…it’s on my mind because this is Advent and we are on a journey to Bethlehem, a journey we take annually as a Church. There was a time when the Church began the season with a period of penitence and fasting. Perhaps these are practices that would serve us well in this current environment.
Have you ever wondered why purple is the liturgical color of Advent? It is to create a visual connection between Advent and Lent, the two periods of preparation for Jesus’ birth and death. For early Christians, it was essential to understand the link between the cradle and the cross—that Jesus came as the “Word made flesh.”
There will be great joy among us as we celebrate in our congregations in the coming days. We will celebrate the coming of Christ’s birth. Will we also hold before us the tension held within the reality that his life led to his crucifixion, resurrection and the promise of new life for all of us?
Kate Lasso, a member of the Eighth Day Faith Community suggests that during Advent we celebrate God’s invitation to reconciliation. To be reconciled to God is to be actively living what Jesus taught: Love God and love neighbor. Jesus’ invitation is also a call to discipleship.
Lasso continues: “The first ones to hear the news, and thus mark the advent of an age of reconciliation with God, were poor shepherds, some of the lowest ranking members of Jewish society. Their work made it impossible for them to observe the Jewish ceremonial laws and temple rituals, so they were considered religiously unclean and unacceptable. They weren’t considered trustworthy and were not allowed to give testimony in a Jewish court of law. They were social outcasts, yet they are at the heart of the joyous message—that Christ came for lowly shepherds, for all the forgotten people of the earth, for all of us.”
To be engaged in discipleship is to choose downward mobility. It is to take up one’s cross and follow daily our Leader. It is to be so in love with God that love for neighbor is the natural response. As you make preparations, make room. Make room in your heart, in your family, in your work, and in your re-creation. When you do, you will be ready for Christmas in the deepest places of your soul and you will be one with Christ and one with each other.
> The TN Conference Children & Families Ministry is publishing an excellent daily Advent devotional via email, CLICK HERE to subscribe – I recommend it!
Thomas, our grandson who is two, heard the train that runs behind our home. He hears it before he sees it. With all the energy a two year old can muster, he runs to the end of the street where he can stand and look as the train roars by. It is joy unspeakable for him. It is also a great gift to his Papa and Gran!It’s hard to remember the shear joy of childhood. I am sure I once was that joyful over the small things like playing hide-n-seek or having a favorite book read or running and falling in a pile of freshly raked leaves. I wish I could remember. I can’t.
That may well be why God gives us children and grandchildren…to remind us that grace is gift. Undeserved. Unmerited. Full of joy.
- A call comes from an old friend we have not seen nor spoken to in years.
- We find an old book, one that we read in a former time, and we remember still the passages that changed the course of our lives.
- We walk into the house and the familiar smells of fresh rolls baking take us back to a time when we were all still around the table and all under one roof.
Grace came another way last weekend for me. Against my better judgment last Saturday night, I braved the cold and watched the football game between Ole Miss and Missouri. My brother invited me. It’s been 30 years since we attended a college football game together. The first “real” football we ever owned growing up was an Ole Miss game ball given to us when my Dad was appointed pastor at First United Methodist Church, Fulton, MS, by Malcolm Stubblefield. My memories of the Ole Miss football run deep. Saturdays working with my dad and listening to Stan Torgensen call the play by play as Archie “Who” led Archie’s Army.
To be with my brother and sister-in-law, to be at an SEC football game of consequence, to experience the liturgy that is college football today: Grace. An unexpected grace—even if my toes were numb by the end.
The trip home this Thanksgiving is stirring memories of ties that bind.
These days, our Mississippi home has become something of an oasis, a place of renewal, a place to recharge our batteries, to pray, to reflect, to be still.
On this Thanksgiving journey, I am home with family. I touch the places of my youth and am thankful. I walk by the old football field where I tried my best to become something more than the image of my adolescent self. I venture into the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church and remember the means of grace that came to me unexpected, unmerited, always gift. I remember Wayne and Rheta Ann West, Mary Hall, Jo Ann Jernigan, Bo Moffitt, Julia Barkley and a whole host of others whose love and energy and commitment to Christ and His Church shaped my emerging faith in ways that continue to be profound, I know grace. These are the gifts of faith. Sitting in the cold, damp environs of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last Saturday night, I gave thanks for all that has brought me to this place.
This day, though, I am thinking of Thomas. Thomas, who has come into our family as gift—adopted by his parents, grafted into our family. Adopted child of God. One day he, too, will remember the ties that bind him to sisters and brothers in Christ. Someone will remind him that he is baptized. He will run into Abe Gurner, his best friend at Brewer United Methodist Church. They will greet each other. And both will give thanks and remember.
