Address from 2019 General Conference


To submit a question to be addressed during the live stream, please send an email to Please try to get it to us by Tuesday, March 5. Thank you!

Video transcript:

We are nearing the end of the final day of General Conference 2019, the special session that was called to be held in St. Louis just this week. I want to tell you how grateful I am for the prayers of the Memphis and Tennessee conferences, as your delegations and I have been here seeking to find a way forward for our United Methodist Church.

I want you to know that while we have been in St. Louis, we have been praying for you as those across the Memphis and Tennessee conferences have been facing flooding. We’re mindful that there are many who are displaced because of those floods, and want to remind you that Robert Craig is our Disaster Response Coordinator and you can find contact information for him on our conference websites.

Many of you have watched the live streaming of the special session, and you have followed the coverage – many of you, moment by moment. You have probably also followed some of our United Methodist news service outlets. But if you’re not already aware, this afternoon we passed the Traditional Plan which was passed by a significant margin, 54% roughly to 47%. That plan has been adopted and it will need to be further studied by the Judicial Council to rule on constitutionality.

As a result of the decision, some of you feel relief. Others of you are in disbelief, and some are angry. Many feel a sense of grief. My first reminder today as your chief pastor is to love one another. Some of your neighbors, some of your church members are hurting because of this decision.

It will take time for all of us to understand how these decisions will affect us at the they will affect the future of the United Methodist Church.

Likely there will be adjustments that we have to live into within the reality of our Church, but one thing is certain, the church will continue to be the church. We will continue to love the least and the last, our neighbors in our communities. We will continue to offer hope to a hurting world in every place we exist in the Tennessee and Memphis conferences and Kentucky.

Our conferences will continue to value local churches as the disciple-making center of all of our ministry. We will continue to be diverse. We will continue to be rooted in Christ, and we will express a deep love for one another.

This coming week, your church will gather for worship. Someone will teach Sunday School. Youth will gather for MYF. Other churches will reach out to those in need with food pantries and clothes closets. For some, they may need to set some time aside for grieving.

As soon as the Southeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops meets, I’ll return to our Episcopal Area and I will begin the hard work of doing ministry with you as we discern what this decision means for the Church.

I ask you that you allow us the opportunity – before you or your church make any decisions regarding your relationship with the United Methodist Church – to be in conversation with you.

On Sunday, March the 10th at 3:00 p.m., I, along with our delegation heads, will be coming to you livestream, and you’ll have an opportunity to hear more details about what we discern is our future.

If you wish to send questions, you may do so at,

Updates will continue to be shared through our conference websites, and our task teams on the ongoing work for our New Conference that will continue.

I invite you to continue praying for the future of our denomination, for the future of the Tennessee and Memphis conferences, for the work that God has called us to do in a very specific, particular place called the Nashville Episcopal Area.

I’m deeply grateful for each of you and I thank you for your willingness to work with me in this time of transition. May God be with us.

Message as we prepare for General Conference

A Pastoral Message from Bishop Bill McAlilly from Cody Hickman on Vimeo.

God’s Great Grace

Lynn and I returned last week in the wee hours of Thursday morning after a wonderful pilgrimage in the Holy Land. We traveled by bus with some of our recent Ordinands and several Laity from across Tennessee and Alabama.

Every time I walk in Galilee, stand on the banks of the Jordan River, or walk the trail from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, I am reminded of how wide and vast is the influence of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, and his tribe called Christians. On pilgrimage alongside our group were Asians, Africans, Germans, Italians, among others!

Every time I walk the Via Dolorosa, I reflect on the worldwide nature of the Church–not just United Methodists—but persons from every nation, language, people and race. 

Such a journey gives one perspective. 

As we approach February 23 and the beginning of the called session of General Conference, we all could use a little perspective. Sometimes it is helpful to take the long view. The work of Christ’s Holy Church began long before we came along and will go on long after this moment. 

There is no doubt that this is an important moment. The debates about human sexuality and who can be ordained and who can be married are important for the United Methodist Church. The Commission on the Way Forward has presented the 2019 General Conference with three plans to consider. Across every Conference, there have been sincere listening, courageous conversations, and meaningful discourse. There have also been hurtful attacks, fear-mongering, and misinformation. It is impossible to know what will happen among the people called United Methodists in three brief days in St. Louis later this month.

It’s easy to get discouraged because we have no idea how it is going to turn out.

