My episcopal colleague, Bishop Deborah Kiesey of the Michigan Area, this week shared with me information about the ongoing situation in Flint, Michigan that she described as “difficult and disturbing.”
While many are now focused on how Flint’s drinking water was contaminated with lead, Bishop Kiesey has reminded me what the United Methodist Church is about in the midst of this terrible water crisis.
She reports that churches and districts in her area have come together to provide water, filters and case management. She reports that United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is being consulted for grant assistance.
This is encouraging, but, as Bishop Kiesey says, “It’s hard to see where the end might be” for the people of Flint.
“The long-term effects of lead poisoning will be felt for generations,” said Kiesey. “Add to this the underlying, complex issues of racism and poverty that have brought about this crisis in the first place.”
The people of Flint need two things from us, the United Methodists of the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences):
- Our prayers NOW and for many years to come…
- Our financial support, not just to purchase and deliver water, but to help pay for things like water filters and medical care, especially for children who have been affected.
If you or your church or small group would like to make a financial gift to help the people of Flint, here are two ways you may do that through the Detroit Conference of The United Methodist Church:
- Online: http://bit.ly/FlintRelief
- Mail: Detroit Conference Treasurer’s Office, 1309 N. Ballenger Hwy, Suite 1, Flint, MI 48504. On the memo line, write “#0918 Crossroads District Water Response”
Your Servant in Christ,
Bishop Bill McAlilly
One of the great assets of the Nashville Area and in particular, the Tennessee Conference, is Martin Methodist College. Last week, I was privileged to attend the Board of Trustees meeting at their satellite campus in Spring Hill. Here are a few of the highlights from the past year:
- Dr. Judy Blankenship Cheatham, the new and first Provost is making great contributions
- 203 degrees were awarded to graduates
- 943 full time students, 386 residential
- 9 Honors students receive grants to pursue research in the fields of biology, psychology and religion
- The National Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta, chose Martin as for their newest chapter as well as Alpha Chi, the National Honor society for academic excellence
- A balanced budget for the 9th year in a row
- Net Assets of $26,142,125, an increase of $8,954,487 in five years
- Martin Methodist College now contributes $74.5 million in terms of economic impact to five contiguous counties (Giles, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury), a 20% increase since 2010.
- Hosted 273 worship/spiritual events, 78 service events, 122 concerts/recitals, 84 convocations, lectures and panel presentations for a total 557 cultural events on campus in 2015
- With the Discipleship Ministries, piloted “Journey to the Table,” a Young Adult Spirituality Project being undertaken by the Upper Room
- Expanded OpporTUNEity music program in 3 public elementary schools, serving 65 deserving children who receive free piano, guitar, and violin lessons taught by Martin Methodist students
- RedHawk athletics teams produced 10 Academic All Americans and 9 Athletic All Americans as well as conference champions in Men’s Basketball and 4 national champions in Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Women’s Soccer and Cheer.
- 2015 NAIA Under Armor Athletic Director of the Year was Jeff Bain and 2015 Team USA Shooting Coach of the Year was Chad Whittenburg
- The Board of Trustees adopted the Martin 2020 Campus Master Plan with the internal fundraising to underwrite the needs of the plan with more than $7.5 million committed.
We celebrate with Martin Methodist College in their achievements and look forward to the many ways in which Martin will increase their capacity to shape the lives of young leaders across our area. Well done, Dr. Ted Brown and your team!
Check out these 50 WAYS to take church to your community throughout the year:
These 50 WAYS from our friends at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership include useful tips to:
- Embrace an expansive concept of community
- Get to know the community surrounding your church
- Extend your congregation’s spiritual presence beyond church walls
- Turn your existing ministries outward
- Reach out through community events
- Connect spiritual outreach to community service
- Build authentic relationships
- Prepare spiritually
- Listen and learn
Sunday night, December 13 at 5:30 p.m., on the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol, there will be a prayerful candlelight vigil to call attention to the need for our communities to support Insure TN. The prayers are focused on uniting our hearts with our sisters and brothers who are in the healthcare coverage gap. It is our hope and prayer that the state of Tennessee will vote affirmatively for Insure TN and implement it quickly.
