My report of the Holston Conference Annual meeting comes again from Lake Chickamauga. The conference delegates met on two days, June 12, 2021 when conference leaders gave annual reports virtually and again on August 28, 2021 which was a hybrid conference with some delegates in Kingsport at the convention center and others at home by their computers. Zoom connections made it possible for members at home to participate in debate and vote remotely.
The conference was recorded and is on-line for everyone to view at holston.org/annual-conference . In addition to gavel-to-gavel action of the conference, the website includes a video of the Memorial Service recognizing pastors, administrators and spouses who died during the year and the Service of Ordination and Commissioning of clergy and church leaders. The Book of Reports is also available at holston.org/annual-conference.
The theme for the conference was “In the Midst…God is with Us.” Various speakers and the use of modern technological testified to the fact that God is with us through the challenges of the pandemic.
The June meeting consisted of annual reports by various boards and committees. The August meeting was a business meeting to vote on aspects of the June reports which needed official action by the conference.
Official Action Taken by the Conference:
1. Finance and Administration
A budget of $8,742,252 was approved. Budget calculations were based on 2019 receipts. There was a $199,305 budget deficit during 2020.
A salary of $107,485 was approved for District Superintendents.
2. Board of Pensions
The service rate of $601 per service year was adopted.
Committee member, David Tabor, reported that the conference is not collecting enough to fund pensions and health benefits. He reported a 16.5% increase for church and 16.5 % increase to clergy and laity who have PPO or SHO plans.
3. Equitable Compensation
Committee chairman, Rev. Bruce Galyon, explained that actions of this board pertain only to clergy at the minimum salary level. A dollar rather than a percent raise will be recommended. The conference agreed.
4. New Business
A resolution presented at the August meeting called for extensive methods of communicating positions of the United Methodist Church and the Wesleyan Covenant Association, including presentations and question and answer time at each United Methodist church in the conference. The resolution called for the conference to fund these meeting. An amendment from the floor resulted in the resolution being referred to the Finance and Administration committee because of the cost expected to be incurred.
5. Church Closures
Resolutions for closure of five churches in the Holston Conference were approved.
6. Petitions and Resolutions Committee
Only two resolutions received conference voting during the limited time allotted for this committee. A resolution related to the stewardship of creation was referred to the Outreach Advocacy Ministry Team. A resolution calling for an on-line data base of emails and phone numbers for all conference leadership committee members and delegates was rejected.
Noteworthy Items Not Requiring Official Conference Action
1. Listed in the Book of Reports were the names of eight individuals who received a license to preach during the time since the last annual conference. Forty-eight individuals were listed as retirees during the last two years.
2. The Task Force on Dismantling Racism reported their plan to form a partnership with the Fearless Dialogues organization at Emory University. The task force also plans to have a self-assessment tool for individual churches and resources on the website related to dismantling racism.
The final vote affirmed the motion to hold the 2022 Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska.