The Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church finished up its annual conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C., on Wednesday and announced the appointments of several new pastors for the Chattanooga area.
They include Joshua D. Kilbourne at Signal Crest UMC, Timothy B. Bracken at Brainerd, Adam McKee at Harrison, John W. Oldham at Simpson Memorial, Debra P.
Dickerson at St. Elmo, Sherry Cothran at St. Marks, and Ty Harrison at Tyner.
Other new appointments in the Chattanooga area – or Scenic South District – are Charlotte S. Williams at Eastdale Village, Justin Keating at Flintstone-Fort Oglethorpe, Charles H. Smelley Jr. at Hurst, Richard L. Brown at Stanley, J. Christopher Ray at New Salem, Christopher Dover at Sand Mountain-Wildwood, and Greg Bartley at Mount Crest in the Sequatchie Cluster.
A somewhat unique appointment is that Rachel Collins, a local pastor currently attending the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, will serve as an associate pastor at Burks in Hixson, where father Tony Collins is the senior pastor.
The Holston Conference – which covers Methodist churches primarily in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and immediate North Georgia – also elected clergy delegates to the 2020 General Conference and the 2020 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.
Among those elected as a lay delegate to General Conference was Becky Hall, a member of Christ UMC in East Brainerd. An unusually high number of young adult clergy and lay delegates were also selected to attend and vote at both conferences.
The General Conference makes decisions for the worldwide United Methodist Church, while the Jurisdictional Conference’s most important role is to select bishops to lead conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
Although delegates to General Conference are not required to reveal their theological positions, the talk among the Holston Conference attendees this week was that the slate of Holston candidates selected to General Conference might be more "progressive" overall than the group that attended the special General Conference.
During the special conference earlier this year, the worldwide church had strengthened its stand on the prohibition of LBGT clergy members, as well as against wedding ceremonies among LBGT couples being conducted in United Methodist churches or by UMC clergy.
Many believe the issue will be discussed and looked at again at the 2020 General Conference, and that is why major attention was placed on the election of delegates at this year’s Holston Annual Conference.
In part because of the voting and due to some technical malfunctions with the equipment, the voting continued for three hours past the planned conclusion of the Holston Conference Wednesday.
Also in connection with the LGBT issue, the Holston Conference this week approved by roughly a 5-3 margin a resolution that says it continues to welcome LBGT members into its churches and grieves for the church over the recent General Conference action.
The resolution, which was softened in its wording twice before being passed, said in part, “We commit ourselves to welcome and affirm LGBTQAI+ persons in the churches of Holston, knowing them as persons of God’s sacred worth.
“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 resolution is simply a statement of support for the LGBT community and does not change this year’s General Conference vote upholding the rules in the church’s Book of Discipline regarding clergy.
The Holston group also began efforts to look at ways it could fight the opioid addiction crisis in the region around its churches and heard lectures from two people who work in the field. The conference attendees also took up a collection of $129,733 to fight the epidemic through mission outreach efforts.