The 54th and final Tennessee Annual Conference opened on June 10, 2021. This annual conference was held online for the second year due to COVID-19 restrictions for large gatherings.
Throughout the conference, videos were shown that presented different periods in the history of the Tennessee Conference.
The theme of the conference was “By Faith” and the guiding scripture was Hebrews 12:1. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Bishop Bill McAlilly officially opened the conference at 1 p.m. Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. Melinda Britt introduced the annual conference offering to help fund scholarships for TNUMC Camp and Retreat Ministries.
Opening Worship – Lay Aside
Opening Worship began with a call to worship offered by the Sanctuary Ringers from Cookeville First UMC, then Mrs. Maxine Weems and the Choir from Clark UMC, McMinnville, sang “Down by the Riverside.” An opening prayer was offered by Rev. Gerard Harlan. The scripture reading was presented by a diverse group of conference clergy and lay members. Bishop McAlilly offered the opening sermon.
Additional participants in this opening worship service included the Young Adult Dance Ensemble from Gordon Memorial UMC, the combined choirs and worship band from Christ UMC, Franklin, and the praise band from Fairfield Glade UMC.
Thursday Business Session
Tennessee Conference Secretary, Rev. Monica Mowdy joined Bishop McAlilly for notes of welcome and conference organization. Following a call to order and a brief video reviewing virtual voting and procedures for getting recognized, a roll call of 643 clergy and 643 lay voting members was taken and opening motions were made that included setting the bar as the online Zoom webinar. The bar for voting was set for lay and clergy members to participate via Zoom webinar with the production assistance of a team from GNTV working out of the Tennessee Conference center in Nashville.
Votes were then taken on opening motions and the Consent Agenda was affirmed.
- The historical video, “Circuit Riders & Wilderness Churches,” was shown. (The entire History of the Tennessee Conference video series is available at www.tnumc.org/history-of-the-tennessee-conference-video-series.)
Rev. Jeremy Squires presented two resolutions from the Resolutions Committee report. They met the test of constitutionality and concurrence. The following resolutions were presented individually and were approved by the 2021 annual conference.
- Rental/Housing Allowances for Retired, Disabled, or Former Clergypersons of the Tennessee Conference
- CONAM – National Day of Awareness for Missing & Murdered Native Women & Girls
The Honorable Connie Clark, Rev. Dr. Mark LaBranche, and Dr. Roy Nicks presented a resolution regarding the conference’s relationship with Martin Methodist College (MMC). It met the test of constitutionality and concurrence. Several questions were asked and answered.
Questions asked and answered included:
Have any other institutions been approached about this merger? MMC has not had conversations with other colleges. Input was given by other colleges and individuals. There is a 14-county area that has no other 4-year college except for MMC. Closest UT institution is 70 miles away. Alabama is drawing away students from areas covered by MMC. Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) initially resisted action and wanted MMC to be an extension of MTSU. That was not entertained.
What is the name of the new partnership? The University of Tennessee Southern was selected after surveying many people. It represents the region.
What about the location of a Wesley Foundation? Pulaski First UMC will house it temporarily. The college recognizes its responsibility to find a location once a director has been hired.
What about scholarships given by individual UM churches to MMC? A letter was sent to every individual and church that offers a scholarship. Endowment is staying with the college. It will be administered by a board and will be used for United Methodist students.
Will there still be a religion program? Yes, there will still be a religion department and pre-ministry degree. Any new programs have to get approval. They are taking everything with them as it relates to programming.
The resolution was affirmed after all questions were answered.
- The historical video, “Camp Meetings, Sunday Schools, & Missions,” was shown.
A point of personal privilege was brought by Rev. Zach Moffatt. He invited conference members to attend a celebration on June 15 at 10 a.m. to celebrate the connection between the Tennessee Conference and Martin Methodist College.
The resolution and Plan of Union for the New Conference were presented and followed with a Q&A session led by Rev. Dr. Rob Martin. The resolution met the test of constitutionality and concurrence. This was the final step needed to move forward to the Southeastern Jurisdiction for approval of the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.