The uncertainty we are all feeling can turn us inward into the places in our souls that are most afraid, that long to control outcomes.

It can turn us inward to the worst spirits in our culture: the spirit of competitiveness, the spirit of power.

We must turn outward beyond ourselves.

We must turn outward

towards one another in love and mutual respect,

towards God in prayer. 

We must turn outwards

watching for Jesus, the man from Galilee to go ahead of us

listening for the Holy Spirit to speak to the Church.

I confess that there have been moments over the past two years when I have been discouraged by the tone of conversation in our beloved Church. 

There have been times when I have doubted and when I have been afraid. 

But, God continues to remind me that the work of Christ’s Holy Church began long before we came along and will go on long after this moment. 

And so I invite you to pray with me. 

I am praying for humility, wisdom, for kindness, for generosity and self-control.

I am praying that the witness of those gathered in St. Louis February 23-26 will bear witness to the love of God in Christ. 

I am praying that the Church will cease its mission drift and will continue to bless those who are discerning a call to ministry. 

I am praying that we will do no harm. 

I am praying that when the history books are written, this era of Church history will be judged not by the lens of short-sightedness but through the lens of God’s great grace guiding us through challenging waters. 

One of the last things we did in Jerusalem was to walk the Via Dolorosa and go the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I was reminded as I walked that lonesome road of something Dr. Davis Chappell said to me the day before we departed. He said:

“The truth is – all 4 strands of Judaism were disappointed in Jesus. The Sadducees said – he’s too radical. The Pharisees said – he’s too liberal. The Zealots said – he’s too conservative. The Essenes said – he’s too inclusive. Jesus didn’t line up with these groups! And consequently, they were all disappointed in Jesus. And so, they found a way to get rid of him! But God raised him up.”

I can’t help but wonder with which strand Jesus would align. Or if he were to come, and he didn’t align with our particular strand, if we, too, would reject him.

Beware of assuming that Jesus lines up perfectly with your group.

Remember that Jesus is always going ahead of us 

sometimes surprising us 

because his thoughts are not our thoughts 

and his way is not our way.

We are brothers and sisters in Christ here by God’s great grace alone. 

Be humble.  

I don’t know what will happen at General Conference. 

I don’t know which plan will be adopted.

Here’s what I do know—my role as a bishop in the United Methodist Church is to lead all of God’s people—not just those with whom I agree. When I was elected and consecrated a bishop, the values and beliefs that have guided my life did not change. From the time I was a college student serving as a youth director until this day, my desire has been to be in ministry with all persons. I have sought in this office to abide with Christ and to abide with the Church even when the Church didn’t seem to desire to abide with itself. 

The trip to the Holy Land gave me new perspective. 

God has not abandoned our Church. 

God was at work in the people called Methodists long before we came along

and I believe that God’s work among us will continue. 

This weekend four of our five grandchildren have been in Nashville.

It is for them that I hold out hope for this church of ours.

It also is for those who Saturday attended the Orientation to Ministry, discerning their call to ministry.

It is for the young clergy who have gone to great lengths to acquire the necessary educational requirements to serve our churches.

It is for those who have yet to hear the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that it is critical that we allow the Holy Spirit to move among us and that we live with hearts of peace.

Our Lord God, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us.  We cannot know for certain where it will end. We do not always know ourselves as well as we think we do, and even though we often believe we are following your will that does not mean we are actually doing so. But we believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you. And we pray for that desire in all that we are doing. We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire. We know that if we do this you will lead us by the right road. Amen.   (adapted from a prayer by Thomas Merton)


Wishing you a splendid Advent season

December 2018 – Bishop Bill McAlilly

Report Of The Advisory Group Toward Creating a New Conference


The Nashville Episcopal Area

Report Of The Advisory Group Toward

Creating a New Conference

Fall Update, 2018

Over the last several months, an advisory group made up of lay and clergy members began the hopeful and challenging work of living into the decision of the 2018 Annual Conference to continue the work of alignment between the Memphis Conference and the Tennessee Conference.

The primary question to be answered in these last months is do we simply adopt best practices of the two conferences or do we strive to truly to become a new conference with a new vision and a refined mission?

The answer the advisory group has adopted is that we must create a new entity focusing our energy on what God is leading us toward rather than simply blending the two entities.  We believe God is saying to us: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

The group agrees on the following:

We believe that the local church is the primary disciple-making entity in the conference.