We will also have opportunities for individuals to create luminaries in honor of those in the healthcare coverage gap created by Tennessee’s failure to implement Insure TN and for those who have paid for this failure with their very lives. The luminaries created on this night will be incorporated into a display of luminaries created across the state on this same day, and these will be placed on the TN Capitol grounds in January to remind returning legislators of their commitment to the people of Tennessee.
The public is invited and all who support this plan are encouraged to attend.
Vigils will be held in various locations across TN on this same evening, so if you are unable to attend the vigil at this location, please reach out for information about a vigil to be held near you.
Governor Haslam introduced Insure Tennessee a year ago, and our legislators will have another opportunity this year to vote on it. Insure Tennessee would help 280,000 of our neighbors who are living without healthcare coverage.
We know them as people who are working one, two and sometimes three jobs. They cry out for help, yet too often their pleas are left unheard. Insure Tennessee is vital for our rural communities, whose hospitals are closing or at risk of closing.
When a community’s only hospital closes, the results are devastating. Patients cannot get care. Hospital staff members lose their jobs, not just nurses and doctors, but also cafeteria workers, housekeepers, custodians, parking attendants, security guards, and the nursing assistants who empty our bedpans. Small businesses that relied on their community hospital can no longer meet their expenses. More jobs are lost and businesses close.
Sunday night, we will share our love for our uninsured friends, neighbors and family members. In the end, until everyone has access to affordable basic health care coverage, we are all in the coverage gap.
More information visit:
Candlelight Vigils are also being held in Murfreesboro, Chattanooga & Memphis
Click here for a complete listing of all the Vigils happening throughout the state.
The assigned Gospel lesson for the 4th Sunday in Advent is Mary’s song.
Luke 1:39-56 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
When our children were infants, Lynn and I did a lot of singing, especially when trying to rock one of our babies to sleep. I can remember singing one of the songs Peter, Paul, and Mary recorded, “Hush, Little Baby.” It always seemed to work. Sometimes, I would sing “Amazing Grace.” This time of year, my favorite was, “Little Drummer Boy.”
One of the deeply primal experiences of the Advent and Christmas season is music. Last night we were privileged to experience Amy Grant and Vince Gill at the Ryman for their Christmas show. It’s always a moving experience to listen as Amy and Vince draw the audience into a place of wonder and joy. Music is a gift.
Long before “Handel’s Messiah” was inspired, there was singing. Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Later, the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest!” The Bible is filled with music, hymns of praise, joy and even of lament.
I’ve even wondered if the wise men weren’t singing “We Three Kings” on their way to bring gifts.
I’ve long believed that music has healing qualities. Maybe that is why our churches are packed on Christmas Eve.
We need to be touched in our souls and Christmas gives us that chance.
Some years ago, a story made the rounds about a little boy whose singing did just that.
Karen was an active member of Panther Springs United Methodist Church in Morristown, TN. When Karen was pregnant with her second child, a seemingly normal pregnancy, her 3-year-old son, Michael, began a relationship with his unborn sister by singing to her every night. Night after night, he would sing his new sister a song. When it came time for Karen to give birth to the baby, there was trouble during the delivery. Michael’s baby sister was in serious condition by the time she was finally born. The infant was immediately rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Knoxville, TN.
As the days crawled by, the infant grew weaker and weaker. The pediatric specialist told the family that it looked very grave for the little girl and began to prepare them for her expected death. During the stay in the intensive care unit, Michael asked continually about seeing his little sister. He wanted to “sing” to her.
At the beginning of the second week, they dressed Michael in an over-sized scrub suit and took him in to see his sister. The medical personnel got angry because a 3-year-old was in the unit. Michael was asked to leave. His mom protested, simply saying, he’s not leaving until he sings to his baby sister. Michael made his way over to the bassinet that held his sick little sister.
He began to sing this song:
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, so please don’t take, my sunshine away.”
Everybody called it a miracle. Karen called it a miracle of God’s love.
The next day, when they thought they’d be planning a funeral, they took the baby home. She had responded to the familiar voice of her brother.
As you ponder in your heart the meaning of Christmas, will you let the Christ Child sing you back to life?
