The Tennessee and Memphis conferences have taken the final steps to become the Tennessee-Western Kentucky (TWK) Conference of The United Methodist Church, approving rules, policies, and leadership for the new conference starting January 1, 2022. These items were passed during the December 4 TWK Organizational Meeting held online. The bishop, conference leaders, and the cabinet as well as a small worship team were hosted at Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville for the live-streamed meeting.

The Organizational Meeting was attended by 2021 annual conference voting members from the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. Members consisted of equal numbers of clergy and lay delegates elected to serve in 2021 — the same people who were eligible to vote in June 2021 legacy annual conferences.

Bishop Bill McAlilly officially opened the conference at 1:00 p.m. with a word of welcome. An offering was collected online for the Reelfoot Rural Ministries Toy Store and The Last-Minute Toy Store. Money collected will be divided equally between the two ministries.

LOVING: Opening Worship

Opening worship, led by a diverse group from both conferences under the direction of David Bone, included a reading of “A Story of Light and Darkness” by worship leaders Tyler Sprouse (Communications, TWK), Myriam Cortes (Iglesia Metodista Unida Ebenezer, Nashville), Jim Capps (Mt. Carmel UMC, Benton), and Grace E. Hyde (Ebenezer UMC, Nolensville) and featuring dancer Lasonia Scantin (Gordon Memorial UMC, Nashville). Choral responses were sung by a small choir accompanied by an organ and piano. 

The video of Bishop McAlilly’s sermon “What Shall We Now Do?” is available for viewing on his blog, along with a full transcript. At the beginning of his message, he announced the locations for the next two Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conferences. On June 15-17, 2022, the annual conference will be in Nashville. In 2023, the annual conference will be held in Memphis.

LEARNING: Living and Leading in Covenant 

Bishop McAlilly introduced the learning portion of the meeting which focused on how we can live and lead in covenant with one another. Emphasizing that learning the way we lead is as important as getting the task accomplished, McAlilly said all people have been invited to live in covenant with God. When a team creates a working covenant, it is a way of being and leading that participants choose as they work together. A covenant gives teams the ability to trust one another, take risks, and try new things — especially when leading through uncharted territories. Covenants also help clarify experiences and establish commitments. Along with covenant, adaptive leadership helps teams get from point A to point B and figure out things they don’t know the answer to. God provides an anchor, foundation, and assurance of hope in Christ. Covenant teams have led the process of creating a new conference. It has been holy work. 

After the bishop’s introduction, a video was shown featuring a discussion with Connectional Table members Toi King, Jefferson Furtado, Bethany Huffman, Rob Martin, and Melinda Britt. Members shared why it’s important to form a team covenant, how being in a covenant has changed them personally and professionally, how to form a covenant, and what it’s like being on a committee with a covenant. 

New TWK Conference teams are encouraged to operate with a covenant. Tools and resources, including the video shown during the conference, will be posted on the TWK website for teams to use. Lay leader, Janice McCallen, closed this portion of the conference by sharing her personal experiences with creating and applying a covenant while serving on a large team and invited all TWK ministry teams to establish covenants. 

LEADING: Business of the Organizational Meeting

Prior to the business portion of the conference, GNTV’s David Wood reviewed the steps on how to vote and conducted a practice vote with delegates. He also instructed delegates on how they can be recognized to speak during the conference. 

The business portion of the organizational meeting began with the hymn “And Are We Yet Alive” led by the worship team. 

Conference Secretary Rev. Monica Mowdy joined Bishop McAlilly for notes of welcome and conference organization. 

Following announcements and a call to order, a roll call of 385 clergy and 385 lay voting members from the legacy Memphis Conference and 643 clergy and 643 lay voting members of the legacy Tennessee Conference was taken. Opening motions were made that included setting the bar for the online Zoom webinar.

Other motions were made for minutes/journal; election of recording secretaries Rev. Dean Emerson, Memphis Conference and Rev. Brian Marcoulier, Tennessee Conference, head teller Rev. Stephen Sauls, and assistant head teller Rev. Sarah McWhirt-Toler.); and adoption of the agenda. All were approved.  

The following items submitted for approval passed overwhelmingly. They position the new conference to begin in January with basic rules, policies and leadership in place.

  • Bishop McAlilly presented the 2022 Nomination Report for approval. He expressed appreciation for everyone who worked on this report. 

Bishop McAlilly led his closing comments by saying “We’ve had a long pregnancy and a good birth. There have been thousands of hours expended on behalf of this journey.”

His overview of this journey included the initial combining of the Memphis and Tennessee cabinets, conducting a comprehensive study years ago regarding a merger, and the work of the Guide Team and Advisory Group to develop mission, vision, and values statements that were adopted by both legacy conferences. He stated that the two conferences have lived with those guiding values over recent years, letting work bubble up organically and allowing cross-conference teams and appointments. He noted special thanks to Cindy Solomon for her work as the scribe for the Guide Team.

After Bishop McAlilly said a prayer, a sung congregational response of “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel” closed the organizational meeting.