We believe that we are called, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to create a culture within the conference where we:

  • Lead with Grace
  • Discover, connect, equip and send well-qualified lay and clergy leaders who are spiritual leaders
  • Are wise stewards of resources as we maximize the resources at the local church
  • Foster Innovative expressions of Church
  • Foster Innovative expressions of leadership
  • Expect a Diverse Church
  • Discover and engage with young people in leadership
  • Foster emotional intelligence among leaders
  • Expect excellence in communication among leaders
  • Reflect, Adjust, Do, as we move forward with regard to all ministries
  • Hold one another accountable in love
  • Celebrate God’s work

The group has organized teams to begin work around the following opportunities: Benefits, Finance & Funding, Property, and Conference Organization & Mission.

The Advisory Group will meet again in early December. Please continue to be in prayer for us as we continue this work.

Bearing Witness

Last Sunday night, Claflin University Choir provided a mini concert for the Council of Bishops. Their opening number was the historic “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, written by James Weldon Johnson.


In 1899, Johnson was asked to speak to a crowd in Jacksonville, Florida.  The occasion was the coming anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Just two decades had passed since the Reconstruction era.  The segregated south was deeply divided racially. Lynchings were on the rise across the South.


As Johnson considered his opportunity, he decided to write a poem.  The opening line, “Lift every voice and sing,” gave rise to the powerful poem which is now a hymn, the music composed by Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson who was classically trained, putting the stanza’s to music. ( ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’: The story behind the ‘black national anthem’ that Beyoncé sang. Washington Post  Samantha Schmidt).


It is a powerful poem, both lyrically and musically. Essentially, it is a poetic recounting of the journey African Americans across the 17th and 18th Century.  I never sing the hymn or hear the hymn performed without being deeply moved.


It is a song a of memory and hope.

From the first stanza:


Sing a song full of

The faith that the

Dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of

The hope that the present has brought

Facing the rising sun of our new day


Let us march on till victory is


Last Sunday night, almost in unison, the entire room was quickly on their feet acknowledging the power and meaning of these words.  It was a moving experience for me in light of the continued racism that continues to be alive and well in our lives.


For my entire life, racism has been a challenge for our church and for our culture. Despite all the progress many folks thinK we have made, we cannot help but be reminded daily of the failures of the progress we are not making.


This was brought home to me recently when ten individuals, including four people of color attended a rally in Nashville.  One of the four is a candidate for ministry in the United Methodist Church.  The group arrived at the event after registering properly.   Those of color were asked to leave while the others were allowed to stay.

One student in particular is a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville.  As he seeks to live out his baptismal vows to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression” he participates in movements that support equality, access to healthcare, among others. This brave young man has shared with us that he was only seeking to hear the opinions of a candidate for office.  I have asked myself why he was removed and after reviewing the video footage, the only reasonable conclusion I could reach is that he was removed because the color of his skin.


When I consider my own baptismal vow, my own commitment to Jesus Christ and the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, I believe we cannot be silent before injustice.


At the Council of Bishops this week, I joined with my colleagues on the Council who are African American who call the Church to stand against the resurgence of racism in the United States.  Today I ask that you pray for unity, acceptance, movement in our own hearts and most of all peace to those who may be different from ourselves.  We are more alike than we are different, but we celebrate the uniqueness of God’s cultural and racial diversity in all of us.


I call on all United Methodists in the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences to reaffirm your baptismal vows to resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves. I give thanks to God for those who daily stand against racism and injustice for all people.


In the midst of the recent election cycle, perhaps Samuel Beckett’s words from his 1983 novella, Worstward Ho, offer a more appropriate (and humble) approach to the challenges we now face: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

(This appears in the September 17, 2018 issue of TIME.


May we United Methodists ever move forward in spite of our failings. And may we ever be steadfast in standing with those who, on our behalf, are brave enough to bear witness to God’s love for all people.

The Potential of Rural Ministry | guest post by Rev. Allen Stanton

The summer before I began seminary, I had breakfast with the pastor of the Baptist church I grew up in. I told him that I had been offered and accepted a fellowship, which promised a full scholarship in exchange for a commitment to serve the rural church for at least five years after graduation.

“Why would you do that?” my pastor asked. “Don’t you want to go serve at a larger church? That’s how you launch your career.”

