Call to prayer for our neighbors

Today we again mourn with those who have experienced a school-shooting.

Please be in prayer for our neighbors – the many children, parents and teachers – connected with the Covenant School in Nashville.

I continue to join my voice with others in the Church as we together seek to see a new day in our country where pain and sorrow and death will no longer be visited on innocent children.

Invitation to join conference-wide bible study

Scripture is a way that we know we hear God’s voice and vision for us. Studying together is a way we know God speaks to the body of Christ. We can do nothing – literally no thing – without God and we can expect greater things when we abide in Jesus. Abiding can encompass many spiritual disciplines but immersion in the sacred text of the Bible is essential. 

I hope you will gather some friends and walk with us toward Annual Conference this year by preparing spiritually for the time when we seek to abide in Christ. 

The six-session Abide in Christ Bible Study is designed for small-group or individual use.

An online flipbook is available as well as the booklet PDF that can be downloaded to print or to read on your electronic device. We plan to offer Spanish and Korean versions of this study as well.

How Long O Lord?

This week Lynn and I were in Atlanta attending an Emory University Board meeting when the news that those responsible for the death of Tyre Nichols were charged. I kept thinking about Tyre’s tragic death after being pulled over for a traffic stop.  I kept thinking about his tragic death at the hands of those whom we expect to protect citizens. I kept thinking about the pain, fear and trauma our Black and Brown brothers and sisters must feel yet again.

Friday, as Lynn and I left Atlanta we drove across Alabama to Mississippi.  Those of us of sufficient age know too well the racial violence of the Deep South. Questions kept haunting me. How is it that Tyre Nichols was beaten to death with brutal precision?  Where did the police learn to do that? Why did the police learn to do that? What training, what discipline, what instruction gave five men the license to torture, hound, and murder a fellow human being? 

Tyre’s mother weeps for her son. 

A four year old child is left fatherless. 

And we are left with questions. Again.

As a United Methodist Christian, perhaps I ask a different set of questions:  Where is God in that grainy video tape? Where is the Prince of Peace in the loss of humanity? What is there left for the Judge of the World when men in uniform appointed themselves judge, jury, and executioner. 

We are not far from the season of Lent when we will walk the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, as we remember the death of Jesus the Christ. We would do well today to remember that we worship a God whose son experienced his own violent death at the hands of a brutal empire. Adorned in our sanctuaries we gaze on the implementation of that death—the cross. Yet I wonder as we gaze upon the shiny gold cross if it is lost on us what a brutal thing crucifixion was. 

I need to be reminded today that we are bold to believe God does not abandon any of us, even in death. We believe that love wins, that God will one day reconcile all of us one to another and to God. We believe that God works even through the worst in our lives. 

The violence we witnessed in the 44 minute video released Friday  reminds us that day is not yet here, that even the God of reconciliation condemns the violence we saw together. 

Fifty-five years ago, the senseless murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis changed America forever.  Yet, here we are, still longing for the beloved community. 

We pray, “How long, O Lord, how long?”  It is the question that lingers the longest. 

Sunday, I will be preaching at Centenary United Methodist Church, one of our historical Black congregations. 

Pray for this congregation as we gather for worship.  Pray for the city of Memphis. Pray for Tyre’s Nichols family.  Pray for police everywhere who everyday are called to make judgements when in the line of duty. Pray that Memphis will become the catalyst for senseless murders to end as we continue to pursue justice for all. 

And after you pray, I call on congregations to become places of healing, hope, and hospitality in the mission fields of communities where they are planted. 

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Bishop Bill McAlilly

Guest post: Praying for OUR Memphis…

Rev. Dr. David O. Weatherly, Interim Metro District Superintendent, sent this message to clergy and lay leaders in the Metro District earlier today.

What comes to mind when you think of Memphis?

Barbeque, the Blues, southern soul food, Rock ‘n Roll, a Pyramid, the NBA’s Grizzlies, the University’s Tigers, the fabulous Zoo, Beale Street, a city on the bluff of the mighty Mississippi River, the unique bridges that cross over that muddy, mega-waterway…

Those are all great things to consider about what makes Memphis truly a one-of-a-kind city. Those are also the things that we are proud to put on a postcard.

Those specifics listed above cannot be experienced in any other place on the planet like you can in Memphis.

For me, as one born and raised here, I think of only one thing when I think of Memphis…people. The human beings that live here and call this city home.

Which means we must make another list of what it means, and has meant, to live in Memphis. A list of things about what it has been like, past and present, to be a person who resides in Memphis.

