The 2024 Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference was on June 17-19 at Murfreesboro First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, TN. Over 1,000 lay and clergy delegates attended in person and another 250 voting members participated online.

The annual conference was filled with powerful preaching and teaching, inspiring boundless spirit stories, ministry tools and resources in workshops and at the ministry fair, and the joy of fellowship and fabulous worship. This annual conference was particularly special, as it was Bishop McAlilly’s last time presiding over the gathering as the episcopal leader of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference. 

The annual conference was grounded in its theme, “Boundless: Acts Continues.” Informing this theme was the book of the Acts of the Apostles; both before and during annual conference, participants journeyed through the text and its depiction of the early church engaged in its mission. Through the pre-conference bible study, in teaching sessions, sermons, and the sharing of stories, the TWK Conference was invited to participate in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.


“Boundless Spirit” Stories

At this year’s conference, participants had the opportunity to learn about and celebrate the many transformative ministries currently thriving in the TWK Conference. Following our theme, these stories bore witness to the “boundless” work of the Holy Spirit in our churches and communities.

TWK youth Brady Clark shared how the ministry of Cedar Crest Camp has impacted his life over the past seven years. He relayed several stories of the ways Cedar Crest has deepened his faith, facilitated numerous friendships, and instilled within him a sense of home. Through the playing of music, exploring nature, and connecting with other camp goers, he has grown closer to God.

Rev. Carlos Uroza spoke about the powerful collaboration between Woodbine UMC, Project Transformation Tennessee, and the Cosecha Community Development. Rev. Uroza shared that through this partnership, the Holy Spirit is working in the community to strengthen bonds, increase access to education, and bring people together in the love of Christ. As Rev. Uroza said, “I have been reminded that the Spirit’s power isn’t always demonstrated in grand gestures but often in the quiet, consistent efforts of a willing congregation. A church that embraces the Holy Spirit is open to risk and change. The Holy Spirit is not dormant but active, and it only takes a willing congregation to allow the Spirit to do what it does best: bring new life.”

Julie Smith, a lay member of Collierville UMC, bore witness to the peace-bestowing presence of the Holy Spirit during the difficult season of disaffiliation. Collierville UMC had a vote to disaffiliate, but it failed. In the aftermath of this failed vote, there was much uncertainty as to the congregation’s future. However, Smith told the conference body that God’s Spirit provided the reassurance and resilience needed for her to continue in the journey.


Resources and Support

Annual conference participants had the opportunity to attend lunch and learn sessions on both Monday and Tuesday where they were provided with ministry resources and tools to take back to their local church.

The Rev. Jacob Cogman, the Lina H. McCord Ambassador for the Black College Fund, shared how pivotal that scholarship has been in his life and thanked the TWK Conference for its continued support of the fund.

The annual conference offering, introduced by Lynn McAlilly, will support the programs and construction at the growing Mama Lynn Center in the East Congo UMC Conference. The link is still available for continued support for this project. 2024 Annual Conference Offering: Mama Lynn Center


Teaching and Worship

This year’s annual conference was especially blessed with wonderful worship, teaching, and preaching. The Rev. Anne Hook led the annual conference worship teams in the planning and execution of each service; thanks to her leadership and the talents and participation of all involved, conference attendees experienced dynamic and diverse worship services. Rev. Hook also was intentional with hymn selection, ensuring that all of Bishop McAlilly’s favorite hymns were incorporated into the worship services and gathering music.

During the opening worship service, Rev. Dr. Stephen Handy, the lead pastor of McKendree UMC, preached a powerful sermon based on Acts 2. Rev. Dr. Handy posed challenging questions to the conference related to the church’s mission. “What if the church was a movement instead of a collection of monuments?” he asked. He encouraged the conference to be people-focused, to genuinely become immersed in the wider community so that mutual transformation might take place. He concluded by emphasizing the boundless power of God to guide the church in its world-transforming mission.

The Rev. Dr. Davis Chappell, the senior pastor of Brentwood UMC, led teaching sessions both Monday and Tuesday on the book of Acts. These teaching sessions were continuations of the pre-annual conference bible study and spanned the entirety of Acts. Throughout his teachings, Rev. Dr. Chappell emphasized the unifying work of the Holy Spirit in the earliest Christian communities. He spoke on the transformative power of Jesus. “If you don’t want change,” began Rev. Dr. Chappell, “don’t follow Christ–he is boundless.”

Worship team member, Rev. Amy Martin, planned the conference memorial service to remember those 53 clergy and clergy spouses who died over the last year. The Rev. Dr. Vona Wilson preached during this service. In her sermon on Hebrews 11, Rev. Dr. Wilson reflected on the ways in which our current moment and ministry is one more generation in a long line of faithful followers of Christ. She cited a litany of current TWK ministries as examples of the ways our conference is living into the legacy of faith left to us by those who have entered eternity. 

