A few days ago, the religion writer for The Tennessean approached our team about writing a story about our new conference. We believed in the good faith of the writer to offer a story to the readers that reflected the good and faithful work of the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences. We were asked many things and offered several positive expressions of this work over the last nine years. Much of what we offered was not included in the article.
The Future of the UMC
There were some questions about the future of the United Methodist Church in light of the Protocol for Separation with Grace. To be clear, the Protocol is legislation that is being proposed to be considered when the General Conference is held. You will recall that the 2020 General Conference was postponed due to Covid-19. Currently, it is scheduled for September of 2022. If it is safe to travel worldwide and if we can gather for the important work of the United Methodist Church, the Protocol Legislation will be considered along with hundreds of other petitions and resolutions that shape our Church.
We are not sure where the reporter found the information he initially included in the story. It was not from those of us who were interviewed.
The implication of the writer of The Tennessean was that the potential divide of the denomination was already approved and action was waiting to occur. Unfortunately, this new writer is unfamiliar with the United Methodist Church and inaccuracies were reported.
The reporter has since made corrections to his online version of the article that more accurately reflects the truth.
In the age of social media, several opinions are expressed about the future of our beloved Church. When General Conference meets, whether it is 2022 or after, only ideas that have been offered properly will be considered. It is premature to speculate what the outcomes of General Conference will be.
To be clear: no denominational decisions have been made by the general Church or by our future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference (TWK). If you have heard otherwise, the information is incorrect.
Our New Conference
The article paints a picture that reflects more about the editorial perspective of the newspaper than about the reality of how our new conference has been formed.
Likewise, this article seems to want to produce a story about a church in distress. That is not what is happening in our conference – our churches are evidence of this. In 2012, when I was assigned to the Nashville Episcopal Area, the rationale for my assignment was my history in Mississippi of being a part of two Annual Conferences that had formed a new conference. I understood that one of my responsibilities was to lead the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences to form a new Conference. This we have done with a steady pace over 9 years. On December 4 we will hold the organizational meeting that is the next step as we officially become the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.
One of our commitments, which we have intentionally led over the last 9 years is to allow congregations to retain more of their tithes and offerings at the local church rather than hold apportionments at the previous rate. The fact is that the apportionments across the two legacy conferences have been reduced by 40%. Our goal has always been to strengthen our local churches. The reduction of apportionments has been one of the strategies.
Another strategy is that our new leadership structure redefines the roles for conference-employed staff. In recent years, our conference staff has become smaller and more decentralized. Our strategic direction and conference ministry are now in the hands of volunteer leaders with staff there to support them.
Here is what is true: God has provided us with abundance – strong, connected churches with spiritually gifted leadership. God has equipped us with a nimble, hopeful vision for the future.
In Christ Jesus, we have a sure and certain hope, rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ as we seek to serve in love. We have not wavered from that foundation.
Over the last 9 years, many people – more than 500 lay and clergy members from both legacy conferences – have worked diligently to create this path to our new conference. These teams collaborated and created our new leadership and funding models for the new TWK conference. Because so many faithful disciples of Christ provided input and have been a part of the journey, we are stepping into a new era with strength.
Our new funding model that we chose together at the annual conferences is simple. Local churches will begin working toward giving a simple tithe as a connectional commitment to the ministries of the conference. Choosing to gradually reduce the commitment over the next several years reflects the new focus of keeping financial resources in the local faith community.
Finally, our strategic decision to create a new conference is rooted in our response to follow God’s call so that we can share the transforming love of Jesus Christ in a deeply connected way. At no time was the vision of a new conference rooted out of financial necessity. Certainly, we are looking for efficiencies, which we have found.
Our Call Moving Forward
Our call has been to follow God’s leading to create a new vessel for us to share the transforming love of Jesus Christ in a deeply connected way. It is in that connection that we will find strength. In the midst of the stress of Covid 19, we have found strength together.
This has not been an easy time for any of us.
Here’s what I know:
I know that God is still at work.
I know that God has work ahead for us to do.
I know that God is going to raise up something powerful out of this moment.
I invite you to join me on a journey of paying attention to God’s call on our lives so that we are able to nimbly respond to that which God invites us to be and do.