Blacks and Whites (primarily), the struggle for civil/human rights, poverty, economic imbalance, racism, redlining, maligned public schools, and often corrupt/ineffective/divided government systems and leadership.

These elements also are present in many cities in our country and around the world.

There are also many miraculous things that can be found in Memphis that fill the lives of people who live here with hope…St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Metropolitan Inter-faith Association, The Church Health Center, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of churches who offer effective ministries of care, concern, and compassion.

What makes today feel different is that we will see one of our own, a citizen of Memphis, a brother in the family of humanity, suffer great pain – and ultimately – life-ending injury. That it will come at the hands of police officers is even more troubling. We still do not know everything about what caused these five officers to react the way they did and completely overpower and assault an unarmed individual. They deserve to be considered innocent until proven guilty…but that will not matter today.

We know that the vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of those who wear the badge of law enforcement do so with a full commitment to protect and to serve. I am thankful for them and support their willingness to put themselves and their lives on the line when any of us calls for help. I know some personally, and likely so do you. They are overworked, underpaid, and drive out of the precinct on their shifts with an anxiety we civilians cannot understand. May God protect them and may they always have the strength to protect and serve courageously and appropriately.

Today is normally my day off, so I have been in several parts of Memphis running errands. The looming release of the video of this event was clearly on the minds of many people.

I went to return an item at a department store. The two clerks at the customer service desk were talking about it as I approached the counter. One said to the other, “I don’t want to watch the video because I don’t want to hear someone crying out for their mom like that.”

I was in the grocery store and two employees were placing items on shelves. One noted to the other, “It sure is slow for a Friday.” The other remarked, “You know the video of the police incident is coming out. People are probably scared and staying home.”

I was driving near Poplar and I-240 and saw several vehicles clearly marked “Homeland Security” pulling off the interstate and merging in front of me. I have no idea if their presence was because of the dynamics around the release of the video, but that’s where my mind went.

The local sports talk show I normally listen to on the radio had put aside their usual topical conversation to reflect on how they thought the weekend would go after the video is seen.

It’s everywhere…and it should be. We all need to learn something from this.

Tyre Nichols was a Memphian. He was one of us. You cannot separate yourself from him – or his humanity. Today we need to pray for his family and OUR Memphis. It matters not where you live or serve in the Metro area. This is not a day you can separate yourself by urban, suburban, or rural – by Black, White, or another race – by rich or poor – by conservative or progressive – by clergy or lay. If one of us hurts, we all hurt.

No matter where you live or serve, we are people of faith, and we need to pray for OUR Memphis.

So, with the release of the video later today of the reported beating that took the life of Tyre Nichols, I am asking you as your Interim Metro District Superintendent to pray and engage your congregations in some capacity this Sunday in a manner that you feel is appropriate for your ministry setting. I trust that you know the best way in the context of your ministry settings to offer opportunities in whatever fashion is best for prayer, dialogue, and community response that promotes peace, understanding, and consideration for how such an act can and will ripple through our communities.

I ask that you pray for Tyre’s family and for strength in their unimaginable pain.

I ask that you pray for peace, patience, and the mighty power of God to descend upon our citizens and leaders.

I ask that you pray for these five former officers, that they will receive a fair and just process in being held accountable for their actions.

I ask that you pray that the media will not inflame an already volatile situation by sensationalizing this tragic event.

I ask that you pray for the Memphis Police Department that they may look within themselves and do all they can to ensure something like this never happens again.

I ask that you pray that no politician or political action group will use this tragedy to simply promote their agenda or suggest that all police are bad. We know they are not.

I ask that you pray that the response to seeing the video will not cause people to bring violence and destruction.

Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers.

May God bless the City of Memphis.

Home For Christmas


Say the word and it conjures up all sorts of images. 

For as long as I can remember, home has been the place, where during the Christmas season, Lynn and I have longed to be. 

Home for most of my life is wherever our family gathers for Christmas celebrations. 

When our family was young and our children small, many years we headed out after the Christmas eve service to North Mississippi where our parents lived. Do you know how hard it is to find something to eat for hungry children at 9 pm on Christmas Eve? 

Nothing seemed right until we gathered at the table of my mother or Lynn’s mother. Some years it was hard to do both. 