Bishop Joseph Pennel preached during the Service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination. Emphasizing the “qualities of the ordained,” Bishop Pennel implored those presented for commissioning and ordination to embrace the humble work of bearing witness to the Christ who is already present in the communities to which they will be sent. 

During the service, five persons were commissioned as ordained deacons and elders, and three were ordained as elders.

  • Persons received into full connection as elders: Luke Benjamin Lea, Sharlet Ujwalkumar Panhalkar, and Donald Johnson Terry.
  • Provisional elders: Amber Marie Armistead and Tracey Parris Capelety.
  • Provisional deacons: Shelby Lynn Bowles, Anne Inkster Culver, and Hope Cody Peppers.

During the Service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination, Bishop McAlilly announced that all ordained deacons would immediately have full sacramental authority in the TWK Conference. More information will be forthcoming.

The conference’s final day fell on Juneteenth; that morning, conference attendees were blessed with a dramatic retelling of the pain of enslavement and the perseverance of formerly enslaved persons engaged in the struggle for freedom. The theater companies Dream 7 and Gubasavi Productions led the dramatic presentation, which featured excerpts from WEUSI, an original theatrical production. Rev. Linda Furtado led the annual conference body through a liturgy of repentance and rededication to the work of liberation and healing.


Conference Business

Several reports and key pieces of business were conducted during this year’s annual conference session.

On the first day, the body voted to approve the consent agenda, which included leadership nominations, reports from conference committees and ministry partners, and seminaries, divinity schools, and affiliated universities. Also included were local church charge line changes and four church closures.

Members of the TWK Connectional Table, the conference’s strategic leadership team, delivered the Connectional Table report, emphasizing the group’s empowering role and the impact seen through the work of the many ministry teams within the conference.

Rev. Harriet Bryan, Rev. Dr. Rob Martin, Josh Shaw, and Jim Allen gave the TWK General Conference Delegation report, in which they discussed both the processes and outcomes of the recent UMC General Conference session in Charlotte, NC. 

Susan Graham presented the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, highlighting the changes to the structure of campus ministry within the conference. She explained the congregation- and district-based approaches and shared stories of impactful ministry.

The TWK Faith and Innovation team gave an insightful report on all the work their team has facilitated this year. The Vine UMC also gave an update on their fruitful ministry.

TWK Ministry Associate, Courtney Lawson, provided an important look into the mental health initiatives the conference has engaged over the last year. Lawson emphasized the Church’s potential to address the dire societal mental health crisis, the importance of clergy well-being, and the necessity for our conference to be trauma-informed.

Rev. Dr. Mary Beth Bernheisel and Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lewis gave the TWK Board of Ordained Ministry report.

John Pearce, the President of the TWK Council on Finance and Administration (CFA), presented the 2024 CFA report. The 2025 TWK Budget was approved and action items–the election of Mark Hagewood as the new TWK Conference Treasurer and allocation of funds for the cabinet reserve/housing allowances/travel expenses–were approved by the body..

Resolutions were presented by the Resolutions Committee chair, Melba Mitchell. Find more information about the resolutions here. After an opportunity for speeches for and against, all six resolutions were passed by the conference body.

Proposed changes to the TWK Standing Rules were also approved. 

Each district superintendent reported that appointments have been set for the upcoming year. Bishop McAlilly prayed for the clergy and their families. 

Nominations were accepted from the floor to submit names for the Southeastern Jurisdictional nominations pool for General Agency positions.

A 2-hour Ministry Exhibitors fair was held at which 40 of our ministry teams, affiliated ministry partners, and universities shared information with attendees. An online exhibitors page was also made available on the conference website.


Bishop McAlilly Retirement Recognition and Sending Forth

As mentioned at the beginning of this recap, Bishop McAlilly’s last annual conference as the bishop of the TWK Conference was the 2024 annual conference. 

On Monday afternoon, the conference Council on Episcopacy presented a special retirement recognition for Bishop McAlilly and his wife, Lynn, followed by a retirement reception at Murfreesboro First UMC. 

In its report, the TWK Cabinet sang a hymn of thanksgiving to Bishop and Lynn McAlilly set to the tune of “A Mighty Fortress is our God”; the cabinet members wrote unique lyrics commemorating the bishop’s 12 years of service as our episcopal leader. 

During closing worship, Bishop McAlilly delivered his final sermon as the conference’s bishop, using Hebrews 11 as his text (which, he noted, was the biblical passage on which he gave his first-ever sermon at the age of 17). In his message, he reflected on his time as bishop, the highs and lows, the triumphs and struggles. He thanked the conference for its support, especially over the last two years as he recovered from a traumatic car accident.  

Bishop McAlilly charted out his theology of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation, noting that the entire arc of the biblical witness hinges on these movements. He implored those present to “look to Jesus” in their lives, ministries, and during this coming season of episcopal change. He emphasized the importance of fulfilling Jesus’ call for the body to become one. 

The 2024 TWK Annual Conference was a powerful gathering of fellowship, transformation, celebration, and worship. The boundless work of God’s Holy Spirit was on full display!