Conference Roundup:

Conference Roundup:

  • Swanson hosts 109 bishops
  • Buying land in South Sudan
  • Change for Children winners  

More Swanson hospitality:
Council of Bishops meet in WNC

In January, Bishop James Swanson and Holston Conference hosted the Southeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops for a two-day meeting in Alcoa. This week, Swanson is on the spot again as Holston hosts the entire   Council of Bishops in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

According to United Methodist News Service, 109 of the denomination's 228 active and retired bishops are attending. On Monday, Oct. 31, Swanson welcomed participants at an opening service. His wife, Delphine Swanson, is leading activities for the bishops' spouses. The meeting concludes Friday, Nov. 4.

Accompanying Swanson at the meeting are the Rev. Carol Wilson, executive assistant; the Rev. Charles Maynard, Maryville District superintendent; and Lori Sluder, secretary.

In addition to UMNS stories appearing on, the Facebook pages for UMNS and United Methodist Reporter are providing immediate (and candid) reports from the meeting. Apparently, bishops struggle with some of the same doubts and concerns that pastors struggle with.

See also: "Bishops called to reclaim church mission" (UMNS, 10-31-11)
"Bishops endorse church restructure proposals" (UMNS, 11-2-11)

South Sudan: Hodges teaches farming,
Dearing strengthens UMC presence

Despite concern about violent uprisings in South Sudan, news of progress continues to arrive from Holston workers who have settled in the East African country. Agencies outside Holston are noticing, too. Mostly recently, the Sept. 30 edition of "UMVIM Update" focused on the Holston Conference's ministry with South Sudan. Related videos with Diantha and Steve Hodges are posted on YouTube. (See also: Hodges blog.)

Fred and Libby Dearing are building on the accomplishments of Boo and Phyllis Hankins, who departed Sudan in July after two years of ministry. In addition to growing the church, training pastors, and working with church schools, Fred Dearing and the United Methodist Committee on Relief have obtained land in Kenyi payam for an UMCOR office and new church. They're negotiating for additional land in Juba to establish another UMCOR office and new church. 

"The UMC will drill a borehole in each community," Libby Dearing explained in an Oct. 27 newsletter. "This serves not only to meet the basic need for clean water but also to serve as a witness to the living water through Jesus Christ."

Beginning this month, UMCOR will fund an agricutural program to support Steve Hodges in teaching Sudanese families about "Farming God's Way."

"Our work here is not only to provide for acute needs but also to prepare the people of South Sudan to continue long after we are gone," Libby Dearing writes. "The guardians (many who are widows) must be able to provide food, education, clothing, and medical treatment for themselves, their own families, and the orphans in the future."

The farming method taught by Hodges increases the yield, reduces labor time, increases land fertility, and implements hand tools. In addition to instruction and hands-on work, students will receive seeds and appropriate tools.

See also: Dearing photos on Facebook.

Eight churches win $16,500
in Change for Children grants

The Change for Children Committee announced today that eight Holston churches have won grants for children's ministry.

"Nineteen grant applications were received for the September deadline, with grant requests totaling nearly $65,000," said the Rev. Gaye King, associate director of connectional ministries. "The grant committee awarded the balance of contributions from 2010 -- an amount just under $16,500."

The following churches will receive notification along with their checks by next week:

$3,000 -- Hunt Memorial (Abingdon)
$1,000 -- Crab Orchard (Big Stone Gap)
$2,700 -- Glen Alpine (Kingsport)
$1,950 -- Carpenters (Maryville)
$2,000 -- First Oneida (Oak Ridge)
$1,000 -- Jacksboro (Oak Ridge)
$1,000 -- Trinity, Lenoir City (Oak Ridge)
$3,800 -- Rockford (Wytheville)

Unsuccessful applicants may apply again in 2012. The next grant application deadline is Feb. 15. Beginning in 2012, applicants must also submit a current Safe Sanctuaries policy for grant eligibility.

"I send my congratulations to the churches that received these grants," Bishops James Swanson said. "To the applicants who didn't win this time, I express my appreciation for their initiatives to provide ministry for our children."

Look for more details about grant winners in future editions.

See also: "F.R.O.G. Camp: Maryville District church takes Vacation Bible School to state park" (The Call, 7-27-11)