It’s a refrain that I heard often, even after I began serving in a rural parish. Well-meaning clergy, people that I respect and admire, would offer similar advice. “Go to that rural church,” I was told, “Don’t make any waves, and in a few years, they’ll reappoint you as an associate pastor at a larger church.”

When I first entered into seminary, my pastor’s remarks, along with that consistent line of advice about waiting out my five years in the rural parish, echoed in my head. Underneath all of those comments is an assumption that valuable ministry rarely happens in the small-membership rural church. For many, the narrative is that rural ministry is a place for the beginning of careers – a place to escape from once you’ve proved your skill – or a place to end a career. Underneath this well-intentioned but misguided advice is that rural communities are not places to have a high-impact ministry. In reality, though, our rural congregations face unique challenges that require thoughtful and strong leaders.

In many rural communities, local churches are some of the only permanent institutions. While businesses, elected officials, and even schools come and go, the rural church remains. Each week, the pews are filled by small business owners, teachers, nurses, and community leaders – a claim which almost no other organization can make.

My previous appointment was a small, rural church in North Carolina. Brought into the connection by Francis Asbury, the area has seen a tremendous amount of change over the last few decades. In the 1970s, farmlands were converted into a lake, which today is a popular daytrip for the nearby urban areas. The once quiet farm road where the church sits is now a busy backroad between two suburbs. Hundreds of cyclists dot the road each weekend in the fall and spring to take advantage of the rolling hills and scenic paths.

The questions that we wrestled with are not that unique: How do we navigate this change? Who is in our community now? What resources are available to us? How do we make this community better?

Rural churches have the potential – and responsibility – to be leaders in the midst of this enormous change in their communities. The Turner Center at Martin Methodist College is committed to empowering and supporting rural congregations as they explore how their congregations can lead transformation. Our goal, as we like to say, is to help rural congregations recognize, cultivate, announce, and invite others to participate in the Kingdom of God that is already being built around them.

At times, that means taking a step back and learning how to see the real needs and gifts of a community. Or, other times, it might mean forming connections with other community leaders in business, non-profits, and elected officials. And still other times, it might just mean taking a look at how our congregations can better serve the changing communities.

I often think back to that time when my pastor told me I would be wasting my time in a rural congregation. Then I think about the meaningful moments in my ministry: helping high school seniors write their college applications and watching them become first generation college students, partnering with a local hospital to offer preventative health-screenings, or working with a food pantry to distribute healthy meals to families during the summer. While those moments are not big and flashy, they will have ripple effects that continue on for years to come.

The truth is that rural communities have a huge potential for high impact ministries. Given that 65% of the churches in the Nashville Episcopal Area are rural, our opportunity for transformation is enormous.

Our goal is to help rural congregations unlock their potential to transform the world for the sake of Jesus Christ. One way that we’re doing that is through our Community Transformation Grant. Rural congregations and District leaders are encouraged to apply for a grant up to $10,000 to fund a project that will impact their communities in a meaningful way. For more information about that program, along with resources for rural ministry, visit us online at, follow us on twitter (@mmcturnercenter) and like us on Facebook.

Rural churches are not forgotten places, rungs on a career ladder, or communities to avoid. They are places where God is at work, where Christ is transforming the world, and they need leaders who are committed to seeing the beauty, the challenges, the gifts, and the opportunities to make lasting, meaningful, God-honoring change.

Rev. Allen Stanton


Reverend Allen Stanton is the Executive Director of the Turner Center at Martin Methodist College

Please Help Respond to Our Neighbors in Need

It is Time to Fill the Truck with Disaster Supplies!

Thank you so much to those churches that have been gathering and storing supplies for our sister churches in communities affected by the recent hurricanes. It now is time to fill the truck!

Thanks to the generosity of Sundown Express in Gates, TN, the Nashville Episcopal Area has a semi-truck that we can fill and transport the supplies where our UMCOR teams need them the most. The shipment will leave our Area at the end of October, so please bring supplies to the indicated drop-off locations by the dates given below.

Our Area-wide Disaster Response Coordinator, Rev. Robert Craig, says that the supplies begin accepted for this shipment include the following:

Hygiene kits | DETAILS

Cleaning kits | DETAILS

Tornado buckets | DETAILS   (Tape list of contents to side of bucket.)

