I'll see you at Annual Conference

In the year 1956, our church passed a motion from the then-president of Asbury College to give full clergy rights to women. At Annual Conference, we will celebrate this historic occasion. The theme for the June 11-14 gathering in Lake Junaluska, N.C., is "Courageous Past, Bold Future."

And so, it is in that spirit that I will welcome you to the annual gathering of representatives of the 914 mission outposts of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church and our various extended ministries known as Holston Home for Children, Asbury Inc., Emory & Henry College, Hiwassee College, Tennessee Wesleyan College, Holston Conference Foundation, and the Wesley Foundations. We are spread throughout the geographic region of southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, and north Georgia, with a couple of churches in West Virginia and North Carolina.

We were planted in these places to spread the Good News. We are the descendants of courageous men and women who were not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They reached out and enlarged the church family; built schools and colleges to educate our children; built hospitals; built safe places for children who were neglected and abandoned; built homes to care for our aging loved ones; created institutions to help us use our money in ways that blessed families, churches, and institutions; and most of all, built a community of love. We wrestled with issues of racism and sexism and found a way to be one because we heard the Bible tell us "there is no longer male or female, bond or free, Gentile or Jew but we are all one in Christ Jesus."

In recent years we have struggled to be faithful to our charge: "to go and make disciples of all nations." But I hear a fresh wind blowing. I sense a new spirit within us and a rekindled desire to go boldly into the future, rebuild our mission outposts, and in some places, build new outposts so that we might fulfill God's vision of a risk-taking, spirit-led, love-filled community determined to let the Light of Jesus shine through.

Let us stretch ourselves in courageous ways. Let us boldly and shamelessly worship so that we may leave here inspired to be gutsy and daring as the Holy Spirit leads us into a greater tomorrow.

Yours in Christ,
James E. Swanson Sr.


Bishop James Swanson
Resident Bishop

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