Holston United Methodists finalize departure of 264 congregations

Holston United Methodists finalize departure of 264 congregations

The April 22 Special Session of the Holston Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church was held at Central United Methodist Church and attended by 945 members and guests.

Media contact:
Rev. Tim Jones
Director of Communications

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.  – United Methodists of the Holston Conference worshipped together for the last time today as a body of 842 local churches before voting to allow 264 congregations to leave the denomination.

A special session of the Holston Annual Conference was held at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Knoxville on Saturday, April 22, to worship and process requests for churches to exit The United Methodist Church. The meeting also included the kickoff of a visioning and prayer campaign for the future of Holston Conference, which has 578 remaining churches in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia.

The gathering was attended by 945 members and guests, representing both remaining and departing churches.

“It is a poignant day as our disaffiliating churches and withdrawing pastors have played an important role in the lives of those of us continuing in The United Methodist Church,” said Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, resident bishop. “Our conference vote today ratifying disaffiliations will not change the impact these pastors and churches have had on us.”

The decision of some “traditionalist” congregations to separate from the denomination was triggered by long conflict over issues around human sexuality and other matters. A church law expiring at the end of 2023, “paragraph 2553,” allows U.S. congregations to exit with property if they also meet other financial and procedural requirements.

The list of churches leaving the Holston Conference will now join 2,095 U.S. congregations that have withdrawn from The United Methodist Church since 2019, representing about 7% of U.S. United Methodist churches, according to the denomination’s news media.

With the disaffiliations approved today, total Holston Conference membership will drop from 148,580 to 117,378, representing 21% of members who are departing the denomination, said the Rev. Tim Jones, Holston communications director.

Jones also said that 66% or 175 of the 264 disaffiliating congregations have fewer than 100 members. Out of 25 Holston churches with more than 1,000 members, 23 will remain United Methodist.

After approval of the disaffiliations and prayers for departing churches and members, the Rev. Kim Goddard, dean of the cabinet under Wallace-Padgett, spoke about the future of Holston Conference to church members who stayed for the visioning part of the meeting.

“I see 578 churches who now have the opportunity and the calling to set a new course,” Goddard said. “As painful as the last hour was, that hour has passed. Now we have this hour, this moment, and I believe in this time we have the potential and possibility to write a new chapter, to give us a fresh new start, to set us on a renewed and revived path of faithfulness.”

Bishop Wallace-Padgett said the future of Holston Conference is “strong and robust.”

“We are a people moving into the future with courage and determination. Most of all, we are focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” she said.

See livestream recording at Holston.org/live. For more information about Holston Conference, visit Holston.org. For information about The United Methodist Church, visit UMC.org. The Holston Conference offices are based in Alcoa, Tennessee. 


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Communications Staff

The Holston Conference Communications Staff includes Tim Jones, director; Annette Spence, editor; and Ben Smith, multimedia specialist.