Recently, I shared with you the news of the postponement of General Conference 2022 until May of 2024. There is significant disappointment across the Church with the news. For sure, there are implications of this delay, and the Council Bishops continues to consider the implications of this delay and how to lead in the coming two years until the General Conference will gather.
However, as I have reflected on this news, I have been reminded of the journey we have traveled together. Throughout our time together the conviction that has guided my leadership is this: nothing is sacred but the mission. In recent days, I have remembered the call God placed on my heart in 2012. God has been calling me to build bridges across the Nashville Episcopal Area and to be the bishop of all persons.
I am serving in my 10th year as your bishop. I remember well the joy and excitement Lynn and I had to become a part of the Nashville Episcopal Area and the promise of Greater Things about which Jesus spoke in John 14.
One of those greater things was the monumental task of uniting two conferences with histories, customs, memories, and relationships that were deep and vital. This work we have faithfully done and the TWK is now 70+ days old. We are learning a lot; our team is adapting constantly to the changing landscape of the conference and the UMC.
The Connectional Table has adopted four areas of focus for the work of the Annual Conference:
- Discover the work that God is doing to dismantle racism in TWK
- Discover what God is doing to increase resilience of spiritual leaders in TWK
- Create systems of response to Disasters that affect the TWK by setting up a Long Term Recovery organization and deepen our ability to respond quickly to disasters through church volunteer efforts
- Pay attention to the ways God is helping us be the Church in a new day
- Collaborate with leaders and discover the assets that are available to grow new communities of faith
- Bear witness to God’s work of renewing and becoming the Church in the world.
As we think about our life together, I am drawn to John’s gospel. In fact, if I look back over the last 10 years much of the teaching we have shared is drawn from the Gospel of John.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
The overarching task of the Church today is rooted in the evangelistic process of knowing, growing, abiding in Jesus Christ (John 15:5)
This work is Initiated by the Movement of the Holy Spirit. It is through the movement of the Holy Spirit that we experience the Resurrected life which makes possible Reconciliation, Resilience, and Response.
Lay and clergy leaders all over the TWK conference are leading in ways that Christ is using to accomplish our mission.
Over the years as our two conferences worked to create the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference, people revealed a strength and resilience and a willingness to create a new conference in a season filled with disruption. There have been multiple disruptions. And yet we practiced adaptive leadership, grounded in Christ, that led us through.
Two years ago, this week two things happened. One, my mother died and two, we shut down all our in-person worship services. It’s been a hard two years. The journey since that time has been filled with challenges, confusion, adaptability. Our Pastors have been amazing front-line workers pivoting to worship in creative formats.
As you know, as we were saying goodbye to the legacy conferences we did so in a virtual way.
We did not have the opportunity to adequately celebrate and give thanks for who we have been.
As we have created a new conference, we have grieved the losses that we have experienced.
We will, at the first session of the TWK annual conference, have a time of lament for the losses and for what we have been. Dr. Sharon Cox will lead us in this process of grieving.
We continue to lead adaptively as we experience multiple disruptions.
Regarding the announcement of the delay of General Conference, we have learned that some of our churches may want to leave the UMC. This will cause further disruption in our conference.
I want you to know this:
- my calling is to remain faithful to the United Methodist Church.
- I believe that it is possible be a United Methodist and be faithful to orthodox, traditional, and progressive beliefs.
- I am called to this work, and to a church that does amazing mission on behalf of God’s kingdom across this world. Even as I write these words, the United Methodist Church is on the ground in Ukraine and the United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to humanitarian need through the leadership of Bishop Eduard Khegay. When we consider the disruptions, those we are experiencing pale in comparison to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
Here’s what I know:
“The United Methodist Church is founded on a Wesleyan theology of grace, anchored in Scripture, and based in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the continuing movement of the Holy Spirit.” – #BeUMC
- We embrace the fundamentals of the Wesleyan tradition and dedicate ourselves to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
- We embrace a Church anchored in Scripture and a theology of grace.
- We embrace a Church that aspires to be a more just and inclusive force in the world.
- We embrace the connected power of 12 million souls united, working towards good in the world.
- We embrace a Church that has uplifted our own lives and the lives of our friends, family, and those we cherish.
- We embrace a Church built in loving relationships rather than uniformity in thought and action.
- We embrace a Church where everyone does not have to agree and where everyone is welcome.
I recognize that not every person and not every congregation will choose to remain a part of our family. If that is the case, we have a process in place. Our process affirmed by the Conference Board of Trustees as guided by the recent Judicial Council decisions has reaffirmed paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline as a clear and fair process for churches who wish to depart from the denomination.
Additionally, the Council of Bishops has asked for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding whether an annual conference can leave and join another evangelical denomination.
Gil Rendle reminds us that this season of leadership must be quietly courageous: cultivating hope that becomes wise through experience and is undaunted by disappointment, naming anxiety that does not unnerve us but reveals to us new ways to look at new things in the future, knowing that we have simple blessings that will see us through — health, food, sleep, one another, the seasons of God’s creative hand. These practices draw us close to the foundation that is our faith in Christ.
Our work is to be bridge builders as we bear witness to the love of God in the world.
A Prayer for the Church in These Times
O God, whose mercy is ever faithful and ever sure, who art our refuge and our strength in time of trouble, visit us, we beseech thee—for we are in trouble.
We need a hope that is made wise by experience and is undaunted by disappointment. We need an anxiety about the future that shows us new ways to look at new things but does not unnerve us. As a people, we need to remember that our influence was greatest when our power was weakest. Most of all, we need to turn to thee, O God, and our crucified Lord, for only his humility and his strength can heal and free us.
O God, be thou our sole strength in time of trouble. In the midst of anxiety, grant us the grace to count our blessings—the simple ones: health, food, sleep, one another, a spring that is bursting out all over, a nation which, despite all, has so much to offer so many.
And, grant us to count our more complicated blessings: our failures, which teach us so much more than success; our lack of money, which points to the only truly renewable resources, the resources of our spirit; our lack of health, yea, even the knowledge of death, for until we learn that life is limitation, we are surely as formless and as shallow as a stream without its banks.
Send us forth into a new week with a gladsome mind, free and joyful in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.
—William Sloan Coffin, Riverside Church
I invite you to join me in the work of building bridges across the rivers that bind us in the Tennessee Western Kentucky Conference.
My episcopal colleague, Bishop Deborah Kiesey of the Michigan Area, this week shared with me information about the ongoing situation in Flint, Michigan that she described as “difficult and disturbing.”
While many are now focused on how Flint’s drinking water was contaminated with lead, Bishop Kiesey has reminded me what the United Methodist Church is about in the midst of this terrible water crisis.
She reports that churches and districts in her area have come together to provide water, filters and case management. She reports that United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is being consulted for grant assistance.
This is encouraging, but, as Bishop Kiesey says, “It’s hard to see where the end might be” for the people of Flint.
“The long-term effects of lead poisoning will be felt for generations,” said Kiesey. “Add to this the underlying, complex issues of racism and poverty that have brought about this crisis in the first place.”
The people of Flint need two things from us, the United Methodists of the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences):
- Our prayers NOW and for many years to come…
- Our financial support, not just to purchase and deliver water, but to help pay for things like water filters and medical care, especially for children who have been affected.
If you or your church or small group would like to make a financial gift to help the people of Flint, here are two ways you may do that through the Detroit Conference of The United Methodist Church:
- Online: http://bit.ly/FlintRelief
- Mail: Detroit Conference Treasurer’s Office, 1309 N. Ballenger Hwy, Suite 1, Flint, MI 48504. On the memo line, write “#0918 Crossroads District Water Response”
Your Servant in Christ,
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Check out these 50 WAYS to take church to your community throughout the year:
These 50 WAYS from our friends at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership include useful tips to:
- Embrace an expansive concept of community
- Get to know the community surrounding your church
- Extend your congregation’s spiritual presence beyond church walls
- Turn your existing ministries outward
- Reach out through community events
- Connect spiritual outreach to community service
- Build authentic relationships
- Prepare spiritually
- Listen and learn
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,
Grace to you from Jesus Christ, who calls his Church to care for “even the least of these.” One of the ways we participate in that possibility is to create personal, environmental and social conditions in which each individual can receive good health care. In the Gospel of John 10:10b Jesus says, “I came so that they could have life – indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” It is our deep desire that all persons across Tennessee might have the possibility of living the abundant life.
The Social Principles of our church remind us of this truth in its statement on the Right to Health Care. “Health is a condition of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.” [Para. 162(v), 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church]
In caring for our neighbors and allowing more of our fellow citizens to have access to good healthcare, I urge your prayerful support for Insure Tennessee, an initiative that Governor Bill Haslam has recommended to the State Legislature. Its passage will allow 200,000 more Tennesseans to have adequate health coverage. The program will be open to Tennesseans earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $16,000 in annual income for an individual or $33,000 for a family of four).
A special called session of the Tennessee Legislature will be convened on February 2nd to consider the Insure Tennessee plan. I encourage you to do the following four things prior to that date.
1) Become fully informed and educated about the benefits of the Insure Tennessee Plan.
A good website to consult is www.insuretennesseenow.com.
2) Personally contact your Tennessee legislators and give voice to your opinions. Letters, emails and phone calls can all be effective. If you need contact information for a senator or representative, it is available at www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators (Find My Legislator section on right side).
3) Share this letter with friends, family members and neighbors as a part of your witness of care for fellow citizens who need better health coverage. Click here for a PDF copy.
4) Pray for our legislators that they might seek God’s will as a part of their own discernment process.
The New Testament teachings of Jesus remind us over and over again of his ministry of healing and wholeness. I encourage you to respond promptly and faithfully to this opportunity to join him in this mission.
I invite you to share this with your congregation this Sunday. Click here for a PDF copy.
Expecting Greater Things,
Bishop William T. McAlilly
Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church
(Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)
The Jan. 16 issue of the Romans 12 Newsletter produced by the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship includes information about a United Methodist church in Iowa that is working to raise money for Imagine No Malaria and the unique way the church decided how and why to be engaged in mission in a meaningful way.
I want to encourage you to read the newsletter, themed “Running from Malaria,” because it offers helpful information about reframing ministry questions that address global health issues and living as disciples of Christ. A pdf of the newsletter may be viewed and downloaded here.
Because this newsletter talks about Imagine No Malaria, this seems the right time and place to address where we are with our Nashville Area campaign to save 100,000 lives by raising $1 million for Imagine No Malaria by this year’s Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2015.
Through Dec. 31, 2014, our total giving from both conferences is $292,484.36. The total includes $123,068.01 from the Memphis Conference (with approximately 400 churches) and $169,416.35 from the Tennessee Conference (with approximately 600 churches).
I’m going to round up that total number and say we are 30 percent of the way toward our goal!
I am so proud of all our local congregations that are imagining God’s greater things as they raise awareness and save lives. I have heard and read stories about many creative fundraising events, including volleyball tournaments, chili cook-offs, bake sales, Thanksgiving dinners, children’s events, craft sales, Christmas offerings, t-shirt sales, concerts and more.
Unlike many other diseases that await a cure, malaria was eliminated in the U.S. in the 1950s. Even though it is 100 percent preventable, it continues to kill a person every 60 seconds in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Imagine No Malaria is part of a global partnership to beat malaria once and for all. Over the last 15 years there has been a 54% drop in mortality from the disease.
Imagine No Malaria is our opportunity to respond to our calling as Christians and United Methodists—to show our love through generous gifts. As John Wesley said, “It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.”
United Methodists are committed to a denominational goal of $75 million for Imagine No Malaria and have so far raised just over $64 million. Our Nashville Area goal is $1 million by June 2015.
If your church has not already worked to raise at least $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria and submitted these funds to your conference treasurers, I hope you will make plans to do so in the coming months so we may celebrate reaching our $1 million goal in June at our Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences.
To learn more and find resources, visit www.imaginenomalaria.org or contact your district office.
~ Bishop Bill McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church (Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)
Today I received the below communication (originally dated Dec. 28 from Africa) from Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel, resident bishop of the East Congo Episcopal Area. To remind you, Bishop Unda preached at our 2014 Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2014. He thanked our Nashville Episcopal Area for raising money in 2013 to construct an Episcopal office and residence in the Congo, which I helped dedicate during my August 2014 trip to Africa. If you wish to offer any financial assistance for the current crisis he describes below, please send to your conference treasurer for “Bishop Unda SOS.” ~ Bishop Bill McAlilly
To brothers and sisters in Christ:
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As I write these few lines, my heart is too heavy because of the situation going on in Beni territory, northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is part of my Episcopal Area. The efforts of our army (are) insufficient to protect people.
People there are killed every day in the neighboring villages and we run the risk of losing all our believers. Two weeks ago, a group of Uganda rebels killed people in the villages (of) Kamango, Oicha and Mbawu. A Methodist family (a father, his wife and their two children) were killed with machetes.
Many people are fleeing to Beni. Our local congregations there are crowded with displaced people who flee from villages for their lives. We need your prayers. But, as you know, food and basic needs must be met. Our evangelization should reach people in need.
I am sending this SOS message to all those who may want to help.
May God be with us all during Christmas, but let’s keep in mind that our brothers and sisters are dying somewhere because of selfish interests.
Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel
Resident Bishop, East Congo Episcopal Area
Rev. Richard Smith, senior pastor of Germantown United Methodist Church in Germantown, Tenn., in the McKendree District of the Memphis Conference, offered some personal reflections last week (to staff and key leaders of his congregation) about the situation in Ferguson, Mo. Germantown is a city that borders Memphis, Tenn., on its east/southeast side. With Richard’s permission, I am sharing his reflections (below, slightly edited) as a way to help us all move forward from this tragedy.
The Ferguson Decision and Our Jesus-Centered Response
By Rev. Richard Smith
There is no way for any one of us to know for sure whether Darren Wilson was guilty of a crime when he shot Michael Brown to death on Aug. 9. Whether justice was truly served is beyond our comprehension, I believe; certainly beyond mine.
Do I personally believe that Officer Darren Wilson bore some level of responsibility for the death of Brown? I do. It is hard, from the outside looking in, to see that the level of force he used was absolutely necessary. Would sitting in the conversations and the evidential reviews of the Grand Jury have led me – or you – to a different perspective? We’ll never know.
Let me offer some personal reflections, which may or may not help in any way, but they are my heartfelt feelings about how we move forward from this tragedy and its aftermath – both in Ferguson, Mo., and in Memphis, Tenn.
- There is tragedy on several fronts here. The Brown family has lost their young son in a violent way and that pain will be real with them for months and years to come. Meanwhile, Darren Wilson will not be able to live a normal life for months and years to come; if ever.
- It is clear that the racial context in Ferguson – and here in Memphis – cannot be ignored. There were too many chilling accounts of police profiling and mistreating blacks in the Ferguson community for us to not pray for and encourage a change in that community. There are too many instances right here in Shelby County, Tenn., of African-Americans being mistreated for us not to pray for and actively seek greater justice, equality, and compassion as we live and work as brothers and sisters in our wider community.
- Our Church and the Church at large must be a venue for a Jesus-centered response. As I see it, a Jesus-centered response says we must:
- Listen to those who might radically and passionately disagree with us on issues like this. No one has all the answers and when we care like Jesus, another person’s opinion and experience matter to us.
- Avoid demonizing either Officer Darren Wilson or Michael Brown. Only God knows fully what happened that night of Aug. 9 and why.
- Passionately, fervently step up our efforts to make our communities more loving, equitable, affirming, racially- and culturally-inclusive places. We Jesus folks have a unique opportunity to show the world at large how we deal with heated, complex and controversial matters without any of us claiming absolute knowledge or wisdom. We can show the world what it means to treat each other with respect, consideration and Jesus-grounded love.
- Spend fervent prayer time praying for the Browns, the Wilsons, the civil authorities involved, the religious community of Ferguson, ourselves, our community at large. This is a time when considerable prayer is needed by all people of faith.
- Be clear that while protests are a natural and sometimes needed response to extreme civil disappointment, violence and hateful disruption are not acceptable. We need to work toward reconciliation which then leads to disciplined conversations about what needs to change for things to be different for those who are racially and economically mistreated in our society. Racism is alive and well in America and we cannot ignore that.
November 8, 2014
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and Peace to you!
Below is a statement that yesterday afternoon the Council of Bishops adopted, unanimously, regarding our ministry with all persons, regardless of sexual orientation:
As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.
This statement is offered to the United Methodist Church to affirm our vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We are mindful that many across the Church will disagree; some expecting more, others expecting less.
As a global church, we wrestle with language that does no harm-either in the United States or abroad. What we are clear about is that the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is our deepest call and commitment.
We acknowledge that differences and divisions exist within our denomination and across the Nashville Area. Therefore, we will prayerfully consider ways in which to open space for deeper conversation among one another with regard to our differences around our understanding of human sexuality.
Please continue to offer prayer for each other and for the bishops as we move toward General Conference 2016.
Serving Christ With You,
Bishop William T. McAlilly
*For more information about this statement from the Council of Bishops, click here to read Nov. 7 story from the United Methodist News Service.
TOP PHOTO: Rev. Randy Cooper (right) and his United Methodist clergy friend, John Paul, at the East Congo Episcopal Area Conference Round Table. BOTTOM PHOTO: Cooper (left) and Kinshasa, daughter of Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel.
Two Martin First UMC youth heard Bishop Bill McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area announce last year at the Memphis Annual Conference his goal of raising $87,000 for the East Congo Annual Conference. Our two young people returned to Martin, Tenn., and challenged our congregation to raise $5,000. I thought the goal was beyond our reach, but we surpassed it.
Our interest in the Congo continued. We invited Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel of the East Congo Episcopal Area to our church this past summer. He preached for us on Pentecost Sunday in June when 400 Martin First UMC and McCabe UMC (also in Martin, Tenn.) people crowded into our sanctuary for a service that lasted nearly two hours. We were blessed by Bishop Unda’s presence and spirit.
Four days later I received an email from Bishop Unda, inviting me to come to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to witness firsthand the work and presence of United Methodist people in his land. I accepted the invitation in the full knowledge that those two young people and the youth group of my church deserved all the credit for this unfolding chain of events.
My journey to the Congo in August 2014 was a mixture of adventure, heartbreak and inspiration. Adventures aside, let me share with you a few of those heartbreaking moments and one inspiring moment that has been written onto my heart.
It is one thing to see dying children on television during the evening news. It was quite another to stand in hospital rooms in Kindu and Wembo Nyama, Congo near children who were dying from dysentery as their silently-grieving mothers comforted them. Also, I shook hands with United Methodist preachers who don’t own a Bible and who can’t afford a bicycle. I met a wonderful pastor who lived in forests with his people during the recent civil war in order to escape militias who intended to kill, maim, rape and destroy. I heard a widow of a Methodist pastor express heartfelt gratitude that the new Methodist pension program would keep her from the dangers of starvation. My complaints about the challenges I face as a pastor paled in comparison to theirs. These and other encounters will remain with me.
There was one moment that has come to represent to me the whole of my pilgrimage. Bill Lovell (translator and retired elder from the Tennessee Conference) and I left one of the hospitals with a United Methodist pastor who had been showing us around. I believe he sensed the sorrow weighing upon our hearts as we loaded into the back seat of a car. He sought to comfort us as he said, in his Otetela language and with Bill translating, “When we think of all our challenges and sufferings, if we are not joyful and grateful to God, then we are truly walking in the valley of death.” I will never forget those words. They have become a sign to me of the hope that United Methodists in the Congo have.
Since my pilgrimage, I have often recalled Paul’s words about faith, hope and love in 1 Corinthians. I must say I don’t believe I saw more faith in Congolese United Methodists than I see in my local congregation. I doubt, too, that United Methodists in that part of the world are any more loving toward one another than we are. Yet I do believe I met people whose hope is richer and deeper than ours. The United Methodists of the Congo are a people who hope in God, who have nothing else and no one else to depend upon. If the apostle Paul were writing to them, I believe he would write to them about hope.
Any ongoing relationship we in the Nashville Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) have with the East Congo Annual Conference in years to come will be a blessing to them, and also to us.
…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.