I trust we will all remember in this season of deep gratitude, that our ties to one another run deep. As the stress lines on our covenant are stretched, may we reach into the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds, to find a better way forward, filled more with gratitude than with judgment. May we be filled with thanksgiving for all God has created. And may we cease to pass judgment on another until we have walked two miles in their shoes.
And when we do, may we give thanks to God for the Grace that is ours through the gift of Jesus Christ.
May God’s richest blessings be yours as you gather around a bountiful table of blessings with friends and family.
Lynn and I are blessed beyond measure to be among you.
I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I am thankful for you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I am sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You area all my partners in God’s grace. Philippians 1:3-7a.
Created in response to the consumer-driven traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
For United Methodists, this means every gift made online that day through “The Advance” will be matched dollar for dollar. All you have to do is log onto umcmission.org/give and search more than 850 missions and ministries.
I encourage all United Methodists of the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) to participate in Giving Tuesday. It offers us all an opportunity to not only support United Methodist organizations that are transforming the world, but begin the month of December by giving, rather than receiving.
Please join me on Dec. 3 by giving back through The Advance. It’s an easy and meaningful way to show gratitude for the gift of our lord Jesus Christ.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Over the last several days the United Methodist Council of Bishops has been in session at Lake Junaluska, NC. Of the many topics on the agenda this week, none was more significant or more engaging than the discussion that resulted in this statement (posted below).
This statement from the Council of Bishops is a result of discernment, prayer, and deep reflection. It arises out of the recent actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert in the residential area of Bishop Debra Wallace-Padget.
Retired and resident bishops of The United Methodist Church throughout the world came to the Council of Bishops with widely different contexts, culturally and theologically, to craft the following points:
1. An acknowledgement of our dependence on God and our need for prayer
2. A recognition that United Methodists are not of one mind on the subject of human sexuality, and that there are deep divisions among Christians who read scripture in different ways and whose consciences move them to opposing convictions.
3. A direct response to the action of Bishop Talbert, which was in violation of the 2012 Book of Discipline by undermining the ministry of another.
4. A commitment to lead honest and respectful conversations around human sexuality, race, and gender in light of our theological convictions for the sake of our mission.
I ask you to note three facets of this development:
1. The General Conference, not the Council of Bishops, speaks for The United Methodist Church.
2. The Council of Bishops does not hold an individual bishop accountable; this practice is given by the General Conference to the (jurisdictional) College of Bishops.
3. The response of the bishops is a reflection on two subjects: a) the violation of the Discipline by a member of the clergy, b) the ongoing struggle of the church with our ministry with gay and lesbian persons.
As the resident bishop of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, I take seriously the calling to be a shepherd to the clergy and laity of the Nashville Area. I am aware that there are deep divisions among us on this subject. We are in a difficult time as we navigate the changing cultural landscape. We are also an incredibly diverse Church. I covet your prayers for all who are harmed by this action.
Peace and Deep Prayer,
- Bishop William T. “Bill” McAlilly
*For those who follow a number of bishops on these matters, Bishop Ken Carter was the chief architect of the above statement with slight variations for the Nashville Area. I am indebted to Bishop Carter for sharing his willingness to be collaborative. A small group of bishop colleagues collaborate on a number of issues of this nature from time to time.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Council of Bishops
Contact: Diane Degnan (email)
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”
“When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” the bishops said in a statement.
The Council also voted to initiate a task force to lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender in a global perspective. The goal of this effort is to come to a shared theological understanding amid diverse opinions in the church about these issues.
These actions followed days of prayerful discernment and conversation about the action it would take after retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony on Oct. 26 celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Ala. – a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergy.
Church law says that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”
Both the presiding bishop of the North Alabama area where the ceremony took place, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the Executive Committee of the Council had requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony.
Under church law, the College of Bishops – which is constituted of the bishops in a jurisdictional or central conference – has authority and accountability for processing complaints against a bishop who serves (or served) in that area, which would be the Western Jurisdiction in this instance.
Earlier this week in the President’s Address, Bishop Wenner acknowledged there is diversity of opinion about many issues in the church. “We have to lead together although we are not one minded. We do not need to hide that we are diverse,” she said. In the address, she also noted, “Serious conflicts have to be brought to the tables where leaders are present,” an acknowledgment that supports the plan for further discussion of the issue through a task force.
In a statement, the Council said that when followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views, honest and respectful conversation and prayer are needed throughout the church. The Council expressed pastoral care and concern for all people. (Read the full statement online.)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – United Methodist bishops from around the globe will gather in North Carolina at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center for the Council of Bishops meeting, November 10-15, 2013.