Might you invite someone you know – who needs to be sung back to life – into the midst of the singing that will surround us this Advent and Christmas?
Some of you know my favorite benediction that I found 40 years ago on a banner hanging in an office at the General Board of Discipleship.
He came singing love,
He lived singing love,
He died singing love.
He rose in silence.
If the song is to continue,
We must do the singing.
Deep Peace in this Advent Season,
Join me on 12-day pilgrimage and study cruise to Italy, Greece and Turkey in 2016 to explore life and teachings of Apostle PaulPosted: December 4, 2015
Please consider joining my wife, Lynn, and me on a spiritual journey exploring the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul. From September 29, 2016 to October 10, 2016, we will walk where Paul walked, worship where Paul preached and experience the power and presence of Christ in places where Paul witnessed.
I am excited to have our own Dr. Davis Chappell, Senior Pastor of Brentwood United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, join us as our guest speaker. Expect to “be filled with the fullness of God” as Davis shares insights into Paul’s ministry.
Join others from Tennessee, Kentucky and beyond on this 12-day inspirational pilgrimage and study cruise, “Highlights of Paul’s Missionary Journeys,” aboard the ship Celebrity Reflection. The itinerary includes sailing from Rome throughout the Mediterranean and traveling the journeys of Paul in Italy, Greece and Turkey. An additional three-day pre- or post-tour of Rome also is available.
For a detailed description of our itinerary and registration, please click here. You also may find links to information on our conference websites at www.memphis-umc.net and www.tnumc.org or contact our tour coordinators:
- Memphis Conference: Vida and Phillip McClure, email@example.com or 270-653-3352
- Tennessee Conference: Randall and Brenda Ganues, firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-804-5345
Churches: Treat your pastor to this amazing journey or raise funds to send someone from your church.
Pastors: Learn how you may recruit fellow travelers and go free. Contact your tour coordinator.
I look forward to following in the footsteps of Paul through travel, study, worship and fellowship on this journey of a lifetime. I hope you will join us!
Your servant in Christ,
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Thomas, our four-year-old grandson, is learning the Lord’s Prayer. Every night at bedtime his daddy prays the Lord’s Prayer with him. He “gets” daily bread. Recently he saw the Lord’s Table set for Holy Communion, and he said, “Hey Dad, look! There’s the daily bread!” It’s more challenging, though, to explain evil to him. He’s heard of places like Louisville, Mooreville, and Starkville. “Evil” sounds like one of those. How do you tell a four year old about evil? I’m not sure I want Thomas to know about evil. He will learn soon enough.
Globally, we are now in touch with evil in a way that this generation has not fully comprehended, unless one has served our country in the armed forces. We are seeing evil now not on a grand battlefield but in small skirmishes against innocent victims. We see up close the images of the terrorist attacks. We watch the unfolding of the Syrian Refugee diaspora. Fear grips us. Our politicians tell us that our risk is elevated if we welcome refugees. Social media is exacerbating fear through multiple Facebook posts about the terrorist events in Paris. Many insinuate that every Muslim in the world is now a suspected terrorist.
This is not the first time this country has allowed fear to overcome the way we see the world. Fear gripped this nation in the late 1930’s when Jewish refugees fleeing the wrath of Hitler were turned away and not allowed to enter the United States. Fear gripped this country when in the throes of World War II Pearl Harbor was attacked, and many Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps. Fear raised its head again after the Korean War when communism was on the rise and again in the early 1960’s when President John F. Kennedy had to stare evil in the face the Cuban Missile Crisis. Fear came knocking on our door as Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Civil Rights Movement seeking equality for our black brothers and sisters. For many in this country fear continues to walk with them every day because of the color of their skin. Fear gripped this country again when the World Trade Center was attacked and thousands of innocent people were killed. Terror visits us almost weekly as some mass shooting occurs on a college or high school campus, or in a movie theater, or in a church. Fear is real. It is palpable.
Let me be clear. I am proud to be an American with the most powerful military force in the world. I’m grateful to be able to go to sleep at night and rest without fear. I have known the fear of being alone in a foreign country where I could not speak the language. I’ve been asked for my passport by imposters posing as police. There is plenty of fear to go around. Name your fears.
