LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. -- The Holston Annual Conference completed its election, adopted a resolution, fixed the ministerial appointments, and celebrated the ordination and commissioning of clergy on the final day of the June 9-12 gathering.
The election continued about four hours beyond schedule until 7:30 p.m. The delegate list was celebrated by many for including a deacon (the Rev. Mary Thompson) and a significant number of younger members.
Emily Ballard, age 24, was officially elected delegation leader in the group’s first meeting after adjournment of the Annual Conference. (See related story. Story about younger delegates to come.)
General Conference delegates - lay: Emily Ballard (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, Randy Frye, Sharon Bowers, Lauri Jo Cranford (alternate), Josh Kilbourne (alternate)
Jurisdictional delegates - lay: Amanda Onks, Charles McEntyre, Reagan Kelly, Jim Gass, Nate Roark, Leamon Burl Lawson, Sam England (alternate), Dawson Kitts (alternate)
Jurisdictional delegates - clergy: Lauri Jo Cranford, Josh Kilbourne, David Graybeal, Kristen Burkhart, Sarah Varnell, Mark Flynn, Amy Aycock Sumrall (alternate), Caleb Frazier (alternate)
The Annual Conference adopted a resolution by a vote of 573 to 301. Titled “Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together,” the resolution was adopted after a 40-minute discussion involving about 15 speakers, including speeches for and against.
Other votes were taken in midst of the discussion to approve an amendment and to approve a paper ballot. The amendment, proposed by Carolyn Allen of the Mountain View District, changed a word in the last sentence from “apologize” to “grieve.” Previous versions of the resolution were submitted by Stephanie Strutner and the Rev. Andy Ferguson, both of the Tennessee Valley District. (See Tuesday report.)
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.
The Service of Ordination, Commissioning, Recognition and Sending Forth recognized five ordinands, eight provisional elders, and one associate member.
Bishop Richard Looney served as guest preacher at the request of Bishop Dindy Taylor. “Love is not just an emotion. Love is what you do,” Looney said. “You’re called to pastor some real traditionals. You’re called to pastor some real progressives ... You are not sent there to stroke your caucus. You are sent there to love them all.”
Ordained elders: Rachel Witt Carosiello, Susan Nicole Arnold, James Christopher Ray, Clayton Ray Farmer, Gary Richard Ihfe.
Provisional elders: April Beth Hall, Andrew Curtis Lay, Samuel Adam Reese, Alexander Phillip Thompson, David William Payne, Bradley Steven Brown, Stephen Harris Hopkins, Timothy Duane Hale.
Associate member: Rochelle Dobbins Maxwell
> In the report from Camping and Retreat Ministries, the Rev. Mary Thompson said Holston’s five camps hosted 3,280 campers in 2018, including 52 percent from Holston churches. Of those, 660 made first-time faith commitments and 800 rededicated their lives to Christ. While other camps are closing, Holston Conference has “one of the largest United Methodist camp and retreat ministries in the world,” Thompson said.
> In the Personnel Resources report, the Rev. Reed Shell announced Julie Graham had been training and will follow the late Rev. Ken Luton as conference pensions/ health insurance administrator. Shell also announced the Rev. Caleb Frazier will serve as director of the Wesley Foundation at East Tennessee State University, following the Rev. John Ousley who retires July 1.
> In the Strategy Team report, a video presentation shared that missional hubs training was successful in February 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 the first female bishop in Holston Conference. Also recognized were the Rev. Brenda Carroll and the Rev. Sandra Johnson, retiring effective 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 DowlingSokas asked for support through financial gifts, supplies, visits, and prayers.
> Bishop Taylor shared Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church in Knoxville had suffered from arson on Tuesday night after the church’s “African Drums” group shared music during the Missions Celebration. The secretary’s office was destroyed. “There’s a certain spirit of wanting to do harm to the church,” Taylor said, before sharing a prayer asking for “love, harmony, and peace with each other.”
> Humor, much needed after a strenuous schedule and sensitive discussions, was applauded during the Discipleship Team’s light-hearted report from the Rev. Liz Hamilton and the Rev. Randall Wright. The Rev. Brian Burch’s humor was also well-timed and well-received during his Morning Devotion and Board of Trustees report.
Shortly before a delayed lunchtime and after a morning of balloting and debate, John Stroud of the Mountain View District brought down the house by stepping up to the microphone and asking, “Would it be alright to order out for pizza?” Bishop Taylor responded, “If it’s pepperoni with cheese.”
> The next Holston Annual Conference will be held June 7-10, 2020, at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.