“The clear priority for the Council of Bishops is to increase vitality in our congregations in all the regions where we are present,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council. “We will engage in prayer, theological reflection and visioning so that we help one another to train leaders, to create new faith communities, and to engage in ministries with the poor and health programs like Imagine No Malaria.”
On Sunday, November 10, a memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville. Bishop Wenner will present the President’s Address at 9:45 am on Monday. On Wednesday, the Council will travel to the Qualla Boundary, which is part of the original homeland of the Cherokee Nation. The area is currently home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, direct descendants of those who were able to avoid forced removal to the area that is now Oklahoma.
“We will spend an afternoon with our sisters and brothers of the Cherokee Nation, following up on Acts of Repentance at General Conference,” said Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Episcopal Area. “We will remember the start of the Trail of Tears 175 years ago and point toward our Council meeting in Oklahoma later this quadrennium,” he said, referring to the Council meeting scheduled for November 2014.
The Council will spiritually center itself in daily worship and communion, along with small covenant groups for prayer and reflection. Plenary sessions, held each morning Monday-Friday, as well as Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, are open to the news media and the public. Among other reports, some of the items that will be discussed include:
• Objectives for the quadrennium: adaptive challenges and vital congregations
• Four Areas of Focus, agency alignment, 2016 budget process
• Elections: President, President-Designate, Secretary
• Preparing for 2016 General Conference
• Imagine No Malaria
• 2016 Episcopal Address
• Theological foundations of United Methodist identity and mission
During the six-day meeting, the bishops will also have various small group meetings, including accountability groups which were created as part of a covenant to hold one another accountable as they work together to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.
About the Council of Bishops | The Council of Bishops – made up of 46 active bishops in the United States, 20 bishops in Europe, Asia and Africa, and 97 retired bishops worldwide – provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
January 18, 2014 – 8:30 am to 4:30 pm | Location: Brentwood UMC (MAP) | Please RSVP by Jan. 6, 2014
Bishop Bill McAlilly has announced an Area-wide training event for all Memphis and Tennessee Conference local church clergy and lay leadership scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Brentwood UMC in Brentwood, TN.
The training event will feature Bishop Bill McAlilly and Dr. Derrick-Lewis Noble, a United Methodist pastor from Los Angeles, CA, who was also featured Bible Study leader at both the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences this past June. The theme for the event is “Evangelism & Mission: Making Discipleship Possible.” The event will be an all-day gathering with registration beginning at 8:30 am. More details and an agenda will be released shortly.
Pre-registration is available online for $10, which covers lunch and materials. All registrations for the event will close on January 6, 2014.
The United Methodist Church is in the midst of a reordering – a reordering of the life of the church for greater effectiveness and vitality in mission. This is something we are all striving to understand.
“The paradox of our time: We are at an end and a beginning” is an article written this month by Rev. Tom Hazelwood, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Memphis Conference.
Tom does an excellent job of explaining what he calls “the paradox” — being at an end and a beginning. He writes about the United Methodist Church envisioning a new day, managing transition, coaching for the future and being called to a new creation.
I invite you to click on the link below to read Tom’s words that speak so well to our entire Nashville Episcopal Area that includes the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Do not grow weary in well doing for in due season you shall reap if you do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
Five months ago we placed before the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church to challenge to raise $87,500.00 to assist in building an episcopal residence for Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel. I am happy to share with you today that we have exceeded our goal!
As of today, October 29, 2013, we have these totals:
Memphis Conference: $55,894
Tennessee Conference: $34,862
A special thanks goes to the Youth of Martin First United Methodist Church who raised $6,700! Three youth delegates from Martin FUMC were delegates to Annual Conference came home and decided to tackle this challenge and did they ever! I’m convinced the Martin youth set the pace and helped us reach our goal.
I look forward to greeting Bishop Unda in November at the Council of Bishops meeting and sharing this great news with him. Additionally, we are having conversations with Bishop Unda about preaching for us at the 2014 annual conferences. He has tentatively agreed to be with us. His God Story will touch you deeply.
In keeping with our desire to follow Jesus into the neighborhood, you are blessing our brother in Christ and his family even as they grieve the loss of his daughter and sister Kabibi. I can not thank you enough for making a way where there was no way.
As we continue to journey together, may the peace of Christ dwell richly within you.
Expecting Greater Things!
As I was sending out the post regarding our progress with our East Congo Episcopal Residence Project I learned that Bishop Unda’s daughter Kabibi passed away yesterday from malaria. Not too many years ago he also lost his wife to malaria.
Please remember Bishop Unda Yemba’s family in your prayers.