Changes ahead for local Methodists

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It’s a time of change for area Methodists. We will learn April 22 which churches have opted to disaffiliate with the United Methodist denomination. Later will come the assignment of pastors to congregations within the Holston Conference UMC.

While it is painful for all involved and life-altering for some, this week was a longtime coming and will enable a fresh start for those who go and those who stay. As a divorce lawyer once said, “In the end they were fighting about the garden hose.”

The dissidents are joining the Global Methodist Church, which launched in May 2022. Learn about them here.

A reporter has estimated as many as 25% of Holston Conference Methodists will disaffiliate. Read Andrew Schwartz’s March 20, 2023, story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press here.

April 22 meeting

A special session of the annual conference of the Holston Conference of The United Methodist Church will be held at Central United Methodist Church in Knoxville on Saturday, April 22, 2023, starting at 10 a.m. EDT. Clergy and laity who were voting members at the June 2022 annual conference are also voting members at the special session.

The purpose will be to process qualified requests for disaffiliation. In the call, the affiliation/disaffiliation team said some congregations may need more time to decide, so a subsequent special session will be considered for the last quarter of 2023.

Organizers expect a noon adjournment; registration starts at 8:30 a.m.

Full-time appointment changes

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and the Cabinet have recommended full-time clergy appointment changes to take effect July 1, 2023.

With nine districts in the Holston Conference, only seven district superintendents were named and one is an interim. Read the list here.

Bishop Wallace-Padgett wrote, “This time of transition in the Holston Conference is full of hope and possibilities.” The bishop and cabinet anticipate district lines may be redrawn because of the “shift” in conference churches. “This will allow the Conference Strategy Team adequate time to carefully assess and recommend a reset as needed for the 2024-2025 Conference year,” she said.

The clergy appointments will be fixed during the 2023 Holston Annual Conference, which will gather at Lake Junaluska on June 4-7, 2023.

Burns is associate director

One special appointment announced by Wallace-Padgett was that of the Rev. Leah Burns as associate director of connectional ministries, multi-cultural ministries. Burns has served as pastor of Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church in East Knoxville since July 2020.

Leah Burns

Since being appointed at Lennon-Seney, the 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. Burns also served as board chair at UTK Wesley Foundation and currently serves on various conference and district committees. She has lived here since 2005.

The 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…”

Writer Tim Jones ends her section with this quote: 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.

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