Representing 872 congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia, the 1,953 voting members made Holston Conference history by electing a young adult as delegation leader: Emily Ballard, age 24.
The Annual Conference took an offering of $129,733 to fight opioid addiction and $61,990 for children’s ministry (through the Change for Children fund). Congregations collected three truckloads of food, clothing, medical and school supplies for missions in Zimbabwe and Liberia, valued at $220,131. (See Hands-on Mission Project.)
By a vote of 573 to 301, members adopted a resolution entitled, “Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together.” The resolution was adopted after two revisions and speeches for and against.
Holston Conference leaders celebrated the election of a significantly younger delegation. Two delegates under age 35 were elected to attend General Conference, including Ballard and a deacon, the Rev. Mary Thompson.
In all, eight out of 26 total delegates are 35 and under, including two youth members. A total 15 out of 26 delegates are 40 and under. The average delegate age is 44. (Ages for 35-and-under delegates are listed below.)
In the month prior to the election, more than 70 leaders of ministries related to youth and young adults signed a statement asking voting members to select “younger voices."
Additionally, efforts for inclusion resulted in the election of two African Americans: the Rev. Sharon Bowers and Donna Mosby.
GENERAL CONFERENCE DELEGATES - lay: Emily Ballard, age 24 (leader); Del Holley; Anne Travis; John Eldridge; Donna Mosby; Becky Hall; Amanda Onks (alternate); Charles McEntyre (alternate)
GENERAL CONFERENCE DELEGATES - clergy: Kim Goddard; Wil Cantrell; Paul Seay; Mary Thompson, age 32; Randy Frye; Sharon Bowers; Lauri Jo Cranford (alternate); Josh Kilbourne (alternate)
JURISDICTIONAL DELEGATES - lay: Amanda Onks; Charles McEntyre; Reagan Kelly, age 17; Jim Gass; Nate Roark, age 16; Leamon Burl Lawson; Sam England, age 23 (alternate); Dawson Kitts, age 19 (alternate)
JURISDICTIONAL DELEGATES - clergy: Lauri Jo Cranford; Josh Kilbourne; David Graybeal; Kristen Burkhart; Sarah Varnell; Mark Flynn; Amy Aycock Sumrall, age 30 (alternate); Caleb Frazier, age 34 (alternate)
The resolution, “Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together,” was originally submitted by Stephanie Strutner and signed by 150. The Strutner resolution called for the Holston Annual Conference to disagree with the Traditional Plan adopted by General Conference 2019 and to apologize “for the harm it has caused the body of Christ.”
The Annual Conference voted to consider a substitute resolution offered by the Rev. Andy Ferguson. The Ferguson resolution acknowledged the “body as a whole has suffered” since General Conference and called for Holston United Methodists to “join hands as one.” The Ferguson resolution was referred to the Committee on Petitions and Resolutions, which unanimously recommended it to the full body.
An amendment proposed by Carolyn Allen changed a word in the last sentence of the Ferguson resolution from “apologize” to “grieve.” The Annual Conference voted to approve the amendment and subsequently adopted the Ferguson resolution. (See below.)
Adopted: Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together
WHEREAS, the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, convened in February 2019 adopted the Traditional Plan as its way forward,
WHEREAS, United Methodists of Holston Annual Conference remain divided in our response to the General Conference decision, and thus the Body of Christ as a whole has suffered;
WHEREAS, LGBTQAI+ persons have often been excluded from full inclusion and welcome in our churches and our ministries;
THEREFORE, we the members of Holston Conference commit ourselves to the world-wide United Methodist Church, all its peoples and all its ministries.
THEREFORE, we commit ourselves to welcome and affirm LGBTQAI+ persons in the churches of Holston, knowing them as persons of God’s sacred worth.
THEREFORE, Be it Resolved that as the Holston Annual Conference we commit ourselves to join hands as one, united through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness as we work together toward God’s hope for the people of Holston and grieve for the harm caused to the body of Christ and its witness in the world.
> On opening night, the Rev. Kim Goddard introduced a “personal covenant” with commitments including, “I covenant to see every person as beloved by God and created in God’s image.” Members were asked to stand and read the covenant aloud, then pray together while holding hands. Goddard is Holston’s 2019 delegation leader.
> The Annual Conference adopted the resolution, “Every Barrier Down: Toward Full Embrace of All Women in Church and Society.” Submitted by the Rev. Sharon Bowers, the resolution committed Holston to Social Principle #163, as amended and readopted by General Conference 2016.
> The Annual Conference adopted the resolution, “Black Methodist for Church Renewal.” Submitted by the Rev. Barbara Doyle, the resolution establishes procedures for the “inclusion of at least one person of color” serving on all conference and leadership groups.
> In preparation of best use for the mission offering, members were educated on opioid addiction. Tim Hilton, addiction and recovery expert, presented “The Addictive Brain.” Stephanie Strutner, executive director of ASAP of Anderson, presented statistics and ministry suggestions.
> A “Missions Celebration” featured two special guests: Nancy Chinzvede, director of Ishe Anesu in Zimbabwe; and George Howard, executive director of global coaching and strategic initiatives, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Chinzvede thanked Holston for two decades of support. Howard spoked about the 200th anniversary of Methodist mission.
> Bishop Taylor, resident bishop, acknowledged division in the church and called for unity in both opening worship and later in the “State of the Church” report. Despite disagreements, the church can still work together to love people, she said. “That’s Christ’s body. That’s who we are. We must never forget that, because God is counting on us.”
> Bishop Richard Looney, retired United Methodist bishop and native of Holston Conference, preached during the ordination service. “You’re called to pastor some real traditionalists. You’re called to pastor some real progressives,” Looney said. “You are not sent there to stroke your caucus. You are sent there to love them all.”