I remember when we were in Georgia, our first Christmas as a married couple, my father flew to Gainesville, Ga., and picked us up at the Gainesville airport. We flew home in a Cessna 172.  It was a cold, windy December day. He flew us to New Albany, MS, where Lynn’s parents lived. The day was cloudy, overcast, and very cold. Lynn and I wondered how safe flying in those conditions could be. Somewhere over Alabama my father picked up the radio signal of a distressed pilot who had lost his ability to communicate with the air traffic controller in Nashville. Dad could hear the pilot and the controller.  He became the conduit that connected the two. When the pilot of the distressed plane landed, he profusely thanked my father for helping him find his way home. 

When we landed in New Albany, waiting for us on the ground were Lynn’s mother and father. When the plane finally came to a stop on the tarmac and we greeted our family, we knew we were home. 

Later that evening, we gathered in the sanctuary of our home church First United Methodist Church, New Albany. Reverend Lavelle Woodrick was the pastor. Knowing I was going to be in worship that night, Lavelle invited me to be the liturgist at the Christmas Eve service. That meant I would read the Gospel Lesson for Christmas, Luke 2. When I stood before the congregation that had nurtured me, loved me, invited me into a life of faithfulness, I knew I was home. 

First United Methodist Church has been that place, for over 50 years, I have known as home. As the son of a United Methodist pastor home has always been elusive since we lived in so many places. Since 1969, the one constant in my pilgrimage has been the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, New Albany. 

Last Sunday we were able to go there.  

It was the first time we had been in a sanctuary in four months. It was good and right to be in the place I call home to worship as the choir offered their Christmas Cantata. I was given the privilege of thanking the congregation for their prayers. I acknowledged that First United Methodist Church had been my foundation. 

Being there was wonderful.  I saw adults who were in the youth group I led between 1981-1984 when I was the associate pastor. It was somewhat of a reunion.  These adults are now in their 50s. I haven’t seen some of them in a long time. Sunday, when we saw each other, it was as if years have not passed. We laughed and we remembered. I give thanks for those memories. 

Christmas this year will be different. Our children will not come to us and gather around the table in our home. We will go and be with them. We will worship Christmas Eve at Oxford University United Methodist Church at their early afternoon service designed to be children friendly.  3/5 of our grandchildren will be there. Later we will worship at First United Methodist Church, New Albany. We will be home.

In 18 months, my time as a bishop will end. We have been planning for over 15 years to come home. Home to New Albany. Home to the church where Lynn was baptized, where we exchanged wedding vows, where our son Chris was baptized, where I served my first appointment out of seminary.   We will come home to the house Lynn’s grandparents lived in, and it will become our home. 

We have planned, dreamed about this homecoming. Lynn’s sisters are there. My brother and sister 20 minutes away in Tupelo. Our son and his family 35 minutes away in Oxford. I’ve dreamed of being a part of First Church again. Maybe teaching Sunday School, leading a Bible Study. Supporting the pastor in whatever way might be helpful. 

There’s just one problem with my dream. The church is planning to vote on disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. That vote is scheduled for January. My deep concern is that over one hundred years of faithfulness in the same direction will be severed.

I suspect across the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference, many share my concern. 

Here’s what I know: God continues to work.

The church is not ending, and God is doing a new thing by showing us that home comes in new ways. 

I’ve spent more time at home than I ever dreamed I would these last 4 months. I’ve had to adjust my expectations of myself. I’ve had to depend on others, especially Lynn, to help me function. Lynn dropped everything she was doing to give attention to my needs. I am filled with gratitude to her for her care and love. I am grateful for the home that is provided for us by the TWK Conference. I am grateful for Paula Grout and the Episcopacy Committee for making sure a ramp was installed and other accommodations were made in our home to make it possible for me to manage my recovery.

This season has also been humbling. I’ve learned to look only as far down the road as the next procedure. (I’ve been in the operating room four times since August 26). I am learning to walk again but not without the aid of a cane. I am learning that the body has its own timetable regarding healing. My physical therapist is one of the kindest people I’ve ever encountered, and my physicians really are the healing hands of God. 

As I anticipate retiring in 18 months, I am mindful how quickly this time will pass. These last four months have been preparing me for the journey home. We’ve been tossing the word resilience around since Covid-19 visited us. I think resilience and I have become companions. 

The wreck of August 25 sidelined me in multiple ways as well as those who were apart of the accident that day. I have prayed daily for their healing as well. I trust that you have as well. 

Perhaps the most hopeful, promising sign I have seen during this time is that we have an amazing team of leaders who have kept moving forward despite the absence of my presence. 