May the peace of Christ be with all of you,
Grace and peace to you from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I greet you in this New Year with great joy and great hope for a grand and glorious new beginning for our life together, as United Methodists.
Across the last four years, we have focused on offering Christ to a hurting world as our primary mission, as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ in every place. Our dream, our hope, our possibility is to help congregations increase their capacity and capability of making disciples.
We have come to know that we are living in a VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. A world not unlike the world in which Jesus was born. A world where there is chaos and there’s confusion. There’s uncertainty.
We only have to look at our recent political elections to see that there is a great divide in this country still. How will we unite around a common mission? The church can be a vital witness to this world in this season.
As we near Annual Conference 2017, we will be thinking together about our theme: Sent into the world to love God and neighbor. Last year we talked about our neighborhoods. This year, we want to focus very specifically on those in our midst who are hurting, those who are lost, those who are alone. Those who are in need of the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
How can we, as the United Methodist Church in this region, be a voice of hope, a place of peace, a place of love for people who are broken? That’s our call.
One of the ways in which I find hope is in music. I think about all the songs that I’ve heard over the years that have changed my attitude and my spirit when I have listened to the words.
One of those songs is a song called “Go Light Your World.” It encourages the listener to go into the world and light up the world with hope and promise and possibility, in those places of need.
I think we need a song right now. We need a song that will challenge us to see the possibilities. See the hope. See the promise. And be those beacons of light in the world.
Let us be the light of Christ, sent into the world to offer love, love of God and love of neighbor. It’s our call. It’s our promise. It’s our hope.
Join me, will you, as we seek to be God’s people in this place, for this time?
I hope so. But more than that, I pray so.
In the Tennessee Conference, the delegation invites you to Prayer Services in four locations. You will have opportunities to pray with and for our delegation members and the issues they will address at General Conference. These prayer services will be offered in at 11 a.m. TODAY, Friday, April 1, at these churches:
You can join the 24-hour vigil in the Memphis Conference in support of General Conference. Where ever you are, please take a few moments at some point during the day to offer prayer for General Conference and for our delegates who are preparing for this important meeting. Issues they will deliberate can be reviewed on the General Conference webpage.
The delegations want to hear from you – and I want to hear from you – what are your hopes and prayers for General Conference and the future of the United Methodist Church?
Thank you for your participation and prayers.
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,
By now you have no doubt heard about the United Methodist challenge to eliminate Malaria deaths in 2015. Malaria is a transmitted disease through the bite of a mosquito. lt claims a life every 60 seconds. ln 2010, when the campaign began, a person was dying every 30 seconds. We are making a difference but we aren’t there yet.
Malaria is preventable, treatable and beatable. I am asking that every member and every congregation join in to make a difference and help in this fight. lt is not too late to help by making a decision now to be part of making a huge difference in the world!
Even though this challenge has been before us since 2010 and across the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences we have seen congregations, youth groups, United Methodist Women, Campus Ministries and individuals work toward this audacious goal. We have not however, as an Area, made a commitment to be part of this major campaign.
NOW is the time for the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences, to join in the effort to help. l’m asking your help in this fight. How can you help?
January 18, 2014 – 8:30 am to 4:30 pm | Location: Brentwood UMC (MAP) | Please RSVP by Jan. 6, 2014
Bishop Bill McAlilly has announced an Area-wide training event for all Memphis and Tennessee Conference local church clergy and lay leadership scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Brentwood UMC in Brentwood, TN.
The training event will feature Bishop Bill McAlilly and Dr. Derrick-Lewis Noble, a United Methodist pastor from Los Angeles, CA, who was also featured Bible Study leader at both the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences this past June. The theme for the event is “Evangelism & Mission: Making Discipleship Possible.” The event will be an all-day gathering with registration beginning at 8:30 am. More details and an agenda will be released shortly.
Pre-registration is available online for $10, which covers lunch and materials. All registrations for the event will close on January 6, 2014.
The United Methodist Church is in the midst of a reordering – a reordering of the life of the church for greater effectiveness and vitality in mission. This is something we are all striving to understand.
