Bishop and Cabinet announce full-time appointment changes
April 16, 2023
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and the Cabinet announce full-time clergy appointment changes to take effect July 1, 2023.
Among these new appointments are changes in the leadership of the Holston Conference’s nine districts. In anticipation that the current shift in the number of local congregations within the Conference may lead to the redrawing of district lines in 2024, the Cabinet has decided to undertake what they call a “transitional year.” During this year of transition, the appointive cabinet will consist of 7 district superintendents, one who will be serving as an interim. This will allow the Conference Strategy Team adequate time to carefully assess and recommend a reset as needed for the 2024-2025 Conference year.
The current nine districts will continue for the next conference year with the Appalachian and Three Rivers Districts and the Smoky Mountain and Tennessee Valley Districts served by Rev. Jeff Lambert and Rev. Ann Robins respectively. Rev. Lambert will be assisted by an Associate District Superintendent, Rev. Richie Hays, who will also serve the Ross Campground/Cameron charge in a part-time capacity. Likewise, Rev. Robins will be assisted by Rev. Sam Dzobo who will also serve part-time at St. John United Methodist Church. In addition, Rev. Sandra Johnson who was a Holston District Superintendent from 2011-2019 will serve as Interim District Superintendent in the Hiwassee District.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett says, “This time of transition in the Holston Conference is full of hope and possibilities. The seven District Superintendents who will comprise the Holston Appointive Cabinet are stellar leaders in our Annual Conference. I look forward to our continued ministry together. Also, I am grateful for the privilege of having served alongside those Superintendents who are leaving the Cabinet. They have shown steady, strong, and faithful leadership throughout their tenures, including during the challenges of the past year and a half.”
Four of our current District Superintendents will be leaving the Appointive Cabinet this year. Rev. Reed Shell is retiring this summer, and Rev. Lauri Jo Cranford is moving into an extension ministry role as a Marriage and Family Therapist at a private practice. Rev. Jason Gattis will be appointed as senior pastor at First-Centenary United Methodist Church in Chattanooga and Rev. Hugh Kilgore will serve as senior pastor at Broad Street United Methodist Church in Cleveland.
Bishop Wallace-Padgett adds, “What a blessing it is to serve the churches and clergy of the Holston Annual Conference. I am grateful for the deep faith and resilience of the people of Holston. I am excited about our ministry as we move into the future.”
The following clergy appointments will be fixed during the 2023 Holston Annual Conference, which will gather at Lake Junaluska on June 4-7, 2023. Part-time and additional appointments will be announced in the near future.
Full-time Projected Appointment List
New Staff Bios
Rev. Leah Burns – Associate Director of Connectional Ministries, Multi-Cultural Ministries
The Reverend Leah Burns has served as the pastor of Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church in East Knoxville since July of 2020. Since being appointed at Lennon-Seney, Rev. Burns has been guiding the congregation to be a church in the community in new ways. Prior pastoral appointments include Second, Church Street, and Haven Chapel United Methodist Churches. Rev. Burns also served as chair of the Board at UTK Wesley Foundation and currently serves on various Conference and District committees.
Rev. Burns describes herself as a faith-rooted activist…in ministry seeking justice and inclusion in the church and community…believing we are to be God’s hands and feet in building God’s kingdom here on earth. In Revelation 7:9 John the Apostle said:” I saw many people. No one could tell how many there were. They were from every nation and from every family and from every kind of people and from every language…” Rev. Burns seeks to help people to live into this vision where everyone – black, white, yellow and brown; male and female; young and old; from every place of origin, family, tribe, tongue and nation – all are welcome in worship and in life.
When not tending to the pastoral responsibilities of the local churches in which she has been appointed, Rev. Burns has worked to cultivate racial literacy in churches and in the community by bringing people together from disparate backgrounds to foster new relationships. She has led workshops, seminars, book studies, discussions, and Bible studies throughout the District and Conference.
Pastoral ministry is a “second career” for Rev. Burns. She held executive level positions in both corporate and nonprofit organizations prior to entering ministry in the United Methodist Church. She was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and comes from two generations of AME clergy in her family. She graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin with a major in International Relations and a minor in Spanish and French. Her corporate career has taken her to live in 6 states and abroad to several countries prior to moving to East Tennessee where she has resided since 2005.
In the book, The Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope, author, DeRay Mckesson wrote these words:
"In each generation there is a moment when young and old, inspired or disillusioned come together around a shared hope, imagine the world as it can be, and have the opportunity to bring that world into existence. Our moment is now."
The time is now for us as United Methodists to listen and to bring shalom, wholeness and peace with the people in our churches and those who are not. This is the life-giving work to which we all have been called. These days the world feels so frantic and messy and broken, but may we all remember that God uses our efforts to do beautiful things.
Rev. Mickey Rainwater – District Superintendent, Scenic South District
The Reverend Mickey Rainwater grew up in Dandridge, Tennessee where he attended his home church, Hills Union Church. He graduated with an Associate of Arts degree from Hiwassee College, with a Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee Wesleyan College, and with a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.