As for the future, I do wonder where my spiritual home will be in the last third of my life.  It’s a worthy question. 

There is a lot of rhetoric about the United Methodist Church, about Bishops, about disaffiliation.  I hope those wanting so badly to leave will do some soul searching.   I am remembering a line in the movie “Cold Mountain”. The central character Inman is walking home from the Civil War and says to his companion, “Don’t you think God tires from hearing the prayers of both sides.”  

I sense that same weariness in congregations that are pushing to vote on disaffiliation. What saddens me is the misinformation and rhetoric that places judgment on pastors and bishops when many have never had conversations with us about what we think, believe, and feel. 

I am confident that all any of us want is a place, a spiritual home, a Church where when we go there, everybody knows our name and everyone is glad we came. In short, a home. A spiritual home. 

Mary and Joseph went home and there was no place for them. 

My sense is that we all long for home.

I’m learning that life circumstances often leave us feeling as if we are without a home. We feel lonely. Isolated. Afraid. 

I’m especially mindful of those who in these days of below freezing temperatures have no place to lay their heads. I am grateful for those congregations who offer “Room in the Inn” for our residentially challenged friends in these frigid days.

In this season of uncertainty, of loneliness and isolation, fear and uncertainty, I remember the words of the psalmist, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘he is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalms 91:1-2

But the message of Christmas, the good news of the Gospel, is that there is a home for us. The Psalmist gestures to this but this longing that stirs in us finds its completion in the promises of Revelation. At the end of time, the home of God is with mortals. And this is the insanely good news of the Gospel! 

Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us!

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will find your home in Emmanuel, God with us!


Bill McAlilly

“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.” Fredrick Buchner,

Statement on Amendment 3 to the Tennessee State Constitution

Greetings Holston and Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conferences! As bishops of Conferences that include the state of Tennessee, we are writing today regarding an opportunity Tennesseans have to right a historical wrong.

On November 8, 2022, the citizens of Tennessee will be going to the polls to make many decisions, including about Amendment 3 which proposes deleting exceptions to the prohibition of slavery. The language of the current Tennessee Constitution reads, “That slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited by this State.” If Amendment 3 passes, the State Constitution will read, “That slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited in this state.” Note that nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when duly convicted of a crime.

Amendment 3 will finally end the exception to the prohibition, thus officially banning the atrocity of slavery and involuntary servitude in any form. This amendment, which has bipartisan support, passed overwhelmingly as a joint resolution in the Tennessee legislature.

All of us, in our baptismal vows, promised to “accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” Voting on Amendment 3 is an opportunity for us to live out this commitment.

Thank you for prayerfully considering this amendment. We are grateful for you and the variety of ways in which you serve and lead.


William T. McAlilly, Resident Bishop, Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference

Debra Wallace-Padgett, Resident Bishop, Holston & North Alabama Conferences


Interim Leadership Coverage Plan for Westside TWK Districts

Dear Disciples and Congregations of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church, 

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ. We write to you today grateful for your prayers. 

Over the last 8 weeks, we have experienced an extraordinary season of trauma and disruption and we are practicing resilience in the midst of the challenges that are before us..  

On September 1, we had hoped to announce the appointment of a district superintendent for the Metro District. It has not been lost on us  that many are anxious about this. The death of Dr. Eason-Williams created a void in our Cabinet. She was leading the Appointive and Extended Cabinet in the important work of exploring systemic racism in our context through “Signposts,” a curriculum she helped to create. It is our hope that “Signposts” will become a tool utilized in our congregations for the vital work of eliminating racism. 

The loss of Dr. Eason-Williams means for the first time in ten years there is not a person of color at the Cabinet table. We are committed to our conference’s value of investing in diverse leadership. We have sought the input and counsel of diverse leaders of our conference regarding the best way to live into this commitment in the season we find ourselves–a season that could not be forecasted.

Therefore, after prayerful consideration of that counsel, the Cabinet and I have decided to move forward in the following way:

1.       Until the normal appointment cycle begins in the Spring of 2023, we will lean into the current leadership on the Cabinet without appointing a superintendent to the Metro District at this time. 

2.       Rev. Jefferson Furtado, the Ministry Associate of the Equip Team, who relates directly to the Board of Ordained Ministry, will be added to the extended Cabinet and participate in Cabinet processes. 

3.       Dr. Stephen Handy will serve as a consultant to the Bishop and Cabinet on matters of ethnic minority pastors and leadership. 