Tarps: 12×16 feet and larger

20-inch box fans

25-ft extension cords

2-gallon garden sprayers

Square-tipped shovels

Metal garden rakes

Please choose one of the following locations to deliver kits, supplies and buckets. Feel free to use the closest, most convenient location. CALL FIRST to confirm hours/deadline before making delivery.

Memphis Conference Dropoff Locations

From the below locations in the Memphis Conference, all items will be transported to Forty West Designs in Jackson, TN. On Saturday, October 27, volunteers will palletize all supplies at Forty West Designs for shipping out on Monday morning.

  • Christ United Methodist Church| 4488 Poplar Ave. | Memphis, TN | 901-683-3521 | Drop off items at front of church (under breezeway) Mon-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Germantown United Methodist Church| 2331 South Germantown Rd. | Germantown, TN 38138 | 901-754-7216  
  • Mississippi River District Office|1382 West Church St, Alamo, TN  38001 | 731-696-4117
  • Omni Tech| 1050 S. Main, Dyersburg, TN | 1050 South Main St, Dyersburg, TN | 5 to 8 p.m. each weekday. Go to lower rear building and enter at large rollup bay door.
  • Benton First United Methodist Church| 845 US Hwy 641 Spur, Benton, KY | 270-527-3990
  • Tennessee River District Office| 24 Corporate Blvd., Jackson, TN | 731-660-1376 | Monday – Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. | Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

If you have any questions, please contact Robert Craig at

Tennessee Conference Dropoff Locations

In the Tennessee Conference, supplies can be dropped off during the week at the locations listed below.

  • Feed America First, 319 Murfreesboro St., Murfreesboro, TN 37127 | Monday-Friday. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (The Feed America First staff will palletize and shrink wrap supplies as they arrive! This is a great blessing for us.)
  • Cedar Crest Camp | 7900 Cedar Crest Camp Road | Lyles, TN 37098 (There will be an enclosed trailer located at the Cedar Crest office for deposit of supplies from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday thru Friday. If you have questions, call the camp office at 931-670-3025.)
  • Columbia First UMC | 222 W 7th St. | Columbia, TN 38401 (Dropoff at the church between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Call the church for more information at 931-388-3306.)
  • New Chapel UMC | 5016 Highway 49 W. | Springfield TN 37172 (Please call Jim Rogers at 615-944-3327 to set up a delivery time.)
  • Waverly First UMC | 115 W Main St. | Waverly, TN 37185-1556 (Please call Betsy Haley at 931-622-0692 for a drop off time between 8 a.m. -2 p.m. on Monday-Thursday)

Churches on the western side of the Tennessee Conference also are welcome to bring their supplies to Jackson on Saturday, October 27, to Forty West Designs warehouse, 52 Ragland Rd., Jackson, TN.

Final Shipment to Load and Leave on Monday October 29

Volunteers are needed on Monday, October 29, to help transport supplies as well as on-site at Feed America First to help prepare the load for shipping. If you can help, please email Robert at

Thank you in advance for answering this call to action to help our neighbors in need!

Director Named for Nashville Area Office of Leadership Formation and Development

Rev. Deborah S. Owens

I am pleased to announce that Rev. Deborah S. Owens will be the Director of the Nashville Area Office of Leadership Formation and Development (formerly known as the Office of Ministerial Concerns). Rev. Owens is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Conference and currently serves in the Harpeth River District.

Before entering vocational ministry, Rev. Owens had a long career in project management with AT&T. She holds an M.Div. from Vanderbilt Divinity School and a B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. In addition, she also holds a Masters Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University School of Business and Public Management and advanced certification in AT&T’s Quality Management System.

The focus of this position has evolved with the renaming and redirection of the office from the Office of Ministerial Concerns to one that is now dedicated to the leadership formation and development of laity as well as clergy.

The Director is an employee of the Tennessee Annual Conference, but oversees three primary areas of ministry for the Nashville Episcopal Area:

  • Operations of the Boards of Ordained Ministry of the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences
  • Clergy Development and Nurture
  • Lay Leadership Development

Rev. Dr. Bryan Brooks, head of the search team, said that Owen’s experience prepares her well for the added lay leadership emphasis for this position. “Deborah served as a Certified Lay Speaker in her church and received her license as a local pastor while in seminary. She then left her corporate career after her ordination as an Elder.”

