On the anticipation of Annual Conference

One the highlights of my entire life has been attending the Annual Conference Session. For longer than I can remember, I have been attending.  As a child, I have fond memories of attending the North Mississippi Annual Conference Session.  In those days, we moved conference around the north half of the state and my preacher kid friends would be there and we grew close to one another until we were old enough to become youth delegates.

Attending every session throughout my high school career as a delegate taught me the inner workings of the conference. My Senior year in high school, I was the Conference Youth President and I remember well speaking to the conference with a packed room of lay and clergy delegates with youth lining the walls of the auditorium.  It was a highlight of my life as a young person serving the United Methodist Church.

Today, the Memphis Conference will convene in Paducah and on June 13, the Tennessee Conference will convene in Brentwood. If you have been following our conference communications, you know that our theme this year is “See All the People.” We are fortunate to have Revered Dr. Junius Dotson as our keynote speaker.  You will be richly blessed.

In addition, we will be considering a first vote to create a new conference bringing the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences together. The question that continues to emerge is this – What is the compelling WHY?

My compelling why is that I have learned over the last nearly six years that we have more creative minds working together for the sake of the kingdom and the mission of the Nashville Episcopal Area.  For those who are still seeking understanding, consider the following:

  1. Your appointive cabinet has found across these years that our collaborative style of leadership creates better opportunities for leadership, lay and clergy.
  2. Continued alignment across the area allows for maximizing resources focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ so that the world might be changed. Our desire is to strengthen local churches to do this work well.
  3. Finally, we will create more innovation for disciple-making because there are more creative voices available to be at the table. We believe we do this best with all of our energy focused together toward the outcome of making disciples so that the world might be changed!

To be clear, the vote at this annual conference will simply be the first step in the process. You might call it a vote to become “engaged.”  In 2019, a plan for a new conference will be presented for a second vote. Finally, it will not be until the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference meets in July of 2020 that a final approval will be sought. As you can see, we have many bridges to cross before we are one conference.

As your bishop, I believe that now is the time to take this step.  We are better together. We will be stronger to face whatever winds may blow across the Nashville Episcopal Area in the future.

I urge you to think, not what is best for me, but what is best for the kingdom. If we can not join hand in hand with our neighbors across the river, how shall we ever go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ?

Yesterday, I had an amazing experience with our Memphis Conference youth and college aged students gathered for the Youth Annual Gathering. I was inspired by their faithfulness and desire to serve the church as lay and clergy.  In the midst of a time that is uncertain, let us listen to the voices of our young people as they seek to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

We believe we do this best with all of our energy focused together toward the outcome of making disciples.

I look forward to seeing YOU as we are equipped to see all the people!

Bill McAlilly