4.       In order to provide superintendent coverage in the Metro, Mississippi River, Purchase, and Tennessee River Districts, the superintendent of the Mississippi River District, Dr. David Weatherly; the Tennessee River District, Rev. Dan Camp; and the Purchase District, Rev. Nancy Johnston Varden will become responsible for the following: 

A.  Dr. David Weatherly will cover the Metro District and the counties of Haywood, Lauderdale, and Dyer in the Mississippi River District.

B.  Rev. Nancy Johnston Varden will cover the Purchase District and the Tennessee counties of Lake, Obion, and Weakley in the Mississippi River District.

C.  Rev. Dan Camp will cover the Tennessee River District and the counties of Crockett and Gibson in the Mississippi River District.

5. All regular Charge Conferences that are currently scheduled will be presided by the district superintendent who scheduled the conference or their designee. This does not include future special called charge conferences or church conferences.

6. All Administrative functions, such as the filing of reports or forms by churches in the Mississippi River District will continue to be filed with the Mississippi River District Office. 

7. Churches in the Mississippi River District who need the assistance of a district superintendent will contact the Mississippi River District Office and the appropriate superintendent providing coverage for that church or charge will respond.

8. During the pastoral consultation season, pastors and congregations will consult with the superintendent who is providing coverage for their charge.

While this temporary solution is far from perfect, it seeks to keep our local churches strong and to balance the work of the Cabinet until God helps to provide a more permanent solution that will be implemented on July 1, 2023.  

We  trust you are praying  for me, the Cabinet, and the leadership of our conference, as well as all the people called United Methodists in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference as we all seek to do the work of transforming the world one neighborhood at a time.  

In Christ,

Bishop McAlilly and the TWK Conference Appointive Cabinet

Gun Violence | A Letter to our Elected Officials

August 9, 2022

To: President Biden; Senators Blackburn, Hagerty, Paul, and McConnell; and Governors Lee and Beshear,

From: Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church

Dear President Biden and administration,

Recently, a senseless act of gun violence took the life of Rev. Dr. Autura Eason-Williams, a beloved United Methodist pastor, District Superintendent, mentor, friend, wife, and mother in Memphis, Tennessee. Her name is added to the list of over 24,000 Americans whose lives have been cut short by gunshot wounds this year alone. The grief we feel over her loss is nearly unbearable, as it is for all those who have lost a loved one to gun violence. But our grief must not paralyze us—it must move us to do all in our power to ensure these losses don’t continue at their current staggering rate.

Last month, pastors and lay leaders from every United Methodist church in our area gathered to worship, pray, celebrate, and articulate our vision and mission. These leaders represented over 162,000 United Methodists from 850 churches in Western and Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. During our time together, these leaders overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on our politicians to enact meaningful gun control legislation and calling our churches to do everything in their power to reduce the scourge of gun violence in our country. We had no idea that within a month, the tragic effects of gun violence would take the life of one of the persons in that very room.

While we applaud the bi-partisan federal gun violence legislation that was recently signed into law, we do not believe it goes far enough. As part of the several key proposals in our motion, which are drawn from our denomination’s Book of Resolutions, we specifically call on you to establish a minimum age of 21 years for a gun purchase or possession and to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. We have too long been complacent with the overwhelming number of deaths by violence. Through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to break this cycle of violence. United Methodist churches in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference are committed to doing just that. We call on each of you to use your legislative powers to join us in this mission.

We failed to protect our sister, Autura. Let us not fail to protect anyone else.

May the peace of Christ be with you,

William T. McAlilly

Resident Bishop

Many clergy and laity signed on to this open letter. You can see this list and add your name here.

Interim Leadership for Metro District


This is a tender time. It is a time filled with grief and loss, anger, and sorrow, but also one filled with the hope of the resurrection.

As you are now aware, we are grieving the loss of our friend, colleague and leader, The Reverend Dr. Autura Eason-Williams.

We recently learned that the funeral arrangements are:

  • A viewing on Tuesday, August 2, from 4 – 8 p.m. at Anthony Funeral Home, 135 S 16th Street, West Memphis, AR  72301. 
  • The funeral on Wednesday, August 3, at 10 a.m. at Saint Paul United Methodist Church, 2949 Davies Plantation Road, Lakeland, TN  38002. (Clergy who attend are requested to wear black robes with a white stole, or a dark suit, so they may line up along the aisle as Autura passes through.) 

While it is difficult to think about the future leadership of the Metro District, we are slowly turning our attention in that direction.