“The paradox of our time: We are at an end and a beginning” is an article written this month by Rev. Tom Hazelwood, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Memphis Conference.
Tom does an excellent job of explaining what he calls “the paradox” — being at an end and a beginning. He writes about the United Methodist Church envisioning a new day, managing transition, coaching for the future and being called to a new creation.
I invite you to click on the link below to read Tom’s words that speak so well to our entire Nashville Episcopal Area that includes the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Do not grow weary in well doing for in due season you shall reap if you do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
Five months ago we placed before the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church to challenge to raise $87,500.00 to assist in building an episcopal residence for Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel. I am happy to share with you today that we have exceeded our goal!
As of today, October 29, 2013, we have these totals:
Memphis Conference: $55,894
Tennessee Conference: $34,862
A special thanks goes to the Youth of Martin First United Methodist Church who raised $6,700! Three youth delegates from Martin FUMC were delegates to Annual Conference came home and decided to tackle this challenge and did they ever! I’m convinced the Martin youth set the pace and helped us reach our goal.
I look forward to greeting Bishop Unda in November at the Council of Bishops meeting and sharing this great news with him. Additionally, we are having conversations with Bishop Unda about preaching for us at the 2014 annual conferences. He has tentatively agreed to be with us. His God Story will touch you deeply.
In keeping with our desire to follow Jesus into the neighborhood, you are blessing our brother in Christ and his family even as they grieve the loss of his daughter and sister Kabibi. I can not thank you enough for making a way where there was no way.
As we continue to journey together, may the peace of Christ dwell richly within you.
Expecting Greater Things!
Notice: Below is an image of letter head and a letter from the desk of Bishop McAlilly. If you can not see the image/read text, please CLICK HERE.
CLICK HERE to read “Bishops urge Bishop Talbert not to officiate same-sex union” by United Methodist Communications
Since Annual Conference, we have been drawing closer and closer to our goal of $87,500 to build the parsonage for the Bishop of the East Congo Annual Conference.
With the most recent tally, here is what has been contributed:
The Memphis Conference has contributed $52,136.66.
The Tennessee Conference has contributed $31,892.33.
The total raised as of this blog post is $84,023.99!!!
It would be great to be able to share with East Congo Bishop Unda Yemba at the Council of Bishops meeting in November that we have accomplished our goal. You will be reminded that in May when I last spoke with Bishop Yemba about this opportunity, he said, “I need a place for my family to live.” Bishop Yemba currently has no residence to lay his head, and remains separated from his family for long periods of time. This offering will build an episcopal residence which will also include permanent office space for the conference.
All we need is 35 churches to step up with a $100.00 donation. A special thanks to all who have gone the second mile to make this happen. Youth groups and many of our small membership churches have stepped up to make sacrifical gifts to help us reach our goal.
Expecting Greater Things!
TN Conference Bishop to shave head if $20,000 is raised for YSF
Nashville Episcopal Area Bishop Bill McAlilly has officially issued the Tennessee Annual Conference a challenge…plus a bit of a reward if that challenge can be met or exceeded. After an offering of $1234.06 was given by TN Conference young people at Summer Sizzler in Beersheba Springs this July for the Youth Service Fund, McAlilly called on the Conference to “expect greater things” and set a goal to raise $20,000 for YSF.
The reward? Bishop McAlilly has promised the Conference a “Bald Bishop” by getting his head shaved if the goal of $20,000 can be met by February 2, 2014. TN UMC Dir. of Young People’s Ministries Brad Fiscus was the lucky recipient of a youth-led head shaving ceremony at Summer Sizzler, the annual Conference young people’s gathering, after the initial $1,000 was raised by the students in time for the summer meeting.
The Feb. 2 deadline date falls in line with the closing of Warmth In Winter 2014 in Murfreesboro, TN, the TN Conference winter youth retreat and the largest Conference-wide event of the calendar year annually. DOWNLOAD a tracker poster on the resources page, keep track of your church’s an/or youth group’s donations, and bring your poster to be presented on the wall at Warmth In Winter.
