Commentary By Steve Sallee
Commentary By Betsy Kersey

Commentary By Steve Sallee
Before the Alcoa move:
Thanks for the partnership

At Annual Conference, we approved the Board of Trustees report to move the conference office from Cokesbury Center in Knoxville to a larger facility in Alcoa, Tenn. Before the move takes place this fall, I feel compelled to reflect on the past few years.

Seven years ago the conference office was located on Knoxville's Western Avenue in the old St. James church building. The Episcopal offices included the bishop's office, the secretary's office, a small conference room, and one unisex bathroom. About that same time, Cokesbury United Methodist Church had a dream to buy and renovate the 64,000-square-foot former Lowe's building across the street from the church. The price tag for the purchase and renovations of the building was more than $6 million. Cokesbury would have been unable to make that move alone.

Bishop Ray Chamberlain and others consulted, and an idea was formed. The conference offices desperately needed to expand, and a new location was already being considered for Cokesbury Bookstore. To enable Cokesbury UMC to afford the lofty acquisition of the Lowe's building, the congregation willingly gave two of the three prime front locations in the new Cokesbury Center to the bookstore and conference. The bookstore became three to four times larger than the Western Avenue store. The conference offices eventually became six or seven times larger with approximately 22 offices, an updated conference room, two entrance areas, access to numerous restrooms, a large storage area, and use of classrooms and Epworth Hall when needed. Both the bookstore and the conference paid rent that was below market value.

From the church side, this partnership "made in heaven" enabled the church to make the purchase and move into the renovated facilities. Since the move to Cokesbury Center, Cokesbury UMC has started two new worship services, increased worship attendance from 1,228 to 2,290, and celebrated approximately 500 professions of faith.

So while we are sorry to see the conference offices move, we understand their need for more space as well as Cokesbury's need for more space. However, we should remember the story of how a local church and Annual Conference worked together for the betterment of both. Cokesbury and its people strived to be a good host, and at the same time, deeply appreciated the partnership that allowed us to move forward with a project that would have been otherwise unaffordable.

I thank the lay leadership and members of Cokesbury for their vision and willingness to partner with others for the advancement of the Kingdom. I thank the Annual Conference for their willingness to partner with us.

The Rev. G. Steven Sallee is senior pastor of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville District.

Commentary By Betsy Kersey
Prejudice was shown
at Annual Conference

On June 13, I attended my first session of the Holston Annual Conference. During the Resolutions Committee presentation, the first six of 10 resolutions were read aloud, followed by the committee's report of concurrence or non-concurrence. As is the custom, the conference voted on the committee's decisions.

Three of the last four resolutions were submitted by my own group, the Varnell-Day Sunday School Class of Broad Street United Methodist Church, Cleveland District. These resolutions were titled, "Reconsidering Our Relationship with the National Council of Churches (NCC)," "Resolution Urging Withdrawal From the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice (RCPC)," and "Resolution Affirming Laws Defending Marriage."

In presenting the resolutions regarding the NCC and the RCPC, the Resolutions Committee chair seemed to speak with prejudice and bias against them. There were denunciations of these resolutions and reports of phone calls made to Bob Edgar, head of the National Council of Churches, and to the Rev. Carlton Veazey, head of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. This gave the impression that the committee chair was debating against the resolution before he allowed delegates to speak. As the contact person for the Varnell- Day Class, I was never contacted by the committee chair prior to Annual Conference - even though my name, address, and phone number were on the resolution cover letters. It was disturbing to see such a display by one who is supposed to present items for vote in an impartial manner.

After the chair presented our third resolution, Bishop James Swanson intervened, saying the chair should hold his comments until after the delegates had a chance to speak. The chair's bias showed as he told the story of Jacob and his wives as a reason to non-concur with the resolution. Even so, we were happy that the resolution supporting laws on marriage between one man and one woman was approved.

Our main concern is for our church and the unbiblical, unnecessarily divisive, and overly politicized path pursued by some parts of our denomination. We presented these resolutions in good faith so that we might remain true to views supported by Scripture, by our Book of Discipline, and by the longstanding tradition of the Christian church.

The signers of these three resolutions will be prayerfully studying and revising the resolutions to resubmit to the 2007 session of the Annual Conference. We would be pleased to hear your comments concerning the resolutions and the way in which they were presented. Write: Betsy Kersey, 4363 N. Ocoee Street, Suite 1, Cleveland, TN 37312, e-mail

Betsy Kersey is a member of Broad Street United Methodist Church in Cleveland District.


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