ALCOA, Tenn. (July 8, 2017) – Holston members have a lot of questions about how a newly adopted strategic plan will affect their ministries – particularly a component that reduces the number of districts from 12 to nine.
The Strategy Team that devised the plan hasn’t released a timeline, but they sent an email to nearly 1,500 church leaders on June 29. The email said they will ask for information about “work and ministry” that would eventually lead to establishing new district names and boundaries.
“The information you provide will not only be used to help discern guidance on the location and boundaries of the new districts and cultivation of new 'missional hubs,’ but it will also give us a sense of the gifts, skills and experiences of persons with whom we will be collaborating to help generate the process of change that is underway in our conference,” the email stated.
The team’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan was adopted by a majority vote of the Annual Conference on June 13, after presentations in every district and lengthy presentations during the Lake Junaluska gathering. Prior to the vote, the Strategy Team’s chair, Michael Eastridge, fielded questions and concerns about the plan’s implementation during question-and-answer sessions and on the Stuart Auditorium floor.
In addition to re-sizing districts, the seven-part strategic plan mandates clergy support groups, establishes missional hubs, deploys conference staff, evaluates teams and committees, and updates communications.
TRYING TO ADJUST
Churches are already adjusting to leadership under nine superintendents instead of 12, a decision announced by Bishop Dindy Taylor on May 2, effective July 1.
The Johnson City District’s 66 churches and Kingsport District’s 57 churches are currently sharing one superintendent, the Rev. Lauri Jo Cranford.
The Knoxville District’s 51 churches and Oak Ridge District’s 65 churches are sharing the Rev. Brenda Carroll as superintendent.
Tazewell District’s 81 churches and Abingdon District’s 91 churches are sharing the Rev. Sandra Johnson as superintendent. (See 2017-2018 appointment list.)
A statement released by the Appointment Cabinet on June 6 explained more about the decision:
During the March Appointment Cabinet meetings, the decision was made to appoint 9 superintendents for the upcoming appointment year. A superintendent has been named and appointed for each of the 12 districts of the conference. Those superintendents whose name appears with more than one district will be drawing on the assistance of their neighboring superintendents to address the ministry needs of each district. The details of how this will be implemented in each area will be determined by the bishop and cabinet over the summer. Any questions or needs of a clergy member or congregation are to be addressed to the current district office and the appointed superintendent until any further arrangements are determined and announced.
In its FAQs, the Strategy Team said that extra administrative help, staff deployment, and missional hubs will help district superintendents manage larger workloads.
The Strategy Team said it hopes to complete realignment of district boundaries within the next year, “but there are many variables and factors that can affect the timing.”
Although a map of the realigned nine districts was provided in the Book of Reports (page 54), the Strategy Team said it is "merely a close rendition of what it might look like."
"The District Superintendents and the Bishop will ultimately determine the actual boundaries in accordance with the evaluation process and their authority set forth in The Discipline," the Strategy Team said in its FAQs.
In the meantime, some district offices and administrative assistants are feeling the transition. The Johnson City District office announced July 6 that Cranford had moved her office from Kingsport to Johnson City.
“Wondering who to call?” the Johnson City District newsletter said in an explanatory article. “None of us know quite yet how this district restructuring will look. Much of that will be decided when the Cabinet meets later this summer. For now, all of the churches that have been part of the Johnson City District still relate to this office.”
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.