By Bishop D. Chris Thompson
It was my privilege and a special blessing to preside over the 2017 Annual Conference of the Appalachian Conference on June 17, 2017. The conference was held at the conference campground in Dublin, Virginia. The facility is great and has been upgraded extensively over the last two years. A new dining/training center has been built. It is beautiful.
Betty was able to attend with me. This is her home conference (Salem Church). She was thrilled. We were able to arrive on our anniversary, which was Thursday. We were able to enjoy and be blessed by the preaching of Demetrius Miles (Acts2Day), Dr. Ryan Jackson (The Capital Church) and Dr. Terry Trammel in the Friday night GO Service. All were phenomenal. (Dr. Jackson was one of my youth camp students many years ago.)
Bishop Preston Mathena started the conference on time, Saturday, 9 a.m. He and his council/staff had everything expertly organized. Some 290 delegates registered with a total attendance of over 370. The spirit was excellent. Melanie Wayne, daughter of Pastors Tony and Sharon Atkinson, led in a time of worship. She is phenomenal. I was introduced and gave a personal word on the theme – “We Prayerfully Value Christ’s Kingdom.” The words and spirit presented were well received. It was a privilege to recognize several former superintendents of the conference. I knew all of these and had worked closely with all in some form or the other:
Rev. Glennard Quesenberry (married Betty and me)
Rev. Ed Wood (also served as General Secretary/Treasurer)
Rev. Walter Lee Wood (serves as Holmes Bible College trustee)
Rev. Ken Kingrea (a friend and co-laborer for many years)
In addition, there were many special guests at the meeting:
Esther Underwood (wife of General Superintendent B.E. Underwood.)
Betty Thompson (soon to be Archivist at Holmes Bible College)
Dr. Ron White (President of Emmanuel College)
Dr. Ryan Jackson (Pastor of Capital Church, N.C.)
Rev. Eddie Wood, Jr. (Assistant Pastor of Northwood Temple, N.C.)
Revs. Steve & Betsy Cofer (World Missions Ministries)
Dr. Terry Trammel (World Missions Ministries)
Rev. Gailya List (Missionary)
Rev. Ruth Brookshire (Missionary)
Rev. Joe and Maggie Delport (Missionaries)
Rev. Jeff Willhoite (Missionary)
Rev. Bruce Hagee (Holmes Bible College)
Fifteen individuals were approved for minister’s license. Wow! This is a significant number. Here they are:
Walter Vernon Neese
William Keith Repass
Eight individuals were ordained. Some of these were church planters:
Mary L. Cook
Charles Randall Miller
Dr. Ron White was recognized to give a report on Emmanuel College. He did an excellent job. Rev. Bruce Hagee gave an inspiring report concerning Holmes Bible College. I followed up and explained my transition to the College in August.
Bishop Preston Mathena gave his personal report and the State of the Conference. The Conference is very stable. All the report was good. Churches are being planted. Churches are being revitalized. Churches are growing! His report was well received. This conference is to be commended for their faithfulness to the GMC and IPHC. Here is a list of some of the major points:
- “As previously stated, I view the future with great optimism; firstly, because we understand and embrace our vision – we know we are called to expand Christ’s kingdom through the primary tool of church planting as a conference. I believe that is in our DNA. That’s who we are. It’s what we do, what we are about.”
- “Second observation – I am optimistic because I believe the Appalachian Conference embraces diversity. As I continue to visit the churches in this conference, I am constantly being surprised by uniqueness I find. We have all types of churches – large churches, small churches, and most every size in-between; traditional churches, contemporary churches, and many unique blends. Our music reflects diverse genres, and we are becoming more multicultural in ethnicity and multigenerational in impact. I see the bar continually being raised – and ministry is done at a higher level throughout our conference. Our world is constantly changing and ever evolving – We must embrace diversity while firmly grasping the values of God’s Word that we hold dear.”
- “Third observation – Now let me be a little transparent and share a major concern. The challenge that we are facing as a conference today, that is a major concern throughout this denomination and the whole world of Christendom, is our inability to raise up and train pastoral leaders fast enough.”
- “We must also be thinking about developing successors in ministry, a trend (God design) that is starting to take root of late with positive results. I hope you read the article this month in the Messenger, on the superintendent’s page, by Frank Neff, entitled, “Pass the Baton – Pastoring Through Transition.” This article should challenge the thinking of every long-term pastor in this conference. Succession plans (exit strategies) are important for long-term results.”
Rev. Larry Meadors and I gave several pins to church planters. Larry serves as the director of World Missions and Evangelism. He is doing an excellent job. It has been a personal joy and privilege to work with him these last eight years. He has also used the services extensively of Stacy Hilliard (Church Multiplication) and Luis Avila (Hispanic Ministries.).
I was blessed to see so many female clergy in the conference. They have over 90 female clergy and have 22 female pastors. I think they are 2nd in the total number of female clergy (North Carolina being first) but I believe they are #1 in total number of lady pastors. Praise the Lord. Bishop Mathena reported that these lady clergy are phenomenal and are highly appreciated and praised.
Bishop Mathena presented a host of local church awards. Discipleship Director Ron Fredericks presented several of Discipleship Awards.
Conference council member Wanda Myers read a beautifully worded Memoirs Report. Here are those mentioned:
Rev. Ernest Kestner
Rev. Mrs. Mary Dodson
Rev. Everette Joe Rogers, II
Rev. William M. Post
Rev. William F. Monday
Rev. Mrs. Louise Mayhue
Rev. Donald C. Elliott
Rev. Mrs. Myrtle Wood
Pastor Steve Willis was recognized to hood two graduates of the Maranatha College of Christian Ministries. Pastor Steve is the president. This is an excellent training institution and serves as a School of Ministry (and more) for the Conference. I have had the privilege to teach in the college several times. I would that all the conferences had such a training institution.
I have never presided over a conference that I didn’t enjoy. This one certainly added to my list. I believe my total number now is approaching 60. This one was special because Betty enjoyed it so much – GO Service, Minister Spouse Reception, Camp Meeting, renewing friendships, time with first lady Kathy, etc.. By the way, I introduced her as the missionary from Appalachia to North Carolina, Oklahoma, and soon to be South Carolina. I believe she AND the Conference liked it. In the Appalachian Conference I am known as Betty’s husband. I receive it!!
Thank you, Bishop Mathena and team for the gracious hospitality. It is always a joy to work with and fellowship with Bishop Mathena (and with Preston you get Kathy). He has is doing an excellent job.
- Chris Thompson
Executive Director of EVUSA