Methodists in midst of naming new districts

Rick Wagner • Nov 19, 2017 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — With apologies to Shakespeare, if a rose by another name would smell just as sweet, will the region’s United Methodists be just as happy after merging 12 districts into nine and coming up with nine new names? 

The Holston Conference is in the midst of a decision to name those newly drawn districts. In the greater Kingsport area, the churches now in the Kingsport District would be split almost evenly between the current Big Stone Gap District and the current Johnson City District. However, some western Hawkins County churches are to be shifted from the Kingsport District to a new one including Morristown.

And the finalists are ...

The three finalists for the name of the new District 3, which will include part of far Southwest Virginia, part of the Kingsport area, western Sullivan County and eastern Hawkins County, are the Appalachian District, Mountain Empire District and Wilderness Trail District. Voting on the choices presented by the Holston Conference Strategy Team began Wednesday and ends Dec. 8. The new district names will be announced Dec. 14. Maps of the new districts and a detailed church-by-church list are online at Strategy.Holston.org.

“We are now in the process of selecting a name for each of these nine new districts that will represent the gifts and unique characteristics of the people and places of each part of the Holston Conference. From the names that have been suggested, each district superintendent has worked with a district committee to determine the top three choices,” said an email to church members. “In the Scriptural Story, we see that names matter to God,” according to ballots attached to the email sent out by the Holston Conference Nov. 15. “In Holston’s story, we believe names matter as well, as they reflect our sense of connection and our sense of calling.”

This is not the failed Gateway District merger

The last time a merger was attempted involving the Big Stone and Kingsport districts, in the 1990s, it was called the Gateway District and failed. But the current plan encompasses all areas of the conference, which encompasses Southwest Virginia southwestward to Chattanooga and into northern Georgia. Boundaries of every district will change, and the 12 districts will no longer exist as they do now.

The Holston Conference this fiscal year is already operating with fewer district superintendents, as decided by Bishop Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor. The next Annual Conference, set for June 2018 in Lake Junaluska, N.C., is to vote on some aspects of the changes that go well beyond boundaries. At the 2017 meeting, the conference voted to proceed with merging the 12 districts into nine.

According to information from the Holston Conference Strategy Team, a plan for seven districts was considered but rejected. The idea, the information said, was to try to equalize resources in the various districts as much as possible. The changes also will save the conference money, although the Strategy Team said that was not a direct goal of the changes.

Elsewhere in the region

— Voting choices for District 1, including the Wytheville, Va., area are New River District, Blue Ridge District and Mountain Valley District;

— For District 2, including Marion and Bristol, the choices are Clinch Mountain District, Highlands District and Overmountain District.

— In District 4, which would include Johnson City and the part of Sullivan County not in District 3, the choices are the Watauga District, Nolichucky District and Three Rivers District.

— And for District 5, including the western end of Hawkins County and Morristown, the choices are Mountainview/Mountain View District; Six Rivers District; and Mountain-Rivers District.

For the current Kingsport District, the mailing address is P.O. Box 894, Kingsport, TN 37662-0891 and email is [email protected] For Big Stone Gap District, they are 21 E. Fifth St. N., Big Stone Gap, VA 24219-2361 and [email protected] For Johnson City District, they are 110 Mary St., Johnson City, TN 37615-2628 and [email protected] For the Morristown District, they are P.O. Box 1592, Morristown, TN 37816-1692 and [email protected] The others are listed at Strategy.Holston.org.