Rev. Owens brings strong communications, counseling, and organizational skills to this position. She also has served with several district and conference organization and ministry teams, including serving as the secretary of the Tennessee Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

“The search team was pleased to have so many good candidates apply for this position,” said Brooks. “In the end, we felt that Deborah’s experience aligned best with the new direction for this office.”

Rev. Owens will begin as director in late October at the Tennessee Conference Center in Nashville. She can be contacted at

More About the Position

The Director oversees all aspects of the Office of Leadership Formation and Development, serving as the direct supervisor of the Assistant Director and Coordinator. The Director is the chief resource for the Nashville Area Boards of Ordained Ministry as well as the candidates/clergy of the Nashville Area. The Director serves as part of the Extended Cabinet of the Nashville Area and is the liaison between the Cabinet and the Nashville Area Boards of Ordained Ministry.

The Director also relates to the following groups/committees:  Boards of Laity, District Committees on Ministry, Connectional Ministry Teams, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Offices of Administrative Services, Orders of Elders, Orders of Deacons, and Fellowships of Local Pastors and Associate Members in the Nashville Area.



Campus Ministries: Helping Unite Our Young People

There are many things to love about The United Methodist Church. One aspect, in particular, is the work done through our campus ministries. For example, at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville Tennessee, the Wesley Foundation under the direction of Reverend Addison Shock and his wife Logan Shock, creates an environment where students find a place to belong and discover their beliefs.

They also are creating a church family in such a way that when two students travel internationally halfway around the world, they find each other. Pictured are Luke Hornby and Paul Tribble who traveled to see each other while in Europe. Tennessee Tech Wesley Foundation unites people around the world embodying Romans 12:5, “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.”

We are blessed by the work of all of our campus ministries in the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences. You can learn more about them and what they are doing this fall through ministry links on our conference websites:

TN Conference Campus Ministries

Memphis Conference Campus Ministries

GBHEM: Building Capacity for Lay and Clergy Leaders

I am pleased to share news from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.  Please join me with prayers of support as the agency develops and implements a new strategy for expanding its role in leadership development and formation. I encourage you to follow and participate in this work (outlined below), whether you are lay or clergy.


GBHEM Board of Directors Lay the Groundwork for Formational and Educational Leadership Center

NASHVILLE, Tenn., August 14, 2018 – The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) Board of Directors has unanimously affirmed a new strategy to establish the agency as the resource center for leadership, education and formation to support future and current church leaders of the United Methodist Connection.

The strategy, approved at the board’s summer meeting last week in Nashville, was developed following a detailed evaluation of GBHEM’s impact across the global church, which included identifying the resources and competencies needed in leaders of today and tomorrow.

“What we are doing here at Higher Education and Ministry is building capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation,” said the Rev. Dr. Kim Cape, general secretary at GBHEM. “I think that the church is asking us for both lay and clergy leadership development to navigate the changes that we are facing, both as a denomination, and in this country and the world.”

“Church leaders must be equipped to deal with diversity and the rapid pace of change, and be people of courage, vision and character,” Cape added. “It is our role to shape people to lead the community of faith. Those needs and those skills, knowledge, abilities and personality traits have evolved over time. We have an opportunity to move in the direction that I believe God’s calling us to move.”

The affirmation of the board, chaired by Bishop William McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area, is its commitment to make the new strategy become a reality. The plan calls for the agency to:

  • Expand its role in leadership development and formation, with the expectation that these efforts will strengthen ministry in all places leaders are called to serve, especially in United Methodist-related institutions
  • Generate innovative programs, research and evaluation instruments aimed at bolstering and fortifying leadership skills, while ensuring that GBHEM fulfills its mandated charges
  • Collaborate with other agencies and groups to expand the availability of varied, relevant and promising models and processes
  • Support those functioning in leadership roles across the denomination, ranging from clergy, ministry professionals and parish laity to institutional and educational leaders, chaplains and pastoral counselors, recognizing that these varied groups confront unique challenges within the scope of their positions

In her General Secretary Address, Cape highlighted the plan which positions GBHEM to address the ongoing needs of the denomination to cultivate effective leaders and to forecast leadership requirements for the future of the church.

“This vision comes even as the church confronts important challenges,” Cape said. “Regardless of the outcome of legislative decisions regarding the future structure of the church, the need for the denomination to have effective leaders to serve at all levels of the church worldwide, including local churches, districts, the episcopacy, colleges and universities, community service organizations and other organizations and institutions, such as the military, jails, hospitals and counseling centers, will not diminish. We believe this plan provides a vital, comprehensive vision, one not covered elsewhere in the church.”