Want to experience our appointed Bishop getting the ultimate hair cut in front of an audience of 3,000-plus cheering Conference youth and guests? Please give toward the TN Conference Young People’s Ministries goal of $20,000 for the Youth Service Fund using the info below:
> DONATE ONLINE through PayPal (please remember a 2.9% service charge is applied when processed)
> Drop off a designated donation or mail one to:
TN Conference UMC
ATTN: Brad Fiscus
304 S. Perimeter Park Dr. Suite 1
Nashville, TN 37211
(checks payable to “TN Conference UMC,” memo: “Youth Service Fund” and/or “Bald Bishop”)
* All donations will receive a letter of acknowledgement. Donations of $500 or more will receive an autographed picture of the prospective Bald Bishop if the goal is achieved.
> Digital materials for your websites and social media outlets
> Print materials for worship bulletins, newsletters, etc.
> Friendly URL: http://www.BaldBishop.tnumc.com
> Twitter: #baldbishopUMC
About Youth Service Fund | YSF provides grants to youth and young adults serving in mission throughout the world as it is described in Acts 1:8. Each year the Tennessee Conference Council on Youth Ministry meets in early May to distribute YSF grant money to youth and young adult teams who submit applications by April 15. Please visit TNUMCyouth.org/ysf/
Here is the Generosity Video which I showed today at the Stewardship Seminar at Calvary United Methodist Church.
This was posted on the Leadership Network website.
Coming off the heels of the extravagant generosity expressed by the Tennessee Annual Conference in June, there is another opportunity for Methodists in Middle Tennessee to don hair nets package meals to be delivered to hungry all over the world.
A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be held at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on Saturday, July 13th at Belmont University. The afternoon packaging shifts starting at 12:15 and 2:15 pm are open to local congregational teams who desire to package meals and receive training to bring hunger action opportunities back to their congregations.
You are encouraged to gather a carload of “mission-minded” folk from your congregations and experience the power of being the hands and feet of Jesus!
In addition to meal packaging, you will learn more about hunger in our world, and how we can all be part of a movement to stop it. This is one case where Christians need to cultivate intolerance…toward world hunger! There will be time available to ask questions and receive tips from leaders, and resources that you can bring back to your church.
Note: This event is open to ANYONE, not just those that are registered to participate in the UMMen conference!
> CLICK HERE to sign up to participate and/or donate at:
For questions or help, you can contact the Calvary UMC Stop Hunger Now Team:
Tyler Petersen (email)
Joe Dunn (email)
Andy Morris (email)
Larry Malone (email)
It was great to see so many of you packaging food with Stop Hunger Now at the Tennessee Annual Conference. Many of you expressed interest in this exciting global mission and desire to know how to involve your congregation. I want to suggest a way for you and others from your congregation to experience the meal packaging ministry locally.
A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be held at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on Saturday, July 13that Belmont University. Afternoon packaging shifts starting at 12:15 pm and 2:15 pm are open to local congregations and individuals who want to join in. Please sign up to participate and/or donate at:
Stop Hunger Now Event: Saturday, July 13th – Belmont University – CLICK HERE for more info about this online
You can stay and enjoy the evening hearing a message by Bishop James Swanson (MS Conference) and a concert by Phil Stacey beginning at 7:00 PM. Details and registration are available at http://ummgathering.org/NG/.
Better still – have your United Methodist Men come be a part of the entire weekend. It may be a long time before our men will have such easy, affordable access to a United Methodist Men’s Gathering. CLICK HERE for more info or to register.
A team from Calvary United Methodist Church has led their congregation in a successful 100,000 meal packaging event this past February. They are ready to assist you and your mission team. They are organizing the packaging event at the UMM National Gathering and welcome your team’s involvement. Call to discuss your plans and options with the Calvary UMC Stop Hunger Now Team:
Tyler Petersen – firstname.lastname@example.org – 770-843-0690
Joe Dunn – email@example.com – 615-946-2090
Andy Morris – firstname.lastname@example.org – 615-479-4413
Larry Malone – email@example.com – 615-415-4980
You can be the hands and feet of Christ. Be part of a movement to end hunger in our lifetime. You are asking how to engage the mission field: Come learn how at the UMMGathering!
Grace and Peace,