What I am concerned about is that the Church, in the face of this fear, is often silent, and what’s more, we do not proclaim that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Indeed, the appointed text for last Sunday celebrated Christ the King Sunday. The word the Church proclaims to the world is that we serve the One who conquered death. We do so every year, right before Thanksgiving, the secular holiday in which we offer thanks for the bounty that has been ours to enjoy in this great land in which we live. Next Sunday we begin the four-week journey to Bethlehem where we will proclaim Emmanuel, God with us.
This is not the word you will hear proclaimed in the media outlets. But it is, in the face of terror, the Word that the Church is called to shout from the rooftops!
Proclaiming Christ as King and celebrating Christ as a vulnerable baby born in a borrowed barn, Emmanuel, God with us, is a word that the world desperately needs to hear.
In a few Sundays we will sing,
Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth’s thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
What we often fail to realize is that in the narrative of the Gospel that grips us, often more than the story of the Cross and Resurrection, is the story of the birth of Jesus. The story we often fail to remember in the Advent and Christmas season is that Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus had to flee terror—the terror of Herod. In fleeing to Egypt they became refugees.
These last few days I have pondered the question, “What is the Church to do?” I’ll confess that I’m saddened that we politicize everything in this country. I’m saddened that the plight of innocent children, women, and men are politicized because they are seeking shelter in a place where they can live free from the fear of a war-torn country. When I see on the news the image of the child whose parents strapped a 99 cent swim ring around her waist and floaties on her arms and expected her with them to survive the raging waters of the ocean, my heart cries out, Lord, have mercy. When I see an image of a little boy lying face down in water, his body washed up on the shores of Turkey from trying to cross the ocean to safety, I cry out, Lord, have mercy. As a parent and grandparent, I wonder what I would do if this were my plight in life. What grief did they bare? What fear drove families to flee their homes to seek safety?
My wise son, Chris, who is the Associate Pastor at Oxford University United Methodist Church in Oxford, MS, raised this thought in last Sunday’s Sermon:
“I’m not interested in siding with a Republican governor or a Democratic president on this issue. I’m not interested in the question of what the United States should do about the Syrian refugee crisis.
I am interested in what Christians should do. What would it look like for us to follow Christ as king even and especially in the face of our fears of alienation and loneliness, our fear of strangers, and our desire for safety and fear of death? When Christ is our King, we can have courage to see Christ in the face of the stranger and to welcome the stranger into the body of Christ. We do this knowing full well that we ourselves were once strangers and refugees wandering far from home.”
Jeremy Courtney is chief executive of Preemptive Love Coalition, a Christian organization working in Iraq at the headwaters of the Syrian refugee crises. His organization is seeking to protect the persecuted and displaced from becoming refugees through aid and small-business empowerment.
The truth, in the words of Jeremy Courtney, is that the world is scary. Love anyway.
In a Washington Post editorial this week he wrote, “We absolutely need to be wise, to protect our own and to screen all refugee applicants. And we absolutely must care for those who are on the run for their lives. It is not right or reasonable to tell anyone, “Do not be afraid.” Terrorism is terrifying. But we should aim to not be ruled by fear. In the face of ISIS, Iran and countless other nemesis neighbors, we commit to love anyway.”
In closing, I simply lift up a few ways in which we might be called to respond in love:
- Prayer—Be in prayer for persons and families who have been devastated by terrorist attacks, for refugees, for the leaders of our nation and the world, for deliverance from evil, for our enemies, and for God to show us how to respond.
- Support the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) as they respond to this crisis by delivering winterization kits—food parcels, blankets, and rugs—to refugees. Your gift to Global Refugee/Migration, Advance #3022144 supports UMCOR’s work.
- “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. It is dialogue in relationship that moves us toward “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Thus, our hope is in Christ Jesus.
- Become knowledgeable about the process of refugee resettlement, which is an intensive 18-24 month process.
- Many Churches across the United Methodist Church have made pledges to offer hospitality and support to refugees who make their way into their communities. It is my prayer that our churches are a place of welcome for displaced refugees and for all of God’s children no matter the circumstance.
It is not always certain what we should do; but it is clear who we are called to be.
