Yes, Annual Conference is here

Yes, Annual Conference is here

Bring peanut butter. Read your "Book of Reports." And get ready to vote for the people who will represent Holston at General Conference 2008.

Yes, Annual Conference time is here, and with it, the huge agenda of setting ministry in place for the coming years and acknowledging ministry of years past. This year's theme is based on the vision statement adopted at last year's Annual Conference: "Boldly, Passionately, Joyfully Making Disciples of Jesus Christ!" Bishop James Swanson will preside at the June 10-13 gathering of leaders representing 912 churches and 12 districts in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia. This year, 1,114 clergy and 921 lay members are expected to make the annual trek to Lake Junaluska Assembly in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Dominating the four-day schedule will be ballots for the election of 14 delegates (7 clergy, 7 lay) to attend General Conference. The elections happen only every four years and are highly anticipated as church leaders seek to choose delegates who will represent Holston well at the denomination's mega-conference, also held every four years. General Conference will be held April 23-May 2, 2008, in Fort Worth, Texas.

An additional seven lay and seven clergy will be elected to represent Holston at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, to be held July 13-18, 2008, in Lake Junaluska, N.C. Vital information about the election is provided in the "Book of Reports" and will also be presented at the Clergy and Laity Sessions held at Annual Conference. The first ballot (for clergy only) will be taken on Sunday evening, June 10. Clergy are urged to be present.

Please note: On Monday, June 11, the Laity Session will be held at 8:30 a.m. at Stuart Auditorium. The Clergy Session will be held at 9 a.m. at Shackford Hall. This location change is not reflected in the "Book of Reports."

Who's preaching?
The Rev. Dorothy Watson Tatem will preach at Sunday night's "Service of Remembrance and Communion." Tatem is director of the Office of Urban and Global Ministries, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. The Latvian United Methodist Youth Choir will sing during the service.

On Monday night, Bishop Robert Hayes will preach at the "Service of Ordination." Hayes is resident bishop of the Oklahoma Annual Conference. Singing during the service will be the First Morristown UMC Choir.

On Tuesday afternoon, the "Retirement and Commissioning Celebration" will be led by Bishop Clay Lee, former resident bishop for Holston Conference. The First Oak Ridge UMC Youth Choir will sing.

On Tuesday evening, Bishop Paulo Lockmann will preach at the "Celebration of Worship Service." Lockmann is resident bishop of the Rio Conference of the United Methodist Church of Brazil. During this service, members will give their church offerings for Brazil. The conference goal is $100,000. A variety of musicians will participate in the service, including the Bluegrass Disciples of Loudon United Methodist Church (Maryville District) and the Rev. Jimmy Sherrod of French Broad Circuit (Knoxville District).

On Wednesday afternoon, Bishop Swanson will preach at the Sending Forth Service, with music presented by the combined choirs of First Chilhowie UMC (Abingdon District) and the First Baptist Church of Chilhowie.

What decisions?
In addition to the election, Annual Conference members will make several decisions about the future of the church. The Council on Finance and Administration will present a $15.7 million budget for 2008, reflecting a 1.96 percent increase over the 2007 budget. The Board of Pensions will present a report that will convert retirees to a Medicare supplement program, effective January 2008.

Ten resolutions will be presented for the Annual Conference vote. Three of the ten were submitted by the Young Adult Ministry Team, requesting inclusion of young adults in church leadership, limiting the times a person can serve as a General Conference delegate, and increasing the young-adult age range.

Five resolutions are related to homosexuality issues, as submitted by the Wytheville District United Methodist Men and the Varnell-Day Sunday School Class of Broad Street UMC in Cleveland District.

Other resolutions concern domestic violence ministry in Holston and the social costs of the Tennessee State Lottery.

Why peanut butter?
The Young Adult Ministry Team will collect peanut butter for distribution to local food pantries in western North Carolina. Holston members can bring peanut butter to registration on Sunday afternoon, or leave it at the designated table in Harrell Center through Tuesday, June 12.

In addition to the Brazil offering, members should bring their churches' Change for Children offerings to Annual Conference. Change for Children offerings will be accepted on Tuesday at the tent between Stuart Auditorium and Harrell Center. Members are also invited to "Walk for Change" - stroll around the lake - any time between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Change for Children donations support children's ministries in Holston and in Africa.