In the near term, I have asked the Reverend Dr. David Weatherly, the Mississippi River District Superintendent, to serve the Metro District as well as the Mississippi River District.

This appointment is for an interim period of time until we can make decisions related to the future leadership of the Metro District.

Dr. Weatherly is well acquainted with the Metro District having served in the district over many years. He will bring stability in this season as a steady and trusted leader.

Hopefully by the first of September, we will be able to announce a more permanent plan for the Metro District. In the meantime, Dr. Weatherly will continue serving the Mississippi River District as he assumes the duties of the Metro District.

Please be in prayer for the family of Dr. Eason-Williams, the Metro District congregations, pastors, and Dr. Weatherly.


Bishop William McAlilly

Remembering Autura Eason-Williams

Words escape me today. Late yesterday, I received the news that Reverend Dr. Autura Eason-Williams was tragically and senselessly murdered in her driveway at her home as she attempted to prevent a car theft. Dr. Eason-Williams was in her second year as the District Superintendent of the Metro District in Memphis, TN.  

The clergy and laity of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference are grieving and in shock.  Last night, over 200 gathered to remember and give thanks for Autura, for her life, her witness, her leadership, and her friendship.  The outpouring of tears and love as we remembered Autura was a reminder of what an impact one person can have and the loss that is felt when one among us is taken from us unexpectedly. 

We often quip that no one is irreplaceable.  I will tell you, however, that I beg to differ with that sentiment. One can be replaced but the unique giftedness of a person cannot be replicated. Autura was uniquely gifted for mission and ministry. She navigated a cross-racial appointment as an early pioneer in that work in the legacy Memphis Conference. Her peers elected her to lead the clergy delegation to General Conference and endorsed her as a candidate for Bishop prior to the anticipated 2020 General Conference. 

During the Global Pandemic, I invited Autura to join the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Appointive Cabinet.  She was in the process of becoming one of our most gifted District Superintendents and was tackling some of our most difficult challenges. Two of the ministries Autura was leading for the Tennessee Western Kentucky Conference were the Signposts Seminars, engaging the work of systemic racism in our conference, and #BeUMC Campaign, an effort to highlight the positive aspects of being the United Methodist Church. More than these very tangible efforts, however, was Autura’s ministry of encouragement, especially to female clergy.  

Autura, we will miss your laugh, your leadership, your love, your faithfulness, and your generous spirit. You modeled for us the words of Micah: “and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.  We give thanks to God for the ways you led and loved us well.

Please help make Meharry in Memphis a success

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, 

At the Inaugural session of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference, we presented a transformative opportunity for ministry that will have a growing impact in the years to come. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we know healing is one of the foundations of our faith. The call to discipleship is to preach, to teach, and to heal.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to find a way to be engaged in the ministry of healing. If we do not, we have ignored a third of the Gospel.  

In a bold move, Meharry Medical School in Nashville has partnered with Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare in Memphis, The University of Memphis, and Church Health to establish a Memphis campus.  The goal is to identify, mentor, and train students who might grow up in poverty but who can become physicians to serve both the community where they grow up and all of America. Such a pipeline plan is ambitious with many places where “leakage” occurs.  We believe the United Methodist Church following the example of our founder, John Wesley, who promoted health education and healing as part of his ministry, can stop the “leakage.”

The Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference has an opportunity to play a leading role in the creation of a Memphis Campus for Meharry Medical School—the only historically black United Methodist-related medical school in the US. We hope that you and your congregation will support this work in a meaningful, thoughtful, and financial way.

There are 168 allopathic medical schools in America.  There are 4 historically black medical schools with only one affiliated with a church, and that is Meharry.  In 1876, Meharry was founded as the first medical school for African Americans in the south and has always been affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Its importance today is greater than ever before. Only 5% of all physicians identify as African American. Meharry’s role in raising children of color up to be doctors is critical and they take their affiliation with the Church seriously. The opportunity to create a Memphis campus with the support of the United Methodist Church gives us a chance to follow the call of the gospel to heal the sick, while also demonstrating support for promising young leaders.

We are asking you to commit yourself and your congregation to the task of making the Memphis Campus of Meharry strong and vibrant. The role of the Church will be three-fold: 1) to help identify potential students and to connect with and mentor them, thus plugging the points of “leakage” so that children with potential may become physicians;  2) to promote Meharry at every opportunity across our connection to enhance the role of the church in the training of physicians of color, and 3) to make a financial commitment that will assist in making Meharry in Memphis a success. 