- Resolution Regarding Approval of Plan of Union for the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of The United Methodist Church
A vote was taken and the resolution and Plan of Union were approved with 484 Yes votes (90.8%).
- The historical video, “Rise of the Methodist Episcopal Church South,” was shown. This included stories about a very racially divisive period in our history.
Following the video, A Call to Lamentation and Action was offered by Bishop McAlilly.
Council on Finance and Administration Action Items
David Hayes, Larry Davis, and John Pearce presented the CFA report and action items. All action items were passed. Slides and budget narrative are available online under Reports for 2021 Annual Conference.
- The historical video, “War, Chaplains, & Occupation,” was shown.
A video introducing 2021 Harry Denman Evangelism award recipients was shown. The recipients honored were Reverend Delwyn Fryer, Reverend Travis Garner, and Rev. Rodney Ritchie. These clergy represent pastoral leadership within three relationships to our conference: retired elder, active elder, and local pastor.
Bishop McAlilly recognized and prayed for missionaries, home missioners, and deaconesses.
The Board of Laity Report was done as a video narrated by Janice McCallen and George Brown. The ministry of our laity in both the Tennessee and Memphis conferences was shared, including an update on online Lay Servant Ministries classes. The video presentation showed how the laity were creative and resilient throughout the pandemic.
Bishop McAlilly concluded the afternoon session with an inspiring message, “Expecting Greater Things 2.0,” in which he shared familiar scripture passages: Hebrews 11:1, Ephesians 2:4-5, and John 14: 8-14. God’s story allows us to find our way when the landscape is shifting. God has gifted us by calling us toward a life of transformation. At the end of the day, this is our calling: keep the story alive, keep the mystery alive. Bishop McAlilly reminded us to place mercy at the heart of our evangelism and that we are people of the resurrection. As God continues to mold us, three things continue to bubble up: resilience, reconciliation, and resurrection. We are people of hope. Hope and mercy are what we need for ourselves and others.
A closing prayer was given by Bishop McAlilly.
Friday, June 11
Bishop McAlilly began Friday’s session with acknowledgments of the people and work behind the planning of this annual conference.
A Service of Remembering – Cloud of Witnesses
The 2021 Memorial Service continued the themes from Hebrews 12. Bishop Joe Pennel offered the sermon, “Cloud of Witnesses.” The service included diverse voices from across the Tennessee and Memphis conferences including: Dakota Hill, Dyersburg First UMC; Catherine Phelps, Covington First UMC; Sara Corum, Trinity UMC; Angela Halkias, Goshen UMC; Sammy Tillman, Brownsville First UMC; as well as the Affirmation of Faith in Spanish offered by Sergio Jimenez, Aldersgate/La Puerta UMC.
A 2021 Memorial Book featuring memoirs about each recognized person is available online.
- The historical video, “Reconstruction, Education & Social Work,” was shown.
Dean of the Cabinet, Rev. Scott Aleridge, presented cabinet resolutions for charge line changes, church closures, and church disaffiliations. Each of the following ballots was approved.
Caney Fork River District Ballot
Cumberland River District Ballot
- Charge Line Changes for Cumberland River District
- Closure of Dodson Chapel UMC
- Disaffiliation of Sadler’s Chapel UMC
Harpeth River District Ballot
Red River District Ballot
- Merger of Eno UMC & Oak Grove UMC and Charge Line Changes for Red River District
- Discontinuance of Water Valley UMC and Closure of Mallory’s UMC
- Disaffiliation of Salem UMC
- Disaffiliation of Simpkins Chapel UMC
Stones River District Ballot
- Charge Line Changes for Stones River District
- Disaffiliation of Cainsville UMC
- Disaffiliation of Fountain Grove UMC
- Disaffiliation of Lascassas UMC
- Disaffiliation of Mt. Carmel UMC
Bishop McAlilly prayed for all congregations, their members and pastors, particularly Dodson Chapel UMC, Bethlehem UMC, and those that are choosing to leave the denomination.
Rev. Paul Purdue requested a personal point of privilege to affirm the spirit of lament of the conference’s sins of racism and slavery, particularly toward Native Americans.
- The historical video, “Laity, Lifestyle Ministry, & Social Justice,” was shown.
Board of Ordained Ministry Report
Rev. Dr. Bryan Brooks presented the report for the Board of Ordained Ministry including the names of those approved to be licensed, commissioned, and ordained at worship services on June 19.
- Licensed as Local Pastors: Lee Alexander, Kelly L. Breniser, Charla Ramey Burnette, Jeffrey M. Farris, Jackie Renee Gardner, Shaun Michael Hinds, Jonathan Hayes McHann, Sarah Elizabeth Millsap, Patrick Joseph Valentine II, and Randy Weatherington
- Elected as Associate Members: Timothy Harris Dunavant and Sean Christopher Stanfield
- Commissioned as Provisional Elders: Luke Benjamin Lea, Sharlet U. Panhalker, Donald Johnson Terry, and Samuel Conner Williams
- Deacons in full connection: Regina Gail Girten and Amy Wingrove Martin
- Ordained as Elders in Full Membership: William Ray Carey III, William Robert Clark, Krislyn Page Durham, Stacy Alise Davidheiser Gonzalez, Peter Dane van Eys, and Darren Randall Mayberry Wright
Brooks also recognized the conference’s Certified Lay Ministers (CLM), many who are faithfully serving local congregations as their spiritual leader or leading in varying ministries on the district and local church level.
The 25th anniversary of the Order of Deacons in the Tennessee Conference was recognized. Brooks also thanked Board of Ordained Ministry members for their work over the last year and colleagues in the Office of Leadership Formation and Development.
Brooks introduced a video featuring this year’s retirees who reflected on their memories as elders and deacons, shared their advice to new ordinands, and recalled what they learned during the pandemic. Bishop McAlilly offered a prayer for the retirees.
- The historical video, “Invitation to Share Your Story in the Upcoming 1972-2022 Video,” was shown.
Setting of Appointments
Bishop McAlilly introduced Tennessee Conference district superintendents: Scott Aleridge, Donna Parramore, Allen Black, Pat Freudenthal, and Chip Hunter as well as the current and in-coming west-side cabinet members: Deborah Smith, Autura Eason-Williams, Ben Boone, Nancy Johnston Varden, Cynthia Davis, and Dan Camp. Each district superintendent reported that each district’s appointments have been set. Bishop McAlilly prayed for pastors and their families in their appointments in the coming year. A link to the 2021 List of Appointments is available on the Tennessee Conference website’s annual conference webpage.
Closing Worship – Run the Race
The closing worship service to send everyone forth featured music and readings by Covington First UMC Sanctuary Choir, Rev. Kristofer Roof, the chancel choir from Paris First UMC, and Mrs. Maxine Weems and the choir from Clark UMC, McMinnville.
Bishop McAlilly also recognized and prayed for the new Project Transformation interns during the service.
Bishop Bill McAlilly closed the 54th session of the Tennessee Annual Conference with a heartfelt sermon in which he reflected upon Hebrews 12:1-3. Bishop McAlilly, the son of a pastor, recalled personal stories of his childhood itinerancy. It was one of moving from a place of friendship and comfort into an unknown place. While he moved away from his friends, he made new ones and was introduced to people who would help guide him for many years, his cloud of witnesses. He asked “Who is in your cloud of witnesses?” and said to offer a prayer for them, thanking God for their faithfulness in your faith journey.
He noted that we are still living through a pandemic. We think we see light at the end of the tunnel but it’s not completely clear yet. Our denomination is going through great challenges but God is in the midst of us. Our God has been faithful to us and has not abandoned us. God will watch over us in the days to come. By faith, God will not let us go.
