By now many of you have heard that I am one of four bishops in the Southeastern Jurisdiction who will be covering an additional Conference until elections and assignments of new bishops take place during the next regular session of the Jurisdictional Conference (Nov. 2-4, 2022). This coverage situation is a result of Bishop Lawson Bryan, Bishop Paul Leeland, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor requesting to retire effective Sept. 1, 2021, under paragraph 408.2 of The 2016 Book of Discipline. Thanks to each of them for extending their service an extra year during the COVID-19 pandemic. They had originally planned to retire at the 2020 Jurisdictional Conference which was postponed).
Several of you have asked me my thoughts about assuming the Holston Conference in addition to continuing in the North Alabama Conference. As I process what this means in light of how I do my work in North Alabama, I am thankful for the strong leadership team consisting of our 7 District Superintendents (Rev. Terry Bentley, Rev. Kelly Clem, Rev. Sherill Clontz, Rev. Rick Owen, Rev. Tom Parrish, Rev. Sherri Reynolds, Rev. Donald Smith), Conference Lay Leader (Lisa Keys-Mathews), Executive Director of New and Renewing Churches (Rev. Suzanne Katschke), Executive Director of the Board of Ordained Ministry (Rev. Ron Schultz), Chief Financial Officer/Conference Treasurer/ Director of Administrative Services/Benefits Officer (Scott Selman) and Director of Connectional Ministries (Rev. Adlene Kufarimai). This is a diverse group of gifted and mature spiritual leaders who are focused on our North Alabama Conference vision and mission and are deeply committed to Jesus Christ. They are a key to my continuing to provide episcopal leadership in North Alabama while adding the additional responsibilities of the Holston Conference.
Also, I will be in communication with the Episcopacy Committees from both Conferences to assist in identifying priorities and coordinating my schedule. North Alabama Conference episcopacy committee members are Jesse Cleveland (chair), Andy Curtis (vice-chair), Madeline Hollingsworth (secretary), Rev. Dean Bowers, Rev. Brian Erickson, Barbara Jackson, Matthew Kilpatrick, Steve Lyles, Lisa Keys-Mathews, Rev. Bo Lloyd, Olene McGowen, Bert McLelland, Rev. Dorothy Scott, Rev. Robin Scott, Anne Warren and Ben Williams.
Some of you have inquired about the geography of the Holston Conference as well as its proximity to North Alabama. The Holston Conference includes portions of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia. Its Conference Center is located in Alcoa, Tennessee, (near Knoxville) about four hours from Birmingham. Consisting of nearly 884 churches and about 157,000 members, the Conference’s name comes from three forks of the Holston River which originates in southwest Virginia and extends to the Tennessee River.
My introduction to the staff, clergy and lay leadership of the Holston Conference will happen after the 2021 Annual Conference season is completed. I look forward to meeting these wonderful people who I am told, like North Alabama United Methodists, are warm, welcoming and passionate followers of Jesus Christ with a strong commitment to missions and loving neighbors.
Many of you have indicated that you will continue to pray for me as I lead the North Alabama and Holston Conferences. You and your prayers are gifts that I treasure!
I look forward to continuing to be in ministry with you as well as leading the fine people of the Holston Annual Conference. As always it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference