…it’s on my mind because this is Advent and we are on a journey to Bethlehem, a journey we take annually as a Church. There was a time when the Church began the season with a period of penitence and fasting. Perhaps these are practices that would serve us well in this current environment.
Have you ever wondered why purple is the liturgical color of Advent? It is to create a visual connection between Advent and Lent, the two periods of preparation for Jesus’ birth and death. For early Christians, it was essential to understand the link between the cradle and the cross—that Jesus came as the “Word made flesh.”
There will be great joy among us as we celebrate in our congregations in the coming days. We will celebrate the coming of Christ’s birth. Will we also hold before us the tension held within the reality that his life led to his crucifixion, resurrection and the promise of new life for all of us?
Kate Lasso, a member of the Eighth Day Faith Community suggests that during Advent we celebrate God’s invitation to reconciliation. To be reconciled to God is to be actively living what Jesus taught: Love God and love neighbor. Jesus’ invitation is also a call to discipleship.
Lasso continues: “The first ones to hear the news, and thus mark the advent of an age of reconciliation with God, were poor shepherds, some of the lowest ranking members of Jewish society. Their work made it impossible for them to observe the Jewish ceremonial laws and temple rituals, so they were considered religiously unclean and unacceptable. They weren’t considered trustworthy and were not allowed to give testimony in a Jewish court of law. They were social outcasts, yet they are at the heart of the joyous message—that Christ came for lowly shepherds, for all the forgotten people of the earth, for all of us.”
To be engaged in discipleship is to choose downward mobility. It is to take up one’s cross and follow daily our Leader. It is to be so in love with God that love for neighbor is the natural response. As you make preparations, make room. Make room in your heart, in your family, in your work, and in your re-creation. When you do, you will be ready for Christmas in the deepest places of your soul and you will be one with Christ and one with each other.
> The TN Conference Children & Families Ministry is publishing an excellent daily Advent devotional via email, CLICK HERE to subscribe – I recommend it!
Created in response to the consumer-driven traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
For United Methodists, this means every gift made online that day through “The Advance” will be matched dollar for dollar. All you have to do is log onto umcmission.org/give and search more than 850 missions and ministries.
I encourage all United Methodists of the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) to participate in Giving Tuesday. It offers us all an opportunity to not only support United Methodist organizations that are transforming the world, but begin the month of December by giving, rather than receiving.
Please join me on Dec. 3 by giving back through The Advance. It’s an easy and meaningful way to show gratitude for the gift of our lord Jesus Christ.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Over the last several days the United Methodist Council of Bishops has been in session at Lake Junaluska, NC. Of the many topics on the agenda this week, none was more significant or more engaging than the discussion that resulted in this statement (posted below).
This statement from the Council of Bishops is a result of discernment, prayer, and deep reflection. It arises out of the recent actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert in the residential area of Bishop Debra Wallace-Padget.
Retired and resident bishops of The United Methodist Church throughout the world came to the Council of Bishops with widely different contexts, culturally and theologically, to craft the following points:
1. An acknowledgement of our dependence on God and our need for prayer
2. A recognition that United Methodists are not of one mind on the subject of human sexuality, and that there are deep divisions among Christians who read scripture in different ways and whose consciences move them to opposing convictions.
3. A direct response to the action of Bishop Talbert, which was in violation of the 2012 Book of Discipline by undermining the ministry of another.
4. A commitment to lead honest and respectful conversations around human sexuality, race, and gender in light of our theological convictions for the sake of our mission.
I ask you to note three facets of this development:
1. The General Conference, not the Council of Bishops, speaks for The United Methodist Church.
2. The Council of Bishops does not hold an individual bishop accountable; this practice is given by the General Conference to the (jurisdictional) College of Bishops.
3. The response of the bishops is a reflection on two subjects: a) the violation of the Discipline by a member of the clergy, b) the ongoing struggle of the church with our ministry with gay and lesbian persons.
As the resident bishop of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, I take seriously the calling to be a shepherd to the clergy and laity of the Nashville Area. I am aware that there are deep divisions among us on this subject. We are in a difficult time as we navigate the changing cultural landscape. We are also an incredibly diverse Church. I covet your prayers for all who are harmed by this action.
Peace and Deep Prayer,
– Bishop William T. “Bill” McAlilly
*For those who follow a number of bishops on these matters, Bishop Ken Carter was the chief architect of the above statement with slight variations for the Nashville Area. I am indebted to Bishop Carter for sharing his willingness to be collaborative. A small group of bishop colleagues collaborate on a number of issues of this nature from time to time.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Council of Bishops
Contact: Diane Degnan (email)
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”
“When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” the bishops said in a statement.
The Council also voted to initiate a task force to lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender in a global perspective. The goal of this effort is to come to a shared theological understanding amid diverse opinions in the church about these issues.
These actions followed days of prayerful discernment and conversation about the action it would take after retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony on Oct. 26 celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Ala. – a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergy.
Church law says that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”
Both the presiding bishop of the North Alabama area where the ceremony took place, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the Executive Committee of the Council had requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony.
Under church law, the College of Bishops – which is constituted of the bishops in a jurisdictional or central conference – has authority and accountability for processing complaints against a bishop who serves (or served) in that area, which would be the Western Jurisdiction in this instance.
Earlier this week in the President’s Address, Bishop Wenner acknowledged there is diversity of opinion about many issues in the church. “We have to lead together although we are not one minded. We do not need to hide that we are diverse,” she said. In the address, she also noted, “Serious conflicts have to be brought to the tables where leaders are present,” an acknowledgment that supports the plan for further discussion of the issue through a task force.
In a statement, the Council said that when followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views, honest and respectful conversation and prayer are needed throughout the church. The Council expressed pastoral care and concern for all people. (Read the full statement online.)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – United Methodist bishops from around the globe will gather in North Carolina at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center for the Council of Bishops meeting, November 10-15, 2013.
“The clear priority for the Council of Bishops is to increase vitality in our congregations in all the regions where we are present,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council. “We will engage in prayer, theological reflection and visioning so that we help one another to train leaders, to create new faith communities, and to engage in ministries with the poor and health programs like Imagine No Malaria.”
On Sunday, November 10, a memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville. Bishop Wenner will present the President’s Address at 9:45 am on Monday. On Wednesday, the Council will travel to the Qualla Boundary, which is part of the original homeland of the Cherokee Nation. The area is currently home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, direct descendants of those who were able to avoid forced removal to the area that is now Oklahoma.
“We will spend an afternoon with our sisters and brothers of the Cherokee Nation, following up on Acts of Repentance at General Conference,” said Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Episcopal Area. “We will remember the start of the Trail of Tears 175 years ago and point toward our Council meeting in Oklahoma later this quadrennium,” he said, referring to the Council meeting scheduled for November 2014.
The Council will spiritually center itself in daily worship and communion, along with small covenant groups for prayer and reflection. Plenary sessions, held each morning Monday-Friday, as well as Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, are open to the news media and the public. Among other reports, some of the items that will be discussed include:
• Objectives for the quadrennium: adaptive challenges and vital congregations
• Four Areas of Focus, agency alignment, 2016 budget process
• Elections: President, President-Designate, Secretary
• Preparing for 2016 General Conference
• Imagine No Malaria
• 2016 Episcopal Address
• Theological foundations of United Methodist identity and mission
During the six-day meeting, the bishops will also have various small group meetings, including accountability groups which were created as part of a covenant to hold one another accountable as they work together to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.
About the Council of Bishops | The Council of Bishops – made up of 46 active bishops in the United States, 20 bishops in Europe, Asia and Africa, and 97 retired bishops worldwide – provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
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.
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!
As I was sending out the post regarding our progress with our East Congo Episcopal Residence Project I learned that Bishop Unda’s daughter Kabibi passed away yesterday from malaria. Not too many years ago he also lost his wife to malaria.
Please remember Bishop Unda Yemba’s family in your prayers.
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!
by Heather Heinzman*
A few years ago, Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina was contemplating using a portion of their precious green space to expand the parking for crowded Sunday mornings and highly attended special events. At certain times of the morning, a parking spot could not be found, and people were forced to park up and down the streets bordering the property. But was this really the best use for the land?
Highland UMC had hosted a weekday English as a Second Language (ESL) program for several years, and as some of the church leadership began connecting with the staff and students, a greater use for the proposed parking lot emerged—a community garden. Many of the students came from agricultural areas and not only missed farming the land, but could not afford to buy fresh, healthy produce at the grocery store. After gaining support from the congregation, including a member with a background in agriculture who agreed to head up the project, the Highland Victory Garden was born.
The results from the garden far exceeded expectations. Not only were church members and ESL students working side-by-side in the dirt, other residents in the community volunteered and joined in the effort. The garden also became a place of refuge. People driving by would stop to spend a moment on one of the benches interspersed between the beds, and family members of patients at the nearby hospital would come to the garden for some quiet time away from their loved one’s bedside.
Within a year, the Highland Victory Garden produced enough food to not only feed those who regularly worked in the garden, but provided hundreds of pounds of fresh, healthy food for the local food bank. As churches and community groups were inspired by the garden, at least forty other gardens were also started in the area.
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Questions for Discussion
• How are your church’s resources utilized? Are you building bigger barns or seeking to use your resources to meet needs in the community?
• How is your congregation intentionally building relationships with its neighbors, particularly those who are the most vulnerable?
• Are you aware of the needs and hopes of your neighbors? What are you currently doing to be Christ’s hands and feet to bring hope?
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About Romans 12 | Romans 12 is a project of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
These congregations are marked by:
– Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
– Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
– Nurture of growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
– Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable–the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
– Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the Body of Christ.
– Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
– Shared clergy and lay leadership.
Romans 12 Newsletter. Issue #174 © 2013 GBOD. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this newsletter for use in United Methodist congregations. This newsletter is provided as a service of the General Board of Discipleship and is funded through World Service apportionment giving by local United Methodist congregations.To subscribe or discontinue a subscription contact Deb Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous issues of the newsletter go to www.gbod.org/Romans12
GBOD | The United Methodist Church (www.GBOD.org)
PO Box 340003
Nashville, TN 37203
by Joe Geary
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 NRSV
Bishop McAlilly and leaders from the Nashville Episcopal Area met with their counterparts in Reynosa, Mexico, September 2-4, for an inter-conference and international retreat to plan ministry on both sides of the border. Participating from our region were the Bishop, Area Cabinet, Chairperson of the Area Pacto (covenant) Committee, Rev. Jim Clardy and the CMT Director of the Memphis Annual Conference, Rev. Tom Hazelwood. The theme of the event was taken from the Gospel of John that “they all might become one.”
At the Piedro Angular Campomento (Cornerstone Camp) in Reynosa, we were joined by Bishop Raul Garcia de Ochoa and the Cabinet of the Conferencia Oriental Anual (Eastern Mexico Annual Conference). Also in attendance were Rev. Roberto Gomez Reyes, the liaison for the Pacto to the Nashville Episcopal Area and Mr. Willie Berman who is the General Board of Global Ministries missionary assigned to minister along the corridor bordering the Rio Grande river.
Each Bishop introduced the participants from their respective areas. Opening worship sought the presence of the Holy Spirit to be with us during the retreat. Tables were made up of equal representation from both nations. The event continued with episcopal leaders presenting the flags of our countries. Each contingent then recited pledges of allegiance and sang national anthems.
The retreat continued with reports from both sides touting the progress of our covenant relationship and where each aspect stood in its development. Throughout the three days, worship was interwoven in the schedule. The three Annual Conferences rotated worship leaders, preachers and those offering devotions, testimonies and song. Language and cultural barriers faded away as strangers became colleagues and then brothers and sisters in Christ. Our time was concluded with a powerful celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The bulk of our retreat experience was hearing a description of the 27 districts of the three Annual Conferences. Each District Superintendent gave a brief summation of their district including opportunities for mission and ministry. On Tuesday evening, Bishops McAlilly and Garcia asked Superintendents to identify a colleague from the opposite nation. Throughout the experience of the retreat, the Holy Spirit was already building fellowship and affinity amongst the cohort.
Having been paired up as partners, the Superintendents then identified priorities in each district for mutual support. Advance teams will visit one another’s districts in the next few months and then teams will go and work over the coming years. Opportunities exist for local churches to have a sister local church and the same for campus ministries or camping and retreat centers, hospitals and homes.
If you would like to know more, please contact your District Superintendent or Conference CMT Director to express interest and support.
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.
My Brothers and Sisters,
August 24, 2013 at Calvary United Methodist Church we have an opportunity to deepen our understanding and commitment to our shared life by attending the Stewardship Seminar planned and offered by our United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.
If you are looking for a seminar where practical tools will be provided which offer helpful ways to create congregations of generous people, you will not want to miss this opportunity!
Workshops will include:
- Alternative ways of giving
- Using traditional and emerging media,
- Creating Christ-oriented year-round stewardship emphasis,
- Fostering giving in the Wesleyan tradition,
- Personal financial programs,
- Gifts that keep on giving: endowments and planned giving,
- Capital campaign: why, what, when, and how.
Registration will begin at 8:30 am in the Christian Life Center at Calvary UMC followed by the opening plenary at 9:00 am called “Creating Passionate Givers” by Bishop McAlilly. Address: Calvary UMC: 3701 Hillsboro Pike Nashville, TN 37215 (615) 297.7562
The closing plenary at 2:15 pm titled “Covenant to Start a Fire” will include an address by the new president of the UM Foundation, Rev. Dr. Phil Jamieson.
I am asking leaders, Lay and Clergy, to be in attendance Saturday, August 25 at Calvary. We welcome lay and clergy from the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences to join us!
I look forward to greeting you,
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 – email@example.com – 770-843-0690
Joe Dunn – firstname.lastname@example.org – 615-946-2090
Andy Morris – email@example.com – 615-479-4413
Larry Malone – firstname.lastname@example.org – 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,
Mark 12: 30-31
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
A little boy said to his Sunday school teacher, “The pastor said our congregation is healthy. When did we go to the doctor?” In other words, the little boy was asking who is qualified to check us out and make this pronouncement.
What makes us a healthy, vital congregation?
God gave the ultimate sacrifice, his only son Jesus, to atone for the sins of the world. A congregation that understands the magnitude of this sacrifice and the depth of God’s love is also a congregation that embraces God’s Kingdom and loves all creation.
A healthy congregation expresses their love of God in all they do. They love the world unconditionally as God loves us.
A healthy and vital congregation is passionate, joyful, and always ready to serve.
We are healthy because we have embraced the lifestyle of the Great Physician.
Prayer: Oh God, help us to love one another as you have loved us. Teach us to live in solidarity with all creation as we yearn to make disciples for Jesus Christ. AMEN.
The Rev. Roger Hopson
Executive Assistant to the Bishop
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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY | Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?