His prayer for us is that we will be faithful to that which God asks of us. “My brothers and sisters may we run this race with perseverance surrounded by those of us who have shown us the way. God is with us. May it be so now and in the days to come.”
The final session of the Tennessee Annual Conference adjourned at lunchtime on Friday, June 11, 2021.
Links to more information as well as recordings from the Annual Conference live stream are available at https://www.tnumc.org/ac2021/
Ordination Services – Saturday, June 19
Joint Ordination Services were held on June 19, 2021, at West End UMC in Nashville, TN. The services were live-streamed, however, a limited number of guests and participants were able to gather in person for the services since COVID-19 restrictions had eased up in recent weeks.
Candidates from both the Tennessee and Memphis conferences were licensed, commissioned, and ordained. Leaders from both conferences participated in both services. The sermon message, “I’ve Laid Down A Pattern For You,” was offered by Bishop William T. McAlilly at both services. Video of these services is available online.
Service of Licensing and Commissioning | Bulletin
Election of Associate Members and Ordination of Deacons, Ordination of Elders | Bulletin
Some 2021 Conference Statistics
- Seven churches disaffiliated.
- Four churches closed.
- Membership stands at 106,229, down 3,275 from the previous year
- Worship attendance stands at 30,322 in-person/52,884 online, down 10,829 in person, and up 47,832 online.
- Church school attendance stands at 14,244, down 5481
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2020: 545, down 931 from 2019.
- Adults and young adults in small groups for 2020: 21,590, down 7,118 from 2019.
- Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020: 19,846, down 7,160 from 2019.
The 182nd and final Memphis Annual Conference Session was celebrated amid tears of nostalgia mingled with prayers of thanksgiving for all that has passed and of anticipation in looking forward to the expanded ministries of the future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference expected to launch January 1, 2022.
“By Faith” remained the theme for the 2021 Memphis Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Clergy, Business, and Worship Sessions were held online on Thursday, June 3 and Friday, June 4. On Saturday, June 19, as a joint event with Tennessee Conference, the Commissioning and Licensing service was held in the morning and the Ordination service in the afternoon.
Preparation for delegates included two training events on May 28 and 29 to familiarize delegates with updated webinar features and more streamlined voting procedures. In addition, an Event Information Page and a Q&A Page were furnished on the conference website and in the mobile app. Information about the sessions for both conferences was also highlighted on the TWK website. These resources remain available for everyone to review reports, videos, and other information about the 2021 annual conference sessions.
Everything was aligned as closely as possible with the Tennessee Conference with intentionally seamless similarity except for those items specifically pertinent to each individual conference. Where feasible, pre-recorded agenda items were produced featuring musicians, speakers, leaders, and others from both conferences and then presented during both the Memphis and Tennessee Conference sessions. Pending action by the Southeastern Jurisdiction, this is expected to be the final session for each of the two conferences before the Future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference is formed.
Design Team planning meetings led by Melinda Britt, Delores Smith, and Amy Hurd were conducted jointly with breakout sessions for issues pertaining to either specific conference. In addition, Kylie Marino and Bill Lawson coordinated video and live stream production for the teams collaborating across the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.
Grace UMC in Jackson, Tennessee, graciously hosted the presenters and support teams. Good News TV Media, a United Methodist-related video ministry located in Macon, Georgia, provided the technical equipment and experienced staff for live streaming the event.
A Video Showcase of the proceedings is online. The showcase also includes various individual segments and production clips from Memphis Conference and United Methodist denominational agencies. All of these videos are available to download and show to congregations and other church groups.
The Event Schedule, Reports, and Information page on the Memphis Conference website provides links to additional information about the conference. In addition, many reports from ministries, boards, and agencies included in the Consent Agenda are provided individually, along with direct links to videos and other vital resources.
Bishop McAlilly offered a reflection on “Expecting Greater Things” before introducing the history celebration. Then, a special presentation of a beautiful Commemorative Quilt, depicting historical ministries of the Memphis Conference and the Tennessee Conference, once divided but now united by the Tennessee River. “Threads of Faith Ministry” of Temple UMC in Millington, Tennessee, made the quilt for the Future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference. The news article “Commemorative Quilt Presented to the TWK Annual Conference” features a photograph of the quilt on the TWK website.
“BY FAITH…” a Memphis Conference history video, debuted as part of our virtual annual conference session. The dramatization offers a glimpse at 200 years of history during our 182nd and final Annual Conference virtual gathering. Jacob Taylor of St. Luke’s UMC in Memphis and volunteer producer Mark Matheny created the video. Churches and others are encouraged to view, share, or download this historical video.
The Opening Worship Service on June 3 included the sermon “Lay Aside” by Bishop McAlilly. A stirring performance by musicians from both the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences of Charles Wesley’s “And Are We Yet Alive,” traditionally sung at the opening of annual conferences in the Wesleyan tradition, segued from the worship to business. The opening worship, “Lay Aside” sermon video, “And Are We Yet Alive” video, and the worship bulletin for the service are available online.
The Memorial Service on June 4 included the sermon “Cloud of Witnesses,” preached by retired Bishop Joe Pennel. In addition, eleven clergy and clergy spouses who died during the past conference year were honored: Eugene Burkeen, Nadine Jones, Deborah Riley, William Evans, Charles Leist, Sr., Richard Flick, Howard Wayne Burkeen, Mark Engle, Richard Lee Hackleman, James Richard Haley, and David Atkinson. The video recording and worship bulletin for the service are posted online.
The Closing Worship Service on June 4 included the sermon, “Run the Race,” by Bishop McAlilly. As part of this service, the new Project Transformation Interns were commissioned. Following confirmation by each district superintendent, Bishop McAlilly set the 2021 Clergy Appointments and gave the benediction for this 182nd and Final Session of the Memphis Annual Conference. The closing worship video and the worship bulletin are provided online, along with separate videos for the “Run the Race” sermon, the Project Transformation commissioning, and the final benediction.
Joint Ordination Services were held on June 19, 2021, at West End UMC in Nashville, TN. The services were live-streamed; however, a limited number of guests and participants were able to gather in-person for the services since COVID-19 restrictions had eased up in recent weeks.
Candidates from both the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences were licensed, commissioned, and ordained. Leaders from both conferences participated in both services. The sermon message, “I’ve Laid Down A Pattern For You,” was offered by Bishop William T. McAlilly at both services. Video of these services is available online.
Service of Licensing and Commissioning | Bulletin
Election of Associate Members and Ordination of Deacons, Ordination of Elders | Bulletin
The Retirement Video on June 4 celebrated ten clergy retirees: John Randy Cooper, Harry Deloach, Mark Irvin, Herbert Lester, James Paris, TroyAnn Poulopoulus, Deborah Smith, Jerry Stephenson, Joe Walker, Jr., James Wolfgang. The retirement video, including comments by several of this year’s retirees, is offered online.
Will Clark presented Harry Denman Evangelism Awards to three distinguished individuals from Memphis Conference. Davis Cox of Emmanuel UMC and of the Conference Youth Council received the Youth Award. Elyse Bell of Paris First UMC was the recipient of the Laity Award. Marty Arnold, the pastor of the Holladay-Palestine-Yellow Springs charge, received the Clergy Award. A video by Will Clark describing the Denman Awards and including the Youth Award presentation is available online. The Laity and Clergy Awards were presented separately after approval by the voting delegation.
The “Memphis Annual Conference Resolution Regarding Approval of Plan of Union for the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of The United Methodist Church” was presented by Rob Martin. He led in a discussion time before the delegates voted approval. The passing of this resolution enables the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to approve the formation of the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.
The “Resolution Requesting General Conference to Receive Legislation” submitted by Rob Martin was presented by Tim Atkins and approved. This resolution addresses clarity issues regarding the submission of legislation due to the postponement of the 2020 General Conference to 2022.
The “Resolution for Prayerful Studied Dialogue” was ruled out of order, and no further action was taken.
Copies of all resolutions were posted online prior to the conference session for delegates to study, and are still available for viewing or download on the Event Information Page.
BOARD OF LAITY AND LAY SERVANT MINISTRIES
The Future TWK (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) Board of Laity and Lay Servant Ministries presented a joint video report narrated by Janice McCallen and George Brown. The report especially highlights how the laity found ways to continue vital ministries during the pandemic. Churches and other groups are encouraged to download the video for presentation in their worship services and other meetings. Their written report is also online.
BOARD OF ORDAINED MINISTRY
The Board of Ordained Ministry report was presented by Autura Eason-Williams, naming those approved by the Clergy Session to be licensed, commissioned, and ordained at the June 19 worship services.
The twelve newly Certified Lay Ministers are John Burgette, Solomon Christian, Matthew Cooper, Mike Cooper, James Ellington, Stephanie Hale, Tommy McElyea, James “Bo” McEwen, Ken Pullias, Jean Alice Smith, Marcia Watson, and Jonathan Wheeler.
The two new Local Pastors are Charla Ramey Burnette and Jackie Renee Bell Gardner. In addition, Emily Walker was congratulated on her completion of the Course of Study.
Two clergy persons were received into Full Connection at the Clergy Session. Amy Wingrove Martin was approved for Ordination as a Deacon, and William Robert Clark was approved for Ordination as an Elder.
Two offerings were received online during the conference. The “Camp and Retreat Offering” benefits the Camp Scholarships Fund for the Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center. The “Episcopal Emergency / Jerusalem Fund,” combining the two such offerings of both the Memphis and the Tennessee conferences, provides relief to the clergy of both conferences experiencing financial hardships.
Delegates approved the 2022 TWK Budget and other action items after viewing the TWKAC CFA Report slides and presentations by David Hayes, Larry Davis, and John Pearce. In addition, the Joint Distributing Committee (JDC) report was presented. All of these reports are available on the conference Event Information Page to view or download.
The Consent Agenda (Part 1 – Boards of Directors and Part 2 – Reports) and the Organizing Motions were approved as presented by Conference Secretary David Russell. The Organizing Motions consist of several items pertaining to how the session will be conducted as agreed upon by all delegates before the business starts. In addition, the Consent Agenda is comprised of many reports from the various conference and denominational boards and agencies, theological schools, foundations, hospitals, campus ministries, organizations, and other ministries related to the Memphis Annual Conference. These reports are listed on the conference Event Information Page and are available for downloading or viewing.
Only the live presenters and support personnel were present at Grace United Methodist Church. There were 1,061 online viewers on Thursday and 1,013 on Friday. Registered delegates had access to the interactive webinar with 335 unique viewers on Thursday and 304 on Friday. Additional people accompanied some viewers.
The webinar was streamed to YouTube and Facebook, bringing total non-delegate viewers to 726 on Thursday and 709 on Friday. YouTube accounted for 310 on Thursday and 413 on Friday and Facebook for 416 on Thursday, and 296 on Friday. Another 227 people, and counting, have viewed the recordings on Vimeo in the weeks following the live conference.
The 539 total registered delegates eligible to vote included 274 lay delegates and 265 clergy delegates.
The separate Clergy Session registered 161 connections, with some clergy sharing devices.
- December 4, 2021, was announced as the date of the Organizational Session for the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.
- Early to mid June 2022, was announced as the tentative time for the 2022 Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference.
STATISTICS REQUESTED FOR THE PAST YEAR
- Two churches disaffiliated.
- One church closed.
- Membership stands at 69,758, down 3,479 from the previous year
- Worship attendance stands at 16,005 in-person and 34,298 online, down 7,744 in person, and up 31,440 online.
- Church school attendance stands at 8,296, down 4,389.
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2020 were 286, down 265 from 2019.
- Adults and young adults in small groups for 2020 were 13,887, down 3,284 from 2019.
- Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020 were 9,558 down 4,854 from 2019.