Statistics indicate that students who grow up in poverty and successfully navigate college and Meharry Medical school, often begin their careers with a financial debt approaching $400,000. There are many financial resources needed to make the Memphis Campus a success. We are asking you to make a financial commitment to this powerful endeavor. You can make your commitment by giving online to “Meharry” at or by sending a check made out to Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference (Memo Line: Meharry Offering). Please mail checks to TWKUMC, PO 440132, Nashville, 37244-0132.

We make this request trusting in the belief that one day we will look into the face of God with the assurance that we did our best to provide a ministry of healing. We invite you to journey with us.

With hope for healing,

Bishop Bill McAlilly; Dr. Michael Ugwueke; Dr. James Hildreth; Dr. Scott Morris

How Long, O Lord, How Long?

May 25, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton today urged clergy and laity to go on offense to stop mass shootings like the one that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas.

“My “statement” today is quite simple:  Let’s go on the offense.  If you are a pastor, weave our theology of a lived-out faith into sermons that challenge people to convert their fears, angers, racist tendencies, and complicit behaviors into a mobilized witness of the power of God to do far more than we could ever dream of or imagine,” Bishop Bickerton said.

He called on the laity too: “If you are a lay person, determine today how you will take the faith you nurture each week in a pew to the streets, the places where you work, and the homes where you live. If you are a church body, don’t settle for just active shooter training. Determine that you will actively work to transform lives from violence to peace, elect officials that will not settle for inaction, and inject communities with the grace and love of Christ that will alter the course of our current behaviors.”

Writing on behalf of the COB, Bishop Bickerton said he refuses to see this period of our lives as a permanent time of disarray. “Instead, I choose to see this an interim time, a time that will not remain as it is, a time that will not be the standard upon which we experience the life we have been blessed to live. As United Methodists we embrace a gospel and a mission that we state has the power to transform the world.”

The call today is for every United Methodist Christian to go on the offense, stating what we believe the power of God can do in our midst, opening ourselves to power of God at work within us, and doing whatever we can to alter the current course of behavior once and for all.

I join my voice with Bishop Bickerton as we together seek to see a new day in our country where pain and sorrow and death will no longer be visited on innocent children.

Bishop Bill McAlilly

Daily Prayers for Holy Week | Easter Sunday

The prayers this week were adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

The Resurrection of the Lord Easter Sunday

Acts 10:40-43

40 God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Lord Jesus, we come before you on this day of triumph, grateful for the knowledge of your saving love and for your promise of everlasting life. In the power that comes from your resurrection, we call out to you: Amen, Alleluia!

• Lord Jesus, continue to lead, nourish, and protect the people you have redeemed;
• Lord Jesus, strengthen us to achieve that peace which the world does not yet know;
• Lord Jesus, give us new life through the power of your resurrection;
• Lord Jesus, empower us for your work in the world;
• Lord Jesus, enlighten those in darkness;
• Lord Jesus, by your resurrection, show us the light of life;
• Lord Jesus, nourish us with the bread of life;
• Lord Jesus, by your resurrection, pour out on us the Spirit of life.

Holy God, raising Christ from the dead, and raising us with Christ, you have fashioned for yourself a new people, washed in the waters of baptism, sealed with the gift of your Spirit, invited to the heavenly banquet. In the beauty of this Easter, set our minds on the new life to which you have called us; place on our lips the words of witness for which you have anointed us; and ready our hearts to celebrate the festival of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. We ask this through your Son, the Christ, our Passover and Peace, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen.

Easter Faith

“If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 

I do not know if you are like me, but this word from Paul rings truer for me this Easter than perhaps any other time in my adult life. 

  • The last two years of losses in our family, both my parents and Lynn’s mother…

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain. 

  • The disruption caused by the pandemic of Covid 19…

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain.

The disruption of the inability to hold General Conference of The United Methodist Church

  • If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain. 

The political rhetoric of this country which seeks to divide rather than unite the United States, and now a war in Ukraine. 

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain.

On Easter, I’m drawn to John’s gospel for the telling of the resurrection story. 

In particular, I’m drawn this year to the beloved disciple who enters the tomb after Peter, sees Jesus’ linen wrappings lying about, and believes. He doesn’t need a sermon. He doesn’t need an explanation. He simply believes. 

I wish John had said more about what he believes or how deeply he believes or even some word about the journey he traveled to belief. 

Maybe it’s simply that he recognizes that God has vanquished death. 

We are left to wonder. 