The Rev. Stephen Handy, senior pastor of McKendree United Methodist Church in Nashville, led the worship service at the board meeting and offered words of wisdom concerning the affirmation of the agency’s new strategy.

In addition to the Great Commission, Handy reminded the GBHEM board and staff, there is also the Great Commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” In that, he said, the agency will find its next steps.

“If you don’t love God first, then whatever you put on paper won’t matter,” Handy told the board and staff.

Also, at the meeting, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, delivered the 2018 Willson Lecture entitled, “Between Private Sphere and Public Square,” to board members and guests.

Henry-Crowe, who has served as the social justice agency’s top executive since 2014, held up the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church as the latest examples of the rich tradition of “bold statements of conscience guiding the church and interfacing with society – taking stands for justice.”

“The genius of the Social Principles is that they address the issues where suffering, injustice and inequality exist,” Henry-Crowe said. “The Social Principles give the church an opportunity to speak and live out its faith in communities, societies and cultures all around the world. And they provide a way for religious voices to be heard in the halls of power.

“Bishops, the general agencies, annual conferences, pastors and churches find guidance and confidence in speaking on now the 76 statements, adopted by the General Conference as written by United Methodists from across the globe who face myriad injustices and inequities,” she said.

The Willson Lecture series is provided by an endowment from James M. and Mavis Willson of Floydada, Texas. The lectureship is designed to contribute to the spiritual and intellectual enrichment of people from the boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church. The lectures also present the scholarly contributions of leaders in higher education and educational philanthropy to the Nashville community.

To learn more about GBHEM and the board of directors, visit

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.

Two Spiritual Pilgrimage Opportunities

Travel with Bishop Bill McAlilly and the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences
Holy Land Tour (January 2019) and Oberammergau Passion Play (June 2020)

I’m happy to offer two spiritual pilgrimage opportunities to you. 

In January 2019, we are offering a trip to the Holy Land.  Some have called the land the “fifth gospel.”  Visiting this fifth gospel will put Scripture into context and open it to you in ways you cannot imagine as we visit the sites where Jesus walked, taught, and prayed.

In June 2020, we are offering a trip to the Oberammergau Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany.  This passion play, which is performed every ten years, tells the story of the Passion of Christ, beginning with His entry into the ancient city of Jerusalem, followed by His trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. This tour includes sites in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Both of these pilgrimages will be will be true faith experiences, and I would consider it a privilege to share this journey with you.

Bishop Bill McAlilly


Holy Land Tour | January 21-30, 2019 | “Bible Land Exploration”

The ten-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land includes:

  • Caesarea by the Sea, Mount Carmel, Megiddo, Nazareth
  • Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes
  • Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Golan Heights, Bethsaida, Jordan River
  • Jericho, Qumran, Masada, the Dead Sea
  • Bethlehem, Yad Vashem, Israel Museum
  • Jerusalem and the Old City

Optional Post-Tour Additions:

  • Wonders of Petra & Dead Sea
  • Jerusalem Extended Stay

Prices start at: $3398 from Nashville or Memphis and include:

  • Breakfast and Dinner Daily
  • Deluxe A/C Motor Coaches
  • Entrance and Program Fees
  • First Class Hotels
  • Taxes, Fees, Gratuities
  • Guided Tours
  • Round trip International Airfare
  • Study Guide

For More Information or to Register:

Click on “Know Your Tour Info” and enter the following:

Tour = HL19
Date =  012119
Code =  S 



2020 Oberammergau Passion Play & Best of Switzerland | June 17-26, 2020

The ten-day tour includes:

  • Munich, Germany
  • Innsbruck, Austria
  • Ettal, Oberammergau, and Passion Play
  • Travel to Switzerland—Bern
  • Gruyere and Lausanne
  • Zermatt and the Matterhorn
  • Interlaken and Zurich
  • Lucerne

Prices start at: $4896 from Nashville and $4996 from Memphis and include:

  • Basic Tour & Guided Sightseeing
  • Roundtrip International Airfare
  • Daily Buffet Breakfast & Dinner
  • Deluxe Motorcoaches
  • Passion Play Ticket for full 6 hour performance
  • First Class Hotels & much more!