Mickey is currently appointed as Senior Pastor at Fairview United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee. Other appointments include: Mulberry Gap – Del Rio, TN; Red Bank Association – Chattanooga, TN; St. Paul’s – Etowah, TN; Seymour – Seymour, TN; Tyner – Chattanooga, TN; Morristown (Mountain View) District Superintendent; and First Broadstreet – Kingsport, TN. In addition to these appointments, Mickey has also served on the UTC Wesley Foundation Board, Hiwassee College Board of Trustees, the Tennessee Wesleyan College Board of Trustees, and the Board of Holston Home for Children. He is presently serving on the Board of Trustees of Lake Junaluska and as the chair of the Holston Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.
Mickey is married to Joy Wilhelm Rainwater and has one daughter, Elizabeth Rainwater who is a Freshman at Tennessee Tech University. He enjoys cooking for and serving his family as well as attending estate sales and antiquing when time permits. He said, “My ‘soul rests’ at the ocean, so I look forward to times when I am able to ‘renew’ by the water with a good book.”
This is the second time Mickey will serve as a District Superintendent and his third time to be in the Chattanooga/Scenic South District. “Having served in the Scenic District twice, and my wife being from North Georgia,” Mickey says, “the area feels familiar to me. I look forward to getting to know the pastors, churches, and the incredible ministry and mission being done there. I am excited to join the Scenic South in seeking the Kingdom of God.”
Rev. Sandra Johnson – Interim District Superintendent, Hiwassee
Growing up in Chattanooga, TN, Rev. Sandra Johnson graduated from Chattanooga High School and then the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She also graduated from Gammon Theological Seminary (ITC), with a Master of Divinity degree.
Sandra is a second career pastor. Prior to answering her call to ministry, she was employed by BellSouth Telecommunication as the Assistant Manager in the Sales and Service Center. Sandra has served as an Associate Pastor at Eastdale Village, and as the Senior Pastor at Hurst Memorial and Strawberry Plains. She has also served as the District Superintendent of the (formerly) Abingdon and Tazewell Districts and the Clinch Mountain District. Sandra retired in 2019 but, she began serving, and currently serves in retirement, Pruitt Hill-Tate Chapel Charge, Greeneville, TN. In addition to these appointments, Sandra served as the Vice-President of the Chattanooga District United Methodist Women (now known as United Women in Faith).
Married to Leon Johnson, Sandra and her husband have two adult children, Alexx and Allyson, and four wonderful grandchildren. She describes herself as a morning person saying she is often up before sunrise – “to just be still…or not.” She also loves collecting books “to read – someday.”
When asked about this new appointment, Sandra said, “I look forward to serving in ministry with the clergy and laity of the Hiwassee District and joining in their efforts to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Rev. Samuel Dzobo – District Associate, Smoky Mountain and Tennessee Valley Districts/St. John United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Samuel Dzobo is a native of Mutare, Zimbabwe and has been serving in the Holston Conference since 2008. He is married to Pauline, and they are blessed with two sons, Vongai and Mark Munashe. Sam and Pauline are currently in the process of adopting a girl from Zimbabwe. Her name is Ashley, and they are hoping and praying to bring her to the USA soon.
Sam has pastored in Zimbabwe and in the USA for twenty-seven years. In Zimbabwe he served as pastor in several congregations including Hilltop UMC, where Ishe Anesu Project is located. In the Holston Conference, Sam has served as pastor at Woodlawn, Mary’s Chapel, Rutledge, and Shady Grove, all in the Mountain View District.
Sam attended Africa University in Zimbabwe where he received a Bachelor of Divinity and a Master of Theological Studies. From Duke University he received a Master of Theology. He holds a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies with concentration in Mission and Evangelism from Asbury Theological Seminary.
Dr. Dzobo says, “I am excited and looking forward to serving as pastor at St. John’s UMC and as associate district superintendent. I have never shied away from leaning into new opportunities for ministry because I trust in God who says, ‘Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it…’”
Sam loves soccer. He and his two boys are big fans of Manchester United Football Club. In his spare time, Sam enjoys reading biographies and visiting museums. His joy and passion are in recruiting people to go on mission trips.
Rev. Richie Hayes/Ross Campground/Cameron Charge – District Associate, Appalachian and Three Rivers District
Rev. Richard Hayes is a native of Jefferson County, TN. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Data Processing from Carson-Newman. He graduated with a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. Richie is also a member of the World Methodist Evangelism’s Order of the FLAME (Faithful Leaders As Mission Evangelists).
Beginning his ministry as a student local pastor while in seminary, Richie has served in The United Methodist Church for 31 years. He has chaired the District Board of Ordained Ministry and has served several years as district statistician. He is currently serving on the Conference Board of Trustees and will be moving after four years as pastor at Washington Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Richie and his wife, Connie, have been married for almost 38 years. During that time, Connie has taught elementary children for 33 years. They have two adult daughters, Mallory and Lydia, one son-in-law, Brandon, and a grandson, Finley. One daughter is an HR manager, while the other daughter is a Nurse Practitioner in Psychology.
Richie and Connie have watched every episode of Columbo and Monk and enjoy them as their treat. He is interested in genealogy, UT sports, and classic cars, but mostly, Richie and Connie like to watch their grandson grow.
Excited about this new position, Richie says, “I like the word opportunity as it relates to the congregations. That word is positive, forward looking, and invigorating. That is where I want to live, serve, and see God at work. I think most people do.”
Tim is the Director of Communications at the Holston Conference of The United Methodist Church, where he leads a diverse team of communicators. He oversees audio, graphic design, video and written content that helps the local churches of Holston stay...