However, I hesitate to speculate. My Old Testament seminary professor, Dr. Max Miller, admonished his students, “speculation about the Bible is cheap.  I don’t recommend it.” So I won’t speculate on the beloved disciple’s model of believing. 

What scripture says is this: “he sees and believes.”  

This is to say, he steps into the truth of his experience. He trusts his experience.  

Without speculation, wonderment, confusion or doubt, he walks into faith. That’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

As pastor Debbie Thomas has written about this moment:
I love the way the beloved disciple’s story honors the gap between faith and understanding, because it’s a gap I know so well.  I believe but I don’t (yet) understand. I believe in the resurrection, but I don’t understand death’s ongoing cruelty.  I believe that Jesus reigns, but I don’t understand the elusive nature of his kingdom. I believe that all things will be well, but I don’t understand why they’re not all well now.”

One of the first sermons I ever preached was rooted in this idea that faith and doubt go hand in hand. As a young adult, I was reading the works of  Fredrick Buechner. I remember well reading Buechner’s  now famous quote that “doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. If we don’t doubt, we are either dead or asleep.” This notion ran counter to all that I had been taught growing up about faith and doubt. Yet, his words rang true. 

I later learned that doubt was not the opposite of faith. The opposite of faith is unbelief. Learning this was also an important turning point in my faith journey. 

So Paul, and the beloved, strengthens me this Easter Day. 

Here’s the truth of it: I believe in the resurrection because I have experienced it and I have witnessed it. 

The truth is this: resurrection roots us. It places us in the community of all those who for over 2000 years have gathered this day to celebrate the resurrection. And when we open our eyes to see where God is raising us from the self defeating experiences of our lives, we see God is in the resurrection business. 

I love the way Poet R.S. Thomas describes the process in his poem, “The Answer”: 

There have been times

when, after long on my knees

in a cold chancel, 

a stone has rolled

from my mind, 

and I have looked in 

and seen the old questions lie

folded and in a place

by themselves,

like the piled graveclothes of love’s risen body.

Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!

With all that has been lost across these last two years, I’ve need to see with resurrection eyes. 

I’m helped by remembering that all our endings are not final. 

Indeed, new life comes, just two days ago, my niece gave birth to a baby boy. We are reminded, life cannot be stopped. 

In every ending there is a beginning. 

In every single one of them, we are held in the arms of the risen Christ. 

We may stumble out of Easter doubting, fleeing, and maybe even falling. 

We are held, rooted in scripture, centered in Christ, serving in love. 

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain.

He is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

Bishop William T. McAlilly

Daily Prayers for Holy Week | Holy Saturday

Over the days of Holy Week, we have offered Scripture, prayers for your consideration, and the Lord’s Prayer. We invite you to consider these daily prayers for your journey through Holy Week to Easter.

The prayers this week are adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

Holy Saturday

Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.

Hail, O faithful Cross of Jesus, nobler than all other trees,
On your branches hung the Savior, God’s own justice to appease.
You, O Cross, became the balance on which Jesus’ body lay:
All our sins amassed together Jesus’ death did far outweigh.
Hail, O Cross, our only comfort, teach us patience, mercy, love;
Be a bout of inspiration and of grace from God above.
To the Father, Son, and Spirit, equal praise be given now.
As we call to mind Christ’s passion, and in deep repentance bow. Amen.

Lord Christ, you have brought us again to this holy season,

Ready to celebrate your victory over death, we give you praise and say: Christ, we adore you:
• Lord Jesus, your disciples forgot your promise that you would rise again, but you did not forget them. Remember those who do not know your resurrection and give them hope.
• Christ our Savior, from the cross you promised paradise to the repentant thief. May all who have shared in your death partake of your risen glory.
• Christ the Good Shepherd, you gave your Body and Blood for all humanity. Let your gifts be the source of life for your Church.
• Christ, Son of the living God, you have buried us with you in baptism and brought us to birth. May our new life grow to full stature in your Spirit.
• Christ, the new Adam, you went down among the dead to make them free. Lead out of captivity those who have died with you.

With the power of the Spirit, let us pray to the Father as his son taught us:

Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Closing Prayer:

God of mighty power, living forever and source of all life, your only Son descended to the realm of the dead, so that from that place of exile and shadow you might raise him up to new life and to glory at your side. Let all those who in faith descend into the waters of baptism find the font of the Church to be both the tomb in which they die to sin with Christ and the womb from which they rise reborn, a new creation. We ask this through your Son, the Christ, our Passover and Peace, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.