For More Information or to Register: 

Click on “Know Your Tour Info” and enter the following:

Tour =   SW20
Date =   061720
Code =   T 


For brochures, Tour Host information, and general information, you may contact the Project Coordinators:


Mission is… International Disaster Response

One of the many facets of mission is International Disaster Response (IDR). Through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the church is one of the first in when disaster strikes and one of the last to leave.

This is true in West Mosul, Iraq, where people have been displaced, lost their homes and are facing the daily realities of living in a war zone.

Photo: International Blue Crescent
UMCOR partners with International Blue Crescent to provide food to those in need in Mosul, Iraq.

One mother* shared she had lost her husband during the armed groups’ attacks of Mosul City. She now is trying to keep herself, three children and elderly father alive. She had to walk for days to get to where they currently live, and resources were difficult to locate. This mother in Mosul has received food assistance through the direct financial support provided by UMCOR to the International Blue Crescent.
She exclaimed it was the first time someone had provided support to help feed her children. This is mission work: supporting people in crisis, ensuring a mother can cook a proper meal for her family for the first time in six months. Through tears, she added, “I have felt guilty to eat instead of giving that to my children, but now, with proper food aid, I can leave that feeling, at least for the moment.”

Imagine a world where everyone shares this kind of love and support with others. This is possible through UMCOR, which serves as the primary channel for United Methodist assistance within the United States and abroad.

We invite you to learn more about International Disaster Response and to follow UMCOR through social media. (Facebook, Twitter)

Support International Disaster Response

*Names have been omitted for privacy

From Global Ministries – Engage Issue No. 23 | Mission is International Disaster Response

Global Mission Fellow on his way home!

Tawanda Chandiwana, Global Mission Fellow, has been released from detention and has boarded his flight home to Zimbabwe! Please continue to pray for his safe journey and passage.

General Secretary Thomas Kemper shared this video from the airport.

Miracle Osman is still in the Philippines, and GBGM is working to ensure her safe departure as well. Please keep her in your prayers.

Do not oppress a foreigner | Guest post by Morgan Stafford

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)

The separation of children and families at our nation’s border has deeply troubled many of us in recent weeks.

While the recent executive order may allow immigrating families to remain united, the detention of families and children will continue for an unspecified term. This process does not reflect the dignity with which we believe all humans should be treated.

Many faith leaders have spoken against this inhumane treatment of innocent immigrant children, including our Council of Bishops. (

Along with Holy Scripture, our Social Principles provide a clear response for us. The United Methodist Church “recognizes, embraces, and affirms all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We urge society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”

Rooted in the faith traditions of the United Methodist Church, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors has been protecting child refugees since 2015, when it began representing unaccompanied minors in Middle Tennessee.  Separated from their families due to gang violence, these children are from Central and South America. For thousands of these children who now reside safely in Tennessee, returning to their home country is not an option. The violence is now so extreme that families arrived at the border despite separation warnings and the parents criminally prosecuted.

Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors is responding to the most recent crisis with both compassion and expertise by sending a staff attorney and two volunteers to the border to represent families in crisis later this summer. We are proud that Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors is on the front lines of caring for our neighbors on behalf of the United Methodist Church during these important days.

During both the Memphis (meeting in Paducah, Kentucky) and Tennessee (meeting in Brentwood) Annual Conferences, the theme for our time together was #SeeAllThePeople. We are to respond when we witness suffering.

We celebrate the many ministries across our Nashville Episcopal Area that help us #SeeAllThePeople, especially children. As you read these words, United Methodists across our area are serving children through Project Transformation Tennessee. Our camping and retreat centers minister all summer with joy and excitement. Hannah’s Hope and Miriam’s Promise work to help families with adoptions. West Kentucky United Methodist Family Services assists families in welcoming children through foster care. These ministries and more are answering God’s call to serve children and families, regardless of national origins.

During the final day of Tennessee Annual Conference, we prayed for the families and children separated at the border. The immigration task force of the Tennessee Conference is organizing to help lead our local response as United Methodists, and the Connectional Ministries Team of the Memphis Conference worked with the Rio Texas Conference to develop a list of practical ways you can reach out and make a difference.  Attached, please find the list of resources.  We believe in the importance of both prayer and action.

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” (Matthew 19:14)

Morgan Stafford


Morgan Stafford – Cross-Cultural Strategist & Ministry Intern, Nashville Episcopal Area