> In his Lay Leader’s Report, Del Holley said Holston Conference has two paths. One is a path “filled with worry, hand-wringing, and asking, ‘What is the future of the church?’” he said. “We must avoid that path at all costs for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.”
> In the Memorial Service, the Rev. Catherine Nance expressed gratitude for 55 clergy and spouses who died within the past year. “They’re not just going on to the next thing but they are experiencing the best thing,” said Nance, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee.
> The Francis Asbury Award for higher education was presented to the Rev. John Ousley, retiring director of the Wesley Foundation at East Tennesssee State University.
> The Denman Evangelism Award was presented to the Rev. Robin Kyek (clergy) of Andersonville/ Mt. Pleasant UMC, Tennessee Valley District; Dennis Ashley (lay) of Trinity-Big Stone Gap UMC, Appalachian District; and Nate Roark (youth), Hunt Memorial UMC, Clinch Mountain District.
> Hiwassee College and its current president, Robin Tricoli, were recognized with a tribute by the Rev. Betty Furches, former chaplain. Hiwassee College closed on May 10 after 170 years of higher education.
> The presidents of two remaining United Methodist-affiliated colleges in Holston -- Emory & Henry College and Tennessee Wesleyan University -- asked for a “moment of silence” in honor of Hiwassee. “We are losing Methodist colleges much too often,” said E&H’s Jake Schrum, joined by TWU’s Harley Knowles. “We’re losing them because they’re closing, and we’re losing them because they don’t agree with The United Methodist Church.”
> The Annual Conference approved resolutions for closing eight churches: Boone’s Creek, Johnson City, Tenn.; Browder, Sweetwater, Tenn.; Hendron’s Chapel, Knoxville, Tenn.; Mayberry Community, Telford, Tenn.; McCarty, Telford, Tenn.; Meadowview, Rogersville, Tenn.; Mt. Olivet, Glade Springs, Va.; and Union, Saltville, Va.
> The Sexual Ethics and Boundaries Task Force announced mandatory workshops were organized for all clergy this past spring. The conference policies on sexual ethics and boundaries, last revised in 1998, were updated.
> A $9.1 million budget was approved for 2020, including an annual salary of $106,280 for district superintendents. The Council on Finance and Administration reported a 2018 budget surplus of $439,114.
> A 2 percent increase in minimum salaries for clergy was recommended by the Commission on Equitable Compensation and approved. Minimum salaries in 2020 will range from $32,095 for clergy “beginning studies” to $43,496 for “full member (M.Div.) or equivalent degree.”
> The Rev. Todd Chancey, Board of Pensions chair, requested a moment of silence in memory of Ken Luton who died May 21. Luton served as Holston Conference pensions/ health insurance administrator.
> In the Camping and Retreat Ministries report, the Rev. Mary Thompson said Holston’s five camps hosted 3,280 campers in 2018, of which 52 percent are from Holston churches. Of those, 660 made first-time faith commitments and 800 rededicated their lives to Christ.
> The Strategy Team reported that missional hubs training was successful in February 2019 and a new Holston website is in development.
> Representing COSROW (Commission on the Status and Role of Women), the Rev. Sharon Bowers recognized Bishop Dindy Taylor’s leadership as Holston's first female bishop. Also recognized were the Rev. Brenda Carroll and the Rev. Sandra Johnson, retiring July 1 after years of leadership on the Cabinet and in local churches.
> From Willow, Alaska, the Rev. Joe-d DowlingSoka and the Rev. Christina DowlingSoka shared about their ministry in “Holston’s frontier outpost.” Willow United Methodist Church serves 15 percent of the population (2,000 people within 600 square miles), many who are impoverished.
> The 5K Run/ 1-Mile Walk fundraiser to fight opioid addiction had 68 participants. Top male and female 5K finishers were Robert Kariuki Nyaga with a time of 19:29 and Nancy Twigg with a time of 26:37.
> Thirty-three retiring clergy were honored during the Retirement Recognition. The Rev. Brenda Carroll ceremoniously “passed the mantle” to the Rev. Clayton Farmer, ordinand.
> Five persons were ordained as elders: Susan Nicole Arnold, Rachel Witt Carosiello, Clayton Ray Farmer, Gary Richard Ihfe, and James Christopher Ray.
> Eight persons were commissioned as provisional elders: Bradley Steven Brown, Timothy Duane Hale, April Beth Hall, Stephen Harris Hopkins, Andrew Curtis Lay, David William Payne, Samuel Adam Reese, and Alexander Phillip Thompson.
> One person was recognized as an associate member: Rochelle Dobbins Maxwell.
> Eight persons were licensed as local pastors: Rachel Lee Collins, Brenda Bell McAdams, Thomas Mott, Valerie Ohle, Walter Lambuth Pierce Jr., Adam M. Reuss, Jennifer Marjorie Spieth, and Jarrod Daniel Suits.
> Music was shared by a 65-member volunteer choir; the “African Drums” from Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee; bagpiper Jon Shell of Elizabethton, Tennessee; music leader Wesley Rouse of Fairview United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee; and organist Bryan Underwood of State Street United Methodist Church in Bristol, Virginia.
> Membership stands at 158,861, down 1,702 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 56,617, down 2,740. Church school attendance stands at 29,190, up 2,368. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018: 1,456, down from 2017 by 149. Adults and young adults in small groups for 2018: 35,247, up from 2017 by 85. Worshippers engaged in mission for 2018: 34,253, up from 2017 by 2,427.
The 2020 session of Holston Annual Conference will be held June 7-10 in Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Contact Annette Spence, editor, at email@example.com.
For more Annual Conference news including daily reports and newspapers, visit Holston.org/ACNews.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.