nomination and election process. It would comprise greater than 50 percent representation from under-represented groups, plus interview recent and past episcopal candidates. (See related story.)
Approved a name change from Red Bird Missionary Conference to the Central Appalachian Missionary Conference.
Celebrated the ministries of retiring bishops and their spouses: Bishop James Swanson and wife Delphine, retiring in 2022; Hope Morgan Ward and husband, Mike, retired in 2021; Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor and husband, Rusty, retired in 2021; Paul Leeland and wife, Janet, retired in 2021; and Lawson Bryan and wife, Sherrill, retired in 2021.
Debated and approved three resolutions: “Leading with Integrity,” “Queer Delegates’ Call to Center Justice and Empowerment for LGBTQIA+ People in the UMC” and “Resolution in Support of a U.S. Regional Conference.” (See related story.)
Learned that Southeastern Jurisdiction's archives and historical records will be moved from the SEJ Heritage Center in Lake Junaluska to the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University in Atlanta.
Took an offering for United Methodist Committee on Relief and Native American Ministries totaling $3,475 as of Friday morning. An additional offering of about $4,000 was collected for volunteer pages.
Find out more at SEJUMC.org or UMNews.org.
Jessica Brodie, South Carolina Conference communicator, contributed to this report.
Sign up for a free weekly email subscription to The Call. Holston Conference includes 842 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia. Holston Conference's main offices are located in Alcoa, Tennessee.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.
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