We are called to be a people who place our faith and our hope in the One who has trampled down death by death and conquered the power of sin, conquered the power of terror, conquered the power of evil.
The world is scary. May God give us courage to love anyway.
Serving Christ With You,
Bishop Bill McAlilly
I have just returned from Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in Lake Junaluska, N.C., where I joined resident bishops of The United Methodist Church in a learning retreat. We heard presentations from L. Gregory Jones, former dean and now senior strategist for leadership education at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., and Marty Linsky, who, with Ronald Heifetz, has written extensively on the topic of “adaptive leadership.”
The retreat was meaningful. One of the byproducts of our time together was deepened conversation about what it means to be spiritual leaders before, during and after General Conference, the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church which meets once every four years.
A small group of us met daily for breakfast and prayer around this idea and were offered space on the agenda to have a larger conversation with our colleagues about what that spiritual leadership might look like. I’m hopeful that all United Methodist Church bishops will offer prayerful, spiritual leadership in the days leading up to, during and after 2016 General Conference, May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon.
I am asking of United Methodists in the Nashville Episcopal Area these three things:
- Pray and fast each Friday beginning in Advent and continuing through General Conference.
- Have a Day of Prayer on April 1, the Friday after Easter, to pray for all who will be leading and serving during General Conference. This could take the form of a prayer vigil where the church is open 24 hours and persons agree to spend an hour in prayer.
- Pray for the delegations of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences by name each day:
Memphis Conference Delegation: Click here.
Tennessee Conference Delegation: Click here.
There are a number of groups offering preparation leading up to General Conference and resources are being produced for local congregations to access. Click here for more information.
The United Methodist Publishing House is producing a small guide for the Church which is a re-release of a little guide Francis Asbury published in 1792. The title is: The Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions. It will be available in the spring and promises to be a good resource.
There will be other resources forthcoming. One in particular that you will want to watch for is written by Western Pennsylvania Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton: What Are We Fighting For? Coming Together Around What Matters Most.
Your appointive cabinet has covenanted together to be spiritual leaders by Leading, Learning and Loving. I will be sharing more about this in coming days.
In the meantime, I invite you to join me in stepping deeper into a life of prayer as we lean into the season of preparation for Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. As my colleague, Virginia Conference Bishop Jung Jin Cho, prays, “Your Will, Lord, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” May this be our deepest prayer in the days to come.
Your Servant for Christ’s Sake,
With permission, I offer you this pastoral word:
Unless you’ve not being paying attention to anything going on in the world, you know that this week was a landmark week in the United States, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could no longer ban marriage between same-sex couples. In many ways, the way the decision was reached and the response on social media are more indicative of the current state of our culture than the decision itself. It was a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, and the justices were very divided in their writings on the decision. If you’ve been reading social media (and who hasn’t?), you’ve seen incredibly divided responses as well. I have good friends, people of faith, who fall across the spectrum on their response to this ruling.
The question I’m pondering this morning as I prepare to head to church is this: How do you pastor a congregation in a 5-4 world?
The fact of the matter is that we are a divided nation, a divided people. In today’s culture, every possible division between people is emphasized and expanded and exaggerated and exploited. Everything is turned into an “either/or” scenario. Either you agree with me, or you’re a bigot. Either you agree with me, or you’re completely immoral.
This week, there are people who, in the midst of their story and their struggle are celebrating equality. But this week, there are also people who disagree, people who have a different story and a different experience. The reality is that there are not “two sides” on this issue. There’s not a singular gay experience or a singular straight experience. Each of us has a different story, unique experiences, particular struggles, and when we make anything a simple “either/or,” we greatly miss the mark. When we proclaim from our soapboxes that you’re either in favor of this decision or you’re a hateful bigot, we’re being shortsighted. When we say you’re either against this decision or you’re championing immorality, we’re failing to understand the complex reality in which we find ourselves.
What I’m feeling this morning as I prepare to head to worship in such a divided time and cultural landscape, is a deep sense of gratefulness that I believe in a God who loves all people. I’m thankful to be part of a church that has an open table: all people are invited to sit at God’s table. Which means, by the way, that people with whom I strongly disagree are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. People who are and have been hurtful to me are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. After all, Jesus died for bigots. Jesus died for the immoral. Jesus died for all of us.
