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.
Bishop McAlilly and the TWK Conference Appointive Cabinet
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