LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (June 11, 2019) -- The Annual Conference elected its first three delegates to General Conference on Monday, including a young adult as the leader of the delegation.
Emily Ballard, age 24, was the first delegate elected on the third ballot for lay members. The Rev. Kim Goddard was elected on the second ballot for clergy. Del Holley was elected on the fourth ballot for lay members.
In all, the Annual Conference will elect six lay members and six clergy for General Conference 2020, before proceeding to elect delegates for Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.
Yesterday’s voting was fraught with delays, mistakes and malfunctions. A ballot was declared invalid after badges were provided to ineligible clergy voters. The vote-counting machine malfunctioned and ballots had to be counted by hand until repair or replacement can be provided.
After Ballard’s election, Laura McLean asked for a “point of personal privilege” in celebrating the election of a young person as delegation leader, a significant milestone in Holston Conference as well as in the denomination. McLean is associate director of connectional ministries for youth and young adults.
In her “State of the Church” report, Bishop Dindy Taylor read Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 12 about unity and diversity in the church: “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church.”
“The more I have studied, prayed, and been in meetings about the divisive situation we are in, I have been drawn to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth,” she said.
Taylor referred to a front-page article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press appearing on June 9. The headline was: “The Methodist church is fracturing: A conference this weekend will help decide its future.”
She said she had attended meetings in which both progressives and traditionalists felt “deeply hurt” because they believed “The United Methodist Church no longer wanted them to be part of it.”
Taylor told of preaching recently at the 75th anniversary celebration for Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Chattanooga. There, she met a woman who shared how the church had cared for her during childhood when her addicted parents could not. Today, the Rev. Anita Holland Pringle is a pastor in the Mississippi Annual Conference.
Despite disagreements between members, the church can still work together to love people as they did for Pringle, Taylor said. “That’s Christ’s body. That’s who we are. We must never forget that, because God is counting on us.”
In the Lay Leader’s Report, Del Holley said Holston Conference has two paths. One is a path “filled with worry, hand-wringing, and asking, ‘What is the future of the church?’” Holley said. “We must avoid that path at all costs for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.”
Instead, Holley challenged members to “choose the path of devotion. Recommit yourself to sharing the good news of God’s love, claim the power of the Holy Spirit, that the Kingdom of God may come upon the earth.” (Read Holley’s complete report.)
> The Annual Conference adopted the resolution printed on pages 147-151 in the Book of Reports: “Every Barrier Down: Toward Full Embrace of All Women in Church and Society.”
> The Annual Conference adopted the resolution printed on page 152 in the Book of Reports: “Black Methodist for Church Renewal.”
> A resolution entitled, “Holston Conference Commitment in Being in Ministry Together,” was submitted yesterday to the Petitions and Resolutions Committee (after the printing of the Book of Reports). The committee “did not come to a consensus” on a recommendation for or against the resolution, said John Eldridge, chair. After one speech against and one speech for, the Annual Conference voted to approve a motion to table the resolution until it could be printed and shared. (Download resolution.)
> Representing the Council on Finance and Administration, the Rev. Jeff Lambert reported a 2018 budget surplus of $439,114. He thanked the 545 congregations paying 100 percent of their tithes in 2018. A $9.1 million budget proposed for 2020 is scheduled to be voted on Tuesday.
> Tim Hilton, addiction and recovery expert, shared his personal story of substance abuse, while explaining brain chemistry during addiction and the nature of the disease. “This is the only battle we win by getting off the battlefield,” he said. Hilton’s presentation prepared church members for ministry to help individuals and families struggling with addiction. The missions offering collected Tuesday night will later be distributed in grants for new and existing ministries addressing addiction.
> In her evening presentation, Stephanie Strutner, executive director of ASAP of Anderson, said more than five people die of an opioid overdose every day in Holston Conference. In Holston’s 872 congregations, there are eight people for every one person in need of support for substance abuse. Faith communities are needed to work with other sectors in addressing the epidemic in multiple ways, she said. “We’ve got to have a comprehensive approach. Not just one strategy is going to work for everyone here.”
> During the Memorial Service, the Rev. Catherine Nance spoke of how pastors spend their lives being with others in times of grief and pain. “We deal with, it but we have to get up and do the next thing, because that is what pastors do,” she said. Expressing gratitude for the 55 clergy and spouses who died within the past year, Nance said, “They’re not just going on to the next thing but they are experiencing the best thing.”
> Just before sharing the report from the Committee on Rules and Order, the Rev. Brad Scott gave a gift to Bishop Dindy Taylor: A 123-year-old Robert’s Rules of Order book, owned by Clara Tucker Perry, a Methodist women’s leader with ties to Holston Conference. Scott said he gave it to Taylor to “honor the leadership of Holston women across the years."
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.