Every single one of us in the family of God are a mix of saint and sinner, of struggle and victory, of lost and found. None of us, singularly, have it all figured out. We need each other, the people who think and act like us, but maybe even more particularly the people who are different from us. For it is in our difference and diversity that the body of Christ finds its true strength.
As a pastor, I’m a pastor to both the 5 and to the 4. I’m a pastor to people who sharply disagree with one another. And the bottom line is this: all are welcomed in my church and loved unconditionally by God. And all are asked and enabled to become more than what they are when they walked in the door – a person who is continually growing and transforming into the likeness of Christ. I am grateful that this morning, at my church, there will be space for everyone; all are invited.
From Ephesians 4: May we all be rooted and established in love, completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Remembering that there is one body and one Spirit, and one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
*Travis Garner is a Church Planter in the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church
As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in a 5-4 ruling that states cannot ban same gender marriage. Gay and lesbian couples across the country have a constitutional right to marry. This significant change in our civil law impacts each of us as we also live within the polity and discipline of the United Methodist Church.
As we seek to be in ministry with all persons, this law does not change what is and what is not allowed by United Methodist pastors and congregations. In a marriage ceremony of same gender persons, pastors may not lead the declaration of intent, lead the exchange of wedding vows and ring vows, or sign marriage certificates. Our church law does not prohibit offering a prayer or a homily in such a ceremony.
As your pastoral leader, I pray for the United Methodist Church in this season. I pray that we will lead with deep respect for each other. This is not a time to draw lines in the sand but rather a time to come together in prayer for one another and for all those with whom God calls us to be in ministry.
Together, let us pray:
Grant us, O God, in challenges of this present age, the grace to live with one another in the midst of a changing world. Lead us, O Lord, to live more fully in you that we may see your face in the faces of our sisters and brothers. Guide your Church to be faithful as we seek to embody your love, your hope, and your justice.
As citizens of this great nation, surround us with understanding in the midst of changes we do not always understand. As civil laws change, surround us with your wisdom that is greater than ours. Teach us to glorify you in all that we do.
May we continually seek to be centered in your will.
In the midst of our diversity as the United Methodist Church, grant us the will to live in unity.
Above all, teach us to walk humbly with one another and allow us to live with one another with grace and mercy as Christ has taught us to do.
Bishop William T. McAlilly
We, the people of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, are shocked and saddened at the violent acts perpetrated upon our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. While any form of violence against any person or people for any reason is unacceptable, we are further grieved that racial prejudice appears to be the motivation for the attack. Our Social Principles state that “racism plagues and cripples our growth in Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself” (Book of Discipline, paragraph 162).
We are told in scripture that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and that in the fully realized state of humanity made known to us in Jesus Christ, all of the categories we use to divide ourselves, including race, gender, and socio-economic status all fall away, and we become one as God intended (Galatians 3:28).
We urge all people to pray for the nine victims of this shooting and their families, for the people of Emmanuel AME Church, for the shooter and his family, and for the Charleston community. We renew our commitment to stand against the evils of racism and prejudice in all forms. We look forward to the day that violence, hatred, and death will be no more when God’s Kingdom is fully realized on earth.
Bishop William T. McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area
Rev. Stephen Handy Chair, African American Church Strategic Team
Dr. Beverly B. Madron, Chair, Tennessee Conference Commission on Religion and Race
Rev. Matthew L. Kelley, Chair, Conference Committee on Church and Society
Response to Charleston
SEJ College of Bishops
In response to the murders of the pastor and eight others during a prayer meeting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, the Southeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops of the United Methodist Church offers the following response:
“The College of Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church stands with our Methodist family at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, with our brother Bishop Richard Franklin Norris of the Seventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and with our colleague Bishop Jonathan Holston, of the South Carolina Conference.
We condemn this act of violence in the house of the Lord. We commit ourselves anew to the work of reconciliation in the midst of hatred. And we lift high the cross of Jesus Christ, as God’s witness to the violence and division that is our human condition.
Please join us in acts of prayer, compassion and justice on behalf of our Pan-Methodist sisters and brothers.”
We also commend the Statement on Racism offered at the Council of Bishops in Berlin, Germany, May 7, 2015.
Grace to you from Jesus Christ, who calls his Church to care for “even the least of these.” One of the ways we participate in that possibility is to create personal, environmental and social conditions in which each individual can receive good health care. In the Gospel of John 10:10b Jesus says, “I came so that they could have life – indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” It is our deep desire that all persons across Tennessee might have the possibility of living the abundant life.
The Social Principles of our church remind us of this truth in its statement on the Right to Health Care. “Health is a condition of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.” [Para. 162(v), 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church]
In caring for our neighbors and allowing more of our fellow citizens to have access to good healthcare, I urge your prayerful support for Insure Tennessee, an initiative that Governor Bill Haslam has recommended to the State Legislature. Its passage will allow 200,000 more Tennesseans to have adequate health coverage. The program will be open to Tennesseans earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $16,000 in annual income for an individual or $33,000 for a family of four).
A special called session of the Tennessee Legislature will be convened on February 2nd to consider the Insure Tennessee plan. I encourage you to do the following four things prior to that date.
1) Become fully informed and educated about the benefits of the Insure Tennessee Plan.
A good website to consult is www.insuretennesseenow.com.
2) Personally contact your Tennessee legislators and give voice to your opinions. Letters, emails and phone calls can all be effective. If you need contact information for a senator or representative, it is available at www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators (Find My Legislator section on right side).
3) Share this letter with friends, family members and neighbors as a part of your witness of care for fellow citizens who need better health coverage. Click here for a PDF copy.
4) Pray for our legislators that they might seek God’s will as a part of their own discernment process.
The New Testament teachings of Jesus remind us over and over again of his ministry of healing and wholeness. I encourage you to respond promptly and faithfully to this opportunity to join him in this mission.
I invite you to share this with your congregation this Sunday. Click here for a PDF copy.
Expecting Greater Things,
Bishop William T. McAlilly
Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church
(Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)
The Jan. 16 issue of the Romans 12 Newsletter produced by the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship includes information about a United Methodist church in Iowa that is working to raise money for Imagine No Malaria and the unique way the church decided how and why to be engaged in mission in a meaningful way.
I want to encourage you to read the newsletter, themed “Running from Malaria,” because it offers helpful information about reframing ministry questions that address global health issues and living as disciples of Christ. A pdf of the newsletter may be viewed and downloaded here.
Because this newsletter talks about Imagine No Malaria, this seems the right time and place to address where we are with our Nashville Area campaign to save 100,000 lives by raising $1 million for Imagine No Malaria by this year’s Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2015.
Through Dec. 31, 2014, our total giving from both conferences is $292,484.36. The total includes $123,068.01 from the Memphis Conference (with approximately 400 churches) and $169,416.35 from the Tennessee Conference (with approximately 600 churches).
I’m going to round up that total number and say we are 30 percent of the way toward our goal!
I am so proud of all our local congregations that are imagining God’s greater things as they raise awareness and save lives. I have heard and read stories about many creative fundraising events, including volleyball tournaments, chili cook-offs, bake sales, Thanksgiving dinners, children’s events, craft sales, Christmas offerings, t-shirt sales, concerts and more.
Unlike many other diseases that await a cure, malaria was eliminated in the U.S. in the 1950s. Even though it is 100 percent preventable, it continues to kill a person every 60 seconds in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Imagine No Malaria is part of a global partnership to beat malaria once and for all. Over the last 15 years there has been a 54% drop in mortality from the disease.
Imagine No Malaria is our opportunity to respond to our calling as Christians and United Methodists—to show our love through generous gifts. As John Wesley said, “It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.”
United Methodists are committed to a denominational goal of $75 million for Imagine No Malaria and have so far raised just over $64 million. Our Nashville Area goal is $1 million by June 2015.
If your church has not already worked to raise at least $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria and submitted these funds to your conference treasurers, I hope you will make plans to do so in the coming months so we may celebrate reaching our $1 million goal in June at our Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences.
To learn more and find resources, visit www.imaginenomalaria.org or contact your district office.
~